History

Throwback Thursday: Flatwoods Monster 1952

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Flatwoods Monster Image One
Image Credit: ESP Realm Blog

Sixty-seven years ago, today, Flatwoods, WV, in Braxton County, was the site of a reported encounter with a scary entity. At 7:15pm:

[May] brothers Ed, 13, and Freddie, 12, had been playing in their schoolyard with their 10-year-old friend Tommy Hyer. After noticing a pulsing red light streak across the sky and crash on a nearby farm, the three youngsters ran to grab the Mays boys’ mother, then high-tailed it up that hill to check out where the light had landed. A few other boys, one with a dog, showed up, too.

Flatwoods Monster Image Two
Image Credit: history.com
Original drawing by a New York sketch artist.

They ran back down, in sheer and credible terror.

“Seven Braxton County residents on Saturday reported seeing a 10-foot Frankenstein-like monster in the hills above Flatwoods,” a local newspaper reported afterward. “A National Guard member, [17-year-old] Gene Lemon, was leading the group when he saw what appeared to be a pair of bright eyes in a tree.”

Lemon screamed and fell backward, the news account said, “when he saw a 10-foot monster with a blood-red body and a green face that seemed to glow.” It may have had claws for hands. It was hard to tell because of the dense mist.

The story made the local news, then got picked up by national radio and big papers all over the country […]. Mrs. May and the National Guard kid ended up going to New York to talk to CBS […].

But, rattled eyewitnesses weren’t the only reason the story took off. Americans were truly frightened in 1952, made anxious by atomic bombs and what seemed like a new world made by mad scientists. Even LIFE magazine, probably the most popular publication in the nation at the time, had, just a few months earlier, published a seemingly credible trend story about flying saucers. Spook stories sprout best when the seed lands in a bed fertile with anxiety and that was 1952 Cold War America […]. [I]t prompted a U.S. Air Force UFO inquiry, part of a project called Project Blue Book that dispatched a handful of investigators around the country to look into such claims.

Flatwoods Monster Image Three
Photo Credit: history.com &
Flatwoods Monster Museum

One writer who stoked the story (a lot) was Gray Barker, a Braxton County native who investigated the monster and, then, became one of the more prominent UFO myth makers, ever. It was Barker who wrote about Flatwoods, then introduced the mythology of government “Men in Black” after he heard that two Air Force investigators had “reportedly” shown up in Flatwoods, posing as magazine writers.

Flatwoods Monster Image Four
Photo Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org
Flatwoods Monster Chair

People grin about it now and take Monster souvenir money from hundreds of Monster tourists every week. But, it scared people plenty back then […]. “One of the boys peed his pants,” said John Gibson, a high-school freshman at the time, who knew them all. “Their dog (Rickie) ran with his tail between his legs.”

To this day, tourists come out of their way to Flatwoods to visit its monster museum and buy Green Monsters and t-shirts. Freddie and Ed are still alive and, still standing by their story. They are in their late 70s now. They are no longer talking to reporters. They got tired after 100,000 interviews […]. [T]he brothers did appear in a recent documentary about the Flatwoods Phantom.

[The Air Force] concluded that bright, but common, meteors had streaked across the eastern U.S. at dusk that night, seen by many in Baltimore, among other places. And, the monster with the claw-like arms? Likely an owl, they said.

And, so, the Flatwoods Monster, also known as the Green Monster, [or] the Phantom of Flatwoods, who was reportedly seven feet tall, or 10 feet tall, or 13 feet tall, or 17 feet tall, became that most peculiar American invention…a legend emblazoned on t-shirts. [Source]

Flatwoods Monster Episode on The History Channel’s Project Blue Book

Wayback Wednesday: Hurricane Carla 1961

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Hurricane Carla Image One
Photo Credit: weather.gov

I realize that September 11 is usually reserved for the remembrance of 9/11 but, that seems to be all over the news as it is. There are other things that have happened on September 11. ~Vic

Fifty-eight years ago, today, Category 4 Hurricane Carla slammed into Texas, making landfall near Port O’Connor. She was the first Category 5 of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season.

From the National Weather Service:

Carla was the most intense hurricane to make landfall on the Texas coast in the 20th century and second in recorded history only to the Indianola hurricane of 1886. Carla was the last of 6 hurricanes to make landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds stronger than 130 mph, in the 20th century. Carla ranks as the 9th most intense hurricane to affect the United States since 1851.

Carla made landfall on the afternoon of the 11th on the northeast part of Matagorda Island as a strong Category 4 hurricane […]. The eye of Carla moved across Port O’Connor and Port Lavaca and, then, inland just east of Victoria. Carla weakened to a tropical storm on the morning of the 12th just east of Austin.

