Camp Monsters


Episode Summary

Donald and Lydia moved into their first home together a little outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia when Lydia started noticing strange occurrences— like the two skinny things, casting shadows in the light that streams under the front door. 

Episode Notes

Donald and Lydia moved into their first home together a little outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia when Lydia started noticing strange occurrences— like the two skinny things, casting shadows in the light that streams under the front door.  Shadows that look for all the world like what someone’s legs would cast, if they were standing, just outside. But there couldn't be anyone out there, right? If there were, they would have moved by now. No one stands so still for so long, without shifting at all. So…if it isn’t a person…what is it?

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Episode Transcription

What did you leave out there, on the porch? Two things, it looks like-- two skinny things, casting shadows in the light that streams under the front door.  Shadows that look for all the world like what someone’s legs would cast, if they were standing, just outside. But there can’t be anyone out there. Or-- well, if there were, they would have moved by now. No one stands so still for so long, without shifting at all. So… if it isn’t a person… what is it?

You’ll just… you’ll just go and see. Too bad there isn’t a peephole, but… you can always look out of the big picture window right beside the door, just to be safe. That’s a good idea.  It is awfully late at night, after all.

So you walk across the darkened living room in your pajamas, and you step to the window and take a side of the long curtains in each of your hands. And after just a moment’s hesitation, you pull them apart. And you see what it is that’s standing so still… out there on your porch.

But… it… also sees you.

This is the Camp Monsters podcast.

Of course, if we’ve done our job right here on the Camp Monsters podcast, those shadows on the front porch are probably a couple of delivery boxes. Yes! Your new YETI Rambler 14-ounce mug, AND your 20-ounce YETI tumbler have been delivered! And in your favorite colors, too! Of course you know that all legendary creatures are warded off by products made by a company named after another legendary creature, so you throw the front door open wide and gather up your new YETI gear. Look at the stainless-steel construction. Feel the care and craftsmanship that goes into all YETI drinkware. Then pour in a cozy-warm beverage, and be amazed at how long your YETI holds its temperature. Wow. It’s enough to make you check out the full line of YETI products, available now on REI dot com, or in person at your local REI. Thanks, YETI!

And thanks to all of you for another year of Camp Monsters. It's your support and spreading the word about this podcast that have kept us recording. Four years! I can’t believe it. We keep having more and more fun making this podcast for you, and I hope that shines through in each episode. Please keep listening, keep telling your friends about us, and here’s hoping we have many more years together around the campfire.

But now… we just have tonight. One last fire-- and we’ve built a big one, to try and keep back the cold. Oh, it’s very pleasant here outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia… but the nights get chilly, this late in the season. Winter will be here soon, and all the little night creatures know it. If you listen hard you can hear them run and scurry and crawl and fly for shelter from the coming storms.

Run and scurry and crawl and fly and… flutter. After all, this is the area where the legend of the Mothman was born. Maybe you’ve heard it before-- teenagers driving on lonely roads at night, or old ladies living alone in remote farmhouses up the valley… they look out their windows and see something. Something that has the shape of a person, but… all mottled gray and white and rusty brown. With eyes that glow bright red, and… and wings. But not the long, graceful wings of a bird-- no. The stubby, flicking, fluttering wings of a moth. The kind that you feel skittering across your face on the porch at night… that land in your hair and fall down the neck of your shirt-- ugh, can’t you feel it?

They say all those sightings started back in the middle sixties. And we’ve managed to track down one of the earliest ones. But it isn’t like the other stories you’ve heard. It’s much stranger, and it makes me wonder about… well, about everything.

Including the old Silver Bridge. Donald and Lydia drove over it on their way into Point Pleasant. They were newlyweds, moving back to Donald’s hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, back in October of 1967. The weather was unseasonably warm that day, and they had the top of their convertible down as they drove across the bridge. Lydia reveled in the feeling that everyone they passed was looking at them, the newlyweds, with joyful jealousy. Even the bridge seemed to be staring.  It was a suspension bridge, painted shiny silver, suspended from two chains made of long steel bars. And where each bar joined the next there were bearings that looked just like dark, mournful eyes. “Don’t look so sad, you old bridge,” Lydia thought. “Be happy. Smile, like me.” But the bridge didn’t listen, and every bearing-eye they passed had a track of rusty tears running out of it.

