Mythology And Folklore

West Virginia Folklore the Flatwoods Monster



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Here in West Virginia, we take our monsters seriously. Mothman, of course, heads the list, but there are a couple more that have made headlines over the years. Foremost among these is the Flatwoods Monster. I'm pretty sure that Richard Gere won't be making a movie in Flatwoods anytime soon, but a few years back the folks in Point Pleasant (the epicenter of the events for THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES)probably thought the same thing. Nevertheless, this rural community in Braxton County does get a tourist or would-be investigator in town from time-to-time, and, to a degree, the people seem to embrace their one claim to fame.

Flatwoods, itself, is near the center of the state, and it is right off of I-79. There is a steakhouse on top of the hill that has a meeting room in the back, mainly because the town is a halfway point for members of state organizations. I have been there with my AFL-CIO group on two or three occasions. When hopping off of the interstate, one of the first things anybody notices is a sign that reads "Flatwoods, West Virginia: Home of the Green Monster." At one time, one of the local mom & pops eateries offered a large sandwich known as "The Flatwoods Monster," and in 2002 the town hosted the Monster Festival on the 50th anniversary the sighting. Three of the original witnesses were there signing autographs, and figurines and t-shirts were for sale. What can I say? Economically it's a shot in the arm, and every small town should have its own monster.

All of this buildup is for an event that happened on the night of September 12, 1952, long before there was any thought of a steakouse on the hill or an interstate running through anybody's back yard. Kathleen May Horner, her two sons, and five other children were roused by a fireball crossing the evening sky. Nobody was sure what this thing was, but it was definitely crashing to earth on the other side of the ridge. Horner and the children raced to the top of the rise and looked down upon a scene that would change their lives, as well as the history of the sleepy town of Flatwoods!

At the bottom of a field sat a ball of fire and pulsating lights, which was strange enough by itself, but some seventy-five feet away a "creature" stood (hovered?)that frightened the living daylights out of the entire group. It was twelve feet tall and four feet wide, and it had a head, if you will, that was shaped like a spade. To be more specific, open up a deck of cards and look at the symbol on the ace of spades. There was a bulbous inner circle within the spade shape, and two bright blue beams shined straight ahead like flashlights. The head area was red, and the lower portion of the body was green, and there was no sign of appendages on the monster. The other distinguishing characteristic is that it emitted a sulphorous or metallic smell. The creature glided toward Mrs. Horner and the boys but suddenly veered off toward the glowing sphere, and that's when the witnesses beat a hasty retreat.

The sighting made it's way onto the TV news and into articles in crackpot magazines (Fate, etc.), and local UFOlogist Gray Barker made a national name for himself with his book THEY KNEW TOO MUCH ABOUT FLYING SAUCERS. The Flatwoods Monster was a mystery back then, and little has been done to clear the waters since. In fact, they have become even murkier. In the early 1990's, Horner did an interview with West Virginia reporter Bob Teets, and one quote in particular is utterly baffling. This refers to a letter a local newspaper reporter received from a government agency sometime after the sighting:

He...opened it up, and they had a five-by-seven picture in there of the thing that
I described. They said I gave the best description of it, even of those who helped
build it. They said it was ships they were building to send to the moon. There
was supposed to have been four or five of them that night, but they hadn't been able
to locate this one. They said that the ship that came down was having oil trouble
...They were on the inside of the vessel...It wasn't a monster, it was a vessel of
some kind (Clark 428).

Oil trouble? Kind of like the oil trouble somebody would have in a '52 Packard? Believers would say that perhaps Mrs. Horner was having problems with her memory, and skeptics can see that the 1990s quote is even more incredible that the alleged 1952 sighting. This is way too much for me to decide, but I'll leave you with one last thought. Do you remember that the witnesses noticed no appendages on the monster? The figurines depicting the creature have spindly arms and claw-like hands. Go figure.

Jerome Clark, THE UNEXPLAINED. "The Flatwoods Monster". pgs. 426-429
Buddy Griffin, Goldenseal Magazine, Fall 2002. "The Legend of the Flatwoods Monster". pgs. 56-61.

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