's 2016 Horror Write-off:

The TNT Area

Submitted by Erin Drinnon

My grandfather, rest his soul, had a story he liked to tell whenever the opportunity for storytelling came up. I'm still not sure how true it was, but he swore until the day he died that it had actually happened to him. It went like this:

It happened in the summer of 1967, a few years before my dad was born. My grandpa was about 20 at the time, born and raised in Gallipolis, Ohio. That previous November marked the first sighting of a creature they were calling the Mothman across the bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. My grandpa and his friend, a guy called Johnny Seal, were avid hunters. They made a bet that summer: whichever one of them could shoot the Mothman and bring back its carcass got to ask Patty Douglas, a girl they both had something of a crush on, out on a date.

So one night in late June, my grandfather, his cousin Henry, and a red-tick coonhound called Rusty set out in an old farm truck for the abandoned ammo plant site, a place they call the TNT Area, in Point Pleasant, in search of the Mothman. The weird stuff, he would always tell us, started when they hit Potters Creek Road on their way into the TNT Area. He said the dog got real nervous, running around in circles in the truck bed, howling and whimpering. It never did settle down – even after they found a spot to pull over and leave the truck, it didn't want to go any deeper into the area. Grandpa and Henry decided that the dog would be too much trouble in this state, so they tethered it and left it in the truck bed.

Now, by that time, the old ammo plant had been demolished, but there were still several underground bunkers – my grandpa called them igloos – around the area. A lot of them still had gunpowder stored inside. All of them were locked tight, my grandpa said, but one. They trekked, silent and armed, through the heavily wooded, swampy area until they came across an igloo with its door wide open. They crept up towards the open door, and peered inside, catching a glimpse of some kind of silvery fuzz. They backed off as quickly as they could, but Henry caught his foot on a tree root and fell backwards about fifteen feet from the door. The thing in the bunker heard him fall, and snapped around almost as quickly. It crawled to the door of the bunker and out into the moonlight.

Now, you might be familiar with the original description of the Mothman – a large, flying man with a ten-foot wingspan and glowing red eyes. If what he saw that night was the Mothman, my grandpa said, then he can only imagine how horrible it would be in flight. The thing that emerged from the bunker had a body like a man's torso, but no legs – it walked out of the igloo on six human arms. It had a man's face, but with no nose and giant compound eyes, like an insect. Worst of all, my grandpa would say, were its wings. They were like a moth's wings growing from the man's back, but made of flesh, with a fine coating of silvery hair. My grandfather, in terror, fired a shot at the thing. He neglected to remember that most of the leftover bunkers were still used for gunpowder storage, however. His panicked shot missed the thing and flew into the igloo behind it, setting off a massive explosion.

The next thing my grandpa remembered was waking up in a hospital back in Ohio. He was concussed and Henry's legs were pretty badly burned, but they would both recover. The thing's remains were never found – my grandpa assumed that it was blown to bits in the explosion. He said, however, that he couldn't be sure because of one thing: the dog. He asked one of the paramedics about the truck and if anyone had gone back for the dog. They told him that they found the truck but the dog was gone; in its place, a pool of blood, red handprints leading off into the woods on the other side of the road.