This entry is the third of four weeks of stories for the Halloween season.
Above: Air Force investigation summary card.
Below: Satellite view of area.
Deep into that darkness peering,
Long I stood there wondering, fearing...
-- Edgar Allan Poe
IT ALL BEGAN fifty-nine years ago, when a woman and six boys climbed a woody hill to see what they might find...
SOMEWHERE IN THE DEEPEST RECESSES of the human psyche, there is a shadowland where there be monsters.
As old as religion itself, there is no remnant of civilization where they cannot be found. They live in the myths and legends of all peoples of all times, fearsome creatures so terrible that the merest glance at them strikes mortal terror to the core of the human soul. Tales of animals with human heads or humans with animal heads or with multiple heads or with no heads at all, creatures with a single eye or eyes too many to count, strange beings with horns or claws or tails or wings where no horns or claws or tails or wings ought to be... tales stretching back long before even the memory of the first peoples cradled between the flows of the Euphrates and the Tigris, beyond antiquity itself.
They have lived wherever there is mystery -- in the deep waters, in the obscuring fog, and in all the dark places -- waiting not just beyond the boundaries of what can be immediately seen but at the very borders of reality, portending evil, ready to pounce and devour. They live both outside of us and inside of us, wherever perception meets emotion, where even the merest rustling of the trees becomes something potentially animate, alerting all our senses to a threat unknown, becoming alive to the possibility that something wicked this way comes.
WHATEVER IT WAS flaming across the eastern United States that Friday night in 1952, it -- or they -- created front-page news nationwide the next day. Most reports stated that four states were involved. From the September 13, 1952 edition of the Blytheville, Arkansas Courier News...
Saucer or Meteor? Residents of 4 States Saw Green Light
BALTIMORE (AP) -- A fiery object that streaked through the night sky with a "great greenish-white light" stirred "flying saucer" talk among residents of four states from Maryland to Tennessee last night.
Weather Bureau observers here saw the object but made no official report of it. One observer, who wished to remain anonymous, said it probably was a meteor.
The streak of fire first was reported over Baltimore shortly after dusk, about 8 p.m. EDT. In quick succession came reports from the west from Frederick, Hagerstown and Cumberland, Md.,
and Charleston, Wheeling and Parkersburg, W.Va.
Washington viewers flooded the Weather Bureau, Naval Observatory and even the Pentagon there with calls.
No blips showed on Washington area radar screens to record the object's passing.
Persons throughout Virginia saw what they variously described as "a big star," "a flying saucer" and something "like a flaming jet plane."
They said it ranged in color from pale yellow to greenish and reddish and was noiseless. It moved from east to west.
A ball of fire seen in the sky over Kingsport, Tenn., about the same time, set off a fruitless search for a wrecked plane. There were no reports of missing aircraft but Tennessee highway patrolmen, the Kingsport lifesaving crew and several ambulances combed an area of about 15 square miles after an aerial object was reported to have struck the ground after streaking across the sky.
A spokesman at Tri-Cities Airport near Kingsport said the object had been identified as a meteor.
Operations personnel at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington put a similar label on it. And Naval Observatory officials said reports they received made it sound to them "like a typical meteor."
Reports of the size of the object ranged from "as big as a football" to "the size of a washtub."
The Civil Aeronautics Administration said its tower men at Wheeling and Parkersburg saw the bright object and a pilot en route to Wheeling from the east reported sighting it in the vicinity of Front Royal, Va.
Persons in Southwest Virginia saw at least three flashing objects that were described as meteors.
But according to other, more local reports, parts of the flaming thing -- or things -- had also not only been seen elsewhere, but touched down as well. Reports came in from Fayette County, next to Pittsburgh, as reported in the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Evening Standard...
Flying Saucers In District Once More
Reports Of Sighting The Discs Coming In From All Sections; Some Citizens Jittery
Flying saucers have again been reported over Fayette county with most persons who profess to have seen them setting the time yesterday at between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
Reports of sighting the "saucers" have streamed in from all corners of the county and surrounding district.
A call was received here this morning from Mrs. John Collins, Confluence road. She reported having seen what looked like a "ball of fire" about twice as long as it was wide fall near a neighbor's house.
At first, she stated, it looked like it was about to hit the house but as it neared the ground it seemed to go out.
Other reports received in Uniontown stated that the saucers were seen in Franklin township, Smithfield, from the Jumonville Methodist Training Center, Smock, Greensboro as well as Uniontown.
Another report received here this morning came from Mr. And Mrs. George Dodson, Bitner. They stated that while sitting on their front porch at shortly after 8 p.m. yesterday they saw a round light in the sky.
A call from Markleysburg by Mrs. Mary Myers revealed that her husband saw a bright light fall from the sky into the woods near their residence.
And 265 miles west of Pittsburgh, came other reports as well. From the September 13, 1952 edition of the Pottstown, Pennsylvania Mercury...
Reported Plane Crash Is Just Another Meteor
It wasn't a flying saucer and it wasn't a burning plane that flashed across the sky to the southwest of Birdsboro about 8 o'clock last night -- it was nothing more than a particle of dust speeding through the atmosphere.
Dr. I.M. Levitt, director of Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia, said a meteor passed over the area at that time, lasting three seconds.
"A meteor is no bigger than a pea," Dr. Levitt said. "It is a small piece of dust that travels through the atmosphere with such velocity that it generates tremendous heat when it meets with resistance of the air and dust particles."
Mrs. Eva Hilbert, Monocacy, reported to The Mercury soon after she had seen the "flaming object" in the sky that she and her sister saw a burning airplane fall to the earth.
"I could see the outline of a plane," she said. "It looked like it was burning in the center and the flames were shooting back."
Dr. Levitt explained, "A meteor creates a brilliant ball of flame leaving behind it a long tail caused by burning dust particles."
Edward Rea, 738 Haycreek road, Birdsboro, saw the meteor but it didn't excite him.
"It looked like a comet to me," he said. "When I told my wife about it and I said to her, 'You watch in the papers tomorrow and you'll see all the reports of flying saucers.'"
But Dr. Levitt's pea-sized space pebble was seemingly quite a traveler, making Ohio the sixth state (after Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania) with reports of fire in the sky. From the September 13, 1952 edition of the Sandusky, Ohio Register Star News...
Falling Meteor Startles Ohioans
COLUMBUS, Sept. 13 (INS) -- The State Highway Patrol said today its stations throughout Ohio were flooded with calls Friday night that a "burning plane" and "balls of fire were streaking" across the sky.
The mystery seemed cleared up, though, with statements from aerial experts of the Civil Aeronautics Administration that the spectators saw a falling meteor of great brilliance.
The same spectacle was reported by veteran sky watchers in Washington, D.C, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, approximately 500 miles south of Ohio and 280 miles southwest of Baltimore -- the apparent starting point for the reports -- North Carolina became the seventh state to report startling aerial balls of fire. From the September 14, 1952 edition of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Evening Telegram...
Strange Sky Object Viewed By Many People In This Area
People all over this area, saw the unusual fiery object that floated across the northern sky about 7 o'clock Friday night.
Most of them professed to believe that it was a meteor and they failed to pay much attention to the popular idea of flying saucers.
Howard F. Rinehart, who is associated with The Evening Telegram, said he saw the phenomenon quite plainly. Mitchell Russ, ACL fireman, said he saw it from the cab of his engine In the vicinity of Fayetteville. When he returned home to Rocky Mount his wife reported that she also had seen It. W.H, Stevens, the engineer, also a Rocky Mount resident, witnessed the spectacle with Russ.
Joe Newman, filling station attendant, said he saw the flaming object slowly wend its way across the sky. Several others in Rocky Mount also said they saw it. All agreed that it was moving from east to west and that it was almost as brilliant as the sun. Most said they thought it was of a bluish-greenish hue.
An Arcola farmer putting in hay was amazed but not excited when he witnessed what appeared to him to be "a bright meteor" at dusk dark Friday.
Residents of four states from Maryland to Tennessee viewed a fiery object as it streaked through a clear night sky, but descriptions were varied. Some identified the ball of fire as "a flying saucer," while others thought of it more as "a big star" or "a flaming jet plane."
George D. Hunter of Arcola said here Saturday afternoon it was sometime before 8 p.m. when he noticed the unusual object in the region of the North star. "It looked like it would have hit the ground in the northwest if it had reached that far."
Hunter said the object travelled slowly enough to enable him to call his father's attention to it. Hunter's son and two neighbors in the same distance field from the barn also witnessed the
streak of fire.
What did it look like?
"It was like a bright meteor -- brighter than any I've ever seen before. It was almost as wide as the moon when the moon's up in the sky and it was about five times as long. And it had a short tapered tall."
Hunter feels that he probably would have seen the light from the object even with his back turned. As it happened, however, he was looking directly at the object as it streaked towards the earth. Just as it went out of sight, some distance above the horizon, Hunter said there was a shower of sparks.
Arcola is located on NC 43 between Rocky Mount and Warrenton.
A weather bureau observer indicated the object was a meteor, although at Kingsport, Tenn., the fiery streak set off a fruitless search for a wrecked plane. Official observers at both military and civilian airports in four states expressed the belief that the object was a meteor.
Radar screens In Washington failed to pick up a blip to record the passing of the object.
And finally, 180 miles southwest of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the eighth and final state -- South Carolina -- reported in. From the September 13, 1952 edition of the Florence, South Carolina, Morning News...
Meteor Hunt Today
Fifty-Ton Flaming Object Seen Falling Near City
A search by ground and air will begin this morning for remnants of a meteor believed to have fallen north of Florence last night.
The meteor, thought to be "four to five feet in diameter" and weighing possibly 50 tons, was reported to have fallen on farm land near the residence of Smith Barnes on the Douglas Street Extension.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration office here reported the meteor was observed in Raleigh, Fayetteville, Lumberton and Fort Bragg. A woman in Mars Bluff also reported having seen it.
