Legend of Flatwoods Monster: A West Virginia Mystery

Sara B
Photo byFlatwoods Monster Museum

In 1952, the Flatwoods monster terrified six kids, a mom, and the entire nation. It is also one of the inquiries that prompted the US Air Force UFO to begin Project Blue Book.

Photo byThe Flatwoods Monster Museum

Project Blue Book

Project Blue Book was a code name for the systemic study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) by the US Air Force. The project lasted from March 1952 until December 17, 1969. The goal of the project was to determine if UFOs were a threat to national security and to analyze UFO-related data scientifically.

Thousands of UFO reports were analyzed and filed, and the Condon Report decided that the study of UFOs was unlikely to be helpful to any significant scientific discovery. When the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the report, they concluded the same, and it was terminated in 1969.

The Air Force concluded:

  • No UFO reported, investigated, or evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of a threat to our national security;
  • There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as "unidentified" represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge and
  • No evidence indicated that sightings categorized as "unidentified" were extraterrestrial vehicles.

Upon termination of the project, they had collected over 12,618 UFO reports. However, 701 of those reports were archived as classified as unexplained. One of those reports was the Flatwoods Monster.

Photo byThe Flatwoods Monster Museum

The Flatwoods Monster

On September 12, 1952, Gene Lemon and Kathleen May claimed to have seen a monster called the Flatwoods monster. Six people claimed to have seen the Monster: six boys aged 10-17, a dog, and a mom.

"One of the boys peed his pants," said John Gibson, a high-school freshman who knew them all. "Their dog (Rickie) ran with his tail between his legs."

It not only made local news and became part of Project Blue Book, but it also became a local spooky legend in West Virginia.

What Was Seen

The sighting happened around dusk, when the May brothers, Ed, 13, Freddie, 12, and friend Tommy Hyner, 10, were playing at the school playground. The boys then noticed a red pulsing light across the sky and crashed into a nearby farm.

Naturally, the boys ran to get their mother, Kathleen May, to see what had just landed in the woods. Kathleen had called National Guardsman Eugene Lemon and his dog, Richie, and reported what happened. They all went to the site together, and what they saw sent shockwaves through the community.

Reportedly, Lemon screamed and fell; he said the Monster had to be 10 feet tall with a head shaped like a spade. Lemon said its hands were twisted and clawed, and its eyes glowed an eerie orange.

Lemon also reported that it appeared to be wearing a dark, metal ¨dress¨. The creature appeared to levitate, and a strange mist hung. The creature hissed and glided toward the group; they turned and ran away in horror.

Many of those in the group suffered throat irritation, vomiting, and nausea that lasted for days. Many thought these were symptoms of hysteria; however, mustard gas has the same side effects.

When they reported the incident to the authorities, they found nothing.

However, there was another report on the Flatwoods Monster by Audra Harper. She claimed to have seen the Monster while walking through the woods near her home. She lived in Heaters, which is five miles north of Flatwoods.

At first, they saw a ball of fire on one of the hills but dismissed it, assuming one of the neighbors was hunting. Yet when she looked back, she saw the fire had vanished, and instead, she saw a tall, dark silhouette of a man-shaped figure. She ran to escape the creature.

However, the story that made headlines was the one reported by Lemon, and it made national headlines nationwide. Some of the witnesses even went to NYC and were on CBS. Kathleen May's description is still what is believed the Monster looks like.


With any sensational story, some believed the story to be accurate and reported:

"Those people were the most scared people I've ever seen, people don't make up that kind of story that quickly,"

Some others reported that the story was sensationalized; one moment, the Monster was 10 feet; another, it was 17 feet. The state police saw it as hysteria and doubted the story was true.

It was at a time in history when people were scared and had the fear of an atomic bomb attack. Many believed a lot of the UFO sightings were the Air Force looking for bombs. Either way, to this day, there are believers and nonbelievers in the supernatural.

Flatwoods was and remains a small community. At the time of the Flatwoods monster, only 300 people lived in the town; only 261 called it home.

Now, the Flatwoods monster is also called the Green Monster or the Phantom of Flatwoods, another great American Mystery, a legend to scare children to behave, or a real story that we can hope never to see in real life.

Whether you believe in the Flatwoods monster, you can still visit the Flatwoods Monster Museum in Sutton, WV. The original location where the Monster was seen is on private property and forbidden.

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