March 11, 2017
Posted by in Creatures and Monsters | 10.18am | 618 views
The state of West Virginia in the United States has a dark reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the country, with hundreds of sightings of mysterious, supernatural, and unidentified entities. Some say that this state is under the influence of dark energies, while others are certain that most creatures sighted here are the result of classified government experiments. The true reason may never be known, but researching the many monsters reported to have lived in this state is a fascinating and mind-bending experience that can intrigue even the most sceptical minds. One of these creatures is the Flatwoods Monster.
The Flatwoods Monster is a cryptid sighted in the town of Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia. The unidentified creature, assumed to be of extraterrestrial origin, is one of the most notorious cases of close encounters of the third kind and for many years, was the focus of investigations by local police and ufologists. Also known as the Braxton County Monster or the Phantom of Flatwoods, the entity made contact on September 12, 1952 and its origin has never been conclusively determined or explained.
The story begins at 7:15pm, on the evening of September 12, 1952 when three little boys aged between 10 and 13 were out playing. Edward and Fred May, and their friend Tommy Hyer then noticed that something bright streaked across the sky, and what looked like a flying saucer landed on a field nearby. The unknown object had crashed south of Gassaway, on the property of G. Bailey Fisher.
Frightened by the shining object descending from the sky, they quickly ran to get their parents and to investigate the scene, thinking perhaps it was a crashed airplane. Hearing the story, one of the boy’s mothers, Kathleen May, decided to go to scene to investigate. She was accompanied by the kids, two other neighbours (Neil Nunley and Ronnie Shaver) and West Virginia National Guardsman Eugene ‘Gene’ Lemon, aged 17.
As they got closer to the farm, Lemon’s dog ran barking ahead, only to return to the group with its tail between its legs. Then, about 400 metres in front of them, they saw the site of the crash: a 15-metre-high “pulsating ball of fire” was on the ground, surrounded by a mysterious mist that made their eyes and noses burn. In Mrs May’s own words,
“…the night was foggy and there was a mist in the evening air…the air had a metallic smell which burned our eyes and noses.”
Not far from the ball of fire was an oak tree, and Lemon noticed two small red lights under it. As Lemon moved his flashlight there to investigate, the Flatwoods Monster revealed itself. Letting out a spine-chilling hissing noise, it started gliding towards them, but then suddenly changed direction and went towards the red pulsating sphere. Afraid that they would be attacked, the group quickly fled.
The Flatwoods Monster is a cryptid shrouded in mystery, particularly when it comes to its appearance. Because it was only sighted twice and there are no pictures taken of it, locals have different descriptions of what it looks like. All eyewitnesses agree that it is at least 7 feet tall and has a long, lean black body, with gleaming and bulging non-human red eyes.
The Flatwoods Monster has an elongated head and behind it, a cowling shaped like a heart or ace of spades. In the words of one of the boys, it had “…a bright red face, bright green clothing, a head which resembled the ace of spades, and clothing which, from the waist down, hung in great folds”. The face, in fact, is said to have glowed red from within. Its body was not covered in skin or fur. Instead, it seemed to be made of a dark and tough matter, and was irregularly shaped. This description has led investigators to believe that the Phantom of Flatwoods is of extraterrestrial origin.
There are opposing views as to whether or not the creature has arms. In one police sketch it has no arms, while in another it has short arms with long, thin, robotic and claw-like fingers.
The Flatwoods case was investigated on and off for decades after the sighting, even though no additional encounters were reported. Paranormal investigators compared the description of the monster with the barn owl and noticed some similarities. The hissing noise that the group reported they heard also seemed to resemble the sound of a barn owl. When presented with the theory that they had seen a bird, locals were sceptical because the entity was simply too tall and had an unearthly body.
Events After the Sighting
As soon as she got home, the mother of the boy called both the police and local journalists to investigate the situation. Authorities, led by Sheriff Robert Carr and his Deputy Burnell Long, went to the site that very night accompanied by curious locals and some members of the local press. Although there was no mysterious object or creature there, the acidic and pungent odour still lingered in the air.
Such an unusual event also drew the attention of the local media, and the story was later picked up by the national press. The first reporter to publish the story, A. Lee Stewart of the Braxton Democrat, interviewed the witnesses himself. He would later state that all of them were extremely frightened by what they had encountered. Stewart even went back to where the Flatwoods Monster had been sighted. Accompanied by one of Kathleen May’s sons, upon approaching the site, Stewart noted an overwhelming odd smell but observed nothing unusual.
Upon further inspection the next morning, they saw some traces of disturbances in the mud. Stewart himself observed “skid marks” where some object had been. This was peculiar, because that patch of land was not usually circulated or used by vehicles. The initial hypothesis put forward by the police was that of a UFO landing, but this was later disproved when they found out that a local driver had been there with his car to see what had happened. Sheriff Carr himself believed that the group had actually seen a meteor or comet landing on earth and upon reaching the top of the hill, the group had seen a local animal’s eyes in the dark, thus mistaking it as a monster.
