There are many paranormal mysteries that have never found a satisfactory explanation: the case of the Flatwood Monster, also known as Braxton County Monster or Phantom of Flatwoods, is one of them.
At 7:15 pm on September 12, 1952 that day in the small West Virginia village, Edward and Fred May, and their friend Tommy Hyer were playing football in the schoolyard when suddenly, they saw a bright object cross the sky and plummet down a hill on the Bailey Fisher family farm. The young men ran to Mrs. Kathleen May's home, who provided a torch and accompanied them up the hill to find out what the object spotted together with Neil Nunley, Gene Lemon (a National Guard of West Virginia) with his dog and Ronnie Shaver.
There are many conflicting versions of the subsequent events but the writer Gray Barker, known for his books about UFOs and other paranormal phenomena, who arrived very early on the scene, released a report for the magazine "Fate" based on taped interviews.
According to the material he collected, the most objective testimony was provided by Neil Nunley who reportedly reported a pulsating red light.
Then Gene Lemon would see a pair of shining eyes, similar to those of an animal and pointing the torch in their direction revealed the presence of an imposing humanoid figure of about 10 feet with a "round and red head" surrounded by a "pointed shape, like the ace of spades and hood-like "and eyes that emitted green-orange flashes.
The body was dark and apparently colorless, but some would later say it was green and Mrs. May reported drape-like folds and claw-like hands.
Suddenly the monster made a hissing sound heading towards the group. Lemon replied screaming and dropping the torch, after which everyone fled.
The group spoke of the presence on the hill of a pungent fog that made their eyes and nose burn and that they saw a pulsating "fireball" about 15 meters on the right. Subsequent searches by the locals proved unsuccessful: local sheriff Robert Carr, his deputy Burnell and co-owner of the local newspaper A. Lee Stewert confirmed only the presence of a metallic, nauseating and burnt smell but they found nothing else.
The following morning Stewert returned to the meeting place again and discovered two long traces in the mud and traces of a thick black liquid, signaling them as possible signs of a UFO landing, premising that the area had been free of traffic for at least a year.
However, it was probable that the tracks were from a 1942 Chevrolet pickup truck owned by Max Lockard, a local resident, who went to the site to search for the creature a few hours before Stewert's discovery.
Instead, in his article, Gray Barker reported that "numerous people in a 20-mile radius saw the illuminated objects in the sky at the same time," and that the Flatwoods incident was consistent with other news of "lying saucers or similar craft "and that" such a vehicle landed on the hillside, either from necessity or to make observations".
In addition to Barker's article and following his book, some accounts of the Flatwoods incident were reported by another local investigator, the paranormal writer Ivan T. Sanderson and the first major ufologist Donald E. Keyhoe. Jerome Clark's The UFO Encyclopedia offers a coherent and sensible account of the affair, appropriately defined as "one of the most bizarre UFO encounters of all time".
Following the encounter with the creature, some members of the group of 12 September presented persistent and similar symptoms and attributable to exposure to the fog "emitted by the monster": irritation to the nose and burning in the throat, Lemon, in particular, suffered vomiting and convulsions throughout the night following the sighting and had throat problems for the following weeks.
A doctor reported the symptoms as similar to those caused by tear gas, common even in those suffering from hysteria due to a shocking and traumatic event.
Some report that Lemon's dog did not survive the encounter with the strange being.
William and Donna Smith, associated with the Civilian Saucer Investigation-LA, also discovered sightings of witnesses who reported having had similar or related experiences to the Flatwood Monstro in the story of a mother and her 21-year-old daughter, who claimed to have encountered a creature with the same appearance and smell one week before the September 12 accident.
The woman reported that her daughter had been so frightened that she was forced into a 3-week hospital stay at Clarksburg Hospital.
Furthermore, Lemon's mother said she felt her house shake shortly after the accident and had the radio out of order for 45 minutes and the local director of the Board of Education claimed sighting of an unidentified flying object at 6 : 30 of September 13, the morning after the sighting of the creature.
Ms. May claimed instead that what she had seen "was not a monster" but rather "a secret plane on which the government was working" but even this hypothesis did not find any concrete evidence to support it.
After investigating the case in 2000, Joe Nickell of the CIS Committee concluded that the light reported by the witnesses in the sky was most likely a meteor, that the pulsating red light was probably a plane in a coachman and that the creature described by the witnesses looked very much like an owl.
Nickell suggested that the witnesses' perceptions had been distorted by their anxiety. Nickell's findings are shared by a number of other investigators, including those from the Air Force.
Indeed, a meteor had been observed on the night of September 12 in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia: according to Nickell, three flashing red lights were also visible from the sighting area, which could explain the descriptions of a pulsating red light and a red halo on the alleged monster's face.
Nickell concluded that the shape, movement and sounds reported by the witnesses were also consistent with the type of flight of the call of a barn owl frightened and perched on a branch, leading the researchers to conclude that the foliage under the owl could have created the illusion of the presence of limbs in the creature.
Of contrary opinion, and therefore favorable to the hypothesis of an extraterrestrial entity or a cryptozoological creature, instead, ufologists and investigators of the paranormal, according to which the description offered by the witnesses, also confirmed by a security guard, would be completely incompatible with the presence of a bird of prey, reaffirming that the traces found, the oily residues and the parts of a strange gummy substance found on the spot are not correlated to scientifically explainable phenomena or events.
“The real world is where the monsters are.”
― Rick Riordan
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