Well: it didn’t bother Donald and Lydia. Nothing could bother them that day. They drove through and past Point Pleasant, out to their new little bungalow a few miles outside of town. So bright, so cozy. So private. It stood all by itself in a little clearing surrounded by the bright autumn colors of the trees.

The movers were hard at work when they pulled up– through the big picture window beside the front door they could see the new living room furniture being set up inside. To give the movers time to finish, and because the afternoon was so nice, Donald and Lydia decided to go on a little picnic in a nearby meadow that Donald knew about. The locals considered that meadow part of what they called “the TNT area,” because it contained the crumbling foundations of a big factory that had been hastily built during the Second World War to produce explosives, then torn down afterwards. 

There were some mutterings in town about a nasty old chemical dump on the property, leaking into the ponds and creeks around-- but it seemed to Lydia that twenty years had been more than enough time for nature to reclaim the area. Grass sprouted from the cracked cement of the old factory roads, and a jackrabbit dashed from behind a low ruined wall. Lydia wrinkled her nose as they peered inside one of the old explosive-storage igloos-- big, dark, concrete structures banked with earth, that looked like little hills from the outside. She left Donald roaming around the old igloos and returned to their picnic blanket to lay down in the sun.

And there-- right there in that sunny afternoon, was the first time Lydia had “the dream.” The dream that would keep recurring to her, more and more frequently. In some ways it wasn’t even like a dream-- not like any dream she’d ever had before. At first, she was just aware of lying there with her eyes closed… and how can you dream of having your eyes closed? But as she lay there… funny… it began to seem more and more important that she keep her eyes closed. Closed tight.  Even as… even as she became aware of sounds around her… faint at first… sounds of huge, deep movements… like the noises inside that skyscraper she’d worked in in Chicago, when the winds were high. Faint creaking, distant groaning almost too deep for the ear to hear.

And then it seemed to her that there was a crowd of people nearby… a crowd of people, unaware of her, somewhere… below her. And she wanted to tell them something-- she needed to warn them. An urgent feeling of danger came into the dream. She wanted to open her eyes and shout, to warn the people of what was about to happen, but… but she didn’t know what was going to happen– just that it was terrible.  And anyway, she had to keep her eyes shut tight-- she needed too. That was the most important thing, somehow. The strain of it… the strain of keeping her eyes closed against the desire to open them… it was almost too much…


Where was Donald? She didn’t feel him there-- he wasn’t near her now… he was in trouble… she knew it. He needed her-- he needed help. She had to save him! It was that desire-- that’s what did it. That’s what broke her will. She had to let her eyes fly open. And just as she did, the dream’s perspective changed– it was like she could see the outside of her own eye, up close-- like she was hovering inches above it. She could see the thin veil of her eyelid twitch as her dreaming eye rolled around beneath it. And then with a sudden rush of fear it seemed to her that there was something that close to her-- not in the dream, but there, in the sunshine, in the meadow-- some presence, hovering inches above her face. She couldn’t stand it. Her eyes flew open and for an instant she saw an image of her own eye, filled with fear, pupil contracting in the sunlight… and reflected in it was a figure… something terrible… like…

Then there was a tremendous, horrible sound, like an explosion, like a crash-- like thick metal shattering. And her point of view slammed back into her body as her lips flew open and she drew in a breath to scream-- and with the breath, she felt something else fly into her mouth. Something thin and insect-like, desperate, moving rapidly… fluttering, like a...

Lydia gagged and coughed, sat up and spit… spit something on the picnic blanket that began to move and scurry away across the fabric. It was a moth. Wet from her mouth-- ugh-- poor thing.  She’d never minded moths– as a child she called them “night flyers” and had thought that they were just butterflies without their clothes on. But that particular moth had got a little too close for comfort. Now it scrambled hurriedly across the faded pastel quilting, stretching pale brown wings the color of rust that each had an interrupted black spot on them-- two half-moons of black with a brown streak between them… a marking that for just a moment reminded Lydia of the end of her dream… of eyelids breaking open.

