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.
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?