The Mothman. You know him. You love him. From his imposing stature to his fifteen-foot wingspan to his glowing red eyes to his rock-hard abs, he has all the workings of a savior. He will lead the people to the light. He will wash away the dark with one shriek of his hot, salty breath. Say his name. Sing it into the night. Mothman.
It seemed fitting, therefore, that Becca and I would choose the home of Mothmania as our last stop on our Great Southern Escapade. Point Pleasant, WV was a good halfway point between Nashville and home, but it also appealed to our love of supernatural beings, urban legends, and stuff that’s just a little bit weird. We were in for so much more than we expected, but because we didn’t get to do much upon our arrival in the evening of Day 11, I’ve combined into one post the account of our two days in Point Pleasant.
First, however, we had to get the hell out of the black hole that was Nashville. We woke up early and packed our stuff with urgency, calling for our car and rushing to get onto the highway. We grabbed breakfast from Parlor Donuts just down the street, and I will say that the donuts we got from them (maple bacon, bourbon pecan, blueberry) were the best part of our stay in Nashville besides Bolton’s.
We crossed through Kentucky on our way to Point Pleasant, passing by the many bourbon distilleries on our drive. The Eastern Time Zone greeted us in Elizabethtown, the place made famous in that Kirsten Dunst movie, and we got used to the hour jump into the future as we made our way down the Bluegrass Parkway. Kentucky is a beautiful state through which to drive, and the roads aren’t as stuffed with trucks or menacing drivers; after harrowing treks through Arkansas and Tennessee, it was a welcome respite for us to sail down the parkway.
For lunch we stopped in Lexington, which has a cute downtown area that feels like it’s popping off in terms of growth. It could be the next Charlotte or Nashville; the vibe is like both of those cities just before they started getting featured on blogs and websites like U.S. News & World Report under headlines like “Top Ten Next Big Cities For Millennials”. We ate at Zim’s Cafe, a joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives for its Big Brown Burger, to which Mr. Guy Fieri himself personally gave his blessing. He wasn’t joking; the burger packs a lot of flavor, as it’s stacked high with ham, bacon, and cheddar. Becca got the Bourbon Barrel Deluxe, which was dripping with bourbon BBQ sauce and bourbon-infused beer cheese. We couldn’t decide which one was better. If you find yourself in Lexington, you must go to Zim’s; it’s a very cute little place inside the old courthouse, and sometimes they have live folk music, which is very Kentucky.
We got back on the road after gassing up and drove through the rest of Kentucky into West Virginia. Driving through West Virginia offers a tale of America: On one stretch of road, or even on one side of the road, we saw gorgeous homes overlooking the Ohio River, all with massive yards and driveways with brand new SUVs and trucks parked in them. On the other side of the tracks – quite literally – we saw trailer parks, two-room houses in need of serious TLC, and old Honda Accords nose-to-nose with folks standing outside of them in hushed conversation. So West Virginia isn’t the hellhole like Bette Midler said it was, but it’s certainly not almost heaven. It’s a state with good parts and bad, parts that need love and parts that have so much love to give. In a word: It felt like home.
At about 5:45, we pulled into Point Pleasant, and immediately the charm of the town hit us square in the face. Downtown Point Pleasant has a cute square lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, and kitschy local stores that sell all sorts of local flavor. Our lodgings for the evening were courtesy of the Lowe, a historic hotel overlooking the Ohio and perched right across the street from the glorious statue of the Mothman. The Lowe has hosted guests for over a hundred years, and before COVID, it was the site of many beautiful banquets, weddings, celebrations, and rambunctious parties. Now owned by the Finley family, the Lowe has so much more to offer than any regular hotel. Inside, Ruth Finley will happily show you around the bar, the two banquet halls, the sitting rooms, and the incredible art gallery, which features local artists as well as works donated from museums all around the world.
And folks, you can bet that every inch of this wonderful place is haunted to the nines. Becca and I were in love.
Every room of the Lowe has a different flair, so when Ruth told us that we were the only guests in the hotel for the evening, Becca and I jumped at the opportunity to pick our spot for the night. We settled on a room at the end of the hall with a mid-century vibe; it had a little record player on the dresser, pop art lining the walls, and furniture straight out of a Levittown home from the start of the Cold War. We dropped off our stuff, took some more time to explore the empty hotel, and then set out to grab dinner to bring back.
