The Flatwoods Monster, also known as The Braxton County Monster or "Braxxie" for short, is thought to be an unidentified monstrous mechanical thing. It was reported to have been sighted in the town of Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia on September 12th 1952. The story is an fascinating example of West Virginia folklore.
Although the event occurred 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 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:
At 7:15 p.m. on September 12th 1952, two brothers, Edward and Fred May, and their friend Tommy Hyer 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, and local children including Neil Nunley and Ronnie Shaver. They traveled to the Fisher farm in an effort to locate whatever it was that the boys had seen.
Lemon's dog is said to have ran ahead out of sight and suddenly began barking, then ran back to the group moments later "with its tail between its legs". When the group reached the top of a hill, 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 entity, 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.
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 13th, the morning after the creature was sighted.
After the encounter, 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 entity. The symptoms included irritation of the nose and swelling of the throat. Lemon is said to have 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.
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 entity has been referred to as "The Green Monster".
The witnesses described the monstrous form 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. All of the witnesses agree on the hood-like shape.
Mrs. May reported that the thing had long stringy arm-like appendages, protruding from the front, with long claws but most other accounts record claim no visible arms. The lower half of the monster is often compared to the design of a dress.
In 1952, Kathleen May was taken to New York City to appear on a current events TV show called "We The People". While there the original and most iconic drawing of the creature was made. The artwork was commissioned by Lee Steward, and drawn by a New York sketch artist based on Kathleen's description. The drawing has been the basis for most of the Flatwoods Monster art. The newspaper stated that Mrs. May and Gene Lemon found the portrait to be "quite accurate".
The sketch was later superimposed on a photograph of a West Virginia site by local resident and UFO writer Gray Barker who wrote an account for FATE Magazine in January 1953 based on tape-recorded interviews. He stated that the "least emotional" account was provided by Neil Nunley. Another investigator looking into the sightings was Ivan T. Sanderson.
Over the years, there seems to be some confusion over if the entity was simply a machine or a living creature. The Flatwoods Monster is also referred to as a "Lizard Monster" on the March 10th 2010 episode of the television show MonsterQuest because some people believe that it may have been a powered craft that a being was piloting rather than a machine or creature in and of itself. That is obviously a more recent interpretation and seems to be an example of myth-evolving.
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.
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 Strange Creek.
Their car, equipped with a brand new battery, stalled, mirroring what happens when in many 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 of 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
In 1973, The Braxton County Junior Chamber of Commerce produced a Flatwoods Monster ceramic lantern cover as a fund raiser. It is the oldest and longest produced novelty keepsake made to commemorate the events of September 12th 1952. John Gibson, a local resident of Braxton County, had these unique items hand made in Marietta, Ohio by a ceramic artesian. Each piece was hand molded, fired, and painted. These lanterns are still produced and are available locally at the Days Inn gift shop and Sunoco convenience store, both located within one mile of exit 67 of I-79.
A wooden sign was added to the town reading "Welcome to Flatwoods, Home of The Green Monster". At one point there was a festival in Flatwoods to celebrate the "Green Monster". The three-day festival consisted of a weekend of live music, a Green Monster museum and trips to the site of the original sighting. The last year this festival took place was in 2006.
The folklore was kept alive through references to the legend in several books, television shows, video games and so on. The spread of information was execrated more by the internet where the monster was often displayed as an oddity to online viewers and researchers. The Flatwoods Monster enjoyed a resurrection in interest because of its unique design and perceived novelty.
References In Popular Culture - The Flatwoods Monster can be found in the following media :
- Amagon, NES Game 1988 (Final boss resembles the monster)
- Space harrier II, Sega Genesis Game 1988 (2nd boss)
- Tumblepop, Arcade Game 1991 (Space World boss)
- Ninja Baseball Batman, Arcade Game 1993 (Enemies in the Las Vegas level)
- Wild Arms, PS1 Game 1996 (The Hayokonton)
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, N64 Game 2000 (The invaders called "Them")
- The player is capable of conjuring the Flatwoods Monster in the 2009 Scribblenauts game series, DS, 3DS and Wii U
- The Wonderful 101, Wii U Game 2013 (Boss called "Gimme")
- The Flatwoods Monster is the subject of the 2013 song by Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight called "The Being".
- Tomodachi Life, DS Game 2014 (The Flatwoods Monster and Mothman both appear in the the "Mystery" apartment)
- Chapter 218 of the manga Shinryaku! Ika Musume, where one character uses its picture to scare another.
In 2014, The Braxton County Monster Chair project began. The Braxton County Convention and Visitors Bureau were inspired to create a series of over-sized chairs in the likeness of the monster and place them around the area as a way to celebrate the legend and bring attention to it's history.
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.
The Flatwoods Volunteer Fire Department began selling 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.
In 2016, a restaurant called "The Spot" added a novelty painted billboard featuring The Flatwoods Monster people chasing away with a flying saucer in the background.
The creature technically doesn't have a name, only being known as The Green Monster or The Flatwoods/Baxton County Monster. In 2016, The name "Braxxie" was coined by local table-top game developer, Matthew Smith as a shorthand nickname. It was based off the term "Nessie" for the Loch Ness Monster and of course the name Braxton County. Mathew used the name for his role-playing game "Confluence RPG" which was unveiled at a Flatwoods gaming conference in 2016. It was then used by an official tourism pamphlet in 2017 and continued to gain popularity.
A Flatwoods Monster costume was made for appearances at local events. The Flatwoods Monster Museum then opened in 2017 to display artwork and artifacts related to the legend. The town had definitely embraced their folklore.
Small Town Monsters made a documentary about The Flatwoods Monster in 2018 preserving the legacy of fear.
- Mothman and other curious encounters by Loren Coleman (2002)
- The Flatwoods Monster by George Dudding (2013)