|Raleigh Register 17 November 1966|
It was a cold, clear Tuesday night in Centerpoint, a small community in Doddridge County, located about 20 miles from Clarksburg, WV. The Partridge Family---Newell (later known as Merle), his wife, and their six children (4 boys and 2 girls) were at the family farm on Pike Fork. The family pet, a 3 year old, 110 lb. German Shepherd named Bandit, was on the porch outside.
At around 10:30 pm or shortly after, the television started cutting out. What had been images of the movie, Wild and Wonderful, featuring a white French poodle named Monsieur Cognac, were now replaced by a 'fine herringbone pattern.' The television also started making a horrible, high pitched noise, which was described as almost like a generator starting up. Bandit began howling outside, presumably bothered by the television set's strange, ear-splitting screech.
And...this is where the details of the story start to get a little muddled.
According to newspaper articles from the time of the incident and Gray Barker's book, The Silver Bridge, Mr. Partridge turned the television off and walked out onto the porch with a flashlight. At about that time, Bandit sprinted off the porch and into the field, headed toward the direction of either a small barn or pump house, around a football field's length away. His fur was bristled, and he acted as if he were about to attack something. Mr. Partridge called to him, but the usually obedient dog did not return to his master. When a flashlight was shone in the direction the dog was headed, it picked up what was then described by newspaper accounts and Barker as being two HUGE glowing red eyes, unlike anything Partridge had ever seen before. They looked like two bicycle reflectors. Partridge went to go for his gun, but didn't go after the dog or the thing with glowing red eyes that night.
Bandit never returned home that night, or the following day. At some point within the next few days, Partridge investigated the area. He could see evidence of where Bandit had ran off the porch and through the grass to the area near the barn or pump house. Once there, he could see the dog's paw prints in the mud, going around in a circle as if it were chasing its own tail, but there were no prints or other evidence to suggest that the dog ran off somewhere. It was like it had just vanished.
|Tribute to Bandit at the 2016 Mothman Festival. Seen with one of the Partridge sons. |
Photo property of Loren Colman.
Meanwhile in Point Pleasant...
Linda and Roger Scarberry, along with their friends, Steve and Mary Mallette, had witnessed a huge, winged humanoid while driving in the former TNT area, just north of Pt. Pleasant. Again, reports differ slightly, but at some point while they were either being chased down the main road back into town at over 100 mph, or when they stopped to turn around, they saw what appeared to be a large, dead dog lying by the roadside. According to Linda Scarberry, the dog was seen near the old CC Lewis farm, and on the map, pictured below (found in the book, Mothman: Behind Red Eyes), the location of the dog was just north of Tiny's Drive-In along Rt. 62 on the same side of the road as the river.
After summoning help and heading back to the TNT area less than an hour later, the dog carcass was nowhere to be seen. All of this occurred around 90 minutes after Bandit disappeared from the Partridge Farm.
The appearance and disappearance of the dead dog apparently made a fairly big impact on the witnesses, because it was included in the news reports that came out about the incident. That news made it to Newell Partridge and something clicked that made him think that maybe his Bandit could have been that dog.
Partridge, a building contractor, often called up the local news station, WBOY-TV, in Clarksburg to get weather reports and other information, and developed a rapport with anchor, Pete Lyman. According to Barker, Partridge called Pete on the 17th and asked him to gather up some information on the recent incident in Pt. Pleasant. Pete got the feeling that there must be some reason why Partridge would make such an unusual request as opposed to his usual weather inquiries, and asked him whether or not he'd seen something. Without thinking, Partridge told him about the red lights/reflectors/eyes he had seen and about his missing dog.
|Pete Lyman, standing. 1962. Source|
Intrigued, Pete told Partridge that the station had sent a reporter down to Pt. Pleasant who believed the witnesses saw SOMETHING that shook them up, and asked if Partridge would mind if he sent the reporter over to talk with him. In a later interview with Mothman researcher, author, and curator of the Mothman Museum, Jeff Wamsley, Partridge would claim that the next day, he was bombarded. Not only did the reporter come out, but allegedly so did an Air Force Colonel, a detective, and others. The family was pranked and ridiculed, and received weird phone calls of just beeping noises. Partridge wished he had never told anyone what had happened, but he did give an interview with Gray Barker on the 19th, which ended up in the book, The Silver Bridge.
From what I can gather, Partridge didn't give another interview on the subject until he was interviewed by Wamsley in the 1980's, while Wamsley's band was returning from a gig in the area. In this interview, which can be found in the book, Mothman: Behind Red Eyes, Partridge shares some additional information, clears up some misinformation he claims Barker got wrong, and makes one fairly startling change to the narrative.
To begin with, early accounts claim that Partridge's first name is Newell. However, later on he goes by Merle, and claims that there was a mix-up with his birth certificate, on which Newell was wrongly put instead of Merle.
Further, the incident with the television apparently didn't end with just turning the set off. In his interview with Wamsley, Partridge claims that the television tube actually exploded, breaking out the glass and ruining the whole set, which had to be replaced. But, the most significant change to the story involved what was actually seen.
In the interview with Wamsley, Partridge also claimed that he never described the red circles as eyes. In fact, there was nothing living, nor organic about them whatsoever. He kept emphasizing that what he really saw were flashing, red lights of a mechanical nature. Also, the flattened, worn down area where the dog's prints had been found going around in a circle had previously been blamed on cows. Now, it was suggested that something 'more than a helicopter' had been out there, flattening the grass in the field.
|Merle Partridge. Still from Eyes of the Mothman documentary (2011)|
Partridge goes on to further explain in this interview that a neighbor about 2 miles away also had the same thing happen with HIS television that night, and for about a week following the incident, things were eerily quiet and devoid of the usual outdoor nature noises. There's also a story that Partridge feels is connected about a neighbor coming to him for help about a week later because his younger son went missing, only to reappear walking down the road in a direction where it would have been impossible for him to come from.
So what is up with the inconsistencies in this story? Partridge claims that ufologist Gray Barker got a lot of details wrong, and to be quite honest, we now know that Barker could be a little less than truthful when it came to his UFO research. But were these honest mistakes, misunderstandings, or flat out lies on his part? And why would newspaper reporters say the same thing about Partridge seeing glowing red EYES at the time of the incident? They wouldn't have gotten information from Gray Barker, who interviewed Partridge AFTER the newspaper articles came out for his book that wouldn't be published until 1970.
Was Partridge intimidated or threatened by someone to change his story, or did two decades take a toll on his memory? Was he simply trying to clear up years of misinformation? And if we do assume that the red lights were mechanical in nature and not eyes, does that mean that Mothman arrived in or was accompanied by some sort of craft?
Over 50 years later, and we aren't any closer to solving the Mothman mystery. Nevertheless, the body of lore surrounding this elusive winged humanoid continues to grow, as does interest in its story. Keep checking Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page and blog to stay up to date on West Virginia's favorite cryptid!