Mothman, Mounds, and Prisons
If you are a paranormal geek and visiting West Virginia, you have to stop by and drop in on Point Pleasant. We planned to pay a visit to this picturesque town and uncover further information about the Mothman.
After driving through the scenic country, we finally saw the bridge to Point Pleasant in the distance. We would have to travel over this bridge for entry to the town. As we made our move on top of the bridge, Sharon had her video camera on and I was taking photos. All of a sudden, and at the same instant, both our camera’s batteries expired. Because both cameras were dissimilar, Sharon wondered if the surrounding elements (running water, bridge, right humidity, and air currents), possibly had formed a Faraday Effect. (The Faraday Effect is a magneto-optical phenomenon, an interaction between light and a magnetic field in a medium.) Whatever happened, we thought it was a weird coincidence.
Point Pleasant is well-known for the bridge tragedy in 1967. On a cold December day, the Silver Bridge tumbled down into the frigid waters of the river below. This unfortunate incident happened during the busiest time of the day and 46 people perished. The bridge was constructed in 1928, and was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge. It only took one eyebar to break in the chain, along with a heavy load of traffic for which the bridge was not designed for, causing the collapse of the Silver Bridge. The bridge was replaced in 1969 with the Silver Memorial Bridge.
We spent time walking the historic district of this town, shopping in the stores, and taking pictures of ourselves by the Mothman statue. You can’t go anywhere around town with hearing a story or two about this elusive cryptic. Some say this enigmatic creature was responsible for the collapse of the Silver Bridge. There were reports of a winged creature flying over the bridge right before it gave way. Some people feel he is the harbinger of doom, or just an urban legend, while others think it is a protector.
Most of the stories relating to witness sightings of the Mothman have been in or around the abandoned World War II TNT bunkers on the outskirts of town. Not only have people reported seeing a winged creature, but there are stories of paranormal activity especially in the second of the three bunkers. People have seen strange orbs, shadow figures, and felt like they were being touched by unseen forces. Sharon and I wanted to visit the bunkers, but were not sure how to find them.
While in a gift shop in the historic district, we mentioned to an employee how interested we were to see the bunkers. He drew us a map to the location, and we headed out enthusiastic and curious on what we may observe while there. We drove to a small road with a Christmas tree lot on one corner and a nuclear plant across the street. We counted the streets until we arrived at the one he circled on the map. We found the turnoff to the bunkers, but the road was blocked off with a closed gate. We parked the car, got out, and immediately an uneasy feeling came over me. I looked down the path we had to walk and saw a dense forest on one side with a mucky pond on the other. I felt so uncomfortable about us being there alone and a bit anxious as we walked the path towards the bunkers. Sharon felt it too. Right before getting out of the car, she witnessed something huge and dark fly over the forest which made her more apprehensive. We didn’t get very far when we glanced back at the car and a police vehicle passed by. He came back, and then stopped. We made up some lame story about being out-of-towners and taking pictures of the pond. We were sure he didn’t believe us, but I felt relieved to see him. We hopped back in the car and headed towards town to find our turnoff to Moundsville. Unfortunately, the turnoff wasn't easy to find. We actually enlisted the help of a friend in Arizona who used his GPS to located the right exit. Jeez, it figures we would get lost and need help from someone many, many miles away. This was one of our many Lucy and Ethel moments.
We ended up on a small highway from Point Pleasant to Moundsville and very thankful for it. We ran across some amazing abandoned structures and old cemeteries. The first thing we saw along the highway was an abandoned church. We pulled over to take pictures of the building and green scenery behind it. As I was snapping away, Sharon told me to look across the street. There it was, tucked in the forest among the trees was a tiny cemetery. Scattered in the small plot of land was several headstones that looked like they have been there for countless years. It was an eerie site with the darkness of the trees surrounding the graves. This stop was more than we expected.
The next abandoned gem we saw was an old farmhouse which was consumed by foliage. We almost missed the house because of the massive growth of vines weaving inside and out of the shell made it almost invisible from the street. I thought it was beautiful with the sun kissing the open walls, ceilings, windows and shining through in an artistic manner. After taking many pictures of the house, and as we walked back to the car, we were stared down by a couple of cows from behind the fence. One looked like Norman in City Slickers. Behind the cows we noticed another structure which looked like it collapsed. Of course, we took pictures of that too.
Our next stop was the town of Moundsville in West Virginia. Moundsville is near the Ohio River and is known for the massive Grave Creek Mound and prison. As we were driving down the streets of town and looking for the mound, we got stuck at a red light. I said to Sharon, “We ought to be able to see the mound because it is big and should stick out like a sore thumb”. Right after I said that, I looked to my right, and there it was. You just can’t miss the immense green grassy hill right in the middle of town. As we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed the colossal Moundsville Prison across the street.
The Grave Creek Mound is about 69 feet high, 295 feet in diameter, and is one of the most prevalent cone-shaped burial mounds found in the United States. It was built sometime between 250-150 BC and is crafted of more than 60,000 tons of dirt by the Adena people. Historians believe the mound was constructed in various stages by the many burials at various levels inside the mound. In earlier times, the mound was surrounded by a moat which was about 40 feet wide and five feet deep. There was only one walkway to get across the dirt ditch to the mound. In the early 1800’s when archaeologists were able to get inside the mound, they found Adena Hopewell remains and ornaments next to a small sandstone tablet.
The Delf Norona Museum was built next to the site and opened its doors in 1978. Inside, you will be treated to many displays of artifacts which explain how the ancient Adena civilization survived and what their way of life was like.
Sharon and I didn’t get to the Grave Creek Mound early enough to walk to the top of the mound. However, we were able to walk through the museum and enjoy all the artifacts and other items which were on display.
Across the street from the Grave Creek Mound is a massive stone medieval castle-like structure which is the West Virginia Penitentiary (Moundsville Prison). The prison opened in 1876 and was constructed to hold 480 prisoners. By the 1900’s, the prison started to experience overcrowding and they started working on enlarging the prison. In 1929, the construction was temporarily halted because of the war causing an iron shortage. By then, the penitentiary accommodated over 2,400 prisoners with three men to every five by seven cell. The expansion was finally finished in 1959, but by then the prison had a reputation for violence and harsh punishments. In 1986, the West Virginia Supreme Court made a judgment proclaiming that the tiny cells were merciless and harsh punishment. They ordered the West Virginia Penitentiary to be shut down. The last of the prisoners were moved out and relocated in 1995.
Today, the prison is a place where tourist can visit and roam the halls while learning of the buildings history. The structure is also used as a training facility. While walking around, you may not be alone. Many have witnessed seeing and hearing paranormal happenings they can’t explain. Because of the prison’s brutal and deadly past, people feel that many of the prisoners are still hanging around. Some of the claims are around the buildings so called “hot spots”. One area, the North Wagon Gate, is where death row inmates were hung, and then in later years, put to death in the electric chair.
Sharon and I did not make the tour, but we did take in the massive fortress from the outside. Perhaps, she and I will someday be able to see the prison from the inside and walk alongside the spirits who still live there.