The Mothman is a folkloric figure that emerged in 1967 from the association of sightings of a strange Winged Humanoid figure around the city of Point Pleasant, West Virginia with the disastrous collapse of a local bridge later that year which killed 46 people. In part due to media popularization in the years after the disaster, some came to see a causal link between the sightings of the entity dubbed the Mothman and the collapse.
Mothman sightings decreased sharply afterwards, but the occasional incidents and resurgences in media eventually led to a formalization of the current mothman myth. In modern popular culture, the mothman is typically depicted as an entity with the characteristics of a human and a moth or butterfly, either as a full-on insect-like humanoid or as an indistinct shape with the silhouette of large, mothlike wings—all of this in spite of the fact that reports of the creature described it as more closely resembling a vaguely humanoid bird than an insect. Enormous, glowing eyes are also a common feature, as the original sightings often reported otherwise indistinct figures with large, luminous eyes standing out against the gloom. The creature may not always have a distinct head, instead simply having a rounded torso marked by two glowing, lamplike eyes.
Mothmen, due to their association with the Silver Bridge collapse, are often linked with disasters. Typically, their appearance will be treated as a sign or omen of some imminent calamity in the coming future. Mothmen rarely do anything themselves to hinder the event or speed it along: indeed, their motives are almost always deliberately mysterious. They watch from the sidelines, observing seemingly random people, and then quietly vanish after the disaster invariably comes to pass. They do not usually attempt to communicate with people, but those they observe may be stricken with nightmares relating in some form to the future tragedy. Their motives are often unclear at best — they may be actively trying to cause the disaster, they may be trying to warn people of their imminent danger, or they may simply be passive watchers, come to observe the calamity for reasons of their own.
These mysteries may not be actually resolved in the works in which they appear — indeed, their mysterious and frustratingly inscrutable natures may be actively played up to increase the aura of suspense and mystery around these entitles, or to unnerve both the characters and readers.
Subtrope of Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious and Winged Humanoid. See also Lovecraft Country, an area close to the mothmen's West Virginian homeland, and Macabre Moth Motif. They may also be linked to The Greys, because few cryptids aren't. See also The Slender Man Mythos, for a very similar creature, and The Flatwoods Monster, a fellow West Virginian cryptid.
- Bigfoot Bill: The title character and main antagonist of Shadow of the Mothman. He was created by a group of scientists referred to as the "Bald Men", and was captured and taken to the Crypto Zone to be held captive. He can look into the future, cause fear among his victims, and absorb their fears to get stronger. He also has a very frightening appearance.
- The Department of Truth: The Mothman is explored in issue #15 and appears as a physical Tulpa. The issue reveals that the titular Department wound up creating the Mothman in their attempt at creating, capturing and reverse engineering a UFO. This also had the side-effect of causing the Silver Bridge Collapse, due to the Mothman having become seen as a bad omen.
- "The Mothman!" (Scary Tales #37): A group of six boys young are telling each other true ghost stories around the campfire. One boy tells of how the Mothman once invaded a nearby old mansion and drove the residents to insanity. Another boy doesn't believe him because the story is ridiculous and the teller couldn't possibly verify it. As he changes shape, the teller answers that he can because he is the mothman.
- The Perhapanauts: Karlis is a hunched purple mothman who was encountered by the Government Agency of Fiction BEDLAM in an early issue and went on to become a reserve teammate and eventual Sixth Ranger for Blue Group. In the setting, mothmen live in hidden tribes, and Karl was banished from the Par-Ha tribe and later put on trial by an extradimensional Mothman Tribunal after his contact with outsiders.
- Silk Hills: An Appalachian mining town is partially kept afloat by tourists passing through to check out the Mothman merchandise and the town has an overall association with the creature. In addition to the local drug of choice being "moth dust," actual sightings of the Mothman in the distance are a common occurrence. Might have something to do with the Mothman cultists keeping an eye on the surface world, or their sacrificial victims...
- Watchmen: Mothman is a minor superhero, who was a member of The Minutemen, until he got scrutinized by the House of Un-American Committee for his connections to left wing activists during his student days, and succumbs to alcoholism and stress, ending up in a mental institution.
- Eyes of the Mothman is a documentary about the Mothman and Point Pleasant, but it goes far beyond what most works about the creature do. For example, it deals with Chief Cornstalk and his brutal murder while in prison by drunken townsfolk, and the idea that the Mothman is a sandhill crane that was mutated into a giant by the local chemical plant. It also talks about the scope of the tragedy of the Silver Bridge collapse, how it affected the small town (every single kid knew at least one other classmate who died on the bridge), and how it prompted then-President Richard Nixon to inspect and reinforce all bridges across the United States.
