Highland County, 1982-1983—Provided that all the people who said they saw Mothman in the Ohio River Valley in 1966-1967 had really seen some sort of flesh and blood creature, could it be that what they were seeing was some sort of undiscovered species of giant, monstrous owl?
That was a theory put forward by the late cryptozoologist and writer Mark Hall, who in his 2004 book Thunderbirds!: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds (Cosimo Classics; 2004) noted the prevalence of stories of giant birds and owl-like creatures in the Ohio River Valley, of which Mothman might have only been a more recent example.
There was also a Birdman, said to be a giant red bird with the head of a man that, like Mothman, also made a habit of chasing cars. And there were Native American legends about wicked supernatural creatures called “Flying Heads” which were just what they sounded like—giant, flying heads with claws attached.
Hall thought a large owl could account for these various descriptions as well as the stranger reports of Mothman’s figure; which claimed it had no head, but eyes embedded in its chest. Given an owl’s small round head that seems to sit right atop its round-ish body, as if it had no neck, couldn’t an owl look a little like a large flying human head, or a perhaps a headless winged figure? Especially in the dark, and while in motion?
Owls also, incidentally, give off red eye-shine when light hits the membranes in the back of their eyes in the dark, and Mothman’s most striking feature was, of course, shining red eyes.
Now, how big an owl are we talking about here? After all, Mothman was said to be man-sized and have a ten-foot-wingspan.
Well, we could be talking about a very large owl indeed.
Hall recorded a pair of sightings by a single woman a year apart, in 1982 and 1983, at Rocky Fork Lake park in Highland County in southwest Ohio. In the first sighting, she said she saw what she thought was a tree start to move…until she realized, once it flexed its small airplane-sized wings, that it was actually a giant owl camouflaged as a dead tree. On the second instance, she noticed that it had huge, yellow legs with three toes on each foot.
Hall called this giant owl “Bighoot,” which didn’t prove too terribly popular among his fellow cryptozoologists, being a bit too cute a name.
Illustration by Janie Walland