(WJHL) — Although humans have called the Appalachian Mountains home for years, some speculate non-human entities also claim the area as their own.
From Mothman and Bigfoot to a White Thang and Raven Mocker, below are several cryptids and creatures that are said to roam the Appalachian Mountains and surrounding areas.
The red-eye creature with wings, known today as “Mothman,” was reportedly first spotted in Point Pleasant, West Virginia on Nov. 15, 1966.
An article published in the Point Plesant Register recalled the first sighting by two couples on a late-night drive.
Steve Mallettee and Roger Scarberry told the Point Pleasant Register the creature stood between six or seven feet tall with a wing span of 10 feet and red eyes. “It was like a man with wings,” Mallette said decades ago. “It wasn’t like anything you’d see on TV or in a monster movie.”
Mallette and Scarberry claim the creature followed them, gliding over the car until they reached the National Guard Armory on Route 62. Mallete claimed it followed them down numerous streets, appearing to be waiting for them at some points.
After the sighting by Mallette and Scarberry, speculations came forth on what the creature could be.
A Dec. 1, 1966 article published in The Gettysburg Times suggests the “monster bird with red eyes” might have been a sandhill crane.
According to an associate professor of wildlife biology at West Virginia University, the descriptions of all documented sightings of the red-eye creature fit with America’s second-largest crane.
Standing at the average height of a person and with a wingspan of over seven feet, the professor said the crane “apparently wandered out of its normal migration route.”
As for the red eyes of the mysterious creature, the professor said they could be the large circle of bare reddish flesh around the sandhill crane’s eyes.
Whether or not you believe in Mothman sightings or suspect it’s another animal, West Virginia has become the home of the Mothman Festival, which celebrates the red-eyed cryptid annually.
Bigfoot, also referred to as Skunk ape, Sasquatch, Woodbooger and more, might be the most popular cryptid in pop culture.
Although this large, somewhat human cryptid is often seen in the Pacific Northwest, sightings have been reported throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
According to The Travel Channel, the Appalachian Mountains are believed to be a haven for Bigfoot.
“Eye witness accounts describe the creature as having different colored fur, though one of the most striking species of bigfoot is a nocturnal creature with black fur and glowing green eyes,” the Travel Channel article reads.
Animal Planet’s TV series Finding Bigfoot has visited several area locations in search of the creature, including the Great Smoky Mountains, various locations in the Appalachian Mountains, Norton, Virginia and more.
Since the filming of the show in 2011, Norton has embraced the mythical creature by celebrating the Woodbooger Festival every year. A statue of the Bigfoot-like creature can be found in the Flag Rock Recreation Area in town.
In Cherokee mythology, a Raven Mocker is described as one that “robs the dying man of life.”
“Myths of The Cherokee” written by James Mooney in 1888 explains how when one member in the settlement is sick or dying, the Raven Mocker flies through the air in a “fiery shape” and makes the sound of a raven “not like the common raven cry.”
East Tennessee State University (ESTU) described a “white thang” as a southern cryptid depicted as tall and white with lengthy hair and claws.
ETSU issued a release in October 2023 with a list of some Appalachian monsters, including the White Thang.
A Smoke Wolf is an enormous red-eye-wolf-like creature, ETSU described. The university said the legend of the Smoke Wolf indicates the creature usually resides in West Virginia forests.
This cat-like beast is said to roam the Appalachian Mountains. These cryptids are often depicted as walking on their hind legs with glowing eyes, ETSU said.
Dr. Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, assistant director of the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services also teaches the popular “Paranormal Appalachia” course at ETSU.
According to Fletcher, cryptids and monsters can serve different cultural purposes beyond entertainment. Many of the stories are passed down from the Cherokee.
“As metaphors, they may warn against human excess and greed, such as environmental overuse and destruction,” Fletcher said. “They allow us to experience the sensation or thrill of fright without being in danger. During this time of year, the change of seasons is a liminal space, and it is a good time to consider the cycle of life and death and our own role as transitional beings within changing places. Monsters and cryptids help us do just that.”
To learn more about the course or the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services at ETSU, click here.