Barnes said the object, first glowing red and then flaring brilliant white as it approached the ground, moved earthward at a 45 degree angle. It made no noise but lighted up sides of trees indicating it might have fallen in woods about 1000 feet from the Barnes home.
The highway patrol conducted an initial investigation but found nothing. The CAA spokesman said two local fliers, Freddie Huggins and [Illegible] Fowler, plan to conduct an air search today. The highway patrol and Barnes also will search afoot.
But all of those reports would pale, next to what was said to happen next.
Above: A news clipping from the files of Project Blue Book.
IT BEGAN WITH ALL THE SERIOUSNESS of children at play, a Friday-night game of late-summer football in a grassy field, as the heat of the day began to wane.
From the Sunday, September 14, 1952 edition of the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette...
Did It Ride Meteor?
Boys Spot Appalling Creature Near Flatwoods, Link It to Passage of Fiery Object in Skies
(Special to The Gazette)
SUTTON, Sept. 13 -- The "meteorite" which flashed through Eastern skies Friday night may have had a passenger, according to reports from nearby Flatwoods.
Seven persons, at least six of them young boys, and one older woman who accompanied her two children reported seeing a "10 to 12-foot tall monster with a face of fiery red, protruding eyes, a green body and a spade-like tail" moving in the hills near Sutton.
One boy, who had to be revived with smelling salts, told this story:
"We saw this fiery object go overhead and seem to come down in the hills. We started out to look for it. It was just about dusk. As we were going up the hill, we saw lights flashing on and off and got a horrible odor. It smelled like sulphur and really sort of made you sick.
"I saw a pair of eyes near a tree and threw my flashlight on them. I thought it was an opossum. Then there stood this -- thing. I screamed
and fell over backwards. A boy standing near me jumped over me and took off down the hill with the rest of them behind him. I got up and took off, too. Nothing could make me go back up there."
Police were notified and so was A. Lee Stewart, co-publisher of The Braxton Democrat. Stewart talked to the witnesses and reported they were all trembling and frightened and that the one boy who had held the flashlight was near collapse.
The witnesses said the object appeared to be moving toward them.
Stewart and several men with shotguns went back to the scene. According to Stewart, there was a strong, sickening burnt metallic odor still prevailing, but there was no sign of the monster. Grass appeared to have been trampled down around the scene.
Among those who reported seeing the strange visitor were Mrs. Kathleen May and her two children and Gene Lemons, about 17, all of Flatwoods. An unidentified child was reported to have gone into convulsions.
When questioned as to the possibilities of the thing having been a moss covered tree with an animal roosting in it, Stewart answered:
"I don't think so. They saw the "whatsis" on the brow of the hill and there was nothing around except this large tree that it supposedly stood beside. The rest of the hillside is covered with small shrubs."
Residents of Little Birch reported seeing a fiery object flash over head shortly after the report of the monster was made.
It was conceded that the monster may have climbed in his "ship" and taken off again after his untimely visit.
The atmosphere in the vicinity was reported as being "close and hot, with the foul odor prevailing."
Yesterday, residents of the area were probing the hillside looking for signs or fragments of the monster and his craft.
"I have never seen people scared as badly as those that reported seeing the thing," Stewart stated. "I said to one man, 'I would have given $100 to have seen that thing.' He replied, 'I would have given $l,000 if you had seen it in my place.'"
Residents of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., Friday night saw what most observers considered to be one of the most brilliant meteors to streak across the sky in recent years. It supposedly fell somewhere within a 50-mile radius of Charleston.
Above: Photo from September 15, 1952 edition of the Charleston Gazette.
THE NEXT DAY a follow-up article provided more detail, including seeming physical evidence...
Braxton Monster Left Skid Tracks Where He Landed
(Special to the Gazette)
SUTTON, Sept. 14 -- The phantom of Flatwoods:
Left tracks from six to eight feet apart.
Wore a suit of green armor.
Was 10 feet tall, four feet wide.
Had a blood-red face.
Sported a black, spade-like cowl which extended a foot or more above its head.
It had claw-like "toy" hands, too, and orange-green eyes the size of half-dollars, according to Mr. Kathleen May, a 32-year-old beautician who saw the "thing" Friday night on a hillside near her home in nearby Flatwoods.
Mrs. May's two sons, Edward, 13, and Theodore, 12, saw it, too. So did Eugene Lemon, 17, Ronald Shaver, 10, Theodore Neal, 13, and Neal Nunley, 14, all of Flatwoods.
Today, somewhat recovered from the horror of their discovery Friday night, Mrs. May and the six boys who said they saw the monster re-told the strange story.
This is the Way It Was
The younger boys were playing football at Flatwoods Friday night while Mrs. May and Lemon looked on. It was almost, but not quite, dark. Then, a weird light flashed through the skies of Braxton County like a flaming object of some kind which appeared to the seven witnesses to "land" on a nearby hillside. They set out to investigate.
It was dark when they reached the hillside, and Lemon produced a flashlight. Coming to the top of a ridge, he turned the beam down the slope. He stood, frozen, for a moment, then unloosed a frightened cry and fell backwards to the ground. Mrs. May and the children said they could easily see what had frightened young Lemon. But they all retreated hastily.
According to the beautician, who said "I got a good look at it," a monster was striding up the slope toward them, its orange-green pupil-less eyes glowing.
Well Lit Up
Although Lemon had dropped his flashlight, it didn't matter, for the monster carried its own illuminating system.
"It lit up like a Christmas tree," Mrs. May said, with some sort of interior lighting system.
The six other witnesses gave less elaborate descriptions, but swore to state police officers and to Sutton publisher A. Lee Stewart that they, indeed, had seen the "thing."
Only Lemon could gather enough courage to accompany a shotgun-armed
posse back to the scene Friday night, and he, said Stewart, was visibly frightened.
Mrs. May went back to the scene today -- and saw the "footprints." She, as well as Stewart, described them as skid-like depressions in the hillside brush, about six or eight feet apart. The "sickening, piercing" odor, which the witnesses said accompanied the monster's appearance Friday was still slightly in evidence, Mrs. May said. She also pointed out that she had acquired some grease or oil stains on her white beautician's uniform while in the area today. Searchers could find no other evidence of a visit by the phantom.
Stewart, co-publisher of the Braxton Democrat at Sutton has promised, however, to keep himself informed of any new developments in the case -- unless a strange, green, claw-like hand mysteriously lifts his notes from his desk.
That same day, the news of the monster went national. From the September 15, 1952 edition of the Washington, D.C. Daily News...
Around a Bend They Saw a Pair of Bulging Eyes
SUTTON, W.Va., Sept. 15. -- A short time after a meteorite - or something - blazed across this town last Friday and seemed to land nearby, an evil-smelling, green bodied monster 12 feet tall with bulging eyes and clawy hands sent seven young citizens running for their lives.
A. Lee Stewart, who with his father publishes the Braxton County Democrat, saw mysterious traces of whatever it was, and here's his story:
"It was about 7:15 p.m. when this meteorite, or something, was supposed to have been seen that I wandered down the street and the people told me about having seen it. Then, a little while later, this call comes in from Flatwoods, a town about five miles away.
A PAIR OF EYES
"Mrs. Kathleen May and six boys had gone up the hill to where this thing was supposed to have landed, and they could see flashes of light - flash, flash, flash, three or four times - coming from the top of the hill.
"As they kind of eased around a little bend on the road, there in the shadows, they saw a pair of eyes. There was a peculiar odor - a very sickening, hot, stuffy smelling odor.
"The oldest boy -- he's 17 -- threw a flashlight on it. All the rest of them saw it too. The boy fell over backwards and all the people took for their heels and came running back to town.
"They said it was about 11 or 12 feet high, and had a shiny, metallic kind of face and protruding eyes. Its body was green. It had outstretched hands - sort of clawy looking hands.
"When they all got back to town, they gave the boy a dose or two of smelling salts, and called police.
"Of course", said Mr. Stewart, "the state police weren't in, but next morning the sheriff and some other people went up, and naturally I went along to investigate. I took my camera with me."
Atop the rugged, tangled hill, there was no trace of a meteorite, but there was an area "all trampled down", Mr. Stewart said. He said that he could still smell traces of the peculiar odor.
There were two tracks. They looked like skid marks, about a foot wide, a car length apart, and about ten yards long, Mr. Stewart said. He said you couldn't get an auto up that hill.
Mr. Stewart and the deputies took Gene Lemon, the 17-year-old, along with them.
"We had to coax him to go back," Mr. Stewart said. "I had to keep my hand on his shoulder. He just shook and shook like he was scared to death.
"I know all these people," Mr. Stewart said. "And I tried every way to tear this story down. But they all told the same story and they all stuck to it.
"I've never seen people in more fright.
"I don't know what they saw, but they sure saw something on that hill.
"Of course, at twilight, you can see lots of things. They could have seen an owl sitting up there in a tree, and put a body under it."
Four days later, the Washington Daily News published a follow-up story...
"You Can't Get One Out At Night By Hisself"
By EVERT CLARK
FLATWOODS, W. Va., Sept. 19 -- It has been seven days since the strange, flaming object flashed across the skies and left the monster in its wake.
Days pass quickly. But the nights are long. The woods and hills are black and threatening. A lot of the folks in this farming town of 200 won't go out alone after dark.
The fear – or the caution – set in right after the trip up Fisher's Hill – the same night the green fire ball slashed high across five Eastern states on a path that might have carried it directly over this town.
FEAR ON FISHER'S HILL
Other people, in the other states, thought the fireball could be a meteor. But those who saw the monster – and the silvery object in which he crashed – know what they saw, and to them it was no meteorite that fell on Fisher's Hill.