Then Donald was jogging over and asking if she was alright-- he’d seen her start up and cough. She smiled and said she was fine.  And she didn’t tell him about the moth-- she knew he’d be disgusted by it and might refuse to kiss her, which is what she wanted from him just then.

That night was their very first in the new house.  And everything was wonderful and warm and cozy… until very late. But you know how it is, sleeping in a new place. Every building has its noises, and if you aren’t used to them… they can be surprising. Like, in the middle of that night, Lydia woke up and… she thought she heard something. The noise hadn’t woken her– she’d gasped awake from that same dream again, the one where she had to keep her eyes closed and something broke when she opened them. There wasn’t any moth in her mouth this time, but… there was that sound. What was it? Something in the next room, or…? A thick, fumbling sound, like… heavy curtains blowing against something in a stiff breeze.

Lydia wasn’t easily frightened, and she knew there must be a simple explanation. So she sat up and threw the covers off her legs-- the house was cool at night, cooler than she’d expected. She stepped from the bedroom into the hallway and listened, letting her ears guide her. Yes, there it was again… a muffled flapping sound. It was coming from the living room. Maybe a bird caught in the chimney? But of course when she got to the living room she reminded herself that this was a modern house with central heat-- there was no fireplace or stove-- no chimney for a bird to get caught in. And once she stepped into the living room, the flapping sound stopped. But…

…but Lydia’s eyes were fixed on the front door. She tried to figure out why-- what drew her to look in that direction. Perhaps the flapping sound had come from the long curtains that covered the window beside the door? But, no... the curtains hung limp and closed. The window was shut-- the air in the house was perfectly still, nothing could have been flapping those curtains loud enough for her to hear. Unless a breeze had come under the door, and died just as she came in… that could have happened. Lydia could see the light from the porch seeping around the curtain, and outlining the edges of the front door. Now that was shoddy craftsmanship, around that door-- she’d have to get some weather-stripping to seal those cracks, and a door shoe to block the gap at the bottom where the door met the sill… that gap where the light poured under the door, except in two places. Two places like… like the shadows that two legs would cast, if someone were standing out there on the porch.

Lydia stared at those shadows for a long time. If there was someone standing out there, just outside the door, they would move, eventually. Shift, pace-- no one would just stand out there for hours, perfectly still. But a long, long time passed, and the shadows didn’t shift at all. Not a quiver. So… so something else must be casting them. Not the legs of a stranger, but… Lydia tried to think of anything she’d left on the porch-- boxes or… maybe a delivery… maybe a friendly neighbor had stopped by in the evening and left a housewarming gift on the porch without wanting to disturb them. 

Whatever it was… Lydia was going to find out. She was going to march over to that door and dispel all this silly mystery. March right over and throw the door open and… well, maybe she’d go look out the window first. No harm in looking through the window before deciding whether to open the door.

That was so sensible that Lydia did it immediately. She stomped over to the window– so if anyone was out there they would hear her coming. Then she grabbed the long curtains and hesitated just a moment… before throwing them wide.

And there, in front of her on the porch was… nothing at all. Nothing. Just empty night and the thin beams of the porchlight streaming across the struggling young grass of the newly-planted lawn. Lydia shifted her gaze so she could clearly see the whole area in front of the door. Nothing-- not so much as a WELCOME mat. It was so barren that Lydia leaned back and looked again at the light streaming under the door into the living room, to confirm that the two shadows were still there. But… they weren’t. The light spilled under the door and across the floor unbroken, unobstructed. That was… strange. Very strange. A deep sense of uneasiness came over Lydia then… but she shook it off and stepped over to open the front door.

And when she did… she felt the empty coolness of the night hit her face, pour into the house between her bare feet. She stepped carefully, quietly out onto the porch, feeling very odd. Feeling like something was about to happen, or… or had happened already, without her realizing it. She looked up at the porch light, and-- funny thing: as she looked, all the moths that were fluttering around it suddenly flew off into the night sky, all at once. She looked into the night-- but nothing came running across the lawn out of the darkness to grab her-- nothing swooped out of the star-filled sky to stop her heart. She stepped slowly across the porch, until she was in front of the big picture window that looked into the living room. She glanced back inside as she passed it. And her heart stopped.