Carla was an extremely large hurricane with devastating effects from the winds and storm surge […]. The extreme tides inundated downtown Port Lavaca with 2 feet of flood water and displaced fishing boats and tug boats on Highway 35. With the slow movement of Carla, the hurricane pushed a storm surge of 22 feet above mean sea level at the head of Lavaca Bay in Port Lavaca. This is the highest storm surge in Texas hurricane history.

Hurricane Carla Image Two
Photo Credit: weather.gov

From Wikipedia:

[Little-known] newsman Dan Rather reported live from the second floor of a building in Texas City during the storm, an act that would be imitated by later reporters. This marked the first live television broadcast of a hurricane. Rather also alerted the public of the size of Carla in a way that “literally changed the way the world sees hurricanes”, according to a fellow reporter. Broadcasting live at the Weather Bureau Office in Galveston, Rather asked a meteorologist to draw an outline of the Gulf of Mexico on a transparent sheet of plastic. He then held the map over the black and white radar screen, which put the size of Carla into perspective, saying that Carla was the size of the Gulf of Mexico. CBS was so impressed with Rather’s work that he was offered the position of correspondent.

Carla remains number one on the Hurricane Severity Index.

ABC13 Houston Report

Throwback Thursday: Hurricane Fran 1996

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Hurricane Fran Image One
Image Credit: noaa.gov

While many folks are suffering from the damage brought about by Hurricane Dorian, including my own state, twenty-three years ago, today, another hurricane made landfall between 7:17 & 9:03pm EDT…Hurricane Fran. The eye passed over Bald Head Island and Southport.

From NOAA:

Fran was the second hurricane to slam into the North Carolina coast in the same season. Bertha was a Category 2 hurricane when she hit just two months earlier. There wasn’t much time to recover from the first disaster before the second hit.

Due to a low pressure centered over Tennessee and the western extension of the subtropical ridge over the northwest Atlantic, Fran was steered onto a north-northwesterly track and gained speed. Moving around 17 mph, the center of Fran made landfall over the Cape Fear area on September 5th around 8:30 p.m., just southwest of Wilmington. At landfall, sustained winds were 115 mph […].

Hurricane Fran Image Two
Image Credit: noaa.gov

Fran caused major flooding from North Carolina to Maryland [to] West Virginia. The damage from Fran was so extensive that the name “Fran” was removed from the hurricane name list and replaced by Fay. North Carolina got the worst of the storm […]. The North Topsail Beach police station was washed away by a 12 foot storm surge. The police station was being temporarily housed in a double wide since Bertha wiped out the original building just a few months prior. Kure Beach Pier was destroyed along with the Emerald Isle fishing pier, while Bogue Inlet Pier lost 150 feet. Storm surge in North Topsail Beach created a 100-foot wide inlet. Topsail Island lost 40 feet of beach due to erosion. Swansboro and New Bern experienced 10 feet of storm surge […].

Hurricane force wind gusts were experienced as far inland as Raleigh. High winds damaged historical buildings. Classes at the University of North Carolina were canceled for a day and it was almost a week before the water was drinkable again. Strong winds and a saturated ground led to many trees being uprooted inland. This led to numerous houses being destroyed by trees falling on them. Over a million people were left without power. Almost two weeks after the storm, 150 secondary roads were still closed due to flooding and downed trees.

In the same way that residents of Columbia and Charlotte remember Hurricane Hugo‘s devastating inland winds, residents of Raleigh and most of the North Carolina inland coastal plain think back to Fran when discussing the strong wind a hurricane can bring well away from the coast. Fran was the worst storm to strike southeastern North Carolina since Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

My dad was nine years old when Hazel hit. He remembered being underneath his desk in elementary school. I was living in Durham when Fran hit. I thought the roof of the house was going to come off (I was living in an attic studio apartment on the west side of town, close to Duke Hospital and Duke University). That hurricane came straight up thru the middle of NC. Working in Law Enforcement, I was considered “necessary personnel” and when I got up to head in, Durham looked like a war zone. Interstate 85 was completely shut down and I wound my way thru town, west to east. Oh, the devastation. The Trooper Station I worked in had power but, my apartment went without for a week. I need to dig up the pictures of the damage and post them. They are in a box…somewhere. ~Vic

Flashback Friday: 1966

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Pencil Portrait
Artist: Wendy T. Wallace
Drawn: 11-25-1994

Fifty-three years ago…10:38am. I did a post last year with more background information and some nostalgia.

