The tale of the Flatwoods Monster has attracted the curious to West Virginia since 1952 after rumors of an alleged encounter with an alien exploded across the national airwaves. And interest in the tale has never quite died down.
According to the legend, on a September evening in the hills above Flatwoods, West Virginia, a group of locals met a frightening extraterrestrial visitor. Some say it had crash-landed its spacecraft, which had streaked brightly across the sky above the town moments before.
Many who hear the story are dubious, yet thousands of visitors annually tour the Flatwoods Monster Museum and in 2019 purchased more than $34,000 worth of the museum's monster souvenirs, according to Andrew Smith, executive director of the Braxton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
However, the fame of the Flatwoods Monster, or the Braxton County Monster, or "Braxy," hasn't been won by ufologists or fringe scientists. It's been promulgated, in part, by civic-minded locals, whose roles have helped promote tourism in Flatwoods and Braxton County.
Smith says that while the county boasts many attractions, such as its two large recreational lakes, its association with the monster is what's earned it a place on the map.
"As far as attention which translates into tourism, such as day-trip tourism, that's hard to measure over time, but the legend has given Braxton County notoriety that we wouldn't otherwise have had," Smith says.
Smith has begun to document the history of the encounter as well as the history of its fame, which he has most recently come to light through a film, The Lantern, which investigates the invention and production of Braxton County Monster lanterns in the 1960s.
A promotional effort initiated by the Braxton County Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Jaycees, the lantern project led to a renewed interest in the event more than a decade later, Smith said.
For more information on the Flatwoods Monster or Braxton County, visit BraxtonWV.org.
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