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Mothman Part 2 – Mary Hyre & John Keel

Updated: Apr 12

In part 1 we covered Mothman's origin story. There was never a Mothman before Point Pleasant 1966. But the collapse of the Silver Bridge wasn't the end for the Mothman, either.

The idea of Mothman as omen of tragedy came from the Paranormal researcher, John Keel. His investigation of the sightings in Point Pleasant was documented in his book, The Mothman Prophecies. The book would later be adapted into a movie starring Richard Gere.

Ask Mary Hyre

Digital illustration of Mary Hyre

John Keel wrote that the quickest way to get to know the area and its people, was to ask Mary Hyre. She was the local correspondent for the Athens Messenger. Her newspaper column was called “Where the Waters Mingle”.

Mary took an interest in the sightings of the strange birdlike creature. She reported on the sightings in her column, and as such, attracted the attention of John Keel. Her first article about the Mothman came out the after the sighting on 15 November 1966.

“Winged, Red-Eyed ‘Thing’ Chases Point Couples Across Countryside” appeared in the Athens Messenger on 16 November 1966. In her article she reported the first description of the creature, and added that a Sheriff's deputy that accompanied the witnesses back to the TNT Area, found a “strange pile of dust”, but no Mothman.

Her next article, “Monster Returns to Mason”, was published a day later. According to Hyre, six more people had encounters with the creature. The news of a mysterious humanoid creature spread like wildfire. Soon enough, Mary found herself reporting on the influx of sightseers.

Mary also captured the first mention of the “Mothman is an alien” theory:

“You see, it’s that talk of going to the moon and that stuff,” he told The Messenger. “It’s hard to tell what they’ve caused to come back to earth.”

Her third article was published three days later. She notes here that every description of the creature includes the glowing red eyes part. This is also the article that introduces some of the earliest theories.

We've already covered Dr. Robert Smith's Sandhill Crane theory. This theory, which sticks around even today, was countered by the Ohio University zoology department. They brought up the fact that Sandhill Cranes aren't native to the area, and there had never been a sighting of one there.

The Proctorville-Fairland High School Science Interest Club claimed that it was a weather balloon they had released to study air currents. It's like the greatest hits of UFO handwaving explanations. Birds! Balloons! Now all we need is for someone to claim that the witnesses were hallucinating due to alcohol.

Mary's next article covered a daytime sighting by a 25-year-old. He saw the creature standing in a field before rising straight up into the air like a helicopter. After this sighting, the Mothman kept a low profile.

John Keel and UFOs

Mothman smoking a cigarette on the porch
It's called self-care

Mothman may have been resting on his spooky laurels, but that doesn't mean things weren't still very strange. Hyre's article on 12 December 1966 told of sightings strange lights in the sky. One witness even described seeing a “saucer-shaped” object.

The December report also mentioned a man who would become key to the Mothman mythos. John Keel, an Ufologist and newspaper reporter from New-York, had heard about the strangeness going on in Point Pleasant. He was interviewing witnesses to the Mothman, UFOs, and even Woodrow Derenberger who met an “alien” named Indrid Cold.

Keel's interviewees started telling him about visits from strange men dressed all in black. They acted strange, as if they weren't quite sure how to be human. Often, their visits would come with threats or warnings to stop talking about UFOs or the Mothman.

Keel left Point Pleasant and returned to New-York. While there he started receiving weird phone calls. After some digging, Keel discovered that he wasn't the only one. UFO researchers all across the USA were experiencing similar disturbances. Keel wrote this about it:

"Reports of telephone hoaxes, beeping and electronic sounds, tapes being played back, etc., reached me from as far away as Seattle, Washington. Flying saucer enthusiasts from coast to coast were suddenly having identical problems. Obviously this was not the work of a few random pranksters. It was more like a well-organized, well-financed campaign. On the night of July 21 between the hours of 10 P.M. and 1 A.M. hoax calls were received in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, and probably many other places that I never learned about. Unlisted phones were no protection. Were these calls the work of the CIA, as so many of the UFO enthusiasts believed? They seemed too pointless and expensive to be the work of the government."

One of Keel's earliest interviews was with Mary Hyre's niece, Connie Carpenter. She reported seeing a massive gray figure flying overhead. Connie was left with painful, swollen, red eyes. Her condition was similar to Photokeratitis, commonly known as Arc-Eye.

Photokeratitis is caused by severe exposure to UV-rays. John Keel postulates in his book that the condition is common in eyewitnesses of UFOs.

According to a letter Mary Hyre wrote to John Keel on March 5, 1967, Connie was attacked on her way to school. Connie left her home in the morning and didn't make it far when a man grabbed her. He tried to force her into his car, tearing her blouse and scratching her.

Connie's mother thought the attack had something to do with her monster sighting. They found a note on their porch that said “remember girl, I can still get you”.

Six days later, Keel received another letter, which described Mary's own sighting of a UFO.

John Keel compiled the exceedingly strange events leading up to the collapse of the Silver Bridge in his 1975 book, The Mothman Prophecies.

In part 3 we're going to cover contemporary sightings of the Mothman, as well as theories on what exactly it is, besides a sandhill crane.