Residents of Flatwoods, W.Va., say they had an encounter with the other-worldly in September 1952.
Four boys playing touch football were the first to see a "shooting star" crash into a wooded hillside near the Braxton County school playground. Intrigued, they and a group of neighbors hurried up the hill to investigate the mysterious fireball.
Nearing the site of the crash they noticed a thick mist curling through the trees. They also became aware of a foul odor that burned their eyes and noses.
"The air had a metallic smell and was really disgusting," said Kathleen May Horner, a beautician and the only adult in the group.
About 100 yards away, they saw a glowing, hissing object about 10 feet in diameter. Mrs. Horner later described the object as about the size of a house.
Slightly left of the object they noticed two lights that resembled reddish-glowing eyes. Suddenly, they realized the lights belonged to a gigantic beast "with a bright red face, bright green clothing, a head that resembled the ace of spades, and clothing that, from the waist down, hung in great folds."
When the bizarre creature, which they estimated to be 6 to 10 feet tall, started gliding toward them, a boy fainted. The others grabbed him and fled, not stopping until they reached Mrs. Horner's house, where they phoned the sheriff.
When Sheriff Robert Carr and Deputy Burnell Long arrived about a half-hour later, they found much of the evidence destroyed by monster-seekers who had tramped over the scene.
Sheriff Carr was skeptical. He theorized that the boys had seen a meteor crash. Then, when they reached the site of the crash, they had seen the eyes of some animal in a tree, perhaps a raccoon or owl, glowing in reflected light.
"The rest was pure imagination," he said.
But others saw things that night and the next that convinced them otherwise.
A woman and her mother said they saw the same creature 11 miles away. The woman said they were on their way to church when they encountered a horrible stench, then saw a 10-foot-tall beast approach their vehicle, which then stalled. Seconds later, a sphere glided from the woods into the sky.
The sightings drew attention from around the country. Newspaper reporters soon arrived, as did scientists and government officials. One scientist, Ivan Sanderson, flew from New York City and took photos and soil samples. After interviewing witnesses and examining the evidence, Dr. Sanderson came away convinced that something extraordinary had occurred in the bleak hamlet of Flatwoods.
So did A. Lee Stewart, a reporter for the Braxton Democrat. "Something scared those people pretty bad," Mr. Stewart said after interviews with more than a dozen witnesses. He said they were so scared they could hardly speak.
Author and syndicated columnist Randall Floyd can be reached at Rfloyd2@aol.com.