The Silver Bridge, 40 years later

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Updated Dec 14, 2009

Dec. 15 was the 40th anniversary of the rush-hour collapse of the Silver Bridge into the Ohio River between Point Pleasant, W.Va., and Kanauga, Ohio, killing 46 people. Reading accounts of the disaster, such as those linked from this Wikipedia entry, is depressingly like reading accounts of the 2007 I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

Through Feb. 29, the River Museum in Point Pleasant is displaying an anniversary exhibit that includes “>a model of the bridge along with a diagram showing where the cars were located, who the driver of the vehicle was and who the passengers were,” according to this press release.

John A. Keel’s 1975 book iThe Mothman Prophecies, a masterpiece of paranoia, linked the bridge’s collapse to a rash of local sightings of UFOs and a creature called “>Mothman”

Like some evil specter of death, Mothman and the UFOs had focused national attention on quiet little Point Pleasant and lured scores of reporters and investigators like myself to the Ohio River valley. When the Silver Bridge died of old age many of these same reporters returned once again to the village to revisit old friends and to share the pain of that tragic Christmas.

The final chapter of Keel’s book has a fairly straightforward account of the collapse, though Keel claims he and others had a premonition of the event, courtesy of various mysterious “>entities.”

Today Mothman has become a cherished local legend and tourist attraction. Its Wikipedia entry has a photo of Point Pleasant’s 12-foot-tall Mothman statue.