Gene Lemon, a 17-year old farm boy, was one of the first to see it. He was playing football at the schoolhouse. This is the story he tells:
"Well, the little May's boy was standing on top of an old Dutch oven down there where they throw away things, and he said, 'Look, boys – there's a flying saucer.'
"It just looked like sheets of flame, like the top of a washtub – kind of silver like. We all saw it, all but the Martin boy way down in the field, he didn't see it.
"It looked like it landed right thar up on the hill on Bailey Fisher's farm. I said, 'Let's go up.' Some of 'em wasn't going, but the May's boys went in the house and threw down the football and told Mrs. (Kathleen) May, and she said, "Boys, you're crazy."
"We said no we wasn't. Finally, she went with us. When we got outside the house we could see it lit up the trees a little bit. It was just orange looking – the light."
Fisher's Hill rises some 400 feet above the surrounding ground. pastureland, mostly field. An old wagon path runs near a small patch of woods on top.
"By the time we got up there, there wasn't no light at all," Gene said. "We just ran into this here mist. It wasn't like any regular mist, just a funny looking mist. Burnt you up.
"It burnt your nose and eyes and throat. I've smelt a lot of things but I never smelt any thing like that there.
"Then we saw these eyes – I said it could be a possum. But I never thought you could see possums' eyes at night unless you shined a light at 'em.
"I was the one with the flashlight so I shined it and then we seen this here – just flared up in front of us, and I fell back.
"It had a . . . I can't hardly say what kind of a head it had . . . just red looking, and its arms were just green. It was in the neighborhood from 8 to 10 fee tall.
"It was 5 to 8 feet from us and just seemed to be floating toward us. nobody said anything. Everybody ran."
Mrs. May is a 32-year old beautician.
This is her story:
She said her boys, Eddie, 13, and Freddie, 12, told her the flying object looked "like a silver mirror about the size of a washtub, with a tail of fire behind it."
"They could hear it fizzing," she said. "It tilted up as it started to land. I told them, 'Boys, you're crazy,' but they said, no, it was a flying saucer and they were agoin' to go.
A SKIRT NOW
"You could see the trees just plain as day. We were about half-way when we hit this real warm mist and it smelled. Burned your nostrils.
"Well, on the top we saw these eyes, about as big as 50-cent pieces and about a foot apart and orangish-red, like a possum in a tree.
"The very minute that flashlight hit it it flared up, 10 feet tall, every bit of it, green, with a green skirt four feet across the bottom, a big flared skirt, all part of its body, and its face a big red moon, just looked like pure blood to me, that's the only thing I could say.
"It had clay-looking arms, and a black object extended out from its shoulders and behind its head like a shield, you know, and the shield was coal black and shaped almost like an ace of spades.
"It wasn't more than 5 feet, bouncing in our direction and making a sizzling noise. It was just beyond my judgment to know what it was.
"I didn't see a nose or eyes or ears or nothing, just the face and the eyes – orange, with greenish pupils. It was like it had a great big light bulb inside. It just lighted up from all inside."
Mrs. May and her two boys and Gene and the three other boys who had come along ran terrified down the hill and went to their separate homes.
In no time at all the word had spread to A. Lee (Ace) Stewart, Jr., editor of the weekly Braxton Democrat in Sutton, six miles to the south.
Within an hour he had talked Gene into going back up the hill with him to have another look.
"I had to keep my hand on his shoulder," Mr. Steward said. "He just shook and shook like he was scared to death."
FOUND SKID MARKS
Mr. Stewart found no monster, but he found the evil smell all right. He said he could not recall smelling anything like it before.
"There were two sort of skid marks, about 8 or 10 feet apart and a foot or a little more wide, running 10 yards or so down a steep slope from the wagon path," he said.
"The grass there is about waist high, and in these tracks it was pushed right down to the ground. At the end of the them there was an area about 10 feet wide that was trampled down."
State police weren't in, and the sheriff was asked to investigate.
"Well – the sheriff never did get up there," Mr. Stewart said. "He went up part way and turned around and came back. I wouldn't want to say why.
"The state police went up there Wednesday. They got back from a shooting match or something and went up to see.
"I questioned each one of these people away from the others, and tried to mess up the stories, and checked every angle, and they tell the same story.
"All I can say is, they certainly saw something." He has had 70 or 80 out-of-town calls since that night, he said – all from what he now calls "monster hunters" – mostly newspapers and radio stations.
Gene was asked if any of the boys who saw the monster are still worried about it.
"Well, sir, you can't gent one of 'em out of the house at night by hisself, and I know a lot of others like that," he said. "I won't go myself."
CAME AWAY FAST
Editor Bob Earl and Advertising Manager Creel Cornwell of the weekly democrat in Weston, 40 miles to the north, did some investigating, too.
"Mrs. May told me she jumped a gate coming down that hill," Mr. Cornwell said, "and I estimated it was three feet high. As soon as she cleared it the boy who fainted, or was overcome with the gas, or fell back or whatever, passed her.
"One of the boys practically went into hysterics, and I understand they were all pretty shaken up."
Mr. Cornwell found what is left of the skidmarks, and the strange gray grease-like substance which Mrs. May got on her beautician's uniform.
"At this fence were what looked like footprints on one side and on the other – two gray areas on otherwise green foliage. Two spots, turned gray, not burned, spots about a foot or foot and a half in diameter and about three feet apart.
"There is a small plant sort of like plantain that is native to West Virginia, and most of the gray seemed to be on these. We found some of this – chemical, or whatever – almost like a crankcase grease.
"I got some on my pants. We were just calling them 'interplanetary grease marks,' and I don't know whether to have the plants cleaned or not now."
He also found a small piece of rusted cast iron which had a smear of the gray substance on it.
"It had discolored the metal – the rust was gone where the grease was," Mr. Cornwell said. "I understand someone took some of the grease to be analyzed, a Mr. Cutlip, but I don't know where he lives."
Just as Mr. Earl and Mr. Cornwell were leaving Flat Woods a little girl brought them a slip of paper on which a man had sketched four tear-shaped objects, one behind the other.
"She said he said he saw them in the sky about the time the fireball and the 'saucer' went over," Mr. Cornwell said, "but we didn't get to talk to him. We were in a hurry to catch a train."
Gene is a private in National Guard Company G, 150th infantry, at nearby Gassaway. His captain, Dale Leavitt, said Gene has "a good record and is thoroly honest, as far as I know."
"I talked to every one of them, looked over the hill Sunday, checked to see if there had been any horses or cows in the pasture that night, and so on," the captain said. "There weren't. Their stories are all identical."
AFRAID TO GO OUT
"They are scared. That boy hasn't been out of the house by himself at night since then. They are serious about it.
"I saw some of the grass, and I got the odor – like burning celluloid. The grease is like a graphite grease, and they say there is an oil grass in West Virginia, but I never saw anything like this before."
Fear was not the only thing the monster brought to Flat Woods. Fame came, too.
Mrs. May has had "more than a hundred" phone calls from "all over the United States." Several radio and television stations have made tape recordings.
But the big night comes tonight – exactly a week from the evening of the day it happened.
Mrs. May and Gene and Editor Stewart have gone to New York to get set to tell the nation the story of the green-bodied monster on the television program, "We, the People." It can be heard here tonight at 8:30 over WNBW.
Interestingly, news clippings are almost the only documents remaining in the publicly available Blue Book declassified files, although the incident appears in Blue Book's listings of incidents for the month of September, 1952, with an evaluation of the cause being a meteor. But more on the only document -- outside of news clippings -- to be found in the Blue Book files, later.
Four days after their national appearance on We The People, the Charleston Gazette published the first of what would be several more follow-ups over the years. From the September 23, 1952 edition...
'Monster' Held Illusion Created by Meteor's Gas
The "Braxton County Monster" has been described by a local insurance man and amateur astronomer as an illusion created by the remains of a gaseous meteor.
He is Earl Stephens of nearby Belle, whose theory is one of the best, offered here on the origin of "the thing" that scared the daylights out of a Braxton County family.
His theory was advanced after Mrs. Kathleen May and Gene Lemon of Flatwoods returned from New York where they described their experience before a nation-wide television audience. It is Stephens' opinion that the meteor, commonly called a fire ball, originated from an electrical discharge in the outer atmosphere, forming the shape of a gaseous ball.
Odor of Sulphur
"The odor of sulphur was the tip-off." declared Stephens. "It burns with a green flame accounting
for the green apparition the people saw."
Stephens said one of the party apparently flashed the light on the gas ball just the instant before it disintegrated into thin air. The reflection of the light on the gases gave it the shape the people described, he said.
The "monster" story came to light a week ago after reports that Mrs. May, Lemon and four youths ran smack into the thing while searching for a strange object they saw floating into the woods near their home.
They described the monster as about eight feet tall, with red eyes and a green body, topped by a strange pointed mantle.
However, during a thorough search of the area by county officials the next day only the sulphurous odor remained.
Facts Support Theory
Stephens said his theory is backed up by the fact the earth entered a meteoric stream on Aug. 14. He believes the gaseous body may have been ripped from Bielas Comet which has been splitting up during recent years, showering the earth with its fragments.
During the same period several local residents observed a strange luminous body that was believed to have fallen within a 50-mile radius of Charleston.
His gaseous theory is further bolstered by the stories of two of rural St. Albans, who declared they saw a lighted object float lazily to the ground and disappear.
A search of that area by two Gazette reporters failed to turn up any trace of the object.
Stephens offered his theory to The Gazette in the interest of what he termed "attempting to erase the fear of supernatural beings from the minds of the people."
But the telling of the rest of the story -- which would gain different shadings over the coming decades -- relies on the efforts of individual investigators, the work of journalists, and even the uncertain contributions of self-proclaimed hoaxsters and connivers.
Above: January, 1953 cover of Fate Magazine.
