Given this, I’m more than a little concerned about the validity of anything that appears in the book, or the research that produced it. Using me to endorse the book when I did no such thing suggests someone who is less than candid in other areas of research. The only question is who is responsible for the quote and why was it even put up. I’ll have more on this in a later post.
All this presents a curious problem. Clearly the Air Force had heard of the case, and just as clearly they had written it off as a very bright meteor that had been reported over the eastern sea board on September 12. There is also a note that the meteor (or meteoroid for those of a precise and technical nature) landed somewhere in West Virginia (becoming a meteorite). Apparently the Air Force believed that the "landing" of the meteorite was enough to inspire local residents to imagine a creature on the ground. And, apparently, they believed that the meteorite would account for the reports of physical evidence.
"...we met two people who had seen a slow-moving reddish object pass over from the east to west. This was later described and ‘explained’ by a Mr. P.M. Reese of the Maryland Academy of Sciences staff, as a ‘fireball meteor.’ He concluded - incorrectly we believe - that it was ‘traveling at a height of from 60 to 70 miles’ and was about the ‘size of your fist.’... However, a similar, if not the same object was seen over both Frederick and Hagerstown. Also, something comparable was reported about the same time from Kingsport, Tennessee, and from Wheeling and Parkersburg, West Virginia."
As they watched, there was a bright orange flare that faded to a dull cherry glow near where the object had disappeared. As three of the boys started up the hill, toward the lights, they saw them cycle through the sequence a couple of times. The lights provided a beacon for them, showing them where the object was.
They found the path that lead up the hill, opened and then closed a gate, and continued along the winding path. Lemon and Nunley were in the lead with May, her son Eddie, following, and they were trailed by others including Ronald Shaver and Ted Neal. Tommy Hyer was in the rear, not far behind the others.
Some of them reported that they saw, on the ground in front of them, a big ball of fire, described as the size of an outhouse, or about twenty feet across. It was pulsating orange to red. Interestingly, although it was big and bright, not everyone in the tiny party saw it.
Lemon reacted most violently of the small party when he saw the object. He passed out. There was confusion, they were all scared, and no one sure what to do. The boys grabbed the unconscious Lemon and then ran.
Still others, including the sheriff, eventually arrived. Most of them didn’t bother to mount any sort of search, and the sheriff, who was clearly skeptical, refused to investigate further than talking to May and the boys. I think it is important to note here that the sheriff had been searching for a downed small aircraft reported earlier. He found no evidence of an aircraft accident and no one reported any airplanes missing. The relevance of this will become clear later.
A. Lee Stewart, Jr., one of the editors of The Braxton Democrat convinced Lemon to lead them back to the spot of the sighting. Given Lemon’s initial reaction, it says something about the kid that he agreed to do so. They found nothing and saw nothing but did smell that strange odor.
Sanderson pointed out that the other physical evidence that had been reported, skid marks on the ground, an oily substance on the grass, and the foul odor, might have been part of the environment. The type of grass growing wild in that area gave off a similar odor and the grass seemed to be the source of the oil. Sanderson said that he couldn’t find the skid marks, and knew of no one who had photographed them.
Barker also interviewed Nunley, whose description of the craft disagreed with that of his grandfather though he did say the object seemed to stop and hover before falling to the hill. I wonder if the disparity came from the different perspectives of the witnesses. Sometimes the angles from which something is viewed seems to change the shape and the direction.
Snitowski didn’t tell his tale until two or three years after the fact. He then told it to an officer of the Flying Saucer Research Institute who published the account in the magazine. Looking at it from that point of view, that is, a tale told long after the national publicity that was provided for May and the others, there certainly is the hint that Snitowski was influenced by those articles. There is no proof he was, only the very real possibility.
Snitowski said that a foul odor began to seep into the car making the baby cry. Snitowski didn’t know what this odor was but suspected it might be a sulfur plant nearby burning waste. It was then that a bright light flashed overhead and both Snitowski and his wife were confused by it. He said later, that looking down, into the woods, he could see what he thought of as some kind of dimly lighted sphere.
His wife screamed, and Snitowski yelled, "Edith, for God’s sake. What’s the matter."
Snitowski reached the car, climbed in, and grabbed a kitchen knife that he had in the glove box. He forced his wife down, to the floor and begged her to silence the crying baby. He didn’t know what to do and said that the odor was now overpowering. But then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the object, the sphere, beginning to climb erratically into the sky. It stopped to hover several times, and eventually disappeared. Suddenly it swooped, climbed upward in a bright, dazzling light, and vanished. When he looked outside the car, the creature was gone.
If his report is true, and there is no way, today, to learn if it is, then it makes a nice corroboration for the Flatwoods case. The problem, however, and as outlined earlier, is that the Flatwoods case was national news the day after it happened. At that point, the story was contaminated because an investigator could never be sure that Snitowski, or anyone else who came forward with a report, hadn’t been primed by the story as published in the newspapers or even seen on television.
Years later, in the mid-1990s, Kathleen May Horner, was interviewed about the sighting. She told investigators that the two men that everyone thought were newspaper reporters were, in fact, government agents. She also remembered that a local reporter received a letter from some unidentified government agency that revealed the creature was some sort of rocket experiment that had gone wrong that day. There had been four such "rockets" and all of them fell back to earth.
There are few points of corroboration for this tale, even among those who were together that night. The descriptions of the craft in flight sound more like a bolide, that is, a very bright meteor. Newspapers from other communities in the region report on just such a meteor. P. M. Reese from the Maryland Academy of Sciences suggested the red fireball was relatively slow moving and 60 to 70 miles high.
And we know that meteors can seem to climb, though that is an optical illusion, that they can seem to hover briefly, and that they can seem to maneuver, again an optical illusion. The witness testimony here is not sufficient to reject meteor, especially when it is remembered that the object was seen over a large region, suggesting something that was very bright and very high. People looking up into the night sky are simply unable to judge height and speed with any degree of accuracy. A meteor of sufficient size and brightness was seen that night.
Jerry Clark reported that the witnesses stuck to their stories but that doesn’t mean what they saw was grounded in our shared reality. That they were truly frightened only suggests they were telling the truth, but not that they saw an extraterrestrial being.
This case seems to be the result of the bolide and the hysteria brought on UFO sightings that were headline news around the country including the impressive sightings from Washington, D.C. It seems that those who climbed the hill, believing they were going to find a landed flying saucer, talked themselves into the hysteria and when they saw something in a tree with eyes that glowed in the light of their flashlights, convinced themselves they had seen an alien creature.
But there is that quote attributed to me on one of the sites that promotes this case as extraterrestrial and fair or not, that influences my perspective. If they would manufacture this quote, what else has been manufactured and who is responsible. I have tried to communicate with them but I have heard nothing from them.