Although the explanation seemed plausible, it was not enough to explain away the many eyewitness accounts that followed. The event caused a stir in the local community and more people came forwards to add to the story:
- A mother and her 21-year old daughter from nearby Weston supposedly went through an identical encounter with the creature one week before that day. According to the mother, the young woman had been much more affected by the irritating mist, such that she needed a three-week stay in the hospital to recover.
- The evening after the original sighting by Kathleen May and her group, a couple claimed to have encountered the Flatwoods Monster. They had been driving 10 miles southwest of Flatwoods when their car stalled. At this point, a 10-foot tall creature approached their car before returning to the woods. A pulsating sphere then rose into the sky and disappeared. The couple told the investigator, John Keel, that the creature had a foul odour.
- The mother of National Guardsman Eugene Lemon told investigators that at the time of the encounter, her house was shaken violently and that the radio signal was out for nearly an hour.
- The director of the local Board of Education said he saw an unidentified object taking off from the site of the crash the morning after the encounter.
- A resident of Birch River testified that he had seen a “bright, orange” object circling overhead the Flatwoods area.
The group that came into contact with the Flatwoods Monster on September 12, all showed similar symptoms in the following days. These symptoms were attributed to exposure to the mysterious mist, and included nose and throat swelling and irritation.
Eugene Lemon, the 17-year old National Guard, seemed to be more affected than the rest of the group, because he also experienced violent convulsions,vomiting and irritation which persisted in the following weeks. His dog would also fall ill and pass away two days after the incident. According to a doctor who treated the entire group, exposure to mustard gas produces similar symptoms.
Interest in the Flatwoods case only increased as weeks went by and until today, paranormal investigators continue to speculate and conjecture as to what the entity was. In 2000, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry suggested that the flying object the locals had seen was actually a meteor and that the pulsating red light was an aircraft beacon. Their theory is supported by the fact that on September 12, 1952, a meteor was seen across three states: Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
As for the monster itself, investigators rejected the idea of an extraterrestrial being and said the group was in shock. They said that the group had actually seen a barn owl sitting on a tree stump which would explain the height. The leaves of the underbrush could have been confused for irregularly-shaped green clothing, and the hissing sound they heard could have been the startled call of the owl. Barn owls also have a heart-shaped face and in their fear, combined with the effects of the gas, the eyewitnesses could have been led to believe that they were face to face with an extraterrestrial being.
While this theory appealed to sceptical minds, it did not convince the locals or the families of the people involved in the sightings. The people in Flatwoods, Braxton County, are still convinced that on September 12, 1952, their small town was the site of an UFO landing or a government experiment gone out of the control.
The Flatwoods Monster in Pop Culture and the Local Community
Although the Flatwoods Monster has only been witnessed a couple of times, its impact has reverberated throughout the small town and the monster has become its symbol. The Braxton County authorities promote the Flatwoods Monster as a local attraction (http://www.braxtonwv.org/FlatwoodsMonsterInfo.aspx) and to this day, locals still organise an annual festival for what they nickname “The Green Monster”. During this three-day event, participants listen to live music, go to the Green Monster Museum and plan trips to the site of crash.
The case of the Phantom of Flatwoods made it onto national television and the entity became a topic of national interest. Therefore, it is only natural that the monster has also become a part of pop culture. Although it is not as notorious as the Mothman, another West Virginia cryptid, the Flatwoods Monster continues to be depicted many times in media, in video games, anime series and, of course, paranormal investigation TV shows.
Over the years, renowned investigator John Keel would also hold his own investigations into the Flatwood incident. He found another couple who had observed the monster, and had also seen unusual objects over the area. They claimed to have witnessed the same monster the evening after the original Flatwood incident involving Kathleen May and the children. The mystery of the Flatwoods Monster would also be investigated by naturalist Ivan Sanderson, who took soil samples and recorded eyewitness reports but his findings were never made public. Hence, to this day, the 1952 events of Flatwoods continue to remain a mystery, capturing the imaginations of people the world over.
For more interesting information:
- The Bigfoot category on my blog
- The Science and Mysteries category on my blog
- The study of cryptozoology
- What is Area 51?
- The Devil
- Ogopogo: The Canadian Water Dragon
- The Legend of the Mermaid
- The Curse of Otzi, the Iceman
- Hunting for the Yeti!
- Bizarre Cryptids
- Mysteries of the Goatman
- Tales of the Mystical Firebird
- Do Giants Exist?
- Spectacular footage!!!
- 10 Weird Facts About Bigfoot
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