Standing inside the house, filling the window, was a figure. A huge figure with its hands pressing against the glass. Hands just like a human being’s, but a dusty, hairy gray. A figure with arms and legs and a neck just like a person’s but... all covered with fine, tufty, bristling gray and brown hair. And its face was… it had a long, sticky-looking proboscis curling out where a nose should be, and its huge, close-set eyes glowed red. From its back spread great, mottled, flaky-gray and pale-brown... wings.

Lydia saw all this, all in an instant, so vividly that she could never block it from her mind, never forget it. But for all its fierce vividness, the image she saw was… faded somehow. Shadowy. Darker even than it should have been.  Like… like… like a reflection in the glass of the window. And it took Lydia a moment that felt like a lifetime to realize that she couldn’t see anything inside the living room except for the back of the curtains. That what she was looking at was a reflection in the window. A reflection of… but… she couldn’t see any reflection of herself.  Except… unless… unless she… was… that creature??


Someone screamed, and Lydia blinked, and the terrible vision was gone and she saw her own familiar face, reflecting back at herself with a startled look. And then Donald pulled the curtains open wider, and his concerned face loomed into view out of the dark living room. “What are you doing?” he asked through the glass. “You startled me, pressing against the glass like that. Are you locked out?” He went and  opened the front door and rushed out to her, and… she broke down a little. What had--? What had happened–? How had she--? It was all so vivid and terrifying. Nothing like that had ever happened to her.

She’d been sleep-walking. Obviously, that’s what it was. Sleep walking with night-terrors. She’d never walked in her sleep before, as far as she knew, but obviously that’s what had happened to her now. A new house, a new husband, a new life altogether-- and then that disgusting experience with the moth in her mouth out at the TNT area earlier in the day… it had all culminated in this sleep-walking nightmare. Just a nightmare. Just a nightmare-- nothing more to it. Donald was glad that the sound of her flapping hands against the front window had woken him, before she’d been out long enough to catch a chill…

No, she hadn’t caught a chill, but… but she couldn’t forget what she’d seen, reflecting back at her in the window. She couldn’t forget what she’d looked like.  She told Donald about it… about her nightmare. He did his best to help her keep it in perspective.  It was just a dream. Strange things happened in dreams. She’d smiled in agreement, but…

But every night… every night for weeks she’d wake with a start to the sound of something flapping… flapping, soft but insistent against the window in the front room… and then the back door… getting louder… then against the window right beside their bed. Flapping… never quite enough to wake Donald, and it stopped if she woke him. Every night… Something flapping just outside her window… and she didn’t dare look to see what it was. Because she already knew.

Things finally, finally did start to get better at the beginning of that December, 1967. That was when the cold weather finally came that year-- the first freeze, and the moths stopped circling the porch light at night. That dream about the closed eye still plagued Lydia, still kept her from getting a good night’s sleep… but now, when she’d finally wrench her eyes open and hear that heavy steel-bursting sound and gasp herself awake… there wouldn’t be a flapping. The house, when she woke, would be quiet, and dark, and still.

Funny thing about moths, though. When the cold weather comes, they don’t just freeze up and die, like other insects. No, they look for shelter-- they crawl up under the bark of a tree, or into the relative warmth of a rotting log. Or: every moth’s favorite, of course-- the warmest place around-- is to find a way inside your nice, warm house.

December 15th. That was a bad day. Everything seemed to go wrong. First, Donald had been messing with the top of the convertible in the garage the night before-- and then discovered that he’d managed to get it jammed with the top down. Lydia had gone out that morning to help him try to heave it up, but no luck. There wasn’t any rain forecast that day, so eventually he bundled himself up in an extra coat and drove off to work with the top still down. Then, a small cascade of little things had gone wrong around the house until finally, in the late afternoon, Lydia threw herself down on the couch. She’d barely slept the night before-- the dream had been so strong, repeating every time she closed her eyes.

