Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 13th, 2009
This August would have seen Marcella Bennett’s 70th birthday, but instead, word has reached me that one of the most dignified of the early Mothman witnesses has passed away.
Interviewers often felt they were talking to someone born of British nobility when Bennett would tell her story, although she was a woman of Appalachian roots. She was a grounded and refined eyewitness who was thrust into the limelight by Mothman.
Marcella S. Bennett, 69, of Gallipolis, Ohio, died Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Holzer Medical Center in Gallipolis. (By coincidence, the United Kingdom release of The Mothman Prophecies was on March 1, 2002.) She was born on August 19, 1939.
A graveside service was held on March 3, 2009, at the Austin Hope McLeod Cemetery in Gallipolis Ferry, Ohio. There was no visitation.
Marcella Bennett was last known to be living in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Bennett was the focus of the often-repeated Mothman incident of November 16, 1966. This is frequently called the “second sighting” of Mothman, with the Scarberry and Mallette sighting the night before being called the “first,” even though today we know there were earlier encounters.
On November 16, 1966, rumors circulated that several armed local residents combed the area around the TNT plant for signs of Mothman.
Then, at about 9:00 p.m., on November 16, 1966, Raymond Wamsley, 19, his wife Cathy Wamsley, 18, and Marcella Bennett, 21, carrying her infant daughter Tina (sometimes written as “Teena” by the media), along with other family members, were finished visiting the Ralph Thomas family and returning to their car. Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thomas lived in a bungalow among the igloos (concrete dome-shaped dynamite storage structures erected during WW-II) near the TNT plant. The igloos were now empty, some owned by the county, others by companies intending to use them for storage. It was when the Wamsleys-Bennetts were leaving that they disturbed something on the Thomas property along White Church Road.
The figure appeared behind their parked vehicle and reportedly, in some accounts, then went on the Thomases’ porch and roof.
“It rose up slowly from the ground. A big, gray thing. Bigger than a man, with terrible, glowing, red eyes,” reported Marcella Bennett, who screamed, and panic-stricken, dropped her baby and fell to the ground in shock. The incident is famous for the fact that when Bennett saw it, she was so startled she fell on her baby. Bennett’s remark about Mothman’s “terrrible, glowing, red eyes” is a frequently quoted description.
As the thing unfurled its huge wings, Raymond Wamsley snatched up the child and herded the witnesses back to the safety of the house, where they were let in by Ricky Thomas, 15, and sisters Connie and Vickie. While Wamsley went to phone the police, the creature seemed to have shuffled along behind the group, coming onto the porch and peering in at them through the window. The unknown bird-like animal vanished by the time the police arrived.
Marcella Bennett was so traumatized that she eventually sought medical attention. They honestly shared their encounter to local authorities and news people, as they wished to warn others.
After the sighting, and then after the turn of the 21st Century, the growing fame of the Mothman incidents had researchers rediscovering Marcella Bennett. But more recent years would find Bennett visited with tragedy after tragedy.
On October 24, 2001, Marcella Bennett lost her daughter, Robin Chaney Pilkington, 44. Her daugther’s death would signal the start of a wave of witness-relatives’ deaths during the time leading up to and during The Mothman Prophecies movie’s release.
Pilkington died after a “long illness,” while at the Bridgton (Maine) Hospital. Born January 26, 1957, in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to Robert and Marcella Bennett, Robin Pilkington, graduated from nursing school, and then moved to Denmark, Maine. Besides her parents, Robin was survived by her husband Ross, son Robert Chaney and daughter Kristen Chaney, both of Connecticut, and a sister Kristina Bennett of Naples, Florida. Robin’s younger sister, Kristina (also known as Tina or Teena) was the child in Marcella’s arms when Marcella had her sighting on November 16, 1966. Robin Pilkington is buried at the Mount Pleasant (!) Cemetery in West Denmark, Maine.