ACCORDING TO ALL CONCERNED people began showing up at Flatwoods by the dozens soon after the incident, but two in particular are of interest here. One of them was a well-known writer of the time by the name of Ivan Sanderson, on assignment for True magazine. The other was twenty-eight year old Gray Barker, who would soon earn a name for himself by writing accounts which would eventually enter universal lore.
Gray Barker was a native of West Virginia, born less than three miles as the crow flies west of Flatwoods. He had gone to college and earned a teaching degree, but gave it up to become a theater manager and movie booker in Clarksburg, fifty miles northeast of Flatwoods. There he earned a reputation as a conniver, for instance booking early films where superstar Marilyn Monroe appeared as an extra, and giving her top billing on the marquee.
What brought him to investigate the Flatwoods incident was told by Barker himself in a letter to the Charleston Gazette, as conveyed through columnist Charles R. Armentrout's September 30, 1952 And Furthermore column...
Just What Did Mr. Barker Discover?
Now that all the heat and furor generated over the Braxton County monster have simmered down, the time seems to have arrived
for calm appraisal of the incident.
Gray Barker of Clarksburg, a free-lance writer, has looked into the
matter quite assiduously. His observations are set forth in
a letter which we offer for your study and reaction.
Barker comments at the outset that he can understand the concern of persons writing to our Reader's Forum asking that we cease coverage of the so-called "monster."
"With all the rumors and exaggerated reports that have been circulated by some newspapers, Barker says, "prospective residents might give the county a wide berth." And then he gets into the subject, adding:
"I cannot agree, however, that editors of magazines and newspapers in general are printing wild stories they themselves do not believe. I quote from a telegram received from FATE magazine, for which I spent three days investigating this case -- 'Story probably hoax but investigate rigorously. Don't speculate. Simply state facts.'
"Speaking as a representative of a magazine, who investigated as 'rigorously' as he was asked, I wonder if these folks (those complaining in the Readers Forum) are as qualified as I am to draw conclusions as to whether this story is a product of 'overwrought imagination.'
"Exploding a hoax makes better copy than creating one. I, myself, was unable to shake this story, and, to my knowledge, no one else from the press has been able to do it. I sincerely hope someone is able to do so -- to my satisfaction -- for the chain of events, as I have found them, is quite disquieting.
"The writers say it must be one of two things -- a meteor, of which much is known by scientists; and an 'electrical phenomenon,' which, for my money, is an admission of a mystery just as great as the entire flying saucer business, for little is known of an 'electrical phenomenon' which would flash through the skies in such manner.
"These people (writing to the Forum) must not have all the information about the incident. They mention, for example, that foliage was ignited. That did not occur. One should be slow to pass opinion on something about which he has little information.
"They cannot believe the story, for, in their limited experience, they cannot find ground for comparing the event with others which make up the framework and pattern of their culture.
Might Be a Panic
"For example, they might have believed the story if the entity seen was described as an angel or devil, common elements of our religion. But the aspects brought forth by this and similar, events are to them incomprehensible because they are quite new.
"In my article, I have first of all tried to bring forth as much fact as possible. The conclusion I have reached is based upon those facts, but is entirely my own.
"In this case anyone is entitled to his own conclusion, but I feel he should first of all be in possession of as many facts as possible.
"It is perhaps well that stories of this nature are generally doubted. if the entire population were in possession of all the evidence of this and other related events, there easily could be wide-spread panic.
"Unusual aerial phenomenon are gaining in prevalence and should be the subject of more careful observation and recording. Such information, and conditioning, may be quite valuable at some future date."
It looks as if Mr. Barker uncovered sumpthin'.
Barker's Fate magazine article showed up in the January 1953 edition, on newsstands in December...
The Monster And The Saucer
By Gray Barker
The huge shape with the weirdly glowing eyes was seen by seven witnesses. Was it an alien life form?
On September 12, 1952, the nation's wire services cracked with news of a 10-foot, red-faced monster, which sprayed a foul, sickening gas and frightened seven Flatwoods, W.Va., residents into panic.
"It looked worse than Frankenstein," Mrs. Kathleen May, one of a party who climbed a hill to investigate a flying saucer sighting, told reporters.
Shortly thereafter I went to Flatwoods, a small town of 300, and spent three days subjecting these seven people, and other residents of the area, to rigorous questioning. If the story were true, I felt it deserved factual reporting; if it were a hoax I wished to explode it.
The stories I obtained from the seven different persons who had been present were heard separately. Although their accounts did not reach the terrifying proportions originally reported, and some of them had taken on color through retellings and leading questions, their stories agreed, except in very minor details. And try as I might, I could not break these stories down.
On that terrifying night reports of strange lights and objects in the skies were prevalent from Ohio eastward to Washington, D.C. and from Virginia northward to Pennsylvania. About seven o'clock, just as it had become day, Mrs. May, a beautician, was told by her two small sons, Eddie, 13, and Fred, 12, that they had seen a "flying saucer" land on a hilltop above their house. The two May children had been at a nearby playground with Gene Lemon, 17, Neil Nunley, 14, Ronnie Shaver 10, and Tommy Hyer, also 10.
The "saucer" which the children described to me, "looked like a silver dollar rushing through the sky," spouting an exhaust which looked like red balls of fire. It came southwestward across the sky, and directly over the hilltop, paused, seemed to hover, and descended out of view on the other side.
The group ran to Mrs. May's home at the base of the hill, and the two may children told their mother about the object. She insisted it was "just their imaginations" until she looked upward and saw a strange red glow. Gene Lemon found a flashlight and led the party up the hill after Mrs. May agreed to accompany them.
Although not definitely timed, not more than a half-hour could have elapsed from the time of the sighting and the moment Lemon screamed with terror and fell backward, and the party fled from the sight before them.
I am now listening to tape-recorded interviews, correlating details, and sifting out those which do not exactly agree or might be colored by the horror and excitement of the moment.
The story told with least emotion is that of Neil Nunley, and the exact words I will quote will be his. Nunley impressed me as being a very level-headed and unimaginative youngster. He was very definite on what he saw and what he did not see.
He and Lemon were ahead of the others. Before them, up a roadway leading to the hilltop they could see a reddish light pulsating from dim to bright. As they approached they encountered a mist which resembled fog, but which carried a pungent, irritating odor. It seemed to become denser as they walked farther.
"It was just a big ball of fire," Nunley explained, and it would grow dimmer and brighter at regular intervals. He could [sic, probably should be 'couldn't'] estimate the exact size, but others in the party said it was "as big as a house."
Because their attentions were on the globe they did not notice a huge figure standing to their left, near the hilltop, until they were about 15 feet from it. Seeing two glowing green spots, which he thought were animal eyes, Lemon turned his flashlight in that direction.
Towering above them was a man-like shape. Its face was round and blood-red. Around the face was a pointed hood like shape, dark in appearance. In the "face" were two eye-like openings from which "greenish-orange" beams projected over their heads. The body, illuminated by the flashlight, from the head downwards to the waist, appeared dark and colorless to Nunley, although some others said it was green. Mrs. May said she saw clothing-like folds around the figure. Descriptions from the waist down are vague; most of the seven said this part of the figure was not under view.
Not all agreed that the "monster" had arms. Mrs. May described it with terrible claws. Some said they just didn't see any. Not all agreed on the height of the figure, but according to their descriptions it couldn't have been more than 10 feet tall. It was said to have stood under an overhanging limb which is about 15 feet from the ground, and it didn't reach to this limb.
A powerful odor, described by all as sickening and irritating to the nostrils, pervaded the scene. Some had originally said it smelled like burning metal, or burning sulphur, but under questioning none of the seven could remember anything in their experiences resembling the odor.
Others in the party reported a sound, coming either from the figure or the globular object, described as something between a hiss and a high-pitched squeal. They could also hear a thumping or throbbing noise.
The figure was observed for a very short while, a matter of seconds, because of the terror they experienced. It was impossible to ascertain the exact length of time it was viewed, most of the stories varied slightly. But all agreed with Nunley it was a "very short time. We just got a good look at it and left."
The figure was moving toward them but inscribing an arc, which, after viewing the scene, I estimate would lead the entity down the hill-side to the globular object.
I questioned Nunley at length about the means of locomotion employed by the figure. I asked him to re-enact the scene and walk about, imitating it.
"I couldn't move as it did. It just moved. It didn't walk. It moved evenly; it didn't jump."
He could still view the figure after Lemon screamed and dropped the flashlight. The globular shape, he explained, emitted enough light to make the figure visible.
Two of the party, Mrs. May and Lemon, said they did not see the globe. They were the worst frightened, however, and their entire attention may have been centered on the figure. The Nunley boy was very definite about the globe, though; he said the reason they got so close to the monster before seeing it was because they were looking at the globe.
They had taken a dog with them, and Nunley said it howled and ran away and was found at the house with "its tail tucked between his legs."
At the house they telephoned the nearby town of Sutton, the Braxton County seat, for law officers, but were told that Sheriff Robert Carr and his deputy were near Frametown, another small town about 17 miles southward, investigating the report of a plane crash. They returned to Sutton, heard of the Flatwoods incident, and rushed to the scene. They climbed the hill, investigated, but saw, heard and smelled nothing.
I questioned A. Lee Stewart, Jr., of the Braxton Democrat, who arrived shortly before the sheriff, and found some members of the party receiving first aid. Others were too terrified to talk coherently. He finally was able to persuade Lemon to accompany him to the hilltop.
No signs of the figure or globe were visible, but bending close to the ground, he could smell the strange odor, which he also described as sickening and irritating. He said he had smelled gases used in warfare, while in the Air Force, but had encountered nothing similar.
At seven o'clock the next morning he returned and found "skid marks" in the tall grass, leading from the spot where the figure was seen to where the globe was reported. The earth was not disturbed, but small stones had been tossed aside.
