The Legend Of The Flatwoods Monster And The UFO It Flew In On

Published April 18, 2018
Updated October 5, 2019

The Flatwoods Monster was discovered after a group went into the woods to investigate “an oval-shaped…ball of fire” they saw overhead.

Flatwoods Monster

Wikimedia CommonsA depiction of the Flatwoods Monster as described by witnesses.

On September 12, 1952, witnesses reported seeing strange flying objects in over 100 locations throughout the United States. From Pennsylvania to California, the following day’s newspapers featured eyewitness accounts of everything from strange, fast-moving streaks of light to full-blown flying saucers coasting close to the ground.

Eleven-year olf Freddie May was playing in his schoolyard in the tiny town of Flatwoods, West Virginia that night in September when one of his companions suddenly gave a shout that turned all of the children’s attention to the sky. They then saw “an oval-shaped ball of fire” soar closely over their heads that was emitting a trail of flames. As the group of boys watched the strange object descend onto a nearby mountaintop, one of them shouted excitedly “it’s a flying saucer!”

Several other Flatwoods residents would describe seeing a flat kind of aircraft emitting orange and red colors descend over the same area the schoolchildren reported, which was near a local farm. May and his friends sprinted home to tell their parents what they had seen, and together with Freddie’s mother, neighbor Eugene Lemon, and Lemon’s dog, they went over to the farm to investigate.

As the group drew closer to where they thought the strange object had landed, they began to detect a strange “sulfur-like odor” that began to make everyone feel slightly sick. In addition, a strange mist began to rise around them and they heard a steady metallic whining noise. At one point, Lemon’s dog, with its hair raised, abruptly froze and then dashed off into the mist.

Area 51

Wikimedia CommonsUFO sightings have been a part of American folklore since the 1950s, the most famous involving the mysterious Area 51.

Lemon and the others ran after the dog, where they found it barking near a wooden fence. Although they wanted to keep moving forward, the dog refused to take another step. As they pushed forward, the smell, odor, and noise became stronger and stronger.

Suddenly, Lemon noticed a pair of eyes staring at him from the dark at about eye-level. He threw his flashlight onto the spot where he assumed he would see an opossum. Instead, what they saw in the shadows would haunt them forever.

The creature that would become known as the “Flatwoods Monster” or the “Braxton County Monster” was described by the witnesses as “a 10-foot monster with a blood-red face and a green body that seemed to glow.” They also claimed that the creature’s eyes projected beams of light that lit up the whole area. Eventually, the monster began to hover over the path and move out of sight, but not before covering Mrs. May with a strange, oily substance.

The frightened group high-tailed it back to town, where they immediately called the sheriff and local newspapers. The sheriff and his deputy (who had come from investigating reports of a plane crash) went up to the mountaintop location, but neither saw nor smelled anything.

Several other locals would later report having seen the strange aircraft (separately from May and Lemon’s group), and many of the people who claimed to come into contact with the strange creature. They reported that over the next several days, they were overcome with sickness, which believers think might have been related to inhaling the strange mist.

Newspaper Headlines About The Flatwoods Monster

Wikimedia CommonsLocal newspapers were quick to seize upon the strange Flatwoods Monster story.

So is there a logical explanation for what the May group described seeing in the mountains of West Virginia one September night in 1952? Skeptics are quick to point out that most of the other locals did indeed see the flaming streak in the sky, but were unfazed because they realized it for what it was: a meteor. Indeed, most of the boys in the schoolyard had also first assumed the object that flew above them toward the mountain was a meteor.

As for the monster itself, either the group somehow experienced a shared hallucination, saw a perched barn owl, or this close encounter was nothing more than a contrived publicity stunt.

Enjoy this look at the Flatwoods Monster? Next read The Native American legend of the Wendigo, the frostbitten monster of your nightmares. The discover truth about the legendary Yeti.

Gina Dimuro
Gina Dimuro is a New York-based writer and translator.