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Original Creature Depiction

The Flatwoods Monster, also known as The Braxton County Monster or "Braxie" for short, is a thought to be an unidentified creature or machine. It was reported to have been sighted in the town of Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia on September 12th 1952. The story of the creature's visitation is thought of by some as an example of a purported extraterrestrial or "close encounter of the third kind" but most just accept that it is folklore.

Although the event happened more than a decade before the Mothman encounters started in Point Pleasant, The Flatwoods monster is another interesting example of strange sightings being reported in West Virginia and the two monstrous legends do share some similarities. Author Loren Coleman even pointed this out saying that it had elements "Foreshadowing what people would describe when confronted with Mothman during 1966-1967".

The Original Sighting:

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Machine Depiction

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 was accompanied by the three boys, West Virginia National Guardsman Eugene 'Gene' Lemon (Age 17)and local children including Neil Nunley (Age 14) and Ronnie Shaver (Age 10). They traveled to the Fisher farm in an effort to locate whatever it was that the boys had seen.

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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 0.25 miles the group reached the top of a hill, where they reportedly saw a large pulsating "ball of fire" about 50 feet 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 other than the smell. 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.

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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.

The Creature's Appearance

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Most of the witnesses agree that it was at least 7 feet tall. Kathleen May described it as green but others say it was a shiny metallic black that maybe reflected the green of the nearby bushes. It was dark and they only saw the creature for a few seconds by the view of a flashlight. The creature has been referred to as "The Green Monster".

The witnesses described the monster as having a red glowing, non-human round head and a large, circular pointed cowling appeared behind the head in the shape of the ace of spades. Most accounts record that the creature appeared to have "no visible arms" but Mrs. May reported long, stringy arms, protruding from the front of its body, with long, claw-like fingers.

The Flatwoods Monster is often thought of as being a female because of its design appearing to be a dress. The original and most iconic drawing of the creature was commissioned by Lee Steward, and drawn by a New York sketch artist then superimposed on a photograph of a West Virginia site by local resident and UFO writer Gray Barker who was soon on the scene and wrote an account for FATE Magazine in January 1953 based on tape-recorded interviews. He found that the least emotional account was provided by Neil Nunley.

The monster is referred to as the "Lizard Monster" on the March 10th 2010, episode of MonsterQuest because some people believe that it may have been a powered craft that an entity was piloting rather than a machine or a creature in and of itself. That interpretation is obviously more recent and is an example of myth-evolving.

Explanations

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Flatwoods, West Virginia

After examining the case 48 years after the event, Skeptic Joe Nickell 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 or 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 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.

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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 among the witnesses causing them to be panicky and irrational.

Some skeptics think that The barn owl spotted that night was a female barn owl protecting her young, because adult female barn owls are larger than males and have more orange-brown coloration on their faces. This could explain the red face of The Flatwoods Monster. This also could account for the hissing because barn owls hiss when threatened. They also sometimes swoop their head down and puff up their wings around them to appear larger and more intimidating which could possibly explain the pointed hood shape of The Flatwoods Monster.

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 monster-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 aircraft.

Other Similar Encounters:

The Flatwoods Monster is often though to be an isolated incident but, as Loren Coleman points out in his book "Mothman and other curious encounters", there were also other forgotten Flatwoods-type monsters seen during that night and the next around West Virginia. These cases of Braxton County Invaders may or may not be related.

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Some kind of glowing light came down near Sugar Creek before the original Flatwoods sighting occurred. Woodrow Eagle who called the sheriff in Sutton had reported a burning object thought to be a "crashed Airplane" below Gassaway on the Elk River near Sugar Creek. The sheriff was busy investigating this report of a downed airplane when the may family first contacted the police on September 12th 1952.

On September 12th, the same night as the Flatwoods encounter, two eyewitnesses George and Edith Snitowsky of New York, were driving on the road between Gassaway and Frametown, West Virginia, just north of, an oddly named place, Strange Creek.

Their car, equipped with a brand new battery, stalled, mirroring what usually happens when in UFO reports. A nauseating smell then made their baby gag. George got out of the car and searched for what smelled so badly. Looking down the slope if the highway, he saw a large globe moving slowly back and forth, hovering over the ground and giving off a soft, violet light.

