(Last Updated On: January 14, 2015)


Date: September 12, 1952

Sighting Time:

Day/Night: Night

Location: Flatwoods, West Virginia

Urban or Rural: Rural

Hynek Classification: CE-III (Close Encounter III)


No. of Object(s): 

Size of Object(s):

Distance to Object(s):

Shape of Object(s):

Color of Object(s):

Number of Witnesses: Multiple

Source: Subversive Element  Original Source

Summary: Just before dark on September 12, 1952, at Flatwoods, WV, some young school boys saw a fiery UFO streak across the sky and apparently land on a nearby hilltop. Rushing to the site, and gathering a few others along the way, they saw a pulsating red light, encountered a nauseating mist, and turned a flashlight on a pair of shining eyes, revealing a huge creature. As it hissed and glided at them, the group panicked and fled. The next day investigators discovered skid marks and an oil-like substance that presumably came from the UFO.

Full Report

Kathleen May, one of the key witnesses, holding the drawing made by an artist for “We the People” TV show, aired on September 19, 1952.

On the left, four of the Flatwoods boys who witnessed the ‘monster.’ Left to right: Tommy Hyer, Freddie May, Edison May (front), and Neil Nunley (rear). Eleven-year-old Freddie May drew a picture (right) of the Flatwoods Monster shortly after the incident.

This depiction (shown here as a composite with background terrain) of the Flatwoods Monster was drawn by a New York TV show staff artist and broadcast on national television during Mrs. Kathleen May’s live appearance on “We The People” on September 19, 1952.

On September 12, 1952, a small group of boys spotted a pulsating, reddish sphere float around a hill, hover briefly and then drop behind the crest of another in the small town of Flatwoods, West Virginia (population 300). From the far side of the hill a bright glow shone, as if from a landed object. On their way to see what had landed the boys were joined by others that had witnessed the flying spectacle, including beautician Kathleen May, her two sons and their friend Tommy Hyer, seventeen-year-old Eugene Lemon and his dog. The dog ran ahead of the group and was briefly out of sight as it ran around the hill. Suddenly it was heard barking furiously and then came running back, fleeing with its tail between its legs, apparently in fear. A foul smelling mist covered the ground making the searchers eyes water. The two leading the group, Lemon and Neil Nunley, got to the top of the hill first and observed a “big ball of fire” fifty feet to their right. Others in the group said it was the size of a house.

To the groups left, on the hilltop just under the branches of a large oak tree, were two small, blue lights. At Mrs. May’s suggestion, Lemon pointed his flashlight in their direction. To everybody’s horror, the flashlight highlighted a grotesque looking creature with a head shaped like the “ace of spades,” as several of the witnesses independently described it. Inside the head was a circular “window,” dark except for the two lights from which pale blue beams extended straight ahead. In their quick observation of the being, they could see nothing that resembled arms or legs. The creature, which seemed to be over six feet tall, moved towards the witnesses. It seemed to be gliding rather than walking. Seconds later, it changed direction and began heading for the glowing sphere from which it apparently had come from.

All of this took place in the matter of a few moments, during which time Lemon fainted. The others dragged him with them as they ran from the scene. When interviewed about a half an hour later, by A. Lee Stewart Jr., a reporter for the Braxton Democrat, the witnesses were barely able to speak. Some sought first aid. Stewart felt that there was no question that they had seen something that had badly frightened them.Soon afterwards, after Lemon had recovered, Stewart and Lemon went to the spot where they had seen the creature and the strange craft. Stewart also noted that there was an acrid odor in the air that irritated his nose and throat. He returned alone to the site first thing the next morning. He found “skid marks” going down the hill towards a large area of recently matted grass, which seemed to indicated that a large object had rested there.

The encounter, which the newspapers quickly dubbed “The Flatwoods Monster” sighting. It took place during a flurry of sightings of unusual flying objects in the region. Bailey Frame, a resident of nearby Birch River, reported seeing a bright orange ball circling over the area where the monster was spotted. It was visible for around fifteen minutes before veering off towards the airport at Sutton, where the object was also reported. According to an account, one week before the Flatwoods event, a Weston woman and her mother encountered the same or similar creature. The younger woman was so frightened that she needed hospitilization after the event. Both also reported the noxious odor.

Years later, writer John Keel interviewed a couple who claimed that on the evening following the original sighting, and ten to fifteen miles to the southwest of it, they encountered a ten foot tall creature emitting a foul odor. It approached their stalled car then returned to the woods. Moments later, a luminous, pulsating sphere arose from the trees and ascended into the sky.

