Mythical Monday: The Flatwoods Monster by Mae Clair

When I think of West Virginia and cryptids, I naturally think of the Mothman, but there is another famous monster that haunted the Mountain State in the past.

Mysterious creature haloed by moonlight

The Flatwoods Monster, or Braxton County Monster, arrived one early fall evening in 1952. Shortly after 7 o’clock on September 12th, a group of boys were playing outside when they witnessed a bright light streak across the sky. Brothers Fred and Edward May, ages 12 and 13, along with their ten-year-old friend, Tommy Hyer, raced back to the May home and excitedly told Mrs. May they had seen a UFO. They were certain it had touched down in a field not far away belonging to a local farmer.

Mrs. May gathered up the boys, along with two more of their friends, plus Eugene Lemon, a seventeen-year-old with the West Virginia National Guard. Together, the entire group headed to the farm to investigate. Lemon’s dog trotted alongside, eventually loping ahead to disappear beyond a hill.

Within moments, the group heard the animal barking wildly. It bolted back to them with its tail between its legs as if terrified by something.

Warily, the group crested the hill, astounded to see a pulsating “ball of fire.” The entire area was swaddled in a rancid mist that made their eyes and noses burn. Two smaller lights, blue in color, peered at them from beneath an oak tree. When Eugene Lemon shone a flashlight in that direction, the beam revealed a strange-looking creature—eight to ten feet tall with a spade-like head, red face, and green clothing that hung in folds from the waist down. The creature hissed and began floating toward them. At the last moment, it switched direction and glided toward the ball of flame. In a panic, the group fled back to Mrs. May’s house where she immediately contacted the sheriff, as well as Mr. A. Lee Stewart, co-owner of the local newspaper. Some of the group became nauseated and Lemon vomited, presumably from the noxious mist they’d inhaled.

Later that night, Stewart returned to the area with Lemon and reported a “sickening, burnt metallic odor still prevailing.” As word spread of the event, other witnesses came forward to report similar experiences in the days before and after the sighting—either with the creature, or to say they’d seen balls of orange light in the sky.  One report involved a mother and daughter who said they’d encountered the monster. The event so traumatized the daughter, she had to be hospitalized afterward.

UFO sighting? Alien?

Skeptics say the ball of fire may have been a meteor and the creature sheltering beneath the tree an owl. In their heightened state of nerves, Mrs. May and her companions may have construed the bird as something otherworldly.

Whatever the answer, there is no question something strange happened that September night in 1952. The Flatwoods Monster remains one of the better known UFO cases to be bandied about in the press.  The 1950s (and 60’s) produced an abundance of UFO sightings, but I can’t help thinking about the nerves that must have been pinging around on that farm field between Mrs. May and her group.

I would have loved to have been part of the excitement. What about you?

16 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Flatwoods Monster by Mae Clair

  1. What a fascinating post! West Virginia does have some interesting mysteries. Those individuals certainly had a traumatic story to repeat all their lives. And the skeptics– my goodness, a crowd of people can’t tell the difference between an 8 foot creature with a red face and green clothing and an owl? Because of the ball of fire from the sky and the way the creature was drawn to it, it sounds to me like it may be an alien sighting, rather than other dimensional or a physical anomaly. In this case it seems they were lucky the creature turned around instead of pursuing them. Thanks, Mae, for another post for the record books.

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    • West Virginia definitely seems to be in an area that is prone to odd occurrences. I’m doing some reading about unusual events in prep of heading back there again and it’s amazing how many unexplained events have taken place there. One theory is that it lies on an old Ley Line.

      Like you I had to scoff at the owl idea. I could possibly buy the meteor but an owl in a tree branch is a sizable difference from an eight-foot humanoid. One account I read said Lemon’s dog died on the spot…another that it wasn’t his dog, but belonged to one of the boys. In some accounts, Lemon passes out and has to be helped back to Mrs. May’s house.

      Lots of speculation, but something strange definitely happened that night. Thanks for visiting, Flossie!

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  2. Absolutely! Though it’s easy to comment from the safety of my home now.
    It certainly was an UFO. The more I read, the more I am convinced we humans aren’t the only beings endowed with reasoning.( If what we do may be called that.)
    As about skeptics, I think they are doing it on purpose, discrediting witnesses or minimizing what they saw. It’s their mission to do it.
    Nowadays there are more rumors that even the Pope admitted the existence of extraterrestrials, so….
    Thanks for a great post!

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    • Wow, I hadn’t heard that rumor about the Pope, Carmen. That’s interesting, indeed! Interesting you should mention skeptics and discrediting witnesses. Apparently, mysterious “men in black” have been doing just that for decades. There’s so much intriguing information about them, they deserve a post of their own! Thanks for sharing Mythical Monday with me!

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  3. Great post! I think there’s a lot we don’t understand about the universe, and until the Vulcans stop by to help us with our first generation warp engine, we won’t be fully convinced the off-world aliens are spying on us from our own planet. As long as they aren’t like the aliens in ‘War of the Worlds’!

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    • War of the Worlds gave me the creeps! Good sci-fi stuff. And I LOVE the Vulcans. I have crushed on Mister Spock (in both carnations) since catching my first glimpse of the original Trek when it eked into reruns. For now, I guess we’ll just have to look to the sky and wonder. Thanks for visiting, Julie!

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    • Well, I still maintain I saw a UFO when I was six. I have no idea what it was, but to this day there is no description for it, it was flying, and it was an object. So yeah…there must be something out there. Hopefully, they’re friendly like the Vulcans. I like that “Live Long and Prosper” philosophy. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by to share Mythical Monday with me, Stanalei!

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  4. I have ambivalent feelings concerning UFOs and aliens generally, although I would certainly prefer them to exist. I keep wondering why they haven’t shown some more substantial evidence of intent by now. So, would I have liked to be in that field? Well, it would surely have done a lot to convince me one way or the other. I can only assume it had crashed into the tree by accident and would be in the grip of a serious dose of space rage, and as I can’t run very fast…

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    • It seems like the bulk of the sightings occurred in the 1940’s to the 1960s, although there are much, much older sightings and more recent ones. Those three decades had most of the “flap.” I definitely saw something as a six year old, which would have fallen into the late 60s (eke, I’m aging! :)). I wonder if they’ve just grown bored with us and moved on.

      I would have loved the excitement and energy of that night. However, if said UFOnaut was in a space rage, I would have preferred to stay far away. At least with an owl, you know you’re not going to get zapped!

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  5. I would love to have witnessed it, but cautious coward that I am, I would prefer taking it all in from a safe distance… a very safe distance… because really… just never know about those Close Encounters of an Otherworldly kind…. Great Post as Always!

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    • Yep, there are plenty of nasty encounters out there if you believe the hype. I would definitely not want to be a “contactee” but I would love to witness something strange in the skies. Oh wait…I did that as a six year old 😀

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Debbie!

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  6. Eerie. I have goosebumps.
    For someone who was an avid fan of The X-Files and Roswell, I can’t recall hearing about The Flatwoods UFO incident.

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    • Hi, Emma. I’m surprised it never made it onto either. I watched both but never made it to the end of either series. Focusing on UFOs makes me think I should look them both up again on DVD!

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