I have been over the site carefully. I saw marks and a huge area of grass trampled down, but multitudes have visited and walked over the location. I believe Stewart's observations are accurate, however, I could see no trace of the oil reported to have been present on the ground and to have saturated the weeds with an odd, gummy deposit; but there had been a rain. Some said samples of the deposit were being analyzed but I could not track down the information.
Although Flatwoods residents shake their head and discredit the story, attributing the phenomena to everything from a buck deer with a white breast to the dome of the State House, allegedly stolen and flown to Washington by the party in power, there have arisen dozens of variations, each more hair-raising than the one before.
I ran down a number of rumors. I drove 50 miles to interview a man who had claimed to be present when a space ship had taken off from the hill. He told me he had not seen this occur, but had been presently [sic] shortly after the incident and had seen an object in the air. It was round, with a flat top, orange in color. Streams of fire, like jets, were projecting downward from the apex. He agreed to meet me that evening, drive to Flatwoods with me and point out the exact spot over which the object had circled and then flew southwestward. He could not keep the appointment.
Numerous people in the 20-mile radius saw illuminated objects in the sky at the same time. I could have spent a month interviewing all of such viewers. The objects were described mainly as round, red or orange in color, and spouting fire.
These objects were reported flying in various directions, although the progress of some of them could be charted. It is evident that either they saw different objects, or one object was making a circuit of the area.
Mayor J. Holt Byrne of Sutton, also editor of his Braxton Central, put the inevitable question to me.
"Well, what do you think it was?"
Sitting in his newspaper office, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a busy small town, I should have liked to say, "The misinterpretation of natural phenomena."
In my belief. I told him, the account fits perfectly with others of flying saucers or similar craft.
I believe that such a vehicle landed on the hillside, either from necessity or to make observations.
The monster could have been a robot from the globular ship, or some entity inside a suit which would adapt the wearer to Earth's atmosphere. When the flashlight was shone upon it, that stimulus then would start the creature on its way back to the ship. Or perhaps it did not see nor take notice of the seven odd bipeds that had come to view it, and had they waited, might have completed its progress to the ship and left.
But that is speculation. What I do know is that when you talk to seven people with honesty and fear in their eyes, you know in your heart when they are telling the truth. These people did see something, and whatever they saw was very much like what they described.
For Gray Barker, it would be the launch of a new career. He began writing for UFO magazines, and in 1956 authored They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, which created the legend of the 'Men In Black', weird and mysterious men who come to UFO witnesses on a mission to silence them. He then became the publisher-owner of Saucerian Books turning out pulpish prose with little basis in reality. In 1970 he authored The Silver Bridge, which created the legend of the creature known as Mothman. But in reality, he disbelieved much of it, taking it all as a joke. Says the special collections librarian at the Clarksburg-Harrison library which now houses his papers, Barker "was not profoundly committed to the limits of fact". Or as one who knew him well wrote, "...he hawked his books and magazines by embellishing stories and encouraging others to fabricate more. He launched hoaxes, joined others' deceptions, and manipulated people's beliefs."
Whether the same can be said of the Gray Barker who on his first foray into the subject was an amateur investigator writing up his story for Fate is a matter of conjecture. But there are two independent accounts of the matter which may give some insight. The first is found in the files of the group known as the Civilian Saucer Investigation, one of the earliest private groups devoted to the subject. The group was formed by aerospace engineers involved in defense work, and had contacts with Project Blue Book. In their Quarterly Bulletin was this...
More On The "Green Monster"
The small town of Flatwoods, West Virginia, has received a great deal of publicity since September 12, 1952, when three boys reported that they saw a flying saucer land not far from the school playground.
Mr. William Smith and his wife Donna, of Downey, California, made a personal investigation of the rumors while on their way home to California, shortly after the incident occurred.
The story of the "Green Monster" has been very well reported by Gray Barker in the December issue of Fate Magazine and was confirmed in every aspect by Bill and Donna Smith. They were fortunate to get many more details to supplement the Fate story.
On their way to investigate the landing of the saucer, the three boys stopped at the home of the two young May boys to tell their mother, a former teacher and now a beauty shop operator, what they had seen. Together, Mrs. May and six boys ascended the remaining quarter mile to get a close look at the saucer. Mrs. May climed [sic] over the fence near the supposed landing site with some difficulty. Gene Lemon, 17, equipped with flashlight, lead the party. He is known as fearless and has had many encounters with animals roaming the woods. When he saw what he believed to be the shining eyes of a racoon [sic] on an overhanging limb, he directed his flashlight toward it. In the following few seconds, the little group was petrified with fright at the sight of an enormous figure which suddenly seemed to come to life. It was as though a light had been turned on inside the figure. A reddish glow shone through a head with only the eyes visible, and a greenish light glowed through the cloth-like covering of the lower parts of the body. Although some irritating odor had been noticed before, now a violent thumping began on the inside of the monster and a dense cloud of mist escaped with a hissing noise. It covered the two young May boys, making them and all others violently sick. Their fright gave them the strength to run from the scene. Mrs. May leaped over the fence; one of the boys ran for a mile to his home and turned on the radio until the house shook and hysterically related his experience to his mother; Gene Lemon, was so seriously ill during the night that he was in convulsions, and had attacks of vomiting.
The May boys were cared for by their grandmother who wiped the oily substance from their faces, while their mother phoned for the sheriff and the owner of the Sutton newspaper. Soon the throats of the boys were so swollen that they could not even drink water. Examination by the doctor showed symptoms similar to those of mustard gas. After two weeks, Gene Lemon still was not able to swallow carbonated drinks without pains in his throat.
When the sheriff arrived, he listened to Mrs. May's story but did not venture to investigate any further during the night, when dogs howled and ran away frightened. The fog now covered the entire hillside, and the frightened family passed a night hardly more than 1000 feet from the place where the apparent monster had appeared.
At 6:30 the next morning, the director of the Board of Education saw a flying saucer take off, not far from his house, and immediately reported it to the Sutton newspaper. Only then was he informed of the happening of the night before. Mr. Stewart, the owner of the paper, immediately went to the hill and could still smell the odor on the ground. He discovered two tracks where the reported object had landed. No wagon had been in this part for many years and the weeds were several feet high. The grass was freshly depressed, and closer search disclosed a piece of black plastic material which did not burn when tested by Stewart. The piece has been analyzed and we hope to get a report soon through Mr. Smith. Samples of ground and vegetation were also collected by airforce [sic] officers.
Further inquiries at the Lemon house revealed that Mrs. Lemon and a friend were having coffee at the time of the landing, and their house shook so violently that coffee spilled over the table and they thought the house had fallen off its foundation. The radio went off for 45 minutes and came back on by itself.
In his systematic questioning of everyone in the valley, Smith found that a girl, 21, of Weston, 11 miles from the Lemon farm, was confined in the Clarksburg Hospital for three weeks, after having seen a figure of the same description, and emitting the same odor reported by witnesses of the Sutton occurrence. Her mother confirmed the girl's story that they had seen the monster when they were on their way to church more than a week before Mrs. May's experience.
The mystery of the "Green Monster" remains more puzzling than before, as letters from all over the country pour into the area, some of them reporting similar experiences in other parts of the country.
The second independent source which reflects on the veracity of Gray Barker's account is Ivan Sanderson. Born in 1911 in Scotland, Sanderson had travelled the world widely by the time he earned his degree in zoology from Cambridge University. He soon after became a famed naturalist, both as an author of books and magazine articles as well as a collector who donated many of his unique finds to museums. But he also had a fondness for the unverified legends of the animal world -- some of which he experienced for himself during his travels -- and was one of the first serious researchers into cryptozoology, a term which he himself had coined.
And like Gray Barker, Sanderson was drawn to Flatwoods soon after the incident. In fact, the two men crossed paths, and may have even joined up at times to interview witnesses, or to compare notes. Sanderson had been sent to the area on assignment for True magazine, and planned to write a story for a news wire service as well. On the two-year anniversary of the event, September 12, 1954, the Charleston, West Virginia Daily Mail published a piece entitled Flatwoods Phantom Gave Braxton Something To Talk About, which included a description of the activities of Ivan Sanderson at that time...
Of all those who came to personally investigate, probably only one was qualified to conduct such an investigation as the story of the "Flatwoods Phantom" presented. He was Ivan Sanderson of New York City, known the world over as a scientist and investigator of strange and unusual phenomena. With his assistant, Eddie Schoenenberger, he arrived in Sutton a few days following the appearance of the monster to make a complete and thorough study of the event.
Mr. Sanderson, it might be stated, has traveled the world over making studies of the strange, the unusual and the different from ordinary happenings. He is a writer and lecturer of considerable note and is a quite frequent guest on nation-wide television and radio shows.
Upon arrival here, Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Schoenenberger immediately began a systematic study of the events. Aerial maps of the area were obtained, a preliminary study of the area where the alleged monster was seen was made and five of the young men who had witnessed the "Phantom" were interviewed. Realizing that a full-scale investigation was warranted, by persons of qualified status, Mr. Sanderson contacted Earl Walter and Bert Ash, members of the Charleston chapter of the National Speleogical Society, who came to Sutton to assist with the investigation.
The following morning a thorough investigation of the field where the appearance of the monster was noted was made by Mr. Sanderson and his assistants. The ground was gone over in great detail, covering several acres in as thorough a manner as possible. The boys who witnessed the phenomena were again interviewed and cross-questioned individually, in pairs, and as a group. Following this, a number of residents of the community were interviewed.
In the afternoon the investigators moved on to Gassaway where Anderson Hughes was interviewed. Mr. Hughes pointed out the spot where Woodrow Eagle had said another flaming object, which he thought was a burning plane, had crashed. A boat was obtained with which to cross the river and for four hours the group searched the forested slopes without success. Later, Mr. Eagle was contacted and retold his story of the previous evening regarding what he believed was a burning plane which had crashed into the hillside.