Many skeptics have claimed that what May and her companions had seen a meteor and an owl, and had mistaken these for the strange things that they reported. Nonetheless, when interviewed shortly after the incident, the witnesses told a story that investigators found strikingly consistent. When interviewed in the early part of the 1990’s, Kathleen May Horner recalled that two men, first identifying themselves as reporters, then acknowledging they were employees of the government, interviewed her. This is not hard to believe; it is a fact that the U.S. Air Force dispatched two plainclothes investigators to the scene. Like the skeptics, they laid the incident down to hysteria inflamed by an owl and a meteor.
In his 1953 book, “Flying Saucers from Outer Space,” pioneer UFO researcher Donald Keyhoe wrote about his January 1953 telephone conversation with Albert Chop, USAF public liaison. The topic of the conversation was the “Braxton County Monster.”

 Mr. Chop told Mr. Keyhoe the Air Force’s explanation for the “monster,” which was purely speculative. Chop stated:
“The group did see two glowing eyes, PROBABLY those of a large owl perched on a limb.”

“Underbrush below MAY HAVE GIVEN the impression of a giant figure.”

“In their excitement they IMAGINED the rest.”

“I believe this generic solution is correct…Several elements in the witnesses descriptions help identify the Flatwoods creature specifically ‘Tyto alba’, the common barn owl, known almost worldwide.”
“Considering all the characteristics of the described monster, and making allowances for misinterpretations and other distorting factors, we may conclude (adapting an old adage) that if it looks like a barn owl, acted like a barn owl, and hissed, then it most likely was a barn owl,””And so a spooked barn owl in turn spooked the interlopers and a monster was born.”In Joe Nickell’s “investigative” article on the Flatwoods case, he writes the following about the Air Force’s explanation and then adds his “opinion”:

Now, let us go back to the first article to appear in the WV press, where the witnesses described the so-called “Monster.” This article appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail on Sunday, Sept. 14, 1952, “Braxton Co. Residents Faint Become Ill After Run-In with 10-Foot Monster.” Information states: .

“They said it had a black shield affair in the shape of an ace of spades behind it and wore what looked like a pleated metallic shirt (sic) skirt.”
Here, the black shield affair was actually an outer helmet covering the red head, which was actually an inner helmet. The pleated metallic skirt was in reality the lower torso of the figure that was surrounded by thick pipes.
On September 15, 1952, the next article that described the “Monster” appeared in The Charleston Gazette. The article headline read, “Braxton Monster Left Skid Tracks Where He Landed. (Special to the Gazette).”
The source information for this article came from A. Lee Stewart, Jr. who was a photojournalist and co-owner of the “Braxton Democrat” newspaper in Sutton. He was the very first person to talk to and interview all of the eyewitnesses. The article stated the following:
“SUTTON. Sept 14-The phantom of Flatwoods:Left tracks from six to eight feet apart. Wore a suit of green armor…looked like a mechanical man…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 Mrs. Kathleen May…’It lit up like a Christmas tree,’ Mrs. May said, with some sort of interior lighting system.”
Later that week, on September 19, 1952, the inaccurate drawing of the “Monster” appeared on the TV show “WE THE PEOPLE.” The figure was portrayed as a cloth-cloaked, skirt-wearing being with long arms and claws.
During his 20-year investigation into this case, Frank Feschino interviewed and taped many of the eyewitnesses involved in the incident. Here are some of the quotes from those interviews:
Mrs. May:“We got close enough to it so I could see exactly what it was…I was as close to it as the length of a small car. I was close enough that it squirted oil out all over my uniform”“The thing lit up fom the inside.”“It looked more metallic.””Now, it didn’t have arms…It looked like, something like antennae sticking out from it, between the body and the head.”“The head was a red color. Now right around the neck it looked like the neck would rotate.”“It was just kind of floating. It was about a foot to a foot and a half off the ground.”Fred May: “It was mechanical; it was not alive. Maybe inside the thing – there could have been something that was alive. What I saw was either a small spaceship or suit of some of kind. Something it was wearing. It was mechanical.”Fred May: “Over the head was a big ace- of-spades covering, it was something that looked like a helmet, and I think it was.”Fred May: “What mother described as the pleats of hanging drapes, were actually tubes running vertically…They were metal, they were actually metal pipes…They were as thick as my arm.”Fred May: “The eyes were portholes.” 
Feschino, a school trained illustrator and painter actually worked with these witnesses on numerous occasions and did police-style renderings of the so-called “Monster.”

He also interviewed Fred May at the site of the encounter near the oak tree and was told additional details.

21 years of intrepid research and cogent scholarship on the part of Frank Feschino are not impugned by the likes of the less than salient Joe Nickell… Giant Owls? Not before the incident… not after. Hallucinatory Gas? Not before the incident… not after. Oil-oozing Pick-ups? Not before the incident… not after.  Combine the “White-House-Overflying Summer Of Saucers” in 1952 with the freshly minted Military “Shoot *Them* Down” orders… and you get Flatwoods on September 12th, 1952!

The reader might consider, too, that persons living for generations in a locale become abundantly familiar with the flora and fauna of their environment.  Roc sized barn owls are remarkably absent from the local lore.


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