The Flatwoods Monster (also known as Braxxie, Braxton County Monster, Phantom of Flatwoods) was an alleged 10-foot-tall humanoid cryptid with a hooded blood-red face that some residents of Flatwoods, Braxton County, West Virginia, reported sighting on the evening of September 12, 1952.
The Flatwoods Monster sighting occurred soon after a bright object appeared in the night sky over the town and crashed into a hillside on a farm.
The witnesses also reported observing a flashing or pulsing red light.
The witnesses included seven people and a dog.
Braxton County native and UFO investigator Gray Barker investigated the sighting and interviewed the witnesses.
One of the witnesses, then 17-year-old Eugene Lemon, a West Virginia Guardsman and Flatwoods resident, described the Flatwoods Monster as a terrifying 10-foot-tall humanoid cryptid with a round face and eyes that had a red tint or glow.
The face was surrounded or draped in what looked like a dark, pointed hood or halo.
Kathleen May, 32, described the shape of the face as an “ace of spades.” The eyes glowed red or orange in the dark.
It appeared wrapped in a black or dark green metallic robe and had gnarly hands that ended in claws.
The witnesses said the creature appeared to float or levitate above the ground. It glided toward them amid dense mist and a pungent, sickly smell.
Sightings and Tales
Kathleen May and Eugene Lemon
The original alleged sighting of the Flatwoods Monster occurred at about 7:15 p.m. on September 12, 1952.
The eyewitnesses included 13-year-old Edward May and his younger brother Fred, 12, their mother Kathleen, 32, the boys’ friends Tommy Hyer, Niel Nunley, Ronnie Shaver, and the family dog, Richie.
It all started when brothers Edward and Fred May and their friend Tommy Hyer saw a bright light that streaked across the darkening sky while playing outside Flatwoods Elementary after school.
The object appeared to crash into a hillside on the nearby farm property of Bailey Fisher.
The boys wanted to investigate but stopped at home to tell their mom, Kathleen May. Kathleen decided to go with the boys and called Euegene Lemon to accompany them.
The group that set out to investigate included seven people and a dog.
As they approached the site, they observed a pulsing red light. Lemon shone his flashlight in the direction of the red light. The light allegedly revealed a terrifying-looking humanoid creature. It made a hissing noise and glided toward them (see a detailed description of the Flatwoods Monster above).
The group fled terror-stricken and reported the sighting to the authorities.
Eugene told a local newspaper that he saw a “Frankenstein-like monster” with bright eyes and clawed hands. According to the 17-year-old, a dense mist obscured much of the monster’s features.
A sheriff and deputy searched the site on Fisher’s property but reported they saw nothing unusual.
Police authorities were reportedly skeptical of their account and ascribed their sighting to hysteria.
A. Lee Stewart investigated
Convinced that the terrified group must have seen something real, A. Lee Stewart, publisher of the Braxton Democrat, a local newspaper, reportedly grabbed a gun and went to investigate.
He later reported he found “skid marks” and an “odd gummy deposit” on the farm property.
The story attracted considerable attention. Local and national news media outlets covered the incident and sent reporters to Flatwoods to investigate.
Such was the public interest in the story that Kathleen May and Lemon traveled to New York and appeared on CBS. Media outlets reported they received phone calls from people across the country.
Flatwoods officials promoted the town to tourists as the “Home of the Green Monster” and organized an annual festival to commemorate the alleged sighting.
Local entrepreneurs cashed in selling souvenirs to tourists in and around the Flatwoods Monster Museum.
The incident continued to attract interest years after the initial sighting.
The US Air Force Project Blue Book investigation
The US Air Force reportedly investigated the incident as part of its Project Blue Book program. The military authorities dispatched investigators to Flatwoods to ascertain the facts.
The military investigators reportedly concluded that the bright object in the sky was a meteor.
Many residents in the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia had reported observing a meteor in the sky in the evening on September 12.
Many independent investigators agreed with Air Force investigators. Skeptics assumed that under poor illumination, the frightened eyewitness mistook a barn owl perched on a tree for a 10-foot humanoid monster with clawed fingers.
Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s Joe Nickell investigated the incident in 2000. He concluded that the Flatwoods Monster’s alleged clawed hands, “ace of spades” head, hissing noise, and gliding movement were consistent with a barn owl lifting off after being disturbed on its perch.
Nickell also suggested that the flashing or pulsating red light was likely an aeronautical beacon. There were also three aeronautical beacons in the vicinity. The red face of the alleged might also have been due to the reflection of the nearby beacon.
Nickell and other investigators believed the witnesses misinterpreted ordinary things they saw and experienced due to heightened tension and anxious anticipation as they approached the site.
The initial mystery surrounding Stewart’s report that he saw skid marks and oil or grease (“odd gummy deposits”) in the vicinity of the sighting appeared resolved when Max Lockard, a local, reported he had driven to the site in his Chevy truck to investigate.
Lockard’s truck might have left the skid marks, and the oil might have come from a farm tractor.
However, other aspects of the sighting proved difficult to explain.
For instance, investigators debated the alleged nauseating smell and mist the witnesses reported.
They witnesses reported suffering throat irritation, nausea, and vomiting for days after the sighting. While some cryptozoologists and UFO believers noted that the symptoms were suggestive of mustard gas exposure, skeptics dismissed them as due to hysteria.
Skeptics reasoned that widespread public concern about alleged cryptid and alien-UFOs sightings in the 1950s reflected the atmosphere of fear and anxiety in the early years of the Cold War after the Soviet Union announced successful testing of a nuclear bomb.
Audra Harper sighting
Audra Harper, a resident of the W. Virginia town of Heaters, five miles north of Flatwoods, had reported sighting a cryptid similar to the Flatwoods Monster shortly before the sighting in Flatwoods.
According to Harper, she and a friend were taking a shortcut route through a wooded area to purchase supplies at a nearby store when they saw what appeared to be a ball of flames on a hillside.
Harper said she did not think much of it at the time because she thought it might be someone “fox chasing.”
But after they had walked further, she looked back and saw that the flame had disappeared, and there stood a very tall and dark humanoid figure.
Terrified, Harper and her friend took their heels.
George and Edith Snitowsky sighting
George and Edith Snitowsky reported sighting a creature similar to the Flatwoods Monster while driving on West Virginia Route 4, between Clay and Strange Creek, about twenty miles south of Flatwoods.
In 1955, Snitowsky told Male Magazine that he and his wife, Edith, and infant child were driving in the night when their car broke down unexpectedly.
While trying to get the engine to run again, George sensed a foul smell. The infant also seemed upset and began crying. Then, they saw a bright light and a ten-foot-tall creature floating in the air over their car.
Although the alleged creature was similar to the Flatwoods Monster, it did not have a hood-like shape around the face or head. Snitowsky claimed that instead of an “ace of spades” shape, the creature appeared to have a bony, reptilian head.
It approached the car, touched the hood with reptilian hands, and then flew away silently.
After it disappeared, the car engine started, and they hurriedly left the spot.
|Other Name/s||Braxxie, Braxton County Monster, Phantom of Flatwoods|
|Habitat||Cities, Countryside, Farmland|
Where to find
Top image courtesy of Tim Bertelink used under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0
Monsters of West Virginia: Mysterious Creatures in the Mountain State, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, 2012
Monsters, Cryptids, and Mysterious Wild Beasts: West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Beyond. and Where to Find Them, Jannette Quackenbush, 2019
https://braxtonwv.org/the-flatwoods-monster/, “The Flatwoods Monster,” accessed January 26, 2023
https://braxtonwv.org/the-flatwoods-monster/folklore/, “Folklore,” accessed January 26, 2023
https://skepticalinquirer.org/2000/11/the-flatwoods-ufo-monster/, “The Flatwoods UFO Monster,” accessed January 26, 2023
https://www.newspapers.com/clip/13041624/holt-byrne-remembers-the-flatwoods/, “The Flatwoods Monster,” accessed January 26, 2023
https://www.history.com/news/flatwoods-monster-west-virginia, “In 1952, the Flatwoods Monster Terrified 6 Kids, a Mom, a Dog—and the Nation,” accessed January 26, 2023
https://www.snopes.com/articles/383097/flatwoods-monster-mothman-owl/, “What Was the Flatwoods Monster?” accessed January 26, 2023