At Frametown J.C. Dean was contacted and it was learned that still another aerial object had crashed or landed on a nearby farm. Mr. Dean said this example had landed on an overgrown and isolated field at the top of a hill known as James' Knob but that, although seen by the two young James boys, had not been investigated because it had been regarded as a "fireball."
The following day Mr. Sanderson met with the Charleston chapter of the National Speleological Society and was informed by Mrs. Alice Williams that she had witnessed the disintegration of still another fiery object in the air at a height of not more than a few hundred feet to the West of Charleston. This was also witnessed by Mr. And Mrs. Clarence McClane and they affirmed that when the object disintegrated "a lot of ashes fell to the ground."
All of these events, Mr. Sanderson determined, occurred within a matter of minutes, leading him to surmise that "at least five objects came over traveling in a straight line from west of north to the east of south, at just about five miles apart." This deduction was made by carefully reviewing aerial maps of the area.
In his preliminary report on the subject, Mr. Sanderson pointed out that these five objects, starting from the east end of the line (Flatwoods) assumed the following course:
No. 1 – passed east of Flatwoods and was seen south of the Sutton Airport;
No. 2 – crashed in or landed in Flatwoods (Green 'Man');
No. 3 – Crashed at Sugar Creek;
No. 4 – Crashed or landed at Frametown;
No. 5 – Headed for Charleston and disintegrated in the air over the city.
"All these incidents," he said, "occurred simultaneously as far as I can ascertain. If the things didn't take off again or dissolve into gas, there ought to be some residue, or at least a [Illegible] or crushed spot.
Later, following a more comprehensive study of the material acquired during his investigation, Mr. Sanderson issued a report which consisted of 26 typewritten pages on the subject. The report was carried by newspapers all over the United States and appeared in at least one British newspaper.
The article concluded, in part...
In recapitulating his studies, Mr. Sanderson said two things regarding the story are fairly clear. First, that something very unusual and normally inexplicable appears to have been seen by seven (and perhaps eight) sane people at Flatwoods about 7:15 p.m. on the evening of Sept. 12. Secondly, the details of what they saw and even of who saw the phenomenon were grossly misreported, with which the normal amount of worthless conjecture was added.
That same year, the Charlotte, West Virginia Gazette would also publish an update on the incident, headlined Martian or Mirage?, and featuring Sanderson's investigation. Though not nearly as detailed as the Daily Mail piece, it included this relevant tidbit...
Sanderson, a veteran prober of unusual phenomena, began a systematic study of the events. He obtained aerial maps of the area, collected written reports of the incident, and questioned all persons even remotely connected with the sighting -- except Mrs. May and Eugene Lemon, who had gone to New York to appear on a television program about the "monster."
It was unfortunate that Sanderson never got to interview Mrs. May, for two years later, she would publicly announce her change of mind.
AN OCTOBER, 1956 update by the Charleston Gazette contained new and interesting revelations:
Braxton County Woman Feels Glowing Object Was Jet Ship
Discovery in 1952 Stirred Up Nation-Wide 'Martian' Debate
By Don Seagle
Staff Writer for The Gazette
FLATWOODS, OCT. 6 – The woman who set off a four-year debate when she saw a mysterious object near her home here said today she was convinced she didn't stumble onto a craft from Mars.
Mrs. Kathleen may said the "Braxton County Monster" was nothing more than some new type government-owned jet or rocket plane.
"I don't believe in that outer space stuff," she said. "It's contrary to Scripture."
Mrs. May saw the object on Sept. 12, 1952, when she accompanied her sons and some other boys to a field near her house. The boys had been playing when they said they saw a large object pass overhead.
They said it traveled slowly to the crest of a hill, hovered for a moment in midair, then dropped from sight. A bright orange light started pulsing from where it apparently landed.
Mrs. May joined the six boys who went to investigate. What they described set off a long debate between science fiction fans and scoffers.
SHE SAID THEY SAW AN OBJECT WHICH WAS ABOUT 10 FEET TALL. The "thing" was red and black at the nose, had a glowing green body and claw like metal appendages.
"Some of the people I talked to twisted what I told them to make it look as if it were some sort of living thing," she recalled. "It really didn't look alive. There's no question in my mind but what it was some kind of airplane or rocket ship."
A noted naturalist and science writer investigated Mrs. May's story, assembled evidence from the scene and concluded she and the boys say a visitor from Mars.
Said Ivan Sanderson of New York:
"The 'Braxton County Monster' was a spaceship. In fact, it was one of five spaceships which flew in formation across central West Virginia."
Mrs. May said many other visitors and interested persons shared the opinion.
"IN THE FIRST five or sis weeks, there must have been 10,000 or 15,000 people here to look at the field. Some of them came from as far away as California. There was some government men here to check.
"For a long time, we couldn't sleep or eat from answering the telephone. Most everybody who talked to me was polite and most of them believed it was a space ship. Nobody called me up to tell me I was lying or that I hadn't really seen what I thought I did."
"I'm glad the whole thing has been mostly forgotten. The visitors have slacked off. There was so many of them, they got on our nerves."
Mrs. May said she was badly frightened when she saw the first object but she knows what she would do if another landed.
"I sure would like to see it. I'd take a better look this time and I'd investigate a little more carefully."
That Mrs. May had changed her opinion was obvious news. But not so obvious was her statement that there were 'some government men here to check' -- but more on that, later.
THAT SAME YEAR Gray Barker published They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, the book that created the legend of the "Men in Black". But also covered was his experience in researching the 1952 events in West Virginia. His story mirrored his article in Fate with some elaboration -- or embellishment. But included was a story which shed light on Mrs. May's change of mind...
When Mrs. May returned from New York, along with Lemon, I went to her house. By that time the story had taken on additional dimensions. Her account was far more terrifying than the one I have reported here. She had returned to the hill the next day and got grease on her beautician's uniform -- a strange deposit which defied the washer. In New York she had talked to scientists who had convinced her the "monster" was a rocket ship.
But she was hesitant to give me her complete viewpoint of the experience. Someone "from the government" had asked her not to give out information to anybody, and a lawyer had advised her the story might be worth considerable money if she found the right market. Her father warned me I shouldn't "write up anything about it."
I had another opportunity to visit her home, a few weeks later. She wasn't there, but her father told me Mrs. May had received a letter from the government, which explained all the phenomena, and advised that a report was to be released to the public that week, after which date she could talk more freely about it. However, since the release date had passed, he said he was free to tell me that the "monster" was a government rocket ship, propelled by an ammonia-like hydrazine, and nitric acid.
I could hardly wait to look up editor Stewart, who, I was told, could give me details on the government report.
Stewart chuckled as he held up an 8 x 10 photo, attached to a publicity release from Collier's magazine. The issue of October 18 was to contain the story of how a moon rocket would be constructed in the future, and the photo was the art work which was to appear on the cover. The release date for the press was during that week, he explained. He had shown the picture to the May family because there was some resemblance between the rocket ship art work and the descriptions of the "monster." The release went on to explain how the ship could be propelled by ammonia-like hydrazine and nitric acid.
There were only wild rumors of governmental investigation. If the Air Force was interested, their concern was a well-kept secret.
But more on this, later.
Above: October 18, 1952 cover of Collier's Magazine.
IT WOULDN'T BE UNTIL September, 1966 that another follow-up was published in the Charlotte papers...
On Sept. 12, 1952, a monster was born on one of the rolling green hills of this little Braxton County community.
But the monster wasn't that famous big, green "it" that appeared on a dark path in front of seven young Flatwoods residents, sending them into terrified flight.
This monster is the legend that has grown out of that sighting -- a legend that nearly 14 years later is still bringing visitors to the home of the "Phantom of Flatwoods."
Four miles north of Sutton, the Braxton County seat, Flatwoods is a peaceful little town of 306 persons, planted amidst quiet mountains in the geographical center of the state.
Incorporated, the town has its own mayor -- Glen Cochran, a Republican, who is also the clerk at the community's general store. Flatwoods also has a school, a beauty shop and a funeral home, things that most similar-sized towns lack.
And Flatwoods has tourists.
"Oh, we still have people coming here wanting to see where 'it' was," said Mrs. Dorothy Gay Lemon who lives in a large white house on the hillside overlooking U.S. 19. Her daughter, two grandsons and four other boys were the ones who stumbled onto "it" in the gathering twilight of that September day.
The site is about a half mile up a dirt trail from the Lemon home.
"People still stop here to see us, talk about it," Mrs. Lemon said. "In a way I'm glad it happened. I got to meet people I never dreamed I'd ever meet. Thousands of them came up here the first couple weeks after it happened. And they were from all over the country. We still get telephone calls and letters. Why, Kathy has received thousands of letters."
Kathy is Mrs. Kathleen May who operates a beauty shop at Flatwoods. On that night in 1952, she was at the Lemon home when her two sons, Eddie and Freddy, and four other boys came running by shouting that they had seen "a flying saucer land up there on the hill."
Mrs. May grabbed a flashlight and went with the boys to investigate. As they rounded a turn in the trail on what is known as the Fisher property at the top of a Flatwoods hill, "there was a sharp, penetrating smell. Our two dogs wouldn't go any further."
They went through a gate, Mrs. May said, "and we could hear a kind of thumping noise and a sizzling like something frying. Then there was a big hiss and oil was thrown all over us."
Mrs. May said she turned the flashlight toward the spot of the sudden noise and "there 'it' stood, about 12 feet tall, green and glowing and floating a few inches off the ground."
"The Flatwoods Green Man."
The Visitor From Outer Space."
"The Braxton County Monster."
"The Jolly Green Giant."