- The Mothman Prophecies and the novel which it adapts are almost certainly the Trope Codifier, popularizing and formalizing the Mothman's mysterious nature, its role as an omen of disaster, and its connection with UFOs and the occult. The film is a dramatized version of both the real-life event and the novel, altering certain historical details, such as the time of the events (the setting is updated from the '60s to the contemporary early 2000s), the names of the people involved and the number of victims in the bridge collapse (reduced from 46 to 36). The main characters are vexed by dreams, omens and mysterious phone calls stating cryptic hints that about upcoming disaster, alongside visits by the Mothman. An early omen — a casualty list for Denver — comes true after an airplane crash there. Following omens hint at a disaster approaching the Ohio river, which eventually reveals itself as the historic Silver Bridge collapse.
- Mystery Hunters: Araya travels to West Virginia in one episode to investigate the alleged existence of this creature.
- The X-Files: In the episode "Detour", the monsters of the week are revealed to be strange humanoid creatures able to perfectly camouflage themselves with their surroundings. Mulder speculates that they may be related to the Mothman of Point Pleasant.
- The Adventure Zone: Amnesty: A major figure in the third arc, which is suitably set in West Virginia. He is conflated with the similar figure of Indrid Cold and calls the protagonists up on multiple occasions to warn them of upcoming disasters. However, he himself isn't their cause — he's simply able to see potential futures, and trusted the Pine Guard to take care of some particularly bad ones.
- Becomes a Running Gag in Well There's Your Problem for a few episodes after the episode on the Silver Bridge; whatever the disaster is, they ask whether Mothman is involved.
- Covered early on in The Last Podcast on the Left, and used as a mascot for the podcast's collaboration with Spring Heeled Jack coffee, the Mothman Blend, which Henry Zabrowski recorded a bombastic advertisement for.
He's just trying to warn you about the bridge! The Bridge
- Horrified: The American Monsters version of the game features the Mothman as one of the opposing monsters.
- Pathfinder: Mothmen are insectoid humanoids with large wings, which may resemble those of butterflies or moths or instead appear as vaguely wing-shaped sheets of fire, and glowing compound eyes. They appear before large-scale disasters, plaguing seemingly random victims with prophetic nightmares, leaving behind strange, random objects that invariably turn out to be life-savingly useful for their finders in unpredictable ways (such as odd wooden figurines that happen to catch an otherwise deadly arrow, or maps in foreign languages that slip from the hand at just the right time to mop up a poisoned drink) and vanishing once the disaster comes to pass. There is no consensus as to why they do what they do — speculations include that they're time travellers seeking to ensure their own future existence or avert some catastrophe, that they're malicious manipulators or even simply huge Trolls. Their appearances stopped almost completely after the death of the god Aroden and the worldwide failure of prophecy and prescience, but in recent years they have begun to appear sporadically once again.
- Shows up as the Big Bad in one scenario of the game Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze. The players are pulp-themed heroes trying to stop him and his gang of other cryptids from destroying Point Pleasant.
- Wagadu Chronicles: One of the playable races, the Daa'ima are humanoid mothmen.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Danger! is an archetype of monsters based around famous cryptids. Among them is Danger! Mothman!, based on the mothman of course.
- Cryptkins featured two baby Mothmen in Series 1: the regular black Mothman and the white Twilight Mothman. Both varied from the traditional design by featuring heads distinct from their chests, and tall moth antennae.
- Monster High gives the Mothman two daughters, Bonita Femur and Luna Mothews. The former is also half-skeleton.
- UglyDolls has the character Picksey, one of a few Uglydolls based on cryptids in design. Unlike the standard design of mothmen, he is a creamy white color, and shares many aspects with faeries as well. He also has interdimensional abilities, according to his tag. This is the reason there are multiple Picksey dolls at once, it's him from different times at the same time. Ironically, despite this nifty ability, he's worried all the time over various things, such as if he's too early or late, or if one of his alternate versions forgot to leave a tip somewhere and people would think he is the stingy one instead.
- In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, there are three elusive cryptid enemies who are hidden in the game. Vague hints can be found by purchasing the tabloid-inspired UMA Newsletter. Mothman can be summoned by turning on a giant spotlight using an electrical attack.
- Gaia Attack 4 has a level dealing with a mothman infestation, and it's up to the players to contain them by shooting as many mothmen as they can.
- Fallout 76: The mutant fauna of the West Virginia wilderness includes mothmen as enormous, upright moths taller than a grown human. Their enormous, glowing eyes are a sign of their owners' temperament — mothmen with purple eyes are passive, mothmen with yellow eyes are friendly, and mothmen with red eyes are hostile and aggressive.
