Braxton County Monster Sighted, 1952

Three boys, aged 13, 12, and 10, were the first to notice anything unusual. The boys were Edward and Fred May, brothers, and their friend Tommy Hyer. At 7:15 on the evening of September 12th, they saw a bright object move across the sky, then apparently alight on land belonging to a neighboring farmer.

The boys ran home to tell the May boys’ mother, Kathleen. They called it a UFO, and pretty soon a small group set out to investigate. Besides the three Mays and Tommy, there were two more children, Neil Nunley, 14, and Ronnie Shaver, 10. Accompanying them was 17-year-old National Guardsman, Eugene Lemon. Lemon brought his dog.

When they got to the farm, the dog ran started barking, and ran on ahead. Pretty soon he came back, quiet, and with his tail between his legs. The group hiked about a quarter of a mile farther, and then, from the top of a hill, they saw a pulsating ball of red light about 50 feet beyond them. There was an unpleasant smell in the air, that made their eyes and throat burn. The air appeared misty.

Lemon noticed two smaller lights slightly to the left of the big one, about ten feet off the ground, underneath an oak tree. He aimed his flashlight at it. A face appeared, with bulging eyes and a red glow. Underneath it was a green, vaguely humanoid-shaped body. Some of those that saw it later described the face as being either heart-shaped or like the Ace of Spades; others said it wore a heart-shaped cowl.

The creature made a hissing sound and moved in their direction. The group fled.

Once they got back home, Mrs. May called Sheriff Robert Carr, and the co-owner of the local newspaper, A. Lee Stewart. Stewart went out to the site, and he, too, noticed a strange odor, sickening and metallic. The Sheriff and his deputy searched the site, too, but found nothing unusual.

The next morning Stewart went out again, and this time he discovered two long tracks in the mud, and traces of an oily, black residue. He thought the tracks had been made by a spacecraft, but they later turned out to have likely been made by a 10-year-old Chevy pickup driven by another local resident, Max Lockard. He had gone out to survey the sight shortly before Stewart had gotten there.

The sighting had soon been reported all over the country, and was known as the “Flatwoods Monster” or the “Braxton County Monster,” after the area in which it was seen: the town of Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia.

Two investigators from the Civilian Saucer Investigation group came out to interview the witnesses. Besides the May family and friends, there had been other sightings. One mother and her 21-year-old daughter had had a similar experience only a week earlier, and about 11 miles away. The daughter was so upset that she had been hospitalized for three weeks. The mother of Eugene Lemon stated that at the time of the alleged crash her house had shaken badly, and she had lost her radio reception for 45 minutes. Another witness, this one a member of the local Board of Education, claimed to have seen a flying saucer taking off on the morning of September 13.

Several members of the May party had a bad reaction to their experience. Some of them experienced irritation and swelling of the nose and throat, in some cases lasting for some time. Eugene Lemon experienced vomiting and convulsions that night, and was ill for some weeks afterwards. A doctor who treated the victims believed that their reactions were similar to those caused by mustard gas. According to some reports, the dog died two days later.

In 2000, 48 years after the event, Joe Nickell, an investigator from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) examined the records of the occurrence. His conclusion was that the bright light was probably a meteor (one had been viewed in the area that night), the pulsing red light was most likely a navigation beacon (there were several in the vicinity), and the “creature” was an owl. The foliage beneath had created the illusion of the 10-foot tall body. The throat and nose irritation, presumably, was caused by hysteria. (CSICOP has since changed their name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), probably in part because of the tendency of their detractors to call the group “Psi Cop.”)

CSICOP’s conclusion agrees with that of some other investigating groups, and concords with the official explanation provided by the U.S. Air Force. Other explanations have been offered, including the theory that the group witnessed the impact of a meteor, which created a cloud of vapor in a shape that could be interpreted as man-shaped. Kathleen May and her sons, however, continue to hold the belief that they witnessed a covert government aircraft.

Sources: Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2011 Edition: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Special Days, Weeks, and Months, Editors of Chase’s Calendar of Events; 12;;;;;

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