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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mystery: The Flatwoods Monster

Looks like a frail grandmother.

My head hurts. I have a fever that's over 100. Unsurprisingly, I'm really sick. So with that said, this is the perfect time for some low effort writing—which I want to apologize for if you want something more in-depth. Though I don't trust myself to write anything of substance without devolving into nonsensical ramblings.

Now then, I'm pretty sure that most of you—if not all of you—are familiar with creatures such as Biggest and the Loch Ness Monster. The legendary cryptids of the world; the monsters that have defined an entire field of study: Cryptozoology. While some argue that those two aforementioned creatures are nothing more than mere myths, there are those who have dedicated years, decades, or sometimes their entire lives to discovering the truth behind those creatures.

While both Bigfoot and Nessie are fascinating stories, I want to take some time to go far down the cryptid food chain to discuss a less known creature. One whose existence, although likely mundane, became the mascot for the town it was seen near. That creature is simply known as The Flatwoods Monster.

Our story takes place in Braxton County, West Virginia in September of 1952; specifically the evening of the 12th. On this day, brothers Edward and Fred May, along with their friend, Tommy Hyer, saw a mysterious bright light in the sky, only for it to land on the property of a farmer by the name of G. Bailey Fisher. Their curiosity piqued, the three boys rushed to the house of a woman by the name of Kathleen May and told her what they'd seen. Her own curiosity piqued, she went with the three boys and a few others—including a National Guardsman—to investigate.

During their investigation, the group went atop a hill. It was here one of the group saw something: a pulsing red light. The guardsman shined his flashlight in that direction and saw something—albeit briefly. He described what he saw as, “[a tall] man-like figure with a round, red face surrounded by a pointed hood-like shape”. Meanwhile, Kathleen May said it had “small, claw-like hands” with cloth folds. There are variations to the appearance of the creature, with some saying it was upwards of ten feet tall. Regardless though, the description above is by and large the standard one given to the Flatwoods Monster.

After flashing his flashlight onto the creature, it let out a hissing sound and proceeded to glide towards the group. The guardsman screamed and with that, they all fled; later stating that there was a terrible odor in the air around where they'd been. Later investigations of the area by the sheriff's department and local police force yielded nothing; no odor, no aircraft, no ace of spades. However, independent investigations the day after this claimed that there were “skid marks” in the field, along with an “odd, funny deposit”. Unsurprisingly, UFO groups used this as evidence ET hadn't properly phoned home.

Even less surprising than poor intergalactic cell phone reception is that the story took off. Many were intrigued by the mysterious sighting and over time, the Flatwoods Monster became the unofficial mascot of Braxton County, with a statue being built in its honor.

So, with that little story out of the way: let's jump into theories, with our first one being that the creature was an alien. West Virginia is by no means a stranger to weird and mysterious creatures that are speculated to be of alien origin. You needn't look any further than Point Pleasant's legendary Mothman; a creature whose origins are deeply rooted in alien lore. The same does go for the Flatwoods Monster. With the mysterious glowing object that fell from the sky, the slender appearance of the creature and the strange aura it had all scream “alien”!

Well, at least at face value it does. While there are staunch believers that the Flatwoods Monster was an alien—and with decent enough reasoning considering the weird events leading up to the sighting of the creature, there's no evidence alien life exists. And the likelihood someone could survive an aircraft crash as intense as UFO ones are said to be, I'm not putting much stock in the alien walking away only to glide towards the group. Not unless the cause for its “blood red face” is that its face was burned off.

Our second theory is that this weird creature is some sort of deformed human—a la the Melon Heads.

The Melon Heads were kids who had a certain kind of deformity that lead to their heads being abnormally large. They were kept in hospitals where a doctor performed horrible tests on them, only for them to supposedly kill him and then flee. From there, they traveled to the east coast of the United States, living in forests and being seen as monsters by those who encountered them.

It's honestly a sad story and one that I'll cover in the future. In this case, there exists the probability of someone with some sort of deformity set up shop in the woods near Braxton County and was perhaps disturbed by something crashed. Now if only we knew how it glided. Oops.

Theory three is that it's an elf or some other subhuman species.

West Virginia has a lot of forest. In fact, most of West Virginia is wilderness. It's rich in folklore and a breeding ground for mysterious creatures. The idea that the Flatwoods Monster was more earthly than its appearance let on isn't too far fetched. Where this theory falls apart is on the department dedicated to why nobody has never seen it since 1952. That's a bit… odd. Especially if it died and nobody bothered to look there in the following weeks.

Theory four is that it was all a hoax.

Which there are plenty of hoaxes in the world of Cryptozoology, most are done with two—sometimes three people. I've never heard of a group of more than five taking it upon themselves to create such an elaborate hoax. Let alone one where a UFO crashed and nobody realized it was a balloon of some sort. In spite of this, there are those that believe it to be fake, usually saying the UFO/crashed object was a coincidence.

The fifth and final theory—and the explanation typically accepted by most—is that it was a case of mistaken identity; usually pinned upon a Barn Owl. The ace of spades shade on a Barn Owl's face, plus its clawed “hands”, explain the general appearance of the creature—not to mention the owl likely gripping a branch it was perched on. That would likely give it the appearance of having long arms with claws. All of that, coupled with paranoia of being told something crashed in your town, and your eyes potentially playing tricks on you, and you have a wonderful melting pot for a cryptid that never was. As for the alleged skid marks, some chalk that up to someone who went there to investigate themselves, though not all are convinced by this.

The Flatwoods Monster is yet another West Virginian cryptid that became something of an icon where it was seen. That on its own is something that I think is worth celebrating. However, at face value: I'd bit no stock in it being real. Beyond the lack of sightings since it was first seen, the idea a UFO crashed and an alien wandered out is just silly. The most commonly accepted theory of the mysterious falling object is a meteor; its green coloring likely being a strange mixture of elements in the air. This usually happens during severe thunderstorms. If my science is wrong here, please correct me.

As a side note, all of that plus the creature scaring some kids is something that screams “B-grade horror film”. Perhaps the Syfy channel can make use of this story in the future. It could make for something eerie.


  1. Given the lack of sightings ever since it first appeared, I'd be inclined to say it was some sort of hoax. But like you mentioned, it'd be one Hell of a hoax to pull off. We may never know. This is probably one of those little odd little virginia factoids that'll remain just that... a story.

  2. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezJanuary 13, 2019 at 7:58 PM

    I could just slag off on West Virginia and say deformed people? Nothing new. I wont this time. I'm gonna say paranoid people plus large animal equal legendary creature. Wouldn't be the first nor the last. Side note this poor creature was also featured in Fallout 76 alongside his more famous cousin. A moment of silence...