The following was written by Stanton Friedman on December 15, 2002 and updated January 2011. It is part of The Stanton Friedman Collection as archived here on The Black Vault.
Flatwoods Monster UFO Event
by Stanton T. Friedman
Frank 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 of hands.
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.
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 they died.
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, the Mothman.
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.