Then on January 12, 2002, at the Pleasant Valley Nursing and Rehab Center, Agatha Eileen Bennett, 93, Point Pleasant, died. While her age would indicate a long and rich life, the timing of her death is noteworthy, coming just as the publicity for the new Mothman movie was beginning. Her son Robert Bennett, who along with his wife Marcella Bennett (the often-interviewed witness), saw Mothman on the second night of the beginning of the 1966 flap. Agatha Bennett was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Sr.; a daughter, Geraldine Bennett; a son, James Bennett; two sisters; three brothers; and a granddaughter. We are uncertain if any of her brothers were named Julius. An individual named Julius Oliver Bennett perished when the Silver Bridge collapsed in 1967.
One of the eyewitnesses there on November 16, 1966, Raymond H. Wamsley, would pass away next.
On Wednesday, September 15, 2004 at 10:04 am, for some reason, I wrote to various Mothman associates and groups, asking questions about the relationship among the Wamsleys. There are two Wamslys involved in the Silver Bridge collapse – a survivor (William Frank) and a person who died (Marvin) – in two separate cars. Also the family name Wamsley comes up in the witness accounts from the early Mothman days, and more recently as one of the coauthors (Jeff Wamsley) of books on Mothman, plus Point Pleasant involvement in the Mothman festival and museum.
On the 16th, I again wrote:
“Okay, I’m beginning to build a better picture of what is going on regarding the Wamsleys and Mothman.
“During the famed so-called ‘second sighting’ of Mothman, on November 16, 1966, in which Marcella Bennett had her famous encounter, Wamsleys were there too. Specifically, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley were with Bennett that night.”
Soon after, I learned that the local papers in Gallipolis and Point Pleasant had announced that Raymond Wamsley of Henderson died on Wednesday, September 15, 2004. Later Donnie Sergent, Jr. confirmed this was the same individual as had been an eyewitness on November 16, 1966, who had accompanied Marcella Bennett.
The Charleston, Daily Mail, discussing the funerals for 09-21-2004, noted:
Raymond H. Wamsley, 57, of Henderson died Sept. 15, 2004. Service will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant. Friends may call from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home.
Later, in 2004, I would confirm through information found in various archives about the passing of Robin Chaney Pilkington, who died on October 24, 2001 (above), and that Raymond H. Wamsley was Marcella Bennett’s brother.
It was thus, on November 16, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley and Raymond’s sister, Mrs. Marcella Bennett with her baby daughter Tina visited friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thomas, who lived in that bungalow near the TNT plant. One of the other witnesses there was Marcella’s son Mark. When I interviewed Marcella Bennett in 2001, I was able to meet her son Mark and confirm that he is one of the forgotten eyewitnesses.
I was shocked in 2007, to find out he had died too.
Mark A. Bennett, 45, a longtime Point Pleasant resident, passed away in his home on Monday, April 16, 2007.
The Point Pleasant Register obituary section recounted the basics:
[Mark A. Bennett] was born Sept. 10, 1961 in Point Pleasant and was a 1979 graduate of Point Pleasant High School.
He joined the Navy Seabee’s in September 1980 and served in the Navy for more than five years, traveling to Guam, Spain, Hawaii and Portugal for the Seabee’s, building roads and airports. Following his Naval service, he lived in Naples, Fla., for 10 years, eventually returning home to Point Pleasant.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Robin S. Bennett of Denmark, Maine, in October 2001.
He has left behind his loving parents, Robert and Marcella Bennett of Point Pleasant; his sister, Kristina “Tina” (John) Meehan of Naples, Fla.; his niece, Melissa (Elliot) and her sons, Elliot and Charles Elijah Cortes, and nephews, Christopher and Nathaniel Wardell, all of Naples; and nephew, Robert Samuel Chaney, and niece, Kristen Michelle Chaney, both of Wallingford, Conn.
Burial will follow with full military graveside services at Austin Hope McLeod Cemetery in Gallipolis Ferry.
Now Marcella Wamsley Bennett is gone too, and lies buried near her son in the same cemetery.