The Mothman is a legendary beast who allegedly roams the American state of West Virginia. Among other creatures, he is a topic of interest for cryptozoologists, people who study animals which seem to fall beyond normal taxonomic classifications. For the skeptics among us, one could also say that cryptozoologists study mythical creatures; examples of other topics of interest in the field include Nessie, the Yeti, mermaids, and dragons.
According to the stories, the Mothman was first spotted in November 1966 at a former weapons manufacturing plant in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Two young couples, who were on the land for unspecified reasons, said that they saw a giant, man-sized moth with glowing red eyes, which took off into flight once it was spotted. They reported the sighting to local law enforcement, triggering a rash of such sightings, which trickled off in December 1967, when the Silver Bridge collapsed, killing 46 people.
Sightings were reported by a wide range of people, typically around dusk or after dark, and they sometimes involved paranormal activity such as malfunctioning electronics. One report involved a dog, which allegedly was extremely upset for no apparent reason before the Mothman finally appeared; the next morning, the dog vanished, never to be seen again.
Many of the sightings shared common details, suggesting that people may have been reading the newspapers and being inspired, although one could also argue that these sightings were real, and this is why they shared commonalities. In almost all of the descriptions, the Mothman is said to be partially humanoid, with giant wings resembling those of a moth, and clawed feet and hands. In some legends, the Mothman has antennae as well.
Scientists have suggested that the rash of Mothman sightings were actually sightings of various large birds. Some birds such as cranes can get quite large, and they could have fooled people, especially in the dark or during the twilight hours. The red eyes of the Mothman can probably be attributed to a trick of light reflection, as anyone who has experienced "red eye" in a photograph knows. People are also very suggestible, and a single confused sighting of a bird could have planted the idea of the Mothman in the heads of many others.
The Mothman bears a lot of interesting similarities to the Garuda, a mythological Hindu creature with a humanoid figure and a large wingspan. It is possible that someone was reading a few too many Hindu myths and got a bit carried away. Cryptozoologists might argue that the failure to establish concrete evidence for the existence of the Mothman does not necessarily prove that he will never be found.