Mothman Death List
Mothman Death List
Is this weird, red-eyed, winged monster a devil, an angel, or an illusion? Whatever the Mothman may be, seeing it might be hazardous to your health.
On November 15, 1966, two young married couples, the Steve Mallettes and the Roger Scarberrys, were driving through the marshy area near the Ohio River outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, when a winged monster, at least seven feet tall with glowing red eyes, loomed up in front of them. Later, they told Deputy Sheriff Millard Halstead that the creature followed them toward Point Pleasant on Route 62 even when their speed approached 100 mph.
When the story the Mallettes and the Scarberrys told achieved local circulation, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley, Marcella Bennett, and Ricky Thomas stepped forward and said that they had seen the giant birdlike creature near the same abandoned TNT plant a few miles north of Point Pleasant. A few days later Thomas Ury said that an enormous flying creature with a wingspan of ten feet had chased his convertible into Point Pleasant at 70 mph.
More witnesses came forward with accounts of their sightings, and the legend of Mothman was born. Although the majority of witnesses described the tall, red-eyed monster as appearing birdlike, the media dubbed the creature “Mothman,” because, as writer John A. Keel noted, the Batman television series was very popular at the time. Intrigued by the stories, Keel visited Point Pleasant on numerous occasions and learned about the bizarre occurrences associated with Mothman’s appearance, including the eerie forecast that some witnesses of the monster had received that the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant would collapse and many people would be killed as a result. In 1975 Keel wrote in The Mothman Prophecies that “there would be many changes in the lives of those touched by” Mothman, and a “few would even commit suicide.”
Researchers of the phenomenon have various theories concerning the large winged monster that haunts the marshy area near the McClintic Wildlife Sanctuary and the abandoned TNT plant north of Point Pleasant. Some say that excited, suggestible witnesses are simply sighting sandhill cranes, large birds indigenous to the area that can reach heights of six feet and achieve wingspans of ten feet. UFO researchers make correlations between bright lights in the sky and the appearances of Mothman. Others suggest that toxic chemicals dumped at the TNT site in World War II may have caused bizarre mutations in wild birds. And then there are those who maintain that Mothman might be a multidimensional intelligence, angelic or demonic, that can warn witnesses of impeding danger—or cause it to happen.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, author of Mothman and Other Curious Encounters (2002), has been keeping tab on the deaths that appear to be associated with the entity. Coleman lists the demises of eighty-five men and women who had some association with Mothman from the 1960s to the present day. As with all of the body counts or death lists that we include in this encyclopedia of conspiracies and secret societies, we add our disclaimer that many of the individuals that we find on such lists may have been elderly, ill, killed in the line of duty, met their demise in accidents totally devoid of nefarious circumstances, or committed suicide of their own free, albeit troubled, will. Some deaths on these lists do seem rather suspicious, and that is why we include them for your own assessment.
The Silver Bridge victims: Coleman’s first forty-six victims were those unfortunates killed when, at 5:04 P.M. on December 15, 1967, the bridge at Point Pleasant collapsed during rush hour. Forty-six lives were lost, and forty-four bodies recovered.
Mary Hyre: Hyre was the Point Pleasant correspondent for the Athens, Ohio, newspaper the Messenger, and became a friend of John A. Keel’s who later assisted him in his investigations. The first sighting reported by Hyre occurred when the Scarberrys and Mallettes saw Mothman on November 15, 1966. Exactly thirteen months later, the Silver Bridge collapsed. Twenty-six months later, on February 15, 1970, Hyre died at the age of fifty-four after a four-week illness.
Ivan T. Sanderson: A naturalist, cryptozoologist, and animal expert who appeared on various television programs, Sanderson served as Keel’s main consultant on the natural history behind the reports of Mothman. A well-known writer at the time of the Mothman sightings, he was also the director of the New Jersey-based Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained. Sanderson, sixty-two, died on February 19, 1973, of a rapidly spreading cancer.
Gray Barker: Besides John Keel, no other investigator was on the scene of the Mothman sightings as often during 1966 and 1967 as West Virginian Gray Barker. A theatrical film booker based in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Barker became interested in UFOs in 1952. In 1956 he wrote They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers, dealing with the Men in Black. In 1966, when he was investigating Mothman near Point Pleasant, Barker allegedly found a note on his door with this message, “Abandon your research or you will regret [it]. You have been warned.” Barker was fifty-nine when he died on December 6, 1984, “after a long series of illnesses,” in a Charleston, West Virginia, hospital.
