UFO Conjecture(s)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Nick Redfern's take on the Flatwoods incident of 1952

There can be few very people within the realms of cryptozoology and ufology that have never heard of the so-called Flatwoods Monster, or Braxton County Monster, of 1952 - a story that is told in-depth in Frank Feschino's 2004 book, The Braxton County Monster: the Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed.

And as Feschino notes in his book: "On the night of September 12, 1952, a shocked American public sought answers when strange unidentified objects were seen flying through the sky over Washington, DC, and the eastern United States..."

He continued: "One of the strange objects crash-landed on a rural hilltop in Flatwoods, West Virginia..." Feschino also noted that a group of schoolboys were witness to the descent of the device and, with two adults, "...headed off to look for the object. Soon a twelve-foot tall being from the downed craft terrified these innocent people."

So, what was the monstrous entity? A cryptid? An alien? Some form of definitively Fortean beast? Or something else? Over the years, a whole range of theories have surfaced, and, as with so many such cases, the debate continues.

Indeed, check out this link and you'll see that over at UFOMystic, good friend Greg Bishop has dug deep into this puzzle, and has addressed another angle - namely that relative to the involvement of Remotely-Piloted Vehicles of a definitively terrestrial nature.

And, on this latter point of the Machiavellian hand of officialdom possibly playing a role in the Flatwoods affair, I stumbled across something the other day that makes me wonder if it may well have some bearing on what was seen at Flatwoods.

Call me crazy (and doubtless some will!), but I think the following data - which is directly relative to the use of superstitions and paranormal entities and ideas in warfare - may well have a bearing on the diabolical beast of Flatwoods.

A couple of days ago, I obtained a copy of an April 14, 1950 RAND publication titled The Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare, written by Jean M. Hungerford, for the the U.S. Air Force.

The 37-page document is a truly fascinating one and delves into some very strange areas. But, what really caught my eye, was a section of the document that quoted from a book titled Magic: Top Secret, which was written in 1949 by one Jasper Maskelyne, a fascinating character (as the name-link demonstrates) who was up his absolute neck in new and novel ways to fool the enemy.

Hungerford quotes the following from Maskelyne in her report, which concerns a truly alternative psychological warfare operation that occurred during the Second World War, and less than a decade before the Flatwoods Monster was seen:

"Our men...were able to use illusions of an amusing nature in the Italian mountains, especially when operating in small groups as advance patrols scouting out the way for our general moves forward. In one area, in particular, they used a device which was little more than a gigantic scarecrow, about twelve feet high, and able to stagger forward under its own power and emit frightful flashes and bangs. This thing scared several Italian Sicilian villages appearing in the dawn thumping its deafening way down their streets with great electric blue sparks jumping from it; and the inhabitants, who were mostly illiterate peasants, simply took to their heels for the next village, swearing that the Devil was marching ahead of the invading English."

Hungerford continued to quote from Maskelyne's book in her report: "Like all tales spread among uneducated folk (and helped, no doubt, by our agents), this story assumed almost unimaginable proportions. Villages on the route of our advance began to refuse sullenly to help the retreating Germans, and to take sabotage against them; and then, instead of waiting for our troops to arrive with food and congratulations of their help, the poor people fled, thus congesting the roads along which German motorized transport was struggling to retire. The German tankmen sometimes cut through the refugees and this inflamed feeling still more, and what began almost as a joke was soon a sharp weapon in our hands which punished the Germans severely, if indirectly, for several critical weeks."

There are a number of issues worth noting here. First, the height of the Flatwoods Monster and the British Army's devilish scarecrow were the same: 12-feet. In addition, the cover of Frank Feschino's book shows the Flatwoods Monster emitting lights. And the 12-foot scarecrow in Italy gave off "frightful flashes and bangs" and had "great electric blue sparks jumping from it."

Second, the RAND report that specifically refers to this Italian escapade - that Jasper Maskelyne described in his Magic: Top Secret book - was prepared for psychological warfare planners in the U.S. Air Force. And, in his book on the beast of Flatwoods, Feschino notes that the Air Force took careful interest in the Flatwoods affair and what was being reported on the affair by the media.

The RAND report was submitted to the Air Force in April 1950, and Flatwoods occurred in September 1952. Is it possible that in this two-year period USAF psychological warfare planners created their very own - albeit updated and modified - version of the British Army's 12-foot-tall flashing monster to try and gauge what its reaction might be when unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace?

