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The Flatwoods Monster extravaganza

By Staff | Sep 23, 2008

In early September many communities throughout West Virginia will be preparing their annual celebrations of pumpkins, black walnuts, apples and other folksy charms. Blue ribbons will soon adorn all manner of livestock and baked goods and the people will gather under stadium lights for demolition derbies and other hearty feats of scarcely restrained violence. The folks will smile, overeat and bask in the warmth of long-standing tradition and local character.

But one West Virginia community has a bumper crop that doesn’t come in a basket or barrel. Flatwoods, in centrally located Braxton County, will be exporting the tale of the Flatwoods Monster, an alien creature said to have crash-landed near the tiny town 56 years ago. Hundreds are expected to gather at the Alban Art & Conference Center in St. Albans to rekindle interest in the curious event and raise its profile in the annals of West Virginia history.

As folklore tells it, early in the evening of Sept. 12, 1952, several residents of Flatwoods claimed to have witnessed a UFO. Schoolchildren Edward and Fred May, along with their friend Tommy Hyer, spotted a calamitous crash on a nearby farm and rushed to investigate. They and several others joining them reported finding a strobing ball of fire accompanied by a noxious mist. Under an oak tree not far away the group encountered a creature emitting a “shrill hissing noise.” The terrified group fled in due haste.

Authorities investigated the area of the alleged sighting but found no trace of anything curious. Local newspaperman A. Lee Stewart reported a “sickening, burnt, metallic odor still prevailing.” Mr. Stewart also claimed to have noted unusual tracks in the vicinity, though other visitors to the site rather than extraterrestrials more likely made the parallel lines he described. The director of the county board of education reported eyeing a UFO launch on the morning of Sept.13. Skeptics were quick to dismiss to the event, blaming an unlikely confluence of meteors, aircraft beacons and barn owls, but many nagging loose ends remain.

In the days following their encounter, members of the May party were stricken with persistent irritation of the nose and throat. One individual even suffered severe nausea and convulsions the night of the event. A mother and daughter who claimed to have encountered the same creature a week prior were so terribly startled by the episode the daughter was submitted to a nearby hospital for a period of three weeks. All witnesses recovered from their illnesses, if at least physically. Medical authorities suggest these symptoms were brought on by acute hysteria.

And so it is this most curious chapter of West Virginia history that ufologists and paranormal investigators will visit St. Albans to debate. An impressive slate of dignitaries will be on hand to discuss their research and findings in this rarified field. Original Flatwoods Monster witness Fred May will be in attendance on Friday to sign autographs and restate his experience. Flatwoods Monster authority Frank Feschino Jr. will present the results of his definitive study of the Braxton County phenomena. And Stanton T. Friedman, lifelong Roswell investigator and “dean of American ufologists,” will make an appearance along with several editors and other top investigators in the field of paranormal studies. Research materials and findings will be presented along with other exhibits regarding extraterrestrial sightings and clashes with mankind.

The Mothman will also have his due at the gathering. Extravaganza promoter Larry Bailey promises “The Flatwoods Monster Meets Mothman!,” a staged enactment with live music, light shows and the Mountain State’s legendary monsters together for the first time (that we know of—they’re sneaky). Mothman Museum director Jeff Wamsley (also author of “Mothman: Behind the Red Eyes”) will be delivering the results of his own comprehensive Mothman investigation.

Those interested in more information about the extravaganza can call Larry Bailey at (304) 550-2426 or visit Frank Feschino’s Jr.’s exhaustive www.flatwoodsmonster.com. Advance tickets for the event are available, as are links to many books and materials regarding the Flatwoods Monster and other baffling West Virginia incidents.

Contact Mike at msizemore@graffitiwv.com