Friday, October 27, 2023

The Shadow on the Road - Leroy, West Virginia

On that day, we had already spent eight hours on the road, and we had another hour to go to reach our final destination. After several failed attempts over the years to visit the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the stars had finally aligned. A group of friends and creative collaborators, whom I had known solely through digital channels for over a decade, had finally organized a trip to attend the annual Mothman Festival. It is only fair to mention that our last earnest attempt in 2020 was thwarted by the world-ending, so that wasn't entirely our fault. But now, we had made it. We were almost there, less than six hours away from the midnight of the official kickoff.

You see, there are many people like us who consider this location and the event itself a peculiar destination. It's like a blend of Comic Con, Christmas, and Halloween all rolled into one. Who doesn't love the story of the Mothman? I've always regretted not having the chance to personally meet the legendary John Keel, who, indirectly, was responsible for this gathering of oddballs. It was his writing that somehow caused all of this, or at least brought it into pop culture. All of that being said, the Mothman legend is not the primary source of this experience in high strangeness.

Due to the popularity of the Festival, finding affordable accommodations for our group of friends and their partners was a challenge. Despite starting our search six months before the event, the closest options we found were nearly an hour away from Point Pleasant. This is how we ended up staying on a secluded farmstead in a place called Leroy, West Virginia. To give you an idea of how remote it was, there were no streetlights in either direction, and it took half an hour to reach it on the same road. We were truly in the middle of nowhere. God's Country, if you will. 

As we wound down the country highway with steep hillsides, we had many opportunities to psyche ourselves out, holding our breath on sharp curves and scanning the darkness for wildlife. The brief respite when we got onto the "main roads" seemed, in hindsight, unnatural.

We reached town and crossed the river into Ohio to pick up toiletries and snacks for the night ahead with friends on the eve of the festival. Our friends and their plus-twos rode in a separate car, leaving only my partner and me in my trusty Old Ironside III. We were eager to get back to the farm and rest. The long drive had left us tired, and now we had to slow down to avoid curious deer. We had already spotted at least five deer on the way back. We were just minutes away from turning onto the final road leading to the farmstead when it happened. That's when we saw it.

We were chatting about our walk in town and sharing a laugh when, in a matter of seconds, we approached the crest of a small hill that appeared and disappeared within moments. It was a substantial bump on the country highway that carried us about ten feet up and then returned to the regular grade. Basically, we would not have been able to see if another car was coming our way.

As we neared the hill, my headlights illuminated the slope, revealing anything that might have been standing on the shoulder and in the shallow woods beyond. The uneven terrain and shadows briefly cast eerie shapes until they were bathed in the light. My breath caught, thinking I was about to collide with a deer, potentially ruining our holiday weekend. It was only when my girlfriend began to speak but immediately stopped that I realized she had seen it too.

There was no collision. No curious deer stepped onto the road and bounced off of my car. The shadows on the pavement seemed to coalesce into the form of such an animal. I distinctly remember seeing it from behind, its head rising and looking at us over its shoulder, too late to run away or understand what was happening. Instead of a loud impact, it turned to face us, made eye contact, and then seemed to fold into itself and vanish.

We continued over the hill, both of us in a state of shock. Then came the inevitable barrage of "Did you see that?" and similar questions.

She struggled to describe it, while I tried to recreate the image I had in my mind. It was a strange encounter. I saw the distinct shape of a deer, but it was shrouded in darkness and did not seem solid at all. It had materialized and dissolved into the same nebulous blend of shadow and light. And now it was gone.

We did not know what we had seen on the road, but we had both viewed it from different angles, different perspectives, and with similar skeptical inclinations, even though we both wanted to believe. Most likely, it was not something tangible or even organic. But we both saw it, whatever it was. For one fleeting moment, on a night now lost to time, hidden away in a remote corner of West Virginia, it stood before us, before retreating into the night.