Thursday, March 31, 2011

Frank Feschino and the Flatwoods Monster

Let’s talk about the Flatwoods Monster one more time. This is a case, because of its high strangeness, that is easy to dismiss. A flying saucer landing on a hill with some kind of floating creature coming from it. One that might have had glowing eyes or one that might have "shot" rays from its eyes. Something that might have left landing traces that no one bothered to document at the time. And one in which the craft and creature disappeared before the corroborating witnesses could get there to take a look around.

And one that I found difficult to believe because one of the researchers, Frank Feschino, had posted on a web site a quote attributed to me about his book claiming that the Air Force had engaged in combat with the flying saucers after an order had been given to "Shoot Them Down."

What have we learned in the last week.

The webmaster, Alfred Lehmberg, came forward and said that Feschino had nothing to do with that mistake. Lemberg said that he had taken the quote from a closed discussion group and attributed it to me because I had started the specific thread. Someone else, posting a comment to that thread had made the comment and Lehmberg didn’t pay close attention to the attribution. An honest mistake, he said.

I can live with that. People make mistakes in attribution.

(Richard Dolan, in his massive UFOs and the National Security State makes something of an error in attribution. In writing about the testimony of Barbara Dugger, he credits, in a footnote, Stan Friedman and his book. If you follow that to Friedman’s book, you find the interview attributed to me. Don Schmitt and I had conducted it and provided a copy of the video tape to the Fund for UFO Research. Friedman, and Don Berliner used the tape as a source in their book. So, the attribution was essentially correct, but the original source of the interview had not been made clear. But I digress...)

What this also means is that Feschino had nothing to do with the misidentified quote.

What it also means that one of the reasons to reject the information in his books has been eliminated. You might find his work sloppy or that he leapt to conclusions, but you can’t say he was responsible for the misidentified quote. That belongs to Lehmberg and he has taken complete ownership of it.

Where does that leave me on the question of the Flatwoods Monster. Well, in this world, in which it would be nice to be invited to speak at all these conventions, where it would be nice to have others buying the books that I write, I find it difficult to say something or embrace something in which I have doubts. If I embraced everything... abductions, cattle mutilations, crop circles, every strange and bizarre UFO story... then I would find myself on lots of convention programs. But I just can’t do that.

I have to believe what I say about the topic and with the Flatwoods Monster, I have difficulty embracing the tale as told. It seems that the bolide explanation for the sighting is reasonable. It seems that the hysteria of the witnesses contributed to their sighting. It seems that, by September, 1952, with the newspapers filled with stories of flying saucers, reasonable to believe that the idea of alien visitation wasn’t all that far from the minds of the witnesses. It all seems a reasonable explanation to me.

But Frank Feschino has found some interesting information. I do not know why an officer in the National Guard would talk about deploying soldiers into the area. Deployment of National Guard forces is strictly controlled, if for no other reason than purposes of pay. An officer can’t order his soldiers into the field unless there is imminent loss of life and then he better have some very persuasive evidence.

So, I suppose as some say, this would be in my gray basket (though I dislike that term) but it would be a very light gray. I don’t believe there is much of substance here, but it never hurts to take a closer look. Sometimes I find that I have been mistaken... but only sometimes.


Alfred Lehmberg said...

Wow... all things considered, no one better ever say a disconsolate thing about K. Randle in _my_ presence! Posted!

By the way, Sir, the spelling is "Feschino," Frank C. Feschino Jr.

Closing, thank you for accepting my apology, Dr. Randle.

starman said...

I don't know about a bolide. What caused the bright recurring flare which attracted witnesses? Was there evidence