She hadn’t intended to fall asleep there, on the couch, but… it was so warm in the house, and she was so tired. When the magazine she was reading got too heavy, she laid it on her chest and closed her eyes… just for a moment… just to rest…

Some time later Lydia tore her eyes open and sat up.  Outside the window, the last of the evening light was creeping into night.  Dark came so early, these days.  She sat there breathing for a few seconds, listening… hoping that she was still dreaming but… hearing it clearly now.  That flapping sound again.  Except this time… it wasn’t coming from the front door, or the windows.  This time… it was coming from inside the house.

Lydia glanced at the clock that ticked on the wall.  4:45.  Donald would be making his way home now, driving back across the Silver Bridge.  But she was alone in the house.  And the sound was growing louder… stronger… more persistent, more… angry?  She stood up as quietly as she could, and edged around the couch so she could see down the hall.  Nothing there, but… but the light was on in the coat closet. She could see that the light was on, because the door was open a little crack. A little crack that, as she watched, slowly widened… slowly widened as if something unseen were pushing it open from the inside…

You know in a dream-- in a nightmare-- when all at once you think, “Oh no, I hope that doesn’t happen,” and then as quick as thought, it does? Lydia was frozen in place, watching that closet door swing open, watching the mirror on the inside of the door as it swung, seeing it reflect the clothes in the closet and then the wall and then the living room furniture and hoping… hoping that it wouldn’t show her what she knew it would. But finally, the door swung slowly to a stop, at just the right angle so that Lydia could see herself from head to toe. And she could see… what had become of herself. She could see that terrible creature again… that enormous moth.

That is the part of the dream where you wake up. Just after you see something like that-- that’s the part where you wake up screaming. But Lydia didn’t. She turned away from that terrible reflection, and she ran, and she made it out to the shadows of the front yard as the last of the evening light faded away. And before she knew what was happening she felt herself rise up, up, up into the air. She caught an incredible glimpse of her little house and the forest all around in the gathering darkness of evening, zooming away beneath her feet, before she shut her eyes tight in terror and…

And to this day, fifty-some years later, she isn’t sure what happened then. Then, her memory diverges into two separate strands that somehow seem to belong to one story. In one strand she was flying-- feeling the wind rushing past her… wings beating the air above her head… flying, like she’d always known how. Flying as fast as she could. Because she knew where she had to go… and she was almost too late.

And in the other strand of Lydia’s consciousness, she had that dream one last time. The dream where her eyes were closed, and she knew she had to keep them that way as long as she could. And there was an unseen crowd of people below her, and something terrible was going to happen– she had to warn them! 

Except this time, when her point of view shifted and she saw the eye from the outside… it wasn’t her eye at all. It was… where had she seen that before? Oh yes-- it was one of those eyes that she’d imagined in the bearings of the suspension bridge, as they drove into town. That big silver bridge, the one that Donald drove across, to and from work every day. In this version of the dream, she was staring close at one of the eye-like bearings between the links of the enormous chain from which the bridge was suspended. It did look like a dark eye-- perfectly round-- lined in the bridge’s silver paint and leaking the shadow of rusty tears. She could barely see it in front of her, this steel eye, out here in the darkness of the night. In fact, she knew she couldn’t really see it at all-- because her eyes were shut. She was straining to keep them closed tight, because something terrible was going to happen if she let go, if she let her eyes fly open. She was straining with a pressure and a fatigue that no one could see… straining like the eye in that link of chain… the chain that was all that held up that high silver bridge…

Then she couldn’t stand it anymore. She couldn’t stand the tension. And as her eyes sprang open she heard that sound: that huge, sudden BAM of steel shattering-- and this time she knew where the sound came from– what it must mean. She watched in horrified helplessness as-- in slow motion-- the eye of that great steel chain split open just like her eyes had-- cracked, right across the bearing, like a great silver eyelid thrown open with a bang like a cannon shot. 

