Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Theresa's Travels: In Search of the Braxton County Monster (Part III)

It's finally time for the culmination of Theresa's Travels: In Search of the Braxton County Monster! Today's blog is about the whole reason we decided to take a day trip into Sutton/Flatwoods in the first place:  The world premier of Small Town Monsters' The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear!

I have been following the Small Town Monsters crew, consisting mostly of filmmaker/producer/writer Seth Breedlove, since meeting them at the Mothman Festival last year. They make good, quality documentaries about spooky stuff, such as Mothman, the Minerva Monster, and the Boggy Creek Monster. So, when I heard that a new Flatwoods Monster film would be coming out, I was excited.

We could have just bought/rented the movie when it was released on April 7, 2018. It was/is available on Amazon and Vimeo---but what's the fun in just sitting at home watching a movie when you can travel just a short 90 minutes from home and experience the premier in an historic theater, just minutes away from where the sighting originally took place?!?

And, that's precisely what we did! We pre-ordered our tickets online, which were an absolute STEAL at $5 a piece and made plans to get to the Elk Theater in downtown Sutton a little early to get good seats.  Well, we arrived a few hours early in order to explore the town, which you've hopefully read about in Part I and Part II of my Theresa's Travels series! But anyway...

We arrived at the Elk Theater about 35 minutes before the 7pm showtime, and seats were already filling up fast. I bought my son Luke and I matching T-shirts, and Aaron stood in line for our popcorn and drinks. By the time he met me back at our seats, the place at sold out. In fact, so many people were turned away at the box office, that a special matinee showing for Sunday at 3pm had to be scheduled.

During the few minutes we had before the film got started, we got to chat with our seatmates, which was very sweet. A local man and his daughter sitting in front of us gave us the scoop on the historic theater and a little about the town of Sutton. An older couple beside them giggled at Aaron's near-miss in regards to my concession stand order. And, a dad and son all the way from New York sat beside us and we talked like we'd known each other forever. Les O'Dell, from WV's Cryptids and Strange Encounters, who we ran into at the Museum (and at several of the chairs throughout the day) had arrived at the theater the same time we did, so we got in a few more minutes of chatty-time. We also saw (and sat near) a small group that we ran into at both the museum and The Spot AND another couple who we spoke with briefly earlier, also while at the Spot!

I was fired up for the film, and after a few brief words, it began. I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet and wants to, so I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum.  However, if you have a basic understanding of the story, spoilers are a moot point, lol. The film is about the weird and wacky evening of September 12, 1952 when a group of kids playing football saw SOMETHING over the skies of Flatwoods, WV. The object appeared to either land or crash on a nearby hill, so the boys, led by brothers Freddie and Eddie May, went to investigate, stopping at the May home where they were joined by their mother, Kathleen and a 17 year old relation named Gene Lemon. The group proceeded to the Bailey Fisher farm, where they would encounter SOMETHING that would scare the bejeebus out of them, and change them, and the town of Flatwoods, forever. Over the years, that creature would be known as the Flatwoods Monster, the Braxton County Monster, and even, the Flatwoods Green-eyed Monster. Sometimes its referred to as just..."the Creature."

I really enjoyed the film. At 45 minutes long, it didn't go too in-depth about the theories as to what the creature was. However, it was an excellent overview and introduction to the case, which I think is one of the most fascinating in WV UFO lore. Unfortunately, most of the witnesses are now deceased, but Seth managed to get both Freddie and Eddie (now known as Fred and Ed) May to tell their stories, stories that are unassuming and haven't changed since the original events took place.

Also featured in the film (and who were present for the Q and A afterwards) were John Gibson, who is responsible for the popular Flatwoods Monster lanterns, paranormal investigator Dave Spinks, who tells a fascinating related tale of a similar (or same?) monster in the area, Andrew Smith, executive director of the Braxton County CVB, and a really cool lady (for the love of all that is holy, someone remind me of her name, please!) who told a chilling tale from her grandmother that seems to relate directly to the Flatwoods Monster event of of September 12.

Q and A Panel at the Elk Theater


Original interviews were enhanced with some creepy animation and a haunting score. Historical photos and audio recordings, and even some 1950s UFO movie footage gave the film a really cool, vintage vibe. The 45 minutes flew by and left me wanting more!  Luckily, the Q and A provided it.  Usually these things are boring, stuffy, and awkward, as no one really wants to get started in asking the questions. I was pleased, though, to see people jumping right in, and asking really good questions about a variety of things. Seth and the rest of the panel were not only informative, but they were fun to listen to. Everyone had a great sense of humor and was really personable---which fit perfectly into the whole atmosphere of the evening.

My only issue was with the film itself...and honestly, its NOT an issue. I understand that the filmmaker had a set vision---to tell the tale of the Flatwoods Monster and how it affected a small community. But, being someone who appreciates the bigger picture when it comes to these things, I would have loved to have seen more on what was happening throughout the state and throughout the East Coast of the country that same night as evidence suggests that our little freaky Flatwoods critter was NOT the only one of its kind to visit that night. I also realize that much of that story was the passion project of another researcher, Frank Feschino, and that certain things were left out of the film, not only to keep the narrative focused on the vision, but also to not step on any toes, legal or otherwise! If you see The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear and YOU'RE left wanting more, you might want to read Frank's book, The Braxton County Monster.

Overall, though, this weekend was an absolute blast! I don't mean to sound too hard on the movie, because in all actuality, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well done, entertaining, and informative. Getting to see it premier live at the Elk Theater in Sutton was icing on the cake---it makes me really sad that I didn't take the time to make it to the State Theater in Pt. Pleasant when they showed the Mothman film.  Not only did we see a great movie among a group of other fans of WV's spooky history, but we got to spend an afternoon exploring some of the awesome, off-beat attractions that have grown out of a renewed interest for this strange, yet important tale of the Flatwoods Monster. If you missed the premier, you can still see the movie. You can buy/rent a digital copy from Amazon or pick up a DVD from the Small Town Monsters website . And although the movie is no longer showing at the Elk Theater, there is still a ton of great things to do in the Sutton/Flatwoods area, for fans of monster lore, history, outdoor sports, as well as many other interests. It's also about an hour or so drive from Weston, which makes a trip to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum for a tour, an easy thing to add to any itinerary!

Make sure you visit the previous posts in the "Theresa's Travels: In Search of the Braxton County Monster" series:

Part I---Braxton County CVB/Monster Museum and The Spot Dairy Bar
Part II---Flatwoods Monster Chairs

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