Kathleen May (right) holding a sketch of the monster.
|First reported||September 12, 1952|
|Last reported||September 12, 1952|
|Other name(s)||Braxton County Monster,
Phantom of Flatwoods
|Region||Flatwoods, West Virginia, United States|
The Flatwoods Monster, also known as the Braxton County Monster or the Phantom of Flatwoods, is an alleged unidentified extraterrestrial or cryptid reported to have been sighted in the town of Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia, United States, on September 12, 1952. Stories of the creature are an example of a purported close encounter of the third kind.
Various descriptions of the entity exist. Most agree that it was at least 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, with a black body and a dark, glowing face. Witnesses described the creature's head as elongated, shaped like a sideways diamond, and as having non-human eyes; a large, circular cowling appeared behind the head. The creature's body was inhumanly-shaped and clad in a dark pleated exoskeleton, later described as a shadow. Some accounts record that the creature appeared to have "no visible arms" due to its incredible speed. Others reported long, stringy arms, protruding from the front of its body, with long, claw-like fingers. The monster is referred to as the "Lizard Monster" on the March 10, 2010, episode of MonsterQuest. A large, pulsating red ball of light that hovered above or rested on the ground was associated with the monster. Ufologists believe that it may have been a powered craft that the entity had piloted.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2012)|
At 7:15 p.m. on September 12, 1952, two brothers, Edward and Fred May, and their friend Tommy Hyer (ages 13, 12, and 10 respectively) witnessed a bright object cross the sky. The object appeared to come to rest on land belonging to local farmer G. Bailey Fisher. Upon witnessing the object, the boys went to the home of the May brothers' mother, Kathleen May, where they reported seeing a UFO crash land in the hills. From there, Mrs. May, accompanied by the three boys, local children Neil Nunley (14) and Ronnie Shaver (10), and 17-year-old West Virginia National Guardsman Eugene 'Gene' Lemon, traveled to the Fisher farm in an effort to locate whatever it was that the boys had seen.
Lemon's dog ran ahead out of sight and suddenly began barking, and moments later ran back to the group with its tail between its legs. After traveling about .25 miles (402 m) the group reached the top of a hill, where they reportedly saw a large pulsating "ball of fire" about 50 feet (15 m) to their right. They also detected a pungent mist that made their eyes and noses burn. Lemon then noticed two small lights over to the left of the object, underneath a nearby oak tree and directed his flashlight towards them, revealing the creature, which was reported to have emitted a shrill hissing noise before gliding towards them, changing direction and then heading off towards the red light. At this point the group fled in panic.
Upon returning home, Mrs. May contacted local Sheriff Robert Carr and Mr. A. Lee Stewert, co-owner of the Braxton Democrat, a local newspaper. Stewert conducted a number of interviews and returned to the site with Lemon later that night, where he reported that "there was a sickening, burnt, metallic odor still prevailing". Sheriff Carr and his deputy Burnell Long searched the area separately, but reported finding no trace of the encounter. Early the next morning, Stewert visited the site of the encounter for a second time and discovered two elongated tracks in the mud, as well as traces of a thick black liquid. He immediately reported them as being possible signs of a saucer landing, based on the premise that the area had not been subjected to vehicle traffic for at least a year. It was later revealed that the tracks were likely to have been those of a 1942 Chevrolet pickup truck driven by local Max Lockard, who had gone to the site to look for the creature some hours prior to Stewert's discovery.
After the event, Mr. William and Donna Smith, investigators associated with Civilian Saucer Investigation, LA, obtained a number of accounts from witnesses who claimed to have experienced a similar or related phenomena. These accounts included the story of a mother and her 21 year-old-daughter, who claimed to have encountered a creature with the same appearance and odor a week prior to the September 12 incident. The encounter reportedly affected the daughter so badly that she was confined to Clarksburg Hospital for three weeks. They also gathered a statement from the mother of Eugene Lemon, in which she said that, at the approximate time of the crash, her house had been violently shaken and her radio had cut out for 45 minutes, and a report from the director of the local Board of Education in which he claimed to have seen a flying saucer taking off at 6:30 a.m. on September 13 (the morning after the creature was sighted).