And the chain went slack and began to fall, and she looked down from where she found herself hovering in the air near the top of one of the Silver Bridge’s towers, and she saw the whole structure tremble and try and… fail to hold. She heard the second chain scream tight until it snapped under the added strain, and then the whole bridge sagged and sighed as the girders tore free and the car deck began to drop straight down into the freezing dark of the river below.

Lydia saw something else as well, as she looked down onto the deck of the falling bridge. And as soon as she saw it, the two strands of her consciousness collided, and she folded her moth-like wings and dove, dove down faster than the deck of the Silver Bridge could drop…

Many lives were lost when that huge chain parted and the Silver Bridge collapsed. Many lives were saved, as well. But only two lives were spared from among the unfortunates whose cars were caught in the very middle of the span. Donald and Lydia’s car was fished up days later from the middle of the river, downstream where the current had carried it, the convertible’s top still jammed down.  But in the immediate aftermath of the disaster both Donald and Lydia were safe and dry on the Point Pleasant shore, helping to rescue others whose cars remained trapped above the water on the bridge’s fallen wreckage. Donald had no idea how he’d escaped-- he had a vague memory of flying through the air… figured he must have been thrown clear somehow. And Lydia… well, if she had a different idea of what had happened, she kept it to herself.

She never had that dream again. And the midnight fluttering stopped completely. Never since has she seen any hint of the mysterious winged creature that people call the “Mothman.” She and Donald still live in Point Pleasant, in that same house that was brand new fifty-five years ago. The only strange thing she still experiences-- the thing that helps her believe it all really happened-- is that whenever she comes out onto the porch on a warm night, when the moths are swarming wildly around the light… as soon as she steps close, they all fly away. As if they can sense something about Lydia. As if they respect and… maybe fear something she once was.

And I am afraid… that our time is just about up, this season. I hope the fire and these stories have kept you warm. Now it’s time to put out this last campfire and retire to our cabins. Oh, and watch out for the moths around the porch lights as you go in. They’re harmless, of course, but… some people find the feel of them unnerving, when they brush against your skin. 

And while your first instinct might be to swat those things away, remember that you have your 20-ounce YETI tumbler in your hand. I guess if it went flying, it would be ok… This drinkware is built with stainless steel, so it’s able to handle a couple of bumps. I’d like to see another tumbler take a… well tumble like that and come through without a dent! And that handy MagSlider lid—keeps those pesky moths OUT while making it easy to keep your drink IN. Check out all the colors and styles of YETI drinkware and other products at or your local REI. Thanks, YETI!

And once last time this season, I want to mention that our amazing, customized “Camp Monsters” 14-ounce YETI Rambler mugs are now available to everyone! Guaranteed to make your next campfire at least 14-ounces cozier. So check them out now at REI dot com slash Camp dash Monsters. Don’t forget that dash!

And one last time this season, I want to mention our customized “Camp Monsters” 14-ounce YETI Rambler mugs! We sold out of our merch so quickly last year that REI has decided to give REI members the first crack at these special “Camp Monsters” mugs. So check out all the benefits of joining at REI dot com slash membership. Or if you already ARE an REI member, then come and buy a mug at REI dot com slash Camp dash Monsters. Don’t forget that dash!

Beating her tiny, frantic wings against the glass of this week’s final episode is our Senior Producer, Chelsea Davis. But she flies off into the night whenever she senses the approach of our Associate Producer, Jenny Barber, who’s investigating what those noisy fluttering sounds could be. Oh, those come from our Engineer, Nick Patri-- who practices his flapping exercises diligently, just in case he one day transforms. And our Executive Producers Paolo Mottola and Joe Crosby are getting some exercise, too-- setting up one of those bug-zapping lights on the front porch… is that a hint, guys? As for yours truly, Weston Davis, writer and host of Camp Monsters-- they used to call me “Slothman.” I assume it was because of my patience and dogged persistence… right?

As always, these stories are just stories-- it’s up to you to decide if you can believe that we’ve come to an end of our longest and most successful season yet. Thanks to all of you for making it possible, making it worthwhile, and for joining us here, around the campfire.  Stay subscribed, and we’ll let you know when campfire season is starting up again.  See you then!