Mallette told police they saw a large white creature whose eyes "glowed red" when the car headlights picked it up. They described it as a "flying man with ten foot wings" following their car while they were driving in an area of town known as 'TNT', the site of a former World War 2 munitions plant. During the next few days, other people reported similar sightings, including two volunteer firemen who said it was a "large bird with red eyes". Mason County Sheriff George Johnson commented that he believed the sightings were due to an unusually large heron locally termed a "shitepoke". Contractor Newell Partridge told Johnson that when he aimed a flashlight at a creature in a nearby field its eyes glowed "like bicycle reflectors", and blamed buzzing noises from his television set and the disappearance of his German Shepherd dog on the creature. A wildlife biologist at West Virginia University told reporters that descriptions and sightings all fit the Sandhill Crane, a large American crane almost as high as a man with a seven foot wingspan featuring circles of reddish coloring around the eyes, and that the bird may have wandered out of its migration route. There were no more reports after the Dec. 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge and the death of 46 people, giving rise to legends that the sightings and the bridge collapse were connected.
Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand notes that Mothman has been widely covered in the popular press, some claiming sightings connected with UFOs, and others claiming that a military storage site was Mothman's "home". Brunvand notes that recountings of the 1966-67 Mothman reports usually state that at least 100 people saw Mothman with many more "afraid to report their sightings", but observed that written sources for such stories consisted of children's books or sensationalized or undocumented accounts that fail to quote identifiable persons. Brunvand found elements in common among many Mothman reports and much older folk tales, suggesting that something real may have triggered the scares and became woven with existing folklore. He also records anecdotal tales of Mothman supposedly attacking the roofs of parked cars inhabited by teenagers in lovers lanes. Skeptic Joe Nickell says that a number of hoaxes followed the publicity generated by the original reports, such as a group of construction workers who tied red flashlights to helium balloons. Nickell attributes the Mothman reports to pranks, misidentified planes, and sightings of a barn owl, an albino owl, or perhaps a large snowy owl, suggesting that the Mothman's "glowing eyes" were actually red-eye effect caused from the reflection of light from flashlights or other light sources.
Days before the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967, Mothman was sighted throughout the area. After the bridge's collapse, there were no more sightings.
A similar creature, known as the Blackbird of Chernobyl, was sighted around Pripyat in the weeks leading up to the Chernobyl Disaster of 1986. It is unknown if the two are related or even the same creature.
- Superhuman strength
- The ability to predict future disasters (or cause disasters).
- Looking into Mothman's eyes can cause irritation or minor blindness.
- Mothman can disappear when you aren't looking at him.