Anyone who visits Point Pleasant must go to Village Pizza, a staple of the city. Buzzfeed Unsolved featured the restaurant in their video about the Mothman, and since then Village Pizza has moved into a much bigger spot just down the plaza. They serve bar-style pizza in sort of the same vein as one of our favorite pizza spots back in Massachusetts, Town Spa, so we knew we were going to love it. Village Pizza has a Mothman-inspired pizza with toppings that form the image of the cryptid on the pie, but we decided to go for our favorite pies instead, one with bacon and one with peppers, pineapple, and onions.
We brought the pizzas back to the hotel and ate in bed, choosing to spend the night in. We’d had so much adventure and so many nights of exploration, and we had a long day of driving back to Brooklyn ahead of us, so having an off night felt necessary. But Mothman waited outside our window for us to say hello. In the morning, we certainly would.
On the last day of our trip, Becca and I woke up early to check out of the hotel. Ruth offered us coffee and another look around the art gallery before we left the Lowe. I will say that if you ever want to visit Point Pleasant, don’t bother with any of the chain hotels. COVID has hit Point Pleasant hard and local businesses could use the help. And while the Lowe has been limiting their guests during the pandemic, you can bet that they will be wanting visitors in the near future. Plan your stay today. (Many thanks to Ruth and Rush for being such great hosts.)
Becca and I grabbed more coffee and some breakfast from the Coffee Grinder, another Point Pleasant institution which sits kitty-corner to the Lowe. We took it to go, for we couldn’t wait any longer to meet our icon. There he stood symbolized in metal, the sun shining on his head, making his eyes gleam red in the light. Protector of Point Pleasant, spirit of the shadows, savior and idol of all believers past, present, and future: The Mothman.
You know the story of the Mothman. In the 1960s, youths parked in what is now the McClintic Wildlife Management Area saw the Mothman creeping through the trees, and as they drove off, the Mothman soared over their car, beginning the long string of urban legends and strange happenings centered on the city of Point Pleasant. These days, the Mothman is the subject of many conspiracy documentaries, major motion pictures, comics, fan fictions, and even some musicals. He has become as important to American culture as Santa Claus, Barack Obama, Rachel & Ross, you name it. Everywhere you go, everyone knows what you mean when you mention the Mothman.
Of course, Point Pleasant has a whole museum dedicated to the Mothman. Becca and I visited to learn all about the Mothman’s history and see all of the things that his legend inspired, including the wild 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. The museum isn’t large, but it has so much that you could easily spend all day in there. We were on a time crunch, so we had to limit ourselves to only an hour, but we definitely got our fill of Mothman knowledge.
After raiding the gift shop for Mothman merch to bring home, we stopped back at the statue to take more pictures. Here we got to meet some folks important to the upkeep and culture of Point Pleasant and the greater area. Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley pulled up and chatted with us for a while, offering to take our picture, giving us a wealth of information about Point Pleasant, and asking us all about our trip through the South. Then we met the one and only Jeff Wamsley, a celebrity in supernatural circles and the proprietor of the Mothman Museum. Jeff was close to the Mothman phenomenon back when it first began, and throughout his whole life he’s worked to document the legend in great detail. Becca and I sort of geeked out when we met him. Just be jealous for us.
We talked with Jeff and Rick for a good amount of time, but after a while we knew we had to say goodbye to Point Pleasant. Our drive back to Brooklyn was going to take us ten hours, and it was already getting close to noon, so we wanted to get back home before it got too late. We waved goodbye to our new Point Pleasant friends, to the Lowe and the Finleys, to our savior the Mothman, and promised as we drove out of the city and east towards Maryland, Pennsylvania, and home that we would come back.
For the Mothman always calls you back.
Point Pleasant gave us so much joy that it wiped away all the disappointment from Nashville. Although it was the last stop on our trip, it became one of our very favorites. It wasn’t just because of the Mothman. All of the people we met in the city were so kind and welcoming that we felt comfortable there. If you have any reservations about West Virginia, stop having them. Go to Point Pleasant, take a seat at the Coffee Grinder, and just let yourself relax. It’s a great place to let it all hang out.
Next time on the Great Southern Escapade: A reflection on twelve days through the South, the highs and the lows, and how the escapade put a bow on two long, hard years. Thanks for reading; see you at the finish line.