Lobby of the Lowe Hotel. It was built in 1901, and initially was called the Spencer Hotel until it was acquired by the Lowe Family in 1929.
The 12-foot Mothman Statue, visible from my room at the Lowe Hotel. Created by West Virginia artist Bob Roach.
The Point Pleasant River Museum. Within walking distance of the Lowe Hotel.
One of the memorial plaques describing the collapse of the Silver Bridge that killed 46 people on Dec. 15, 1967.
Last Monday, I jumped in my car and drove to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. I’ve always been fascinated with the tragedy surrounding the collapse of the Silver Bridge and the mystery of Mothman. Finding Daniel Boone’s trading post and Chief Cornstalk’s obelisk were bonuses. Incorporated in 1833, Point Pleasant, with a population of about 5,000, is situated at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers in Mason County. In 1774, on the future site of the city, Virginia militia defeated an Algonquin confederation of Shawnee and Mingo warriors led by Shawnee Chief Cornstalk. Point Pleasant citizens celebrate the Battle of Point Pleasant as the first battle of the American Revolution. Spur of the moment trips are my favorite, but they come with disadvantages. After four hours of driving, my GPS app had drained my phone, so my car charger was serving as life support. I drove straight into town and parked on Main Street in front of the Lowe Hotel, and called. The hotel, built in 1901, is owned by Rush and Ruth Finley. Ruth answered the phone, and quoted me rate of $79. Ruth and Rush ran the bar that opened at 6 p.m, and it appeared the couple babysat grandchildren between duties. A sign indicated the hotel was inhabited by spirits, so I asked for a haunted room. I got 302. I later read on Tripadvisor the rooms around 314, 315 and 316 were the ones with the most activity. When I walked by later, I could hear televisions and laughter. I tried going up to the fourth floor, which was supposed to have a ballroom, but it was dark, and mattresses were piled over the railing. I could see the 12-foot statue of Mothman from my room, but the only scare I got was when the window AC rattled to life. The next morning, in attempt to charge my phone, I drove to Tudor’s Biscuit World, an apparent institution in West Virginia. I got the Mary B: thick bacon, a hard-over egg, and cheese on a giant buttermilk biscuit. If a plain biscuit is 500 calories, I guess I ate a thousand. The woman at the counter also had to deliver trays of food to the dining room and lamented to co-workers they were busy because Gallipolis, across the Ohio, didn’t have water. I checked out the Riverfront Park and the Silver Bridge memorial, which had a misty view of the “new” Silver Memorial Bridge. This bridge was built in 1969 to replace the original that fell two years before. I bought a T-shirt at the Mothman Museum, which was five doors from the hotel. It had the original manuscript of John Keel’s book, “The Mothman Prophecies,” and props from the 2002 movie of the same name. At the Point Pleasant River Museum, Ruth Fout and her sister Martha autographed a copy of the book “The Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967,” compiled by the Fouts, Stephan G. Bullard and Bridget J. Gromek. The connection between Mothman and the Silver Bridge began in November 1966 with two young couples, who were driving in the TNT area, north of Point Pleasant. During World War II, TNT had been used by the military for chemical and explosives storage. The terrified four returned to Point Pleasant and told police that a large, flying creature with glowing red eyes had chased their car. Other sighting were reported over the next year, but they ceased – in Point Pleasant at least – after the collapse of the Silver Bridge on Dec. 15, 1967. Some believe the appearance of Mothman served as a forewarning of the disaster that dumped 31 vehicles into the black 44-degree water, killing 46, and injuring 9. The eyebar suspension bridge was an engineering marvel and the first of its kind in the United States when it was completed in 1928. Located on U.S. Highway 35, its span across the Ohio linked Point Pleasant with Kanauga and Gallipolis, Ohio. The bridge’s own design prevented inspectors’ ability to see the corrosion on the single eyebar that broke on the Ohio side. After the failure, the rest of bridge collapsed in rapid succession. At 4:58 p.m., the bridge was packed with holiday shoppers and people on their way home from work. Forty-one of the people killed were from the immediate area, and the loss is still palpable in Point Pleasant.