QUESTION: What did witnesses report seeing?
GOERMAN: Testimonial evidence, ultimately from over one hundred people of varying ages, from November
1966 until December 1967, described a bizarre winged creature that stood taller and broader than a man, shuffled awkwardly
on two muscular humanlike legs, took off straight up like a helicopter, and that, while in flight, chased cars at speeds nearing
one hundred miles per hour scarcely flapping its wings. Its red "glowing" eyes seem to have been more terrifying than either
the size of the creature or ten-foot-plus span of its wings. Given the merciless frenzy of ridicule spattering local newspaper
coverage, it is more than interesting to speculate whether or not every single observer reported his or her encounter.
QUESTION: Is seeing is always believing?
GOERMAN: What we see is distorted by what we expect, what we know, and what we believe. Certain
aspects of human nature come into play when a person witnesses, or is part of, a dramatic event. The witness rarely observes
all of an occurrence, and even if they do, the tendency is to report only those events which were most vivid. Because of selective
and expectant attention, different people see different things.
Both "event factors" and "witness factors" influence the perception of any event.
"Event factors" include environmental conditions such as weather, visibility, time of day and ambient
light, as well as the duration of the event and distances involved.
"Witness factors" include fear and trauma (more stress equates to less clear memory) and personal
significance (more personal involvement equates to better memory).
Certain specific details may not have been perceived in the first place because the witness was
simply not looking, the lighting was bad, that aspect did not seem important or many events took place in a very short time.
How completely did the witness recognize and understand what they were seeing?
QUESTION: Have you ever interviewed any of the
witnesses of the Mothman?
GOERMAN: I had the pleasure of meeting Marcella Bennett and Tom Ury during the filming of our respective
appearance on the "Unsolved Mysteries" Mothman episode (Cosgrove/Meurer Productions) that aired in July of 2002. However,
interviewing witnesses about an event that occurred several decades ago is counter-productive. It is essential for the investigator
to utilize the earliest primary sources available. Primary sources are those created by the witnesses of an event.
Loren Coleman elaborates on this in his review of the "Sci-fi Investigates" Mothman episode
on October 26, 2006:
"Some of the eyewitnesses have so changed their sighting reports over the years as
to have disqualified themselves from being useful interview subjects any longer. Perhaps only a few in the Mothman research
field and no producers in the reality television world want to hear this truth, but it is a fact. Since the 2002 movie screened
and the resulting documentary film company visits to Point Pleasant, the newly retold old accounts have become so changed
from the originals to be almost totally useless - except as fodder for nearly fictional sensational television programs."
Memory does not function like a camcorder which captures an event and stores it for future playback.
Images recorded electronically do not change over time and are not altered by external or subsequent events. When someone
experiences an important event, that person acquires fragments of information from the environment. This information then
is combined with information previously stored in memory and information acquired after the event occurs. The result of this
concoction is the current memory of the event.
Numerous studies have shown that eyewitnesses incorporate information learned after the event into
memory. "Post-event contamination" is information that is "learned" after an event takes place that is then integrated into
the memory of the event. After integration occurs, it generally is not possible to disentangle information which came from
the event itself from information which became integrated later on.
Examples of "post-event contamination" can include leading questions by interviewers, overhearing
or conversing with other witnesses, reading about the event or viewing an account of it on television. The more times an eyewitness
is questioned, all things being equal, the less accurate the latest version will be.
There is a natural fading of memory and all witnesses forget some information as time passes. The
longer an event is in the past, the more likely the witness will have only a partial memory of it. Even some of the simplest
and most obvious facts may have been forgotten.
QUESTION: What are your best cases?
GOERMAN: The first involves multiple witnesses. At about 9:00 p.m., November 16, 1966, Mr. Raymond
Wamsley, 19, and Mrs. Cathy Wamsley, 18, with Mrs. Marcella Bennett, 21, carrying her young daughter, were ending a social
call and walking back to their car when they disturbed something much too close to them on the Ralph Thomas property along
White Church Road in the desolate TNT area.
"It rose up slowly from the ground. A big, gray thing. Bigger than a man,
with terrible, glowing, red eyes," reported Marcella Bennett, who screamed, and panic-stricken, dropped her toddler and fell
to the ground in shock. As the creature unfurled its huge wings, Raymond Wamsley snatched up the child and herded the witnesses
ran back to the safety of the house, where they were let in by Ricky Thomas, 15, and sisters Connie and Vickie. The figure
shuffled along behind them, coming onto the porch and looking through the window. They called the police, but the creature
had vanished by the time help arrived. Marcella Bennett was so traumatized that she sought medical attention. Inviting ridicule
and scorn, these eyewitnesses honestly told everyone what they saw.
The second case occurred in broad daylight. While driving home from church on the Sunday morning
of November 27, 1966, Connie Carpenter, 18, saw a gray figure standing on the deserted greens of the Mason County Golf Course
near Mason, West Virginia. It was shaped like a man, but taller and broader. The creature unfolded a pair of wings and lifted
off the ground, straight up, like a helicopter. Never seeing those wings flap once, she watched in absolute horror as the
thing swooped low in pursuit. She described the face as "horrible."
QUESTION: Have you evaluated those rational arguments
offered to explain away Mothman encounters?
GOERMAN: Heaven help those innocents who stumble across "monsters." There will always be experts
who just know that these sightings are delusions or alcohol-related and act accordingly. Like most of us, they demand a logical
and rational accounting for every claim and occurrence. Unlike most of us, where no accounting is available, they invent one,
with neither investigation nor specific cause. I have dubbed this perpetual reaction by some individuals to the unexplained
and unknown as the CUTE (Compulsive Urge To Explain) factor. Despite the acronym, it is not pretty.
