Myth or Legend: Wheeling’s Flatwoods Monster


On a September night in 1952, Kathleen May found herself in an odd situation. After hearing a fanciful story from her children, she found herself navigating through the West Virginia woods by flashlight. They said they saw a spaceship crash, but before she could regret following them, things got strange. Kathleen did not know it at the time, but she was about to experience West Virginia’s most famous alien sighting.

They noticed a glowing as they approached the crash site. The eerie pulsing brightness illuminated the hollow as a whining, hissing sound filled the air. As they inched forward, the purple hue grew to fill the woods. They saw an oddly-shaped object lodged into the ground as strange fog filled the air around them. The metallic smelling fog was nauseating. It burned their sinuses and lungs. Kathleen saw an animal’s eyes watching her from a tree branch and leveled her flashlight toward it. As the beam of light reached the creature’s large, green eyes, they shot out brilliant rays of light, which further illuminated the entire area. What Kathleen saw was an alarmingly large, metallic green creature. It stood about twelve feet tall, had a head resembling the ace of spades, and was hovering near the crash site. Frozen in fear, the rest of the search party watched as this creature floated toward Kathleen. The monster reached out and sprayed an oily substance on her, the same substance left a trail wherever it hovered. Jolted to their senses, the search party fled the scene. By the next morning, the story became a national sensation and the creature received a name.

It became known as the Flatwood Monster, the Green Monster, or the Braxton County Monster. The story became known internationally and the monster continues to serve as a central figure in West Virginia lore, but it was not the only encounter to occur that month. All month long, odd lights could be seen across West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. A story similar to Kathleen’s also occurred in Frametown, WV and a few days later, Wheeling would also have its own alien sighting.

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Wheeling’s story occurred three days later, on September 15th, 1952. The story begins with reports of a streaking bright light cascading across the sky that appeared to have had a crash landing by the Vineyard Hill Housing Development near Oglebay. Additional reports of a terrible metallic smell also came from the Vineyard Hills area. Soon, The Intelligencer as well as the police were fielding calls from across the city. Residents asked if the stories they heard were true, and if it was connected to the strange light they saw. Unfortunately, before anyone could investigate, the alien and its ship were gone.

The next day, The Intelligencer ran a rather upbeat story about the reports, with the police chief brushing it off as a joke. The creature, coined by The Intelligencer as “Bashful Billy,” supposedly “vanished without pausing to light one cigaret with his fiery breath.” Overall, the lack of witnesses and less-than-serious tone taken by the police and news reporters destined this story to the mostly-forgotten chapters of Wheeling lore. But, was it all just a hoax or the community’s runaway imagination? Reports of strange lights from across Ohio and Pennsylvania do correlate to a flight path from Dayton toward the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport. There were also reports of a “badly burned woman” being found in the same area as the crash site. The quick dismissal of the story and this body have caused several to wonder if the real story was successfully “covered up.”

bashful billy
From The Intelligencer.

Was this burned body actually the remains of an alien?

Was the crash site successfully hidden by the government?

Was Bashful Billy Wheeling’s first Festival of Lights tourist that year?

Is this most likely our imagination getting the best of us?

For the last question, probably, but it’s fun. What do you think?

• A true son of Wheeling, Will Wallace was born at Wheeling Hospital on a late summer’s day in August 1988. Since then he has traveled the world, started a business, played in a state championship basketball game, opened an art gallery and plays bass in a band. A graduate of Bishop Donahue Memorial High School (never forget) and West Virginia University, Will has decided that this somehow allows him to freelance for Weelunk. In his free time, he co-hosts a podcast called Appalachian Sound and Color, where he interviews artists living throughout the Appalachian Mountains. You can listen to it where you find podcasts or here.

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