By Mannix PorterfieldFLATWOODS — In the gathering dusk of a warm September evening, a sandlot football game is halted suddenly by a fiery object streaking over the lush, green hillside a short distance away.
Startled by what they saw, the five boys engaged in football, accompanied by the mother of one and a second adult, rushed up the mountainside to investigate.
From behind a tree emerged a 12-foot object, emitting a strong and repulsive sulfuric odor. Crackling sounds inside it reminded the witnesses of bacon sizzling in a fry pan.
Nothing verbal came from the curious object, but strong lights from the head of it formed a beam directed at the frightened onlookers.
Just to the right on the hillside lay a circular object described later as the standard spaceship.
Terrified, the seven scampered down the hill, giving birth to the enduring episode of the “Braxton County Monster.”
Fifty-four years later, the account endures, thanks largely to a book author Frank Feschino Jr. penned after a dozen years of painstaking research. For instance, he was the first to examine the official Air Force Blue Book on UFO sightings, unwrapped only two decades ago after years of official secrecy.
Witnesses never altered their account of the bizarre incident that Sept. 12, 1952, night that put Flatwoods on national news for several days.
Based on his in-depth research that embraced “tons of reports” and numerous interviews with witnesses, Feschino is convinced the “monster” was indeed an alien inside a metallic probe, or small shuttlecraft, not unlike the lunar modules used by America astronauts, explaining why it appeared to “float” along the ground.
Feschino believes the alien was aboard one of three spacecraft that escaped a dogfight with U.S. Air Force jets over the Atlantic Ocean and landed inside the American border.
The red-and-green “monster,” a moniker that has stuck over five decades, appeared to have a medieval cowl over its head, while cloaked in a metallic “skirt.” Antennae were visible, but it seemed to be armless.
One of the witnesses, Kathleen May, described the lower part of its attire as “hanging drapes,” not surprisingly given the vernacular of the 1950s, but Feschino says this likely was a set of pipes of the shuttlecraft. Another saw it as a suit of armor. To one, the head reminded him of the ace of spades.
Less than half an hour, the “monster” was back inside his craft and took off for parts unknown.
Feschino’s research took him to articles in weekly newspapers of the era, since many witnesses to UFO sightings hadn’t bothered to contact authorities to fill out a detailed, 10-page report provided by the military.
Flatwoods became a household dateline just five years after the Roswell incident, and only a few years after the “shoot them down” directive to U.S. fighter pilots amid the mounting tensions with Russia in that era, he pointed out.
If an unknown craft appeared, the author says, the military was commanded to shoot first and ask questions later, rather than risk a pre-emptive nuclear strike by the Russians, based on the revelations of one high-ranking Air Force officer.
“This was at the height of the Cold War,” Feschino said, recalling how school children were drilled almost daily in survival, such as getting under desks.
“You’re concerned for the safety of the country, and what if you picked up something on radar? Is it a Russian with a bomb? Or a UFO? You don’t want that on your head.”
When radar detected an unfamiliar, jets were scrambled.
“Shoot Them Down,” in fact, is the title Port Orange, Fla., resident has chosen for a follow-up book on the UFO phenomenon.
Likely, the aliens were conducting reconnaissance flights over America, since they were seen at atomic plants and Air Force installations, the author said.
This, in turn, gave birth to a theory of galactic spying, or a “cosmic kindergarten,” as one expert has described, Feschino pointed out.
“There have been tons of sightings up there,” the author said. “Braxton County is a hotbed for UFO sightings.”
Just why remains a puzzle, but the author also says evidence has surfaced that crop circles have surfaced in the area as well.
One of the three spaceships that eluded the fighter jets nearly clipped a passenger train in Wheeling before darting southward and landing in Bluefield, says Feschino.
“The one that landed in West Virginia actually flew over Washington half an hour earlier,” he says.
“I knew that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Flatwoods was the end of the story. I wanted to find out what happened preceding it.”
So, the author fetched aerial maps and compiled one that measures about 8 by 10 feet, tediously pinpointed each sighting, then connected the dots.
“In all of that night in 1952, there were about 18 and one-half hours of sightings,” he says.
The Blue Book actually devoted an official case report to the Flatwoods incident, he learned.
“Besides that one page, there were about 200 other pages of UFO sightings that occurred throughout the night,” he said. “Flatwoods was not an isolated incident. This was not just one little incident. The one in Flatwoods was only 5 percent of the story.”
In fact, he said, the “monster” was tracked as it retreated back across Braxton County that same night.
Feschino figures the aliens are still using the backwash of rural Braxton County since it is only 206 direct air miles away from the Capitol and provides dense foliage for concealment in interludes while, for whatever reasons. They are scouting out America.
As the damaged aircraft witnessed that night in 1952 flew over the backwash, parts of it crumbled and fell to the ground. No doubt, he says, many souvenir hunters grabbed them, never telling authorities about their finds.
“There could be hundreds of pieces of shrapnel and pieces in some junk cabins,” he said. “We don’t know.”
Feschino says the media falsely portray Americans as evenly divided on Braxton County’s incident.
“That’s not even close,” he said. “I would say it’s closer to 90 percent who believe and 10 percent who are skeptical as far as the Flatwoods case is concerned.”
Feschino’s book, “The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed,” was published by West Virginia Book Co. of Charleston, who says sales were “super” when it came out last year, and remain “quite steady.”
“Frank does a wonderful job with tying in everything that happened in D.C. and all over the Eastern Seaboard,” says owner Bill Clements.
“Basically, no one would talk about it. People were ridiculed by the media. Most of them just clammed up. Feschino spent 12 years getting to know people and getting their trust.”
To some denizens of Flatwoods, the “monster” is on par with Mothman, the bird-man creature that took up brief residence in Point Pleasant. Does this mean a Flatwoods-based movie could be in the offing?
“There have been a lot of offers, but just talking at this point,” Feschino acknowledged.
If one is made, would Feschino land a role?
“I want to be the ‘monster,’” he laughed.
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See Also: Feschino & Gordon at 4th Annual Pennsylvania Paranormal Conference