The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear
Directed by Seth Breedlove | Small Town Monsters
Much like the Mothman, the Dover Demon, or the Jersey Devil, the Flatwoods monster is one of those uniquely hard-to-classify beings from paranormal folklore. Part extraterrestrial, part robot, and part creature from an alternate dimension, the legend of the Flatwoods Monster lives on to this day, and continues to grow in popularity. The monster has its own museum (The Flatwoods Monster Museum), and will even make an appearance in the upcoming Fallout 76 video game. And luckily for us, the folks at Small Town Monsters have delved into this tale in yet another incredible documentary film.
The Flatwoods Monster, also known as the Green Monster or Braxton County Monster, is the enigmatic entity that terrorized the small West Virginia town of Flatwoods in the early years of the flying saucer craze. As the story goes, on the evening of September 12, 1952, brothers Edward and Fred May saw a bright object streak across the sky and land on the Bailey Fisher farm. The boys, along with their friend Tommy Hyer, raced back home to tell their mother, Kathleen May. The group, along with some other friends, trekked to the site where the UFO landed. As they approached the object, family friend Eugene Lemon shined his flashlight toward it, and the group was horrified to see a huge, man-like figure staring at them with glowing eyes, claw-like hands, and a head or a hood shaped like the ace of spades. The creature allegedly made a hissing sound and glided towards the group, causing them to flee. The creature and object were surrounded by a foul-smelling fog or mist that reportedly made some in the group, including their dog, nauseous.
In The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear, director Seth Breedlove gives us an in-depth look at the infamous incident, while also providing backstory and context of West Virginia, as a whole, being home to all manner of weird goings-on. The Mothman terrorized Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Bigfoot sightings, UFO flaps, and ghost stories have been a staple in the Appalachian region for decades. Ed and Fred May, the only two known surviving witnesses to have seen the Flatwoods Monster, recount the event as they remember it, and refreshingly point out falsehoods in the narrative that have been perpetuated for decades as the narrative has been retold, such as the mention of their dog running home and dying after vomiting. Spoiler alert, but the dog made it home and lived happily for many years after the encounter. An archived audio interview Fortean investigator Ivan T. Sanderson permeates the film, and the Small Town Monsters signature illustrated recreations help the viewer visualize the happenings discussed in the film, with a nice “throwback” feel. Personally, I love them.
The film also doesn’t shy away from exploring skeptical opinions and rational explanations for what the Mays and their friends may have seen that night. The May brothers even admit that the creature resembled a V-2 rocket, which the United States was experimenting with at the time. The cone-shaped head, glowing lights, and skirt-like bottom certainly makes it sound like a rocket. It’s also been suggested, most notably by skeptic Joe Nickell, that the group simply spotted an owl, which I think is far less likely (he also suggests the Mothman and the Hopkinsville aliens were owls, too). Eugene Lemon was a National Guardsman, so I doubt he’d get spooked by a crashed rocket, much less a simple owl. But the alternate points of view are welcome and appreciated.
The Cold War-inspired flying saucer hysteria was at its peak when the Green Monster was seen, and the music and visuals pay brilliant homage to that fact. The title card looks like it was ripped from a 1950s B-movie about invaders from Mars, and the musical score would feel right at home in one of those same films: outer-spacey, warbly and fluttery, but bizarrely alien. Small Town Monsters brilliantly and subtly evokes these themes and tropes throughout the film, but by no means is it ever ever intrusive or awkwardly obvious. It’s never goofy or kitschy, an easy trap to fall into whenever dealing with this kind of subject matter. Little touches like that are what sets apart Small Town Monsters from most other paranormal documentary makers out there right now.
If you have in interest in the more “classic” flying saucer phenomenon of the 1950s, or if you just like strange tales and local legends. The Flatwoods Monster will be right up your alley. Eyewitness testimony and beautiful cinematography bring this wonderfully weird story to life in serious but spooky fashion. Seth Breedlove and Small Town Monsters prove once again that they are the new standard for paranormal documentary filmmaking.