The Mothman is a relatively recent addition to popular folklore, first emerging 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, as 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 quietly vanish after the disaster invariably comes to pass. They do not usually 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.
- In The Perhapanauts, the recurring character Karl (seen here) is a hunched purple mothman who was encountered by the Fictional Government Agency 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.
- The Mothman Prophecies is a dramatized version of both the real life event and the novel of the same name, altering certain historical details, such as the names of the people involved and the number of victims in the bridge collapse. 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Monster High gives him two daughters — Bonita Femur and Luna Mothews. The former is also half-skeleton.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Other Wiki has its own thorough article on this subject, describing the rise of the Mothman phenomenon and its use in later popular culture.
- The story of the original Mothman is covered by Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel), as are multiple explanations for it.
- Trey The Explainer has videos analyzing the myth. He came to the conclusion that Mothman is just a normal, if slightly large, owl.
- 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 sandhill cranes or herons — 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 Centre 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.