I stopped posting on July 15, as the following day, I wound up in the ER. As my maternal grandmother would say “I had a spell with my heart.” Luckily, it turned out to be nothing life threatening but, it scared me. After six weeks of rest and some lifestyle changes, I’m good.

I’m not fond of a lot of fanfare regarding my birthday. I prefer to have the day to myself. I’m mostly an introvert but, I can be extroverted for short periods of time. Here is a personal toast to still being upright and walking.

My likeness was sketched by artist Wendy T. Wallace of Greensboro, back in November of 1994. I sat for her at a Christmas shopping festival at the Greensboro Coliseum…as I recall. This was ten years after high school graduation.

Flashback Friday: Disco Demolition Death 1979

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Disco Demolition Image One
Photo Credit: dailyherald.com

Forty years ago, today, the Disco Demolition took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. What started out as a baseball promotion turned into a mêlée that damaged the field.

[..] disco didn’t quite die a natural death by collapsing under its own weight. Instead, it was killed by a public backlash that reached its peak on this day in 1979 […]. That incident, which led to at least nine injuries, 39 arrests and, the cancellation and forfeit of a Major League Baseball game, is widely credited […] or, blamed for […] dealing disco its death blow.

The event was the brainchild of Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, popular disk jockeys on Chicago’s WLUP “The Loop” FM. […] many […] rock DJs were displaced by disco [but], only Dahl was inspired to launch a semi-comic vendetta aimed at “the eradication and elimination of the dreaded musical disease.”

On May 2, the rainout of a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers led to the scheduling of a doubleheader on July 12. Dahl and Meier approached the White Sox with a rather unorthodox idea for an attendance-boosting promotion […]. […] allow Dahl to blow up a dumpster full of disco records between games of the doubleheader. White Sox executive Mike Veeck embraced the idea […].

[…] organizers […] grossly [underestimated] the appeal of the 98-cent discount tickets offered to anyone who brought a disco record to the park to add to the explosive-rigged dumpster. WLUP and the White Sox expected perhaps 5,000 more fans than the average draw of 15,000 or so […]. What they got, instead, was a raucous sellout crowd of 40,000+ and an even more raucous overflow crowd of as many as 40,000 more outside on Shields Avenue.

What followed was utter chaos, as fans by the thousands stormed the field, […] began to wreak havoc, shimmying up the foul poles, tearing up the grass and lighting vinyl bonfires on the diamond while the stadium scoreboard implored them to return to their seats. Conditions were judged too dangerous for the scheduled game to begin and the Detroit Tigers were awarded a win by forfeit.

[Source]

Disco Demolition Image Two
Photo Credit: wbbm780.radio.com

In the weeks before the event, Dahl invited his listeners to bring records they wanted to see destroyed to Comiskey Park. Owner Bill Veeck was concerned the promotion might become a disaster […]. His fears were substantiated when he saw the people walking towards the ballpark that afternoon. […] many carried signs that described disco in profane terms.

Some leapt turnstiles, climbed fences and entered through open windows. Attendees were supposed to deposit their records into a large box [but], once the box was overflowing, many people brought their discs to their seats. Many of the records were not collected by staff and were thrown like flying discs from the stands. Tigers designated hitter Rusty Staub remembered that the records would slice through the air and land sticking out of the ground. He urged teammates to wear batting helmets when playing their positions. “It wasn’t just one, it was many. Oh, God almighty, I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life.” Attendees also threw firecrackers, empty liquor bottles and lighters onto the field. The game was stopped several times because of the rain of foreign objects.

Dozens of hand-painted banners with such slogans as “Disco Sucks” were hung from the ballpark’s seating decks. Dahl set off the explosives, destroying the records and tearing a large hole in the outfield grass. […] the first of 5,000 to 7,000 attendees rushed onto the field […]. The batting cage was destroyed and, the bases were pulled up and stolen. Among those taking to the field was 21-year-old aspiring actor Michael Clarke Duncan […]. Duncan slid into third base, had a silver belt buckle stolen and went home with a bat from the dugout. Some attendees danced in circles around the burning vinyl shards.

Chicago police in full riot gear arrived (9:08pm) to the applause of the baseball fans remaining in the stands. Those on the field hastily dispersed upon seeing the police. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to allow his players to take the field […] due to safety concerns. Anderson […] demanded that the game be forfeited to the Tigers. He argued that, under baseball’s rules, a game can only be postponed due to an Act of God, and that, as the home team, the White Sox were responsible for field conditions.

Disco Demolition Image Three
DJ Steve Dahl
Photo Credit: npr.org

Cultural Significance

NPR Article

Daily Herald Article

Chicago Sun-Times Article

New York Times Article