Donald North: Donald I. North, a Point Pleasant native who saw Mothman in the TNTplant area in the 1990s, died in an automobile crash in 1997.
Jim Keith: Conspiracy author Keith, fifty, died mysteriously on September 7, 1999, during routine knee surgery after falling off the stage at the annual Burning Man pagan arts festival in Nevada. Keith held the theory that Point Pleasant was being used as some kind of testing area.
Ron Bonds: The publisher of most of Jim Keith’s books and of John Keel’s 1991 reprint of The Mothman Prophecies, Ron Bonds, forty-eight, of IllumiNet Press, died under strange circumstances on April 8, 2001, apparently the victim of food poisoning contracted at a Mexican restaurant in Atlanta.
Robin Chaney Pilkington: On October 24, 2001, Marcella Bennett, who was an eyewitness to Mothman on November 16, 1966, lost her daughter, Robin Pilkington, forty-four, to a long illness. Robin’s death would signal the start of a wave of witness-relatives’ deaths during the time surrounding the motion-picture release of The Mothman Prophecies.
Charles Mallette: As the movie on Keel’s book began screening on January 25, 2002, the original witnesses, the Mallettes, were attending a funeral in Point Pleasant. Stephen Mallette, one of the first four witnesses of Mothman, was mourning the passing of his brother, Charlie, due to a brain tumor.
Gary Ury: On February 15, 2002, soon after the town was bustling with Mothman promotions and attention, one of Point Pleasant’s better-known Mothman eyewitnesses, Tom Ury suddenly lost his fifty-two-year-old brother Gary.
Ted Tannebaum: Tannebaum, sixty-eight, the executive producer of The Mothman Prophecies, died of cancer on March 7, 2002, in Chicago.
Aaron Rebsamen: Aaron Stephen Rebsamen, fourteen, the son of well-known cryptozoology artist William Rebsamen, died by suicide on May 23, 2002, in his Fort Smith, Arkansas, home. William Rebsamen did the cover art for Loren Coleman’s Mothman and Other Curious Encounters.
Susan Wilcox: Susan J. “Minga” Wilcox, fifty-three, of Columbus, Ohio, died of an extremely rare form of brain tumor, ependymoma, on December 8, 2002. Wilcox reportedly saw a black “batlike” bedroom invader in her home in February 2001 and went on to become a Mothman investigator. She traveled to Point Pleasant several times in 2001 and 2002, and created a personal website, Mothman: A Life Changed Forever.
Jessica Kaplan: Kaplan, a crew member on The Mothman Prophecies motion picture, died in a plane crash in the Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles on June 6, 2003. The Los Angeles Times reported that the pilot, Jeffrey T. Siegel, owner of a Santa Monica construction firm, and his niece, Kaplan, twenty-four, were flying to the family’s second home in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Alan Bates: British actor Sir Alan Bates, sixty-nine, died the night of December 27, 2003, at a hospital in London after a long battle with cancer. Bates played “Alexander Leek” in The Mothman Prophecies. “Leek” was Keel spelled backward.
Jennifer Barrett-Pellington: On August 3, 2004, Jennifer Barrett-Pellington, forty-two, wife of The Mothman Prophecies director Mark Pellington, died in Los Angeles of an ongoing illness. Her husband had included a “Special Thanks” credit to his wife for her support of him on that film.
Raymond H. Wamsley, 57, who, together with his wife, was with Marcella Bennett during the famed “second sighting” of Mothman on November 16, 1966, died on September 15, 2004.
Mark A. Bennett, 45, son of Marcella Bennett, one of the principals in the “second sighting” of Mothman, was also a witness to the phenomenon. He passed away in his home in Point Pleasant on April 16, 2007.
Bob Tracey, portrayed “Cyrus Bills” in the motion picture The Mothman Prophecies, died from complications of pneumonia on January 26, 2007, exactly five years to the weekend that the Mothman movie opened in theaters across the United States.
Marcella Bennett, the focus of the “second sighting” of Mothman, died at the age of 69 on March 3, 2009.
John A. Keel, born Alva John Kiehle in upstate New York on March 25, 1930, and the author of The Mothman Prophecies and numerous other books, died at the age of 79 on July 3, 2009, at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Linda Scarberry, one of the earliest eyewitnesses (November 15, 1966) to the Mothman, died on March 6, 2011, after a brief battle with cancer.