"It" has been given many names in the hundreds of stories that have been written in the last decade.
"It wasn't a monster," Mrs. May insists today. "We never thought it was. It was an airplane of some type and that's all. I received a letter from Washington -- the Pentagon -- telling me that it was a secret plane the government was working on. They sent me a small picture of it and it looked like what we saw that night."
The letter and picture, she explained, have been lost along with many other pictures, drawings, newspaper stories and magazine articles, all borrowed by visitors, writers and tourists and never returned.
Said Mrs. May's mother, "The letter said it was a test plane with two men in it and they took off again. We have no reason to doubt it was anything else."
"We have to laugh," said Mrs. May's 70-year old father, Joseph Nester Lemon, "when people came around here and ask about the 'monster.' That's what they call it."
"We just call it 'it," Mrs. May added.
For Lemon, visitors mean trips along the hillside frail to the big white oak tree where the story was born. He has become an official Flatwoods guide.
"I'll bet he's made 10,000 trips up that hill," his wife said. "He never tires."
"No, I don't think it's been that many," he laughed. "I do enjoy walking up there though."
The small, slender Lemon, his strong legs carrying him at a near trotting pace up the hillside, spoke of traces of oil and bits of metal found where "it" landed, "There were skid marks from there down to here." He pointed along the trail as he stood under the oak tree.
But he seemed more interested in the view of the surrounding Braxton County hills and valleys than in the famous site. He pointed at a lonely, deserted railroad track winding its way through the treeless valley below. "I worked on that B&O line for many years," he said.
A few steps above the white oak tree and on the crest of the hill, one can look down on the main highway and the quiet town that surrounds it. To the right is the schoolhouse and playground where the children first saw "the glowing thing that moved slowly above the hill and dropped down on the other side."
To the left are a few homes and the large, square, white general store, owned by M.C. Sprigg, like most small town general stores, a gathering place for the older citizens.
O.B. Bright, tall, slender and smiling, leaned against a counter in the Sprigg store and pushed his hat to the rear of his bead.
"A monster? Naw. I don't believe it. No one believes it. A bunch of bunk. People come around and talk about monsters, but there never was one.
"They saw something," he said. "Maybe it was a meteorite or something. But I don't believe it was anyone from space. Naw."
Eldridge W. Pullin stood at the end of the counter. The 83-year-old Flatwoods resident covered his white hair with a high centered brown hat decorated with "LBJ" buttons.
"That's right," he said, "they seen something. I'm sure nobody was lying about it. But a monster. . ."
"People stop in here and ask about it," said Mayor Cochran as he worked behind the counter "We just tell them where to go if they want to look. I don't doubt they saw something, but I don't know what it was. It wasn't a monster."
"Yeh, I went on a bus trip once," said Pullin, "and when I got off the bus some fellow asked me where I was from. I said Flatwoods and he said, 'Hey, that's where the monster was, wasn't it?" Every time someone says Flatwoods everyone thinks of a monster."
"But there wasn't a monster," Bright said. "I don't think anyone around here believes that."
"Yeh," added Pullin. "They went up on that hill and seen something and got excited over it..."
"That's the way people are," said Bright. "That's the way they are."
Included with the article was a map...
Only Lemon and Mrs. May were interviewed, and the article made no reference as to what the others involved -- now adults -- had to say about that night. But especially noteworthy is Mrs. May's mention -- confirmed by her mother -- of having received a letter from the Pentagon "telling me that it was a secret plane the government was working on. They sent me a small picture of it and it looked like what we saw that night".
But more on this, later.
Above: 1969 news article. The caption on the picture read: "LANDING SPOT: Marked by a different type of growth is a circular area where the vehicle of the Braxton County Monsters was reported to have landed the evening of Sept. 12, 1952. Back to the spot last month to investigate were three South Charleston boys: Jim Ware and George Webb, pictured, and photographer Rick Ware.
SEVENTEEN YEARS AFTER the events of that night, three young men from South Charleston became intrigued by the incident, and decided to have an adventure. From the September 16, 1969 Charleston Daily Mail:
The feeling was "like you had done something no one else bad ever done." No, this isn't a statement of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, but the thought of a young South Charleston man who spent a night last month on the hillside where in 1952 the Braxton County Monster appeared.
Rick Ware, 19, of South Charleston, explained that he and neighborhood friends George Webb and Jim Ware have believed for some time in the existence of life outside the earth. They were intrigued with what they had heard and read about the visit of a 12-foot tall red and green "monster" to rural Braxton County on Sept. 12, 1952.
"We were sitting around talking about the Braxton case one night when we decided to go up there and investigate," said Rick. Before leaving, the boys read newspaper accounts of the incident in order to know exactly where to camp.
Arriving at Flatwoods, they first called on Mrs. Kathleen May, the woman who with her two sons and two other boys, were attracted that September evening to the hillside behind her mother's home by a bright object in the sky.
"Mrs. May knew exactly what we wanted before we told her," Jim said. She said that although thousands of people came to the small community immediately following the sighting, now only occasionally will someone stop just to have her "tell it again."
HEAD LIKE ACE OF SPADES
"She was really nice to us," reported George, "and took time to tell how, when she and the boys started up the hill that evening, they smelled a pungent odor and heard a hissing noise.
They saw the "monster's" ship on the ground and near it, standing before a white oak tree, was the "monster" himself -- green with a red face and head shaped like the "ace of spades."
Before the group could run down the hill, the "thing" spewed an oily substance on Mrs. May. When she arrived at her mother's home, she called the sheriff, but because of investigating a light plane crash near Duck Creek, he did not arrive for several hours.
By the next morning Mrs. May's story was all over the country. Among those who rushed to the scene were two men who identified themselves as "intelligence men from the Pentagon," she said.
Several weeks later, Mrs. May said, the Pentagon sent her a picture of what they claimed she must have seen. It was described by them as a "moon landing vehicle" supposedly being test-flown over desolate regions of the country. The letter also stated that when the vehicle had to land, pilots chose uninhabited areas but had made a mistake on Sept. 12. Mrs. May and the boys were the first civilians to have seen the vehicle (they said.)
With all this in mind, the three boys started up the winding road of the hillside, arriving at about dark where the ship was said to have landed.
"We wasted no time getting up the tent and building a fire," said Rick. "We weren't exactly scared but were on edge; boy, your senses really get keen when you're out all alone like that. I think we could have heard a pin drop in the woods behind us."
George said the group could have gone to sleep right away if it had not been for a "humming or vibrating noise" they began hearing about 10 p.m. It seemed to come from the other side of the hill.
"It would change pitch from a very low sound to an irritating noise," recalled George. It continued until about 2:30 a.m. and suddenly ceased.
The boys decided to wait until daylight to investigate possible causes of the noise and slept the rest of the night. They thoroughly searched the area and could find no wells or power sources where the noise could have originated.
When they stopped to tell Mrs. May goodbye before returning home, Mrs. Lemon, her mother, answered the door.
"Before we had a chance to say a word she told us she had seen a bright light hovering over the backside of the hill on which we were camped. She said she watched the light from 10:30 to 11 p.m. when she got tired of watching it and went in the house. The light was in the same direction as we had heard the noise coming from," one of the boys related.
Although they didn't see anything extraordinary, "except 11 shooting stars," or find anything, "except a beautiful place to camp," they still believe the "monster" was not a government vehicle.
Deciding to "try it again," George, Jim and George's brother Clifford returned this past weekend to camp on the Flatwoods' site.
Again, nothing strange happened. The only frightening thing was when a skunk got caught under a log and . .
Of particular interest here is the repetition of the account of an initial visit by Pentagon investigators and a subsequent letter and picture of a secret vehicle allegedly sent. This time however, it is quoted that 'It was described by them as a "moon landing vehicle" supposedly being test-flown over desolate regions of the country." This would have of course been a full five years before Sputnik -- about the size of a beach ball -- became the world's first artificial satellite in 1957. But though it was presented as 'Mrs. May said' in the article, whether that was something said directly to the reporter or by one of the boys is not noted, and may simply have been inspired by that year's first landing on the moon.
But more on this, later.
IN FEBRUARY 1973, more than twenty years after the incident, Mrs. May would give what would become her last known public statement on the matter. From the Charleston Gazette:
THE MONSTER WON'T GO AWAY
FLATWOODS - Whatever the Braxton County Monster was, it won't go away.
"I just don't like to discuss it any more," says Mrs. Kathleen Lemon May who was the lone adult among the seven eyewitnesses. "I get sick of it. Never a week goes by that someone doesn't contact me about it, either by phone or letter."...
MRS. MAY doesn't remember for sure who was along, but in addition to her sons she believes the group included Neil Nunley, Ronnie Shaver, Gene Lemon and Teddy Neal (Neal's mother also saw the light on the hill. "It looked orange," she said. "I remember telling my husband it was a funny place for the moon to be.").
Of the six youths recalled by Mrs. May, only Freddie May is still living in West Virginia. Eddie May lives in Richmond, Nunley in Akron, Shaver in Pittsburgh, Lemon in Alpharetta, Ga., and Neal in Newark, Ohio. Freddie May lives in Gassaway. Mrs. May said the group followed a path up the hill and suddenly was engulfed by a warm, misty fog. "I remember turning toward town to see if the street lights were visible," she added...
Mrs. May said when she returned home she discovered that her white beautician's uniform was covered with an oily substance...
AFTER 25 YEARS, what does May think the monster was?
"I don't really know," she answered. "Supposedly A. Lee Stewart Jr. has a letter from Washington identifying it as some sort of test spaceship. I took it for granted that's what it was."
Stewart, who was associated with the Braxton Democrat at that time, was contacted by phone at his home in Holly Springs, N.C., and he said he had no knowledge of such a letter.