- In Havenfall Is for Lovers, Mothman is a friendly side character, identifiable by their Virginian accent and retractable moth antennae and wings. Other than that, they have little to do with the mythos, instead just being a nice person and ally to Havenfall's Finest.
- Monster Quest: The fourth level is about a cryptid called the Dark Wing (though on certain screens is named Nightbat) that while obviously not the Mothman (for one, it's from a fictional city in Britain instead of West Virginia) is a clear Expy of it and is suggested to have links to it. It turns out to be a hoax pulled by a college fraternity.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Mothman is a recurring demon in the franchise, looking adorable with his bug eyes and large wings, occasionally hopping in place in the 3D games. The Monster Compendium often mentions its connection to UFOs, and in one game an NPC Mothman offers cryptic warnings to the player.
- He's a character in Trying Human, a worthy addition to the Conspiracy Kitchen Sink, although the Mothman in person is a total sweetie. He can't even make a Cryptic Conversation properly scary.
- In Yokoka's Quest, in response to Grace talking about Cisum, her friend says "Just last month you were going on about Mothman or whatever", and her other friend classes them both as fairy tales. But as Cisum turned out to be real...
- The story of the original Mothman is covered by Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel), as are multiple explanations for it.
- The SCP Foundation have their own take on the Mothman, designated SCP-2901.
- TREY the Explainer has videos analyzing the myth. He came to the conclusion that Mothman is just a normal, if slightly large, owl.
- Wikipedia has its own thorough article on this subject, describing the rise of the Mothman phenomenon and its use in later popular culture.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force: In the first episode, a mothman voiced by H. Jon Benjamin moves in next door to the Aqua Teens and keeps hanging around their porch light.
- Ben 10: Alien Force: Big Chill is explicitly modeled after Mothman, being a large humanoid moth-like alien. Though he is notably blue rather than black.
- Invader Zim: Although the Mothman itself never appears, "Agent Mothman" is Dib's code name in the Swollen Eyeball Network.
- Inside Job (2021) — a show with a strong Conspiracy Kitchen Sink theme — has Elliot Mothman, a kindly mothman who works in the Shadow Government's "Inhuman Resources" department and is voiced by Ron Funches.
- The Secret Saturdays featured the similar cryptid known as The Owlman as the Monster of the Week in the episode "The Owlman Feeds at Midnight". It has Hypnotic Eyes as well as the power of flight.
- The Mothman's legend originates from a series of bizarre incidents in 1967. In the year leading up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in December 15, 1967, multiple people in the area reported encounters with an indistinct, humanoid or birdlike figure with large wings and glowing eyes, as well as nightmares of drowning people. A famous picture is also often said to show a grainy, indistinct figure resembling a winged humanoid figure perching on the bridge shortly before it collapsed, though in actuality it shows a different bridge (the Ironton-Russel Bridge) shortly before it decayed to the point of having to be demolished (in 2003). While most believe the flying figures were misidentified owls, sandhill cranes or herons — the latter two of which can both grow a lot larger than people assume — the myth gained enough popularity in conspiracy and ufology circles to persist afterwards and eventually make its way into mainstream popular culture.
- Alleged sightings of Mothman have occurred at other sites of large-scale disaster and tragedy in the years since the original Point Pleasant incidents. A notable instance of such was at the World Trade Center in the days before the September 11th Attacks.
- A number of similar myths have also arisen over time. While not always connected to the Mothman itself, they tend to be reminiscent of the more famous cryptid both physically and thematically.
- The Owlman of Mawnan is an obscure entity from Cornwall, in England. It's only known from a few sporadic sightings from the 1970s and 1980s, which describe it as a large, owl-like figure with glowing eyes.
- The Black Bird of Chernobyl is another obscure entity with a lot of traits in common with the Mothman. It was usually described as an indistinct, headless winged figure with enormous, glowing eyes, and its purported sightings began in the year of Chernobyl's infamous disaster, occurring increasingly frequently until the nuclear meltdown itself. This, plus reports of nightmares and mysterious phone calls associated with the creature, has led a number of cryptozoologists to draw links between the Black Bird and the Mothman, which are sometimes described as the same creature or, at least, members of the same supernatural species.
- Point Pleasant holds a Mothman Festival every September. The town is also home to a Mothman Museum and a 12-foot-tall metal statue of the creature — a statue that, incidentally, does not look like the actual description of the Mothman (and, as popularized by Memetic Mutation, has an absolutely sculpted◊ rear end).