FLATWOODS MONSTER UFO EVENT|
Feschino’s telephone call came as a surprise this past summer. We had met at a
conference in Florida a few years back when he had mentioned he was researching
the Flatwoods Monster UFO event of Sept. 12, 1952. Our pictures were taken
together and that was about the end of it. Now Frank, an artist who has done
film school as well, was asking if I would help him out by attending the
Flatwoods Monster 50th Anniversary event in Flatwoods, West Virginia, the
weekend of September 12, 2002. There were more conversations and I agreed as
long as they would cover expenses. I hadn’t been in West Virginia for years,
though I had spoken at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Frank wanted me to speak on two afternoons at the newly set up “museum” or event
center and do some media interviews.
I did some homework reviewing what had been written about the case by Jerome
Clark, Donald Keyhoe, Dr. Joe Nickell, and others. Some was impressive. The plan
was to drive to Bangor, Maine, fly to Cincinnati and then to Charleston, West Virginia.
Frank would pick me up with the mayor and drive the 60 miles on Interstate 79 to
a motel in Sutton, next door to Flatwoods. That morning was jinxed. I got on the
connecting flight in Cincinnati with a few other passengers. Then we were told
to get off, just a small problem with the plane and they were bringing over
another aircraft. While waiting there was a major Security Alert and we were all
chased out of Terminal A. With all my travelling, this was my first such
security adventure — and I hope my last.
I spent a few hours waiting in line then finally getting through security to
find that the plane had left and I was booked on a much later flight and wait
listed for a somewhat earlier flight. I tried calling Frank who was of course at
the airport in Charleston. I was the last standby let on the flight. Frank was
waiting with the Flatwoods Mayor. They hadn’t been able to get any useful info
from the airline, but somebody who got off my supposed flight said things were a
mess. Fortunately, we did arrive in time to take the tour leading a bunch of
people who had come for the event to the actual site of the encounter with the
monster. Frank led the tour as we walked past the big tree which the monster
came from behind. We walked up the hill to the top where the UFO had landed and
the gully to which the UFO had migrated. We were there exactly 50 years to the
minute after the event.
Knowing the geography was very useful. Since that place at the top was the
highest flat area in the region, it was a natural place for a plane in trouble
to land. In the gully the UFO was not exposed. These areas were well above the
school yard where the youngsters had been playing football when they first
spotted. the object. I helped Frank on the tour even noting that a month or two
before, while on a radio show out of NY, a former USAF man then based at Andrews
AFB, had called saying that not only were there jets scrambled over Washington,
DC, during the famous July 1952 flap of sightings (even over the White House)
but frequently for the following year, which would include the time of the
Flatwoods case. The base was definitely but quietly concerned about UFOs. The
airman noted that in one instance two jets had been sent up after a UFO and only
one came back.
I spoke without slides both days in the small museum meeting room which had been
decorated with Frank’s photos and drawings, did several interviews and met
with several witnesses including Mrs. May, the key witness, and one of her sons
who was there and had also been a witness. It turned out that the Mayor had also
seen the object fly over.
Only about a 15' section of the big tree that had been there in 1952 was left.
The “Monster” had come from behind the tree. The branch under which the FM had
passed was 12 feet above the ground. The monster was floating about a foot or so
off the ground (thus being about 10' high) giving off some kind of oily
substance which stained clothes of some of the witnesses and whose smell made
some of the boys quite ill. It was clear that the monster was not too much like
the drawing which had been spread around after being made by an artist for the
We the People TV show on which Mrs. May and a local reporter appeared within 2
weeks of the event. It was much more mechanical and had antennas instead
We heard for the first time a tape that had been made many years earlier of a
show hosted by Long John Nebel, the old New York City talk show host who often
dealt with UFOs. Nebel interviewed naturalist Ivan Sanderson in depth. Sanderson
had gone to West Virginia and talked to many witnesses within a short time of the event.
Gray Barker of Clarksburg WV had also interviewed witnesses soon after the
event. The local reporter, Mr. Stewart, had interviewed many witnesses and was
aware of other sightings in the area that same weekend.
|Ivan Sanderson Photo: Richard Harpster|
I was truly amazed at how much effort Frank had put into his investigation. He
found news clippings from all over the East Coast talking of UFOs and supposed
meteors seen that weekend though more likely burning or plasma surrounded UFOs.
There are no normal meteor showers Sept. 12-15. Frank dug out the Blue Book
files which had been difficult to read. He managed to locate the head of the
National Guard contingent who was at the site within hours of the event, having
been instructed by the military to check it out. Colonel Leavitt was with a
bunch of troops who spent over night at the site. He managed to get samples of
the oily material which were sent off never to be heard from again. Frank,
because of his film school training, videotaped extended interviews with many of
the key people including both Colonel Leavitt and journalist Stewart before
Of course, there are some who say the whole story was baloney with the kids
making up stories to get attention and the so called monster being nothing more
than a large barn owl because of the way the top of the monster (seemingly a
protective helmet) was shown as being backed by something in the shape of a
playing card spade. Naturally in the tradition of noisy negativists, these
debunkers did their research by proclamation rather than investigation.
The loudest of the debunkers is Dr. Joe Nickell the chief investigator for the
self-anointed Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
Paranormal. Dr. Nickell does have three degrees (all in English) and did visit
Flatwoods, and writes well. However, he did not talk to the witnesses and did
not visit the site hillside, the tree, or the flat area at the top. He has a
long, very misleading article in Ron Story’s 2000 Encyclopedia. It was just
scared youngsters seeing a barn owl and a meteor landing on the hill. A ten foot
high owl would really have been something, especially one able to float without
moving its wings and without a branch to set on. For a large glowing Meteor to
land without making a loud explosive sound and not creating a crater and not
leaving any meteorite residue would be truly remarkable and especially when it
had to change direction and slowly move across town.
Frank Feschino has done most of his work very quietly and has been almost
obsessive about secrecy. I feel particularly privileged to be able to read a
copy of his manuscript about the case. I surely hope that a publisher will soon
be found and that a motion picture production company is not far behind.
Based on his drawings and comments made by reporters within three days of the events
and on testimony by other witnesses from a nearby town where a “monster” was
also seen, I think that at least the exterior portion of the monster was
mechanical. It made me think of a hazardous material protective device — perhaps with
an Extraterrestrial Biological Entity inside. It seems clear the object was in
trouble when it landed. There is far more evidence relating to the Flatwoods
Monster event than was the case with regard to that other West Virginia monster,
Although Frank Feschino has already collected a huge number of clippings about
the case I would be most happy to receive any that readers can dig up from any
newspapers for September 12-16, 1952. They may refer to UFOs or meteors or
missing jets seen East of the Mississippi and can be sent to me at POB
958, Houlton, ME 04730 USA. Please indicate the date of the clipping and the name
of the newspaper. I will forward them to Frank. The best website to check out is
Frank Feschino’s at www.flatwoodsmonster.com.