What is the Flatwoods Monster?
On September 12, 1952, a mother and five schoolchildren ventured into the woods of West Virginia, armed with only a flashlight, to find a fiery object they had seen falling from the sky. As they crested a hill, they spotted the red glow of the mysterious object, but before they could get to it, they were met by a creature that would haunt their nightmares for years to come: the Flatwoods Monster.
The beam of the flashlight only rested on the Flatwoods Monster for two or three seconds before Gene Lemon, the young boy who was carrying it, dropped it in terror. Those two seconds of thin light are the only glimpse that the world got of the monster, since it disappeared immediately after the light went out.
Still, for the six people who saw the monster, its appearance was unforgettable. It was between seven and ten feet tall, with a dark body shrouded in a clock of heavily-folded black or green fabric. Its legs were invisible, but it’s arms, which ended in small, clawed hands, were extended from its body. It had a flat face, shaped like a spade, with skin that has been described as pale, fiery orange and red, or even green. A dark hood hung around its face, and a pair of glowing “animal” eyes pierced through the darkness.
When the monster saw the intruders, it led out a bloodcurdling screech and “bounded” or “glided” towards them. Fortunately, it must have changed its path when Lemon dropped the flashlight, and none of the witnesses were hurt.
Around 7:00 PM, Edward May, Fred May, and Tommy Hyner were outside enjoying the last few minutes of daylight when their play was interrupted by a strange sight: a glowing object streaking through the sky. The boys watched the object until it came to rest on a hill that belonged to a local farmer, G. Bailey Fisher.
As soon as the light faded, the boys sprinted to Mrs. May’s home. They tumbled into the house, spilling their story as fast as they could and begging for permission to go out and search for the object. Mrs. May decided to accompany the boys, along with two other local children and a National Guardsman named Eugene Lemon and his dog. They found an old flashlight and headed for the farm.
When they reached the Fisher farm, darkness had settled over the landscape and fog was beginning to creep in from the hills. Eugene’s dog ran ahead, but a few minutes later, he bolted back to the group with his tail between his legs. Despite this ominous sign, the group pressed forward.
After travelling about 0.25 miles and reaching the top of a hill, they spotted a red pulsating object in the distance. About the same time, they began to notice a thick mist that hurt their eyes and a metallic, sulfuric smell.
Eugene Lemon took the lead, guiding the little group ahead with the flashlight. They hadn’t gone far when he spotted a pair of shiny animal eyes under an oak tree. He swerved the flashlight to reveal the Flatwoods Monster, which screamed and rushed at them, then disappeared.
After the monster disappeared, the terrified group rushed back to Mrs. May’s home. All of them were so frightened that they felt sick, and some of the younger children began to complain of nausea and a burning feeling in their throats as well—possibly a side effect of the mist they had inhaled. Gene Lemon experienced vomiting and convulsions for the rest of the night.
Mrs. May called Sherriff Robert Car and Mr. Lee Stewert, the owner of a local newspaper. The sheriff couldn’t respond immediately because he was investigating a report of a crashed airplane nearby, and Mr. Stewert began interviewing witnesses. He collected 20 reports from other people who had seen “an object” flying through the sky, as well as some more sensational claims, such as houses being shaken by a heavy impact or radio signals being disturbed.
Eventually, the Sherriff, his deputy, and Mr. Stewert went to investigate the scene of the landing. The Sherriff and his deputy “saw, heard, and smelled nothing,” but Mr. Stewert reported “a sickening, burnt, metallic odor still prevailing.” The next morning, Mr. Stewert returned for a second look and discovered two long “skid marks” in the grass, as well as a thick, black oily substance.
Shortly after news about the Flatwoods Monster and his UFO-crash got out, paranormal investigators began swooping down on the little town of Flatwoods.
One of the most enthusiastic investigators was Gray Barker, who made tape-recordings of the witnesses’ testimonies and wrote an article for Fate magazine. In 1953, Barker went on to publish a book with additional information, gathered from numerous witnesses within a 20-mile radius. He concluded that the behavior of the UFO, as well as the sickness caused by its “fumes” were consistent with extraterrestrial activity.
Paranormal writer Ivan T. Hoe and UFO-ologist Major Donald E. Keyhoe also visited the Fisher farm, interviewed witnesses, and concluded that the event was probably an authentic case of alien contact.
Of course, for every UFO-ologist who was ready to back the legend of the Flatwoods Monster, there were hundreds of critics who could propose more “logical” explanations.
On the night of September 12, a meteor was seen streaking across the sky in three states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, and of course, West Virginia. Both Air Force officials and astronomers verified that the object was a meteor, although it raised alarm in several areas, including the reported “plane crash” that prevented the Flatwoods Sherriff from investigating Fisher’s farm immediately. Most people believe that the object which the boy’s saw “falling” on Fisher’s farm was actually this meteor. The red pulsing light which the boys saw when they arrived at the farm was probably an aircraft hazard beacon, which would have been visible from the high point on the hill.
But what about the nightmarish creature that met the group when they tried to approach the UFO? Its pale, spade-shaped, and hooded face; glowing animal eyes; unearthly screech; protruding arms with small, claw-like hands; position under an oak tree; and gliding motion are all consistent with a barn owl. In the dark, perched in the branches of a tree, it could easily pass for a ten-foot tall monster with a cloak obscuring the bottom half of its body—especially five out of the six people who saw it were overexcited children.