Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Caterpickles Consults the 12-Year-Old: “What is Mothman?”

Rear View of my daughter dressed as Mothman crossing the street.

The Mysterious Mothwoman blends into a crowd. (Photo: Shala Howell)

The Twelve-Year-Old’s middle school periodically holds special Spirit Days where the kids are asked to do various things, like wear yellow, wear a sports t-shirt, or dress up as their favorite superhero. The Twelve-Year-Old really enjoys these days, and invariably participates. When the day came to dress up as her favorite superhero, she came downstairs dressed entirely in black, sporting a pair of gold-tinted sunglasses and a green knit cap with feathers sticking out of it.

I could not figure out who she was supposed to be. So I asked her.

“The Twelve-Year-Old, who are you dressed up as?”

“What, Mommyo.”

Ok. “The Twelve-Year-Old, what are you dressed up as?”

“Mothman, well, technically Mothwoman, but oh well.”

“Who’s Mothman?”

What’s Mothman, Mommyo. That’s a much longer answer, and I’m going to be late for school. Can I tell you about it later?”

I’ll admit, it was a little surprising in the moment to have my question deferred so adroitly. But then again, I’ve been deferring her questions to answer later pretty much all of her life, so at least I know how she learned it.

And to give my daughter credit, when she came home from school, she presented me with a very complete answer. In writing. As if she wrote it for Caterpickles.

Gosh. Wherever would she have learned that.

This morning, she kindly gave me permission to use her essay as this week’s Caterpickle.

What is Mothman?

By The Twelve-Year-Old Howell

Mothman in History

Mothman is a cryptid, or a creature that is not actually confirmed by science (think unicorn, dragon, or chupacabra). Mothman was supposedly seen in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, from November 1966 to December 1967. Mothman was sighted around fourteen times during his/her/their career. Mothman has been identified as a heron, a barred owl, or a sandhill crane.

A man named John Keel (who is not a credible source) came to Point Pleasant to investigate the Mothman sightings, later writing a book called The Mothman Prophecies, in which he connected the cryptid to the collapse of a 39-year-old bridge. This bridge, called the Silver Bridge due to its distinctive silver paint, probably failed due to the collapse of a single eyebar (a straight metal bar with a hole in the end). There is no reason to connect this with Mothman.

Mothman in Pop Culture

Is it a moth or a bat or some sort of great-horned owl? Hard to tell, but whatever it is, it has red eyes and hearts flying out of its ears.
Searching for “Mothman Cute” as The Twelve-Year-Old suggested brings up lots of images like this one from

Recently Mothman has become quite a social media superstar, even spawning several memes.

If you look up “Mothman cute” on Google, you will get a flurry of drawings, memes, and even a Kickstarter ad. Mothman has also partially starred in several movies, one of these being The Mothman Prophecies, an adaptation of John Keel’s work.

PS. Since The Twelve-Year-Old kindly took things in hand here, it gave me time to review Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything over at BostonWriters. Come find out whether Bryson’s 2003 look at the history of science holds up in 2019.

Related Links:

5 Responses to “Caterpickles Consults the 12-Year-Old: “What is Mothman?””

  1. Fred Rayworth

    Mothman has always been a creepy legend, especially in Point Pleasant WV. We used to live in central WV and Point Pleasant, while quite a ways away, was always talked about in hushed tones as a cursed place, not only because of Mothman but because the town seemed to be cursed, what with the bridge collapse and incidents of rather unpleasant nature occurring in and around the area. Creepy.


    • Shala Howell

      From this distance, it clearly just sounds like an interesting story to my daughter. I can imagine Mothman would feel very different if you actually lived near him.



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