Thursday, November 25, 2010

Something's rotten in West Virginia

Thanksgiving.  My stomach is full.  The Detroit Lions have had their traditional loss.  Another holiday marches on.

My choice of entry for today has no other rationale or significance to it than it popped into my head while walking my dogs early this morning.  By the way, this is another one of those entries that experts in Forteana may wish to skip over.  Or better yet, head straight to the bottom for my take on the event, because I know you're just dying to read my refreshing insight.  Fellow Strangers, I give to you...The Flatwoods Monster.

It all started on September 12th (nice day) of the year 1952 in Flatwoods, West Virginia.  Three pre-teen boys saw a red glowing light pass over their heads just after dusk.  The object appeared to land in the woods of a neighbor's property.  The boys ran home and then returned with one of their mothers, two other friends, and an older teen.  A dog accompanied as well.  As they approached the site, the dog ran ahead, barking wildly.  Said dog then raced back to the group with his tail between his legs.  
The party then noticed a glowing red light on the hill ahead of them.  There was also a mist amongst the oak trees, one that carried a pungent, burning odor that caused everyone's eyes to water and nostrils to swell.  One of the boys shined a flashlight towards the glow and that's when they saw it.
The creature was described as having a torso that was green and humanoid in shape.  The arms were small in proportion to the body and ended in claw-like appendages.  The only features visible (or memorable, perhaps) on the face were the large, bulbous, non-human eyes.  Behind the head was a cowl, formed into an "ace of spades" shape.  The lower half of the creature seemed mechanical, like a skirt composed of metallic pleats.  A shrill hissing sound emanated as it moved.

Naturally, everybody ran in panic.  Once home, the mother placed calls to the police and to the co-owner of The Braxton Democrat, the local newspaper.  Though just why, after witnessing a frightening sight and seeing her kids sick and scared, she felt it necessary to include a call to the paper is enough to give one pause.  That said, I'll press forward.  When police arrived at the scene, there was no sign of the "creature."   There was, however, still a "sickening odor" in the air.
After the encounter, many of the witnesses experienced severe medical problems.  Their throats and noses remained swollen and a few of them suffered persistent vomiting.  A local doctor who treated them described their symptoms as being similar to that of victims of mustard gas.
As it turns out, these seven witnesses were not the only ones to have an encounter with what would come to be known as The Flatwoods Monster.  A few other locals described seeing the same being and smelling the same odor in the week previous.  Whether or not moonshine was involved is still uncertain.  There was also a startling amount of UFO activity in the area at the time.  The head of the local Board of Education reported seeing a "flying saucer" take off into the sky on the very morning after the seven witnesses had their encounter.

Now comes the question I always ask: so what are we to make of all this?
I must confess, I'm not a fan of this one.  It's a cool lookin' sketch of a creature, but it's also an isolated case with only a handful of witnesses.  With groupthink being such a powerful force of persuasion in societal psychology, this always sends up the red flag for me.  True, something did cause them to become sick, but those same symptoms could attributed to hysteria, and I'm not talking the Def Leppard album.  There was also a meteor that streaked over Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia the very night of 9/12/1952.  It was responsible for calls regarding a "crashing airplane."  Did those seven witnesses come across a fallen meteor?  Noxious fumes from space rocks have been known to cause sicknesses of the kind described.
Foaming-at-the-mouth skeptic, Joe Nickell, offers this explanation: owls.
The witnesses saw a barnyard owl, which incidentally does have an ace of spades pattern on its face.  With their sense distorted by fear and low light, they thought they saw a monster and ran.  It should be noted that Nickell also blames barnyard owls for Mothman, the Hopkinsville "goblins," and perhaps even the second shooter on the Grassy Knoll.
I can't imagine lifelong locals of Flatwoods getting this bent out of shape over an owl.  But did they see a cryptid or an alien being?  I don't know.  If pressed, I would say that I tend towards the meteor theory.  But if I should find myself walking my dogs in the dark before dawn or if I'm in the woods behind my Grandmother's isolated Ohio farm, I know I'll be hoping the Flatwoods Monster isn't real and that a being with an ace of spades cowl doesn't come hovering out of the trees, hitting me with goof gas and making me puke my guts out.

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