Dale Leavitt of Sutton, who commanded the West Virginia National Guard company at Gassaway at the time of the monster incident and who visited the site that night and the next day, said to his knowledge, there has never been any official explanation.
Leavitt said there did appear to be an oily substance on the ground. He believes the samples he sent could have been analyzed, although several had tramped around the area before he got there.
Leavitt's personal feeling is that Mrs. May and the youths did see something, "but I have no idea what it was."
The Braxton County Monster was, is and probably shall always remain a mystery.
And with that last known public statement, the story of the letter from the Pentagon would change once more, this time as having been received by A. Lee Stewart.
But more on this, as follows...
THE FIRST PUBLIC MENTION of investigators from the government came up in 1956, when Mrs. May attributed the incident to 'some kind of airplane or rocket ship'. And her first mention of the alleged letter and picture sent to her came in 1966, fourteen years after the incident. The picture Mrs. May references most likely involved the Collier's press release received by A. Lee Stewart as told by Gray Barker. Supporting this is the fact that in 1973 -- twenty-one years after the events of 1952 -- Mrs. May is quoted as saying, 'Supposedly A. Lee Stewart Jr. has a letter from Washington identifying it as some sort of test spaceship. I took it for granted that's what it was.'
But were there "investigators from the government" there at all? The mystery deepens in the story as told by Major Donald Keyhoe, in his classic book Flying Saucers from Outer Space.
Keyhoe -- who had ignited the national controversy over extraterrestrial visitation in his 1949 article for True magazine -- had in 1952 been given unprecedented access to Project Blue Book's active files (confirmed publicly even by Captain Ed Ruppelt, who headed the project), and his book had been based on this. He had also developed an extremely close relationship with Al Chop, a press officer at the Pentagon who was Blue Book's point man with the press. Keyhoe writes:
When the story first appeared, it gave none of the evidence found on the hilltop, and I put it down to hysteria. As a joke, I phoned Chop.
"How many intelligence officers are you rushing down to Sutton?"
"You, too?" he said sourly. "We're not even bothering to investigate. Several astronomers said a meteor went over there. Those people must have dreamed up the rest."
But the Sutton story wasn't so easily downed. Radio commentators repeated it all over the country. A newspaper syndicate ran a series of articles. Then Mrs. May and the Lemon boy appeared on "We, the People" and retold their frightening experience. It was obvious they believed the monster was real, and a dozen papers and magazines sent staff writers to Sutton for new angles on the story.
"This could get out of hand," I told Chop. "Why doesn't the Air Force squelch it?"
"We've already said the object was a meteor," he retorted.
"A lot of people don't believe it. And the way this has built up, it's bad. It plants the menace idea ten times more than Desvergers' story did."
(About three months later, when the scoutmaster's story appeared in the American Weekly Magazine, Desvergers said he had seen a terrifying creature in the saucer's turret -- so dreadful he would not even describe it. But in September, when the Sutton case broke, this was not widely known.)
"It'll die out," Chop insisted.
"But people will remember it later, if something breaks. Why doesn't Intelligence go down there and kill it? They sent Ed Ruppelt to Florida, and that thing didn't have half the potential danger."
"We didn't know the answer to that one. This time we do. All those people saw was a meteor -- they imagined the rest. We can't send Intelligence officers out on every crazy report -- Project Bluebook hasn't the people or the funds."
But that didn't stand up. Major Fournet and other investigators were available in Washington; a plane from Bolling Field could get them there in an hour. A local Intelligence officer could have been sent from the nearest base, or the check-up could be made by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation, which had men in West Virginia.
Despite Chop's answer, the Air Force hands-off attitude seemed peculiar to me. For the monster story was having a serious effect, in addition to letters from worried Americans. With the Air Force apparently refusing to act, some civilian investigating groups were now taking over at Sutton. One of these was the Delaware organization, which made a careful check at the scene.
"This monster story could very well be true," one of the Delaware group told me. "We've gone over all the evidence and we're convinced those people aren't faking -- they're absolutely convinced they saw the thing. And from what we saw, something did land on that hill."
Soon after this, I discovered that the Air Force had not ignored the Sutton report. To avoid public attention Intelligence had worked through the West Virginia state police, securing all the details. Later, from a source outside the Pentagon, I heard that Intelligence had followed this up by sending two men in civilian clothes who posed as magazine writers while interviewing witnesses. Even if this was not true -- and the Air Force denied it -- their check through the state police showed more interest than they had admitted.
There was only one reasonable answer, and I should have seen it before. If the Air Force had sent investigators publicly in the hope of killing the story, it might have backfired. Papers and magazines would picture the Intelligence officers as making a serious investigation. It might seem proof, to some people, that the Air force was soberly impressed by the report -- or at least that giants from space were considered a strong possibility.
So was it representatives from the West Virginia state police who contacted Mrs. May? All she had said originally in 1956 was 'there was some government men here to check.'
And though there is no record of such investigation in the files of Project Blue Book there is one other document -- aside from news clippings -- to be found...
Note: Click on document page for larger version.
(May require clicking on image afterwards to enlarge.)
Somewhere along the line Blue Book had obtained a "sample", and wanted it analyzed and compared to a sample from another case which had occurred in Florida, three weeks before the events in West Virginia... "a deposit seeming to have the same general characteristics and also related to a flying object."
And though the document noted "the necessity of a prompt analysis of these two incidents", only this document remains to be found in the declassified Blue Book files today.
Nothing about investigators, though somehow the soil from that time and place was obtained.
Not even the results of the analysis of the sample.
A fittingly ambiguous end, perhaps, to a story which -- like the description of the "monster" itself -- remains shrouded within the folds of the unknowable even as it recedes out of view into an ever-darkening past.
FIFTY-NINE YEARS AGO, a woman and six boys climbed a woody hill to see what they might find.
Running home down again, they brought back with them only a tale of mystery, of strange beings seen in dark places, from which the merest glance struck mortal terror to the human soul.
For in not knowing where the journey might lead, they had stepped unsuspecting onto an ancient path -- stretching back long before even the memory of the first peoples cradled between the flows of the Euphrates and the Tigris, beyond antiquity itself -- and found themselves not just at the edge of what could be seen, but at the very borders of reality, in the shadowlands of the mind, where there be monsters.
1. Noticeably, the story changes in its particulars according to both who's telling it and who's reporting it, even within a day or two of the incident.
2. Gray Barker is an enigmatic figure at best. His best friend and fellow "ufologist" James Moseley said of him in an 1984 interview...
He had wonderful sense of humor, and a sense of wonderment (which is a good word for him) about the UFO subject. He stopped being a "believer" very early on, but kept the sense of wonderment. What he got out of it was entertainment for himself, and the audience he wrote for. He thought of himself as an entertainer, not as a scientist or a person dealing in facts. There were "New Age" types long before there was a UFO field, and he knew this audience and what they wanted to hear, so he wrote books and published them as a book business. He also had a theater that he owned and operated, and he started out as a booking agent for films at theaters in the area. So, he was always in the entertainment field and thought of himself as an entertainer. He thought I was too serious, because I believed some of it, and still do, but he didn't believe any of it.
In that same interview Moseley also tells of a poem sent to him by Barker entitled "UFO Is A Bucket of Shit"...
Its followers: perverts, monomaniacs, dipsomaniacs
Artists of the fast buck
True believers, objective believers, new age believers
Shushed by the three men
Or masturbated by space men
And I sit here writing
While the shit drips down my face
In great rivulets
3. Gray Barker's They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers is available through UFO Books Online in the Saturday Night Uforia Library.
4. Ivan Sanderson gave a radio interview to "Long John" Knebel about his investigations into the incident (available at the Saturday Night Uforia Audioplex). The YouTube graphic identifies it as taking place in 1953, but Gray Barker's They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers -- which wasn't published until 1956 -- is mentioned. Therefore the interview date is unknown (but research indicates that it probably took place in 1958).
5. In December, 1977 it was revealed in an entry by columnist Adrian Gwin of the Charlotte Daily Mail that a letter had been received claiming the whole incident was the result of a hoax:
And that brings us back to the Braxton encounter of 25 years ago.
A man in Florida called and wrote to this reporter recently that he had invented the Braxton County encounter out of thin air -- and told the whole story, his story.
He is Bill Steorts of West Palm Beach, once of Sutton and formerly of St. Albans.
His letter says in part:
"That evening in 1952 A. Lee Stewart and I were down to Healers in Braxton County. On our way back to Sutton we ran out of gas. We stopped at my father's store and gas station for gas.
"We noticed a disturbance across the road and went to investigate.
"There were some small children all stirred up. Having a sawed-off 12-gauge in the car, we went on the hill to see what was going on. The kids had been playing in a pasture field and some of Bailey Fisher's cows were in nearby woods. Seeing that nothing had happened, we went on to Sutton.
"Being slightly intoxicated, we fabricated the story of the Braxton County Monster.
"We called the Gazette from the Braxton Democrat office. (Stewart's dad owned that newspaper at the time).
"The skid marks were made by Bailey's old Ford Tractor spinning its wheels -- the grease was raked from under the tractor by tall grass.
"We drew the artist's picture of the monster.
"From there it just mushroomed. Kathleen May and her children went to New York on a TV show. Scientists from all over came to investigate. We sat back and laughed. My father knew what we boys were doing but his store was doing a booming business from the tourist trade..."
The significant gaps of logic in this alleged confession of a hoax are not hard to find: foremost among them being the statements of the seven people who went up the hill, which appears nowhere in the Bill Steorts story. Instead the man calling himself Bill Steorts says he saw 'small children' stirred up, went up the hill with a shotgun, and came back down after 'seeing that nothing had happened' and 'we went on to Sutton', and then 'being slightly intoxicated, we fabricated the story of the Braxton County Monster'. But how did he fabricate what seven people stated they saw, unless they also were party to this allegedly spontaneously conceived hoax?
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