The Braxton County Monster: A Mysterious Encounter

Was it an alien? A cryptid? Or something else entirely? Torches at the ready as we shine a light on the legend of the Braxton County Monster.

8 July 2024

The tale of the Braxton County Monster is etched into the history books of Flatwoods, West Virginia. Of course, not everyone calls it by that name. Some know it as the Flatwoods Monster or the West Virginia Monster, even the Braxton County alien. But one thing’s for sure: The events of one fateful evening in September 1952 birthed a legend that became an indelible part of the town’s identity. It was a story that chilled the locals, then the nation, to the core.

So, what really happened in those quiet hills all those years ago? And why are people still talking about it today? Read on for the fearsome facts.

Discovering a West Virginia Monster

The dense forests of Braxton County (Credit: halbergman via Getty Images)

The tale of the Braxton County Monster began inconspicuously around 7pm on 12 September 1952. A group of boys were playing in the small town of Flatwoods, West Virginia, when they noticed a bright object, sometimes described as a fireball, streaking across the sky. Believing it to be a meteor, they hurried to investigate, following its trail. Along the way, they collected a mother of two of the boys, a National Guardsman, and a dog.

The group climbed a hill on land known as G. Bailey Fisher’s farm, where they believed the object had landed. As they approached some woodlands, a strange, sulphurous mist made their eyes and throats burn. Undeterred, they pressed on until their flashlights illuminated something that would haunt them; a towering figure emitting an eerie glow was hovering among the trees.

Witness Accounts

The Braxton County monster? (Credit: Likozor via Getty Images)

The creature was said to be at least ten feet tall, with a blood-red face shaped like a spade, glowing eyes, spindly arms, and claw-like hands. Its body was described as being clad in what looked like a dark green, metallic dress.

There’s some discrepancy as to what happened next. Some say the mere sight of the Flatwoods Monster sent the witnesses fleeing in terror. Others that they ran when it hissed at the group and glided towards them.

Proof of the Flatwoods West Virginia Monster

The creature was said to have left the ground scorched (Credit: Yoss Sabalet via Getty Images)

A Braxton County Sheriff attended the site that night, along with a group of locals and a local reporter. Burn marks on the ground and strange, oily residues were reportedly discovered, but no definitive proof of the monster’s existence was found.

In the aftermath of the sighting, some reports stated that members of the group spent weeks suffering with sore noses and throats as well as convulsions and vomiting.

The witnesses’ descriptions of the Braxton County Monster were also captured by an illustrator at the time. It was an image that attracted mass media interest and, consequently, national attention. And, just like that a new West Virginia monster was inaugurated into the state’s lore.

The lack of physical evidence did nothing to deter the spread of the tale of a Flatwoods West Virginia monster, attracting amateur sleuths to the site. From there, it was only a matter of time before the theories developed.

The Braxton County Monster Theories

A barn owl in a tree (Credit: David Hobcote / 500px via Getty Images)

Speculation surrounding the Flatwoods Monster has been rife for decades, and range from misidentified wildlife and psychological reactions to theories of extraterrestrial encounters and mass hysteria.

The Braxton County Alien Theory

Numerous ufologists investigated the Flatwoods West Virginia monster site, concluding that the fireball in the sky was an alien craft crashing to Earth. They argued that the creature was its pilot, a being from outer space. As an extension of this narrative, some believed the US government covered up the incident, hiding any evidence.

A Real West Virginian Monster

Another theory suggests the Braxton County Monster was a cryptid, an unknown creature living in the remote hills of West Virginia, similar to other regional legends of mysterious beings and unexplained phenomena.

Mass Hysteria

The ‘mass hysteria’ theory suggests the reported sightings of the Flatwoods Monster were not an actual encounter with an extraterrestrial being, but rather a case of collective delusion or hysteria among the witnesses. At the time of the sighting, the US was in a state of heightened anxiety, with the Cold War instilling a sense of imminent threat of destruction. This coincided with, and may even have caused, a phenomenon of fascination with extraterrestrials and UFOs. With this in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Braxton County alien theory proved so popular. This theory proposes that the witnesses’ heightened state of anxiety and fear, combined with misperceptions of natural phenomena like a meteor, aircraft beacons, or an owl, led them to interpret these ordinary sights and sounds as something extraordinary and monstrous. This was also the basis of the barn owl theory.

The Barn Owl Theory

Some sceptics have suggested the sighting was fueled by the tense atmosphere of the Cold War era; that the entire event was a case of mass hysteria. This, combined with the dim lighting conditions led the witnesses to misinterpret a natural phenomenon. One of the most prominent suggestions is that the creature’s appearance and movements closely match those of a barn owl perched on a tree branch.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

What did they see? (Credit: David Wall via Getty Images)

For many years, the Braxton County Monster was largely forgotten. But in 2014, it was revived, all thanks to a campaign by the area’s visitors bureau. As part of this, the town of Flatwoods was designated the “Home of the Green Monster.” It’s also celebrated during an annual festival and there’s a Flatwoods Monster Museum.

An Ongoing Mystery

Is there anything out there? (Credit: solarseven via Getty Images)

And so, the legend of the Braxton County Monster lives on. Whether viewed as a case of mass hysteria, a misidentified natural phenomenon, or a genuine encounter with the unknown, it holds its patch in the tapestry of American folklore.


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