West Virginia ground-zero for UFO research, encounters

West Virginia ground-zero for UFO research, encounters
The massive Byrd Telescope glows red in the darkness at Green Bank. Photo courtesy Jesse Thornton.

A renowned paranormal investigator says West Virginia has a remarkable association with UFO activity because of its role in the search for extraterrestrial life and because it was the location of so many early alleged UFO encounters.


Dave Spinks, perhaps best known for his appearances on the Travel Channel, the History Channel, and Destination America, says you can't beat the Mountain State when it comes to UFO lore.

"Two of the earliest and most famous encounters in the U.S. were reported here," Spinks says, referring to legendary encounters involving Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster.

Stargazers park along the remote Highland Scenic Highway in Pocahontas County.
Stargazers park along the remote Highland Scenic Highway in Pocahontas County. Photo courtesy Jesse Thornton.

"But it was here, too, at Green Bank Observatory that Frank Drake established the first telescopes used in the SETI program—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."


"Here he met with Carl Sagan," Spinks said, referring to the collaboration with scientists who met with the proponent of the Drake Equation, an argument used to speculate about the possibilities of intelligent life off the planet.

Spinks began to collect notes about encounters with UFOs and the paranormal in the 1990s. However, his inspiration came from his youth spent in the hills near Flatwoods, the site of one of the state's first encounters.

In 1952, a group of Flatwoods residents reported seeing what they believed was a spacecraft crashing in the hills south of the town. On investigation, they encountered its apparent occupant, a super-human, the Flatwoods Monster, a being that chased them from the alleged crash site.

Spinks grew up nearby near Birch River and some of the members of his family had attended school with some of the witnesses from Flatwoods. "That's what started me thinking."


Spinks also heard tales of Mothman, a winged creature said to haunt the Ohio Valley near Point Pleasant in the 1960s, during which West Virginians frequently watched the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse, which some claim to have done.

He left law enforcement in 2011 and became a full-time paranormal investigator—one of the field's most noticeable, appearing in nationally televised shows and in thousands of news articles and podcasts.

Spinks says he's been offered his own television programs but has so far declined the offers as he finds the genre apt to veer from honesty for the sake of production values.

"I like to present a more gritty approach to investigating these tales," Spinks says.


"Essentially, I have three questions I wish to answer. These are what drive me. What happens when we die? Are there unknown creatures walking among us? And are we alone in the universe?"

As well as speaking, authoring books, and appearing on television and in videos, Spinks also recently purchased an allegedly haunted house, Willows Weep, in Cayuga, Ind., which he uses as a laboratory for investigation.

For more information on Spinks and his work, visit Dave Spinks Paranormal Investigator.

A pre-industrial night’s sky lingers over remote West Virginia

The Mann Mountain Firetower rises into the night sky on Chestnut Knob.
The Mann Mountain Firetower rises into the night sky on Chestnut Knob. (Photo Jesse Thornton)

Longing for a life far from city lights? You could hardly do better than to move to West Virginia. Sparsely populated, the state is part of a region of extremely low light — ironically located near the center of the eastern U.S., one of the most lighted regions in the world.


The night in some parts of West Virginia is so star-spangled that it may seem pre-industrial, according to astronomer David Buhrman, who tours the region with telescopes, leading educational programs and advocating for the value of starlight. Read the full story here.

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