If you were interested in UFOs, creatures from outer space and the like, then the small town of Flatwoods was very much the place to be on the evening of September 12, 1952.
Flatwoods is situated in Braxton County (that doesn’t really help, does it?), in West Virginia... fair enough, it’s somewhere in America, and on that particular September night sixty-two years ago, reports were received of a “fiery object” (initially assumed to be an aeroplane) seen crashing somewhere near the Elk River.
Depending which report you read, some or all of the following were soon at the scene: four boys from Flatwoods school who had been playing (American) football, a local resident called Kathleen May and her two sons, and/or a teenage National Guardsman named Gene Lemon – and his dog.
It seems certain that Mrs May and the youngsters did reach the crash site, where they were “greeted” by a glowing, hissing object, that was estimated to be about ten feet in diameter, although it was roughly one hundred yards away. Mrs May later commented that there was a pungent metallic smell in the air, which burned their eyes and noses. She also reported seeing a frightened dog (possibly Gene Lemon’s) running away from the mysterious object... probably doing a decent impression of Scooby Doo in the process.
As darkness descended, the area was suddenly illuminated by two bright lights, approximately a foot apart. Apparently one of the boys had a torch, which he pointed at the lights (after switching it on, I presume). The onlookers then found themselves staring at what was described as a ten feet tall creature, with a bright red face, green clothing which hung in folds from the waist down, and a head which resembled the ace of spades.
As if that wasn’t creepy enough, the apparition then began to float towards them, and the group immediately turned and fled. News of the creature soon spread and by the time the Sheriff arrived, so had a number of other locals – and a reporter called Lee Stewart. During interviews, Stewart stated that some of the witnesses were genuinely frightened by what they’d seen; the strong and unusual smell was also in evidence, and the following morning, traces of “skid marks” were discovered – and I for one am not surprised in the slightest.
Gene Lemon’s description of the monster was reptilian, with stubby arms and claw-like fingers. Lemon also mentioned the powerful smell, and claimed that he suffered from sickness and convulsions during the night – and that his dog had become unwell... so much so that it actually died.
Several theories have subsequently been put forward. The bright light was a meteor (that had also been spotted over other neighbouring states); the nauseous smell came from a particular type of grass that grew in the area, the glowing eyes and hanging wings simply belonged to an owl perched up a tree, and the rest was nothing more than the combined product of frightened and overactive minds... minds that increased the size of the owl ten-fold, and then gave it the ability to float and hiss...
Even the skid marks could be explained; they were left by a pick-up truck, driven to the scene by a youngster eager to see what was causing the commotion.
Oh, those skid marks. I thought... actually it doesn’t matter...
So there you have it: the Flatwoods Monster. An alien encounter, or just a bit of a hoot? Like most of these things, the believers will believe, and the sceptics will... er... scepticate... but until conclusively proven or acceptably debunked, the events of September 12, 1952 will remain a mystery...