Mothman was not a weather balloon, large owl, migrating Canada goose or the result of mischievous
youngsters playing pranks with some type of rigged device.
Mothman was certainly not some straggly, pencil-legged Sandhill Crane, regarded as one of
the wariest birds in America.
Even decades later, supposedly intelligent and educated people suggested that Mothman sightings
were inspired by a common Barn Owl. This easily recognized, relatively small owl species weighs in at about a pound and stands
an imposing sixteen inches tall.
Sixteen inches tall barely reaches the kneecaps of most people.
Was it a common
Barn Owl that ambled over to Marcella Bennett and frightened this young mother so badly that she dropped her child to the
cold, hard ground and collapsed herself out of shock and sheer terror to the point of requiring medical attention?
Explanation without investigation is assumption. These proposed explanations are so feeble that
one thinks it would have been easier just to call the witness liars or diagnose them as lunatics whose vivid hallucinations
require immediate hospitalization.
QUESTION: Do you know of any legends, myths or
mythologies from which the Mothman might originate? Does the Mothman shares similarities to the Thunderbird?
GOERMAN: Thunderbirds are frequently depicted on totem poles. A belief once widespread among some
Native American tribes held that these gigantic supernatural entities caused thunder by the flapping of wings and lightning
by closing their eyes. Legends and myths are just that. Legends and myths. Any Mothman and Thunderbird correlation would be
At best, the Thunderbird tradition has provided a name for those very large and unidentified birds
that people have long claimed to see. Sporadic reports still emanate from Pennsylvania, from the southern edge of the Black
Forest, north of the Susquehanna River, between Pine Creek at the east and Kettle Creek at the west. Infrequent accounts of
monster birds have been with us for years.
QUESTION: Do you believe there was any connection
between the sightings and the Silver Bridge collapse?
GOERMAN: A perfectly rational and scientifically proven explanation exists for the disastrous collapse
of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1967. Any suggestion that this tragedy was anything more than just a coincidence, without
proper evidence, is completely inappropriate.
QUESTION: Considering the lack of forensic evidence,
corroborating physical proof or photographs, what, in your estimation, is the most compelling aspect of these Mothman encounters?
GOERMAN: The most compelling scientific reality lies buried beneath decades of misinformation.
What are the facts behind Mothman's demonic red glowing eyes?
Lighted eyes that blazed of their own volition? Like fireflies?
Or mechanical? Perhaps some system of infrared night vision?
The eyewitnesses were very precise.
"...fiery-red eyes that glow when the lights hit it. There was no glowing about it until the lights
---Linda Scarberry, from handwritten report
"The young men said they saw the creature's eyes, which glowed red, only when their lights shined
---Point Pleasant Register, Wednesday, November 16, 1966
Some creatures which spend part of their lives using their eyes in dim light have a special reflective
layer at the backs of their eyes called the tapetum lucidum. This biological mirror reflects light back through the
retina so it has more chance of being captured. By increasing or rather, by bouncing the light that comes into their eyes,
these animals effectively increase the amount of light available for their eyes to see with, and increase their ability to
see in what we perceive as "darkness". Cats, partly due to the tapetum lucidum, can see clearly in just one-sixth the
amount of light humans need. These animals lose some visual acuity this way, but make more efficient use of low light. Light
that is not used exits through the pupil causing the "glow" of animal eyes often seen in car headlights or flashlights. This
is called "eyeshine" and even lower levels of ambient light is sometimes enough to trigger the effect.
Animal eyeshine identification is an important clue for hunters as well as naturalists. Most cats
and dogs usually have green eye shine. Alligators have red eye shine. Opossums eyes shine pink. Birdwatchers often refer to
the color reaction to a bird's eyes when they have a light shined on them at night. Most owls have red eyeshine. At night,
wolf spiders can be collected by taking advantage of their eyeshine. The light from a flashlight will reflect off the tapetum
located in the eyes of the spider.
Repeatedly, frightened witnesses noticed Mothman was "light sensitive" and that the creature avoided
bright light sources at all costs.
"It apparently is afraid of light."
Have we a natural example of this behavior?
Yes. The tapetum lucidum gives walleyes a built-in survival advantage: they can see well
in dim light, but their prey cannot. This natural "night vision" explains why these fish do most of their feeding in dim light.
Because of their light-sensitive eyes, walleyes will not tolerate sunlight. If the water is clear and there is no shade in
the shallows, the fish may go as deep as 40 feet to escape the penetrating rays. In dark or choppy waters, walleyes can remain
shallow all day.
Perhaps the light sensitive eyes of the Mothman were slow to recover from the blinding effects
of automobile headlights and other brilliant light sources.
Eyeshine has been fully documented during nocturnal Mothman encounters. This is solid evidence
that this creature's eyes employed a mirror-like reflecting layer. Mothman had eyes that were more efficient in gathering
the available light so that this creature could "see" in the dark. It behaved accordingly.
QUESTION: Any final thoughts or comments?
GOERMAN: Someone left the door to The Twilight Zone ajar. Mothman was but one of a myriad
of unexplained and unknown phenomena to haunt the skies and environs of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Strange lights and
objects fluttered overhead. Peculiar strangers harassed witnesses. Nightmares walked among us. Improbable and impossible stood
side by side. Biological reality and absurdity became interchangeable. Something sent traumatized victims fleeing to physicians
and hospitals. Lives were ruined.
Nobody asked for any of this.