George moved closer and felt the "Sensation of thousands of needle-like vibrations" on his skin. Then he got sick and staggered back to the car. Edith Snitowsky screamed and yelled that something was behind him. He turned to see "a figure about eight or nine feet tall with a big head, bloated body and long spindly arms gliding rapidly" toward him. The couple, safely inside the car, locked it quickly. Terrified. They watched as one of those long, spindly arms with forked ends stretched across their wind-shield. The couple crouched down in horror.

When George looked up, he saw the monster gliding away. Waiting and waiting, finally they saw a glowing globe. Swaying back and forth lifting above the trees, and take off into the sky, leaving a light trail. They found a motel in Sutton, tried to sleep and were startled the next morning when a gas station attendant showed them a V-burnt brown spot on their hood.

A Birch River resident claimed to have seen a bright orange object circling the Flatwoods Area. The location of "James Knob" was said to have been hit by one of these objects. There are also rumors that a woman and her mother came forward and said they had seen the same creature at a spot eleven miles away from Flatwoods.

 List of Known Flatwoods Monster Sightings: 

. Woodrow Eagle, below Gassaway on the Elk River near Sugar Creek WV, September 12th 1952

. Edward May, Fred May, Kathleen May, Neil Nunley, Ronnie Shaver and Eugene Lemon, Flatwoods
 WV, September 12th 1952   

. George and Edith Snitowsky, road between Gassaway and Frametown WV, September 12th 1952

. A Birch River resident, circling the Flatwoods Area, September 12th or 13th 1952

. Unknown, James Knob WV, September 12th or 13th 1952

. Woman and her mother, eleven miles away from Flatwoods WV, September 12th or 13th 1952

. Director of the local Board of Education, Flatwoods WV, 6:30 a.m. on September 13th 1952

Embracing The Folklore

The Braxton County Junior Chamber of Commerce originally produced a ceramic lantern in 1973 as a fund raiser, it is the oldest and longest produced novelty keepsake made to commemorate the events of September 12th, 1952. This ceramic lantern is still in production today. John Gibson, a local resident of Braxton County, has these unique items hand made in Marietta, Ohio by a ceramic artesian. Each piece is hand molded, fired, and painted. These great lanterns are available locally at the Days Inn gift shop and Sunoco convenience store, both located within one mile of exit 67 of I-79.

The Flatwoods Volunteer Fire Department now sells Monster themed t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts through their website. Shirt sales are a direct fundraiser for new equipment the volunteer fire department needs to better serve the greater Flatwoods area. 

The monster also inspired the Braxton County CVB to create a series of over-sized chairs in the likeness of the monster placed in Braxton County. The Braxton County Monster Chair project started in 2014.

The Braxton County Monster Chairs is a project started by the Braxton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau as a way to celebrate and bring attention to the history of the Braxton County Monster. Currently three chairs have been placed with one in production. The first chair was placed in Gassaway, WV at the antique Dairy Queen and Elk River Water Trail access. The second chair has been placed in the garden at Cafe Cimino Country Inn in Historic Downtown Sutton, WV. The third chair is set near the Flatwoods Factory Outlet Stores overlooking the Flatwoods Exit of I-79, exit 67. The fourth chair is placed in Flatwoods beside the town's municipal building.

References in Popular Culture

Every year there was a festival in Flatwoods to celebrate the "Green Monster". The three-day festival consisted of a weekend of live music, the Green Monster museum and trips to the site of the original sighting. (The last year this festival took place was in 2006)
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Amagon

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 video game 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, enemies in the Las Vegas level of Ninja Baseball Batman.

The player is capable of conjuring a version of the monster in the Scribblenauts game series. The Flatwoods Monster appears in the "Mystery" apartment look in Tomodachi Life. The monster is shown in chapter 218 of the anime Shinryaku! Ika Musume, where one character uses its picture to scare another. The Flatwoods Monster is also the subject of the Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight song "The Being".

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatwoods_monster

http://www.braxtonwv.org/BraxtonCountyMonsterInfo.aspx

http://cryptomundo.com/bigfoot-report/flatwoods-monster-original-drawing-recently-rediscovered/

http://cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/fw-code/

http://www.braxtonwv.org/bcmonsterchairs.aspx

http://www.braxtonwv.org/bcmonsterchairs.aspx

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/flatwoods_ufo_monster

The Braxton County Monster by Frank Feschino Jr.

Mothman and other curious encounters by Loren Coleman

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