After encountering the creature, several members of the September 12 group reported suffering from similar symptoms, which persisted for some time and which they attributed to having been exposed to the mist emitted by the creature. The symptoms included irritation of the nose and swelling of the throat. Lemon suffered from vomiting and convulsions throughout the night, and had difficulties with his throat for several weeks afterward. A doctor who treated several of the witnesses is reported to have described their symptoms as being similar to victims of mustard gas, though such symptoms are also commonly found in sufferers of hysteria, which can be brought on by exposure to a traumatic or shocking event.
After examining the case 48 years after the event, Joe Nickell of the paranormal investigation group Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), then known as CSICOP, concluded in 2000 that the bright light in the sky reported by the witnesses on September 12 was most likely a meteor, that the pulsating red light was likely an aircraft navigation/hazard beacon, and that the creature described by witnesses closely resembled an owl. Nickell claimed that the latter two of which were distorted by the heightened state of anxiety felt by the witnesses after having observed the former. Nickell's conclusions are shared by a number of other investigators, including those of the Air Force. The Mothman and the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter have also been dismissed by skeptics as owl sightings.
The night of the September 12 sighting, a meteor had been observed across three states—Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—and had been mistakenly reported as a flaming aircraft crashing into the side of a hill at Elk River, approximately 11 miles (18 km) southwest of the location of the Flatwoods sighting. Three flashing red aircraft beacons were also visible from the area of the sightings, possibly accounting for the pulsating red light seen by the witnesses and for the red tint on the face of the creature.
Nickell concluded that the shape, movement, and sounds reported by witnesses were also consistent with the silhouette, flight pattern, and call of a startled barn owl perched on a tree limb, leading researchers to conclude that foliage beneath the owl may have created the illusion of the lower portions of the creature (described as being a pleated green skirt). Researchers also concluded that the witnesses' inability to agree on whether the creature had arms, combined with Kathleen May's report of it having "small, claw-like hands" which "extended in front of it", also matched the description of a barn owl with its talons gripping a tree branch. However, some have asked why the witnesses did not see it as an owl, even after shining a searchlight directly at it. Many investigators have countered that this and the creature's supposed 'gliding' can be ascribed to hysteria and the heightened state of tension amongst the witnesses causing them to be panicky and irrational.
Alternative explanations included those put forward by the local media: that the September 12 group had witnessed the impact of a meteor which resulted in a man-shaped cloud of vapor, and those of Kathleen May and her sons (recorded some time after the incident); that they had seen some kind of covert government aircraft. Another possible explanation lies in a remark an elderly resident of Braxton county was overheard making to a visiting family member a few weeks after the incident: "_____ [his son] thought he was going to scare somebody . . . ."[this quote needs a citation]
References in popular culture
Every year there is a festival in Flatwoods to celebrate the "Green Monster". The three-day festival consists of a weekend of live music, the Green Monster museum and trips to the site of the original sighting.
A creature resembling the description of the Flatwoods monster appears as the final boss of the 1988 NES videogame Amagon and as the stage 02 boss of the videogame Space Harrier II. Other videogame aliens with a similar appearance are "Gimme" in the Wii U game The Wonderful 101, the aliens referred to as "Them" in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the Space World boss in Tumblepop, the Hayokonton in Wild Arms and you are capable of conjuring a version of the monster in the Scribblenauts game series.
- Feschino, Frank C (2004). The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed. Quarrier Press. ISBN 1-891852-37-X.
- Kennedy, Matthew (1993). Unexplained. Visible Ink. ISBN 0-8103-9436-7.
- Nickell, Joe (2000-11-01). "Investigative Files: The Flatwoods UFO Monster". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- "More On The "Green Monster"". Civilian Saucer Investigation (Winter Edition) (Project 1947 (Republished by)) 1 (2). 1953. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
- Various authors (September 1952). "Various newspaper clippings". Various. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- Barker, Gray (January 1953). "The monster and the saucer". Fate.
- Janet, Pierre (1965). Major Symptoms of Hysteria (2nd edition). Macmillan Pub Co.
- Keyhoe, Donald E (1953). Flying Saucers from Outer Space. Henry Holt. ASIN B0007DECOA.
- Byrne, Holt (1966-03-06). "The phantom of Flatwoods". Sunday Gazette-Mail.
- Marchal, Terry (January 1953). "Flatwoods revisited". Sunday Gazette-Mail.
- Here There Be Monsters - Saturday Night Uforia
- Investigative Files: The Flatwoods UFO Monster - Skeptical Inquirer