There's also the settings, too: the British Army's operation was focused on little, isolated villages in Italy. And Flatwoods is a little, rural town in Braxton County, West Virginia that, even as late as 2000, had a population of less than 350.
Those who suspect the the Flatwoods Monster was some form of cryptozoological creature, Fortean entity, or alien being, may well scoff at my speculations and musings.

However, when we can say for sure that the British Army was using 12-foot, illuminated scarecrow-style critters for psychological warfare reasons in the Second World War, is it really a stretch to think that the USAF might have tried something similar in 1952 with their very own 12-foot-tall freak?

One final thing: the foreword to Frank Feschino's book was penned by acclaimed ufologist, Stanton T. Friedman, who wrote the book Top Secret Majic (with a "j"). This should not be confused with Jasper Maskelyne's Magic Top Secret (with a "g)!


  • It could be very possible I am thick, but it seems counter intuitive that the military would want to frighten civilians, instead of banking down potential hysteria, and so this scenario begs the question, if the overflights over DC were unknowns ( as it seems doubtful they were X craft) then this seems silly and fairly juvenile as a prank that a lot of development had to go into, prototyping, testing etc by the actual descriptions of the witnesses..what is the purpose of frightening civilians during cold war tensions?

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Tuesday, April 05, 2011  

  • Unless, Bruce, the military in its oblique way had another agenda in mind.

    And this was a silly, stupid, dangerous means to that end.

    But I'll let Nick provide and answer because, like you, it doesn't make an ounce of sense to me either.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, April 05, 2011  

  • Grasping at straws?

    By Blogger Shamus, at Wednesday, April 06, 2011  

  • Shamus:

    No, not in my view at all. The description of the entity (the lights etc) is very similar. Its height is identical. The USAF were involved in Flatwoods. And the report that described the WW2 experiment was prepared for the USAF. To me, those factors alone mean we should look further at this aspect.

    By Blogger Nick Redfern, at Wednesday, April 06, 2011  

  • Bruce/Rich:

    My view (and granted it is speculation) is that back in the late-1940s and 50s, the Government (or some element of it) came to accept that UFOs were real.

    They were also deeply concerned about how the populace might react to such a presence.

    Not just sightings, but if the UFO intelligences showed themselves en-masse, in a wide open fashion.

    Since that had not happened from 47 to 52, and officialdom could not predict in advance where a UFO event might occur and then study it and the reaction of the witnesses, maybe elements of the Government chose to "stage"/"simulate" certain events, and then carefully and secretly evaluated the witness response. That would arguably provide some meaningful intel on how the public would respond at a unified, larger level.

    Another reason for doing this is that staging a UFO event that provoked fear might have been what - at the time - officialdom wanted.

    This was the same era when the Contactees were talking about meeting peace-loving aliens, who wanted us to lay down our nukes etc.

    No Government would want its people to start following near-cult-leaders like Adamski on a large-scale (and indeed FBI files reflect this), so maybe the idea of the government was to make the UFO entities look horrific - not angelic, long-haired hippy types - to keep people away from a phenomenon that might well have the ability to have the populace embrace it rather than their own government.

    Fear is a great tool of Government when it comes to controlling people and manipulating them and their thoughts.

    We are told every day to fear earthquakes, bird-flu, viruses, terrorism, etc etc. Are these real issues? Yes of course. Have some of them been exagerrated on to achieve a goal, by amping-up the fear-factor? Yes, look at the WMD fiasco.

    So, in my view re Flatwoods: to stage an event that provides a close-up reaction to how witnesses reponse to a very personal UFO encounter, woukd have been ideal for a Government of the day, who really did wonder if the aliens might land, and if they did, the government would need an idea of what the reaction might be.

    Of course, the phenomenon never did show itself fully, and I suspect there are people in Govt who realize that it never will - and that throughout history it has been a silent, detached partner.

    So, this may be why we don't get classic landings today of a type we had back then - there's no need to stage events to influence public opinion, or test their reactions, because the phenomenon isn't interacting with us to the extent that the government feels the phenomenon is interfering to an adverse level.

    By Blogger Nick Redfern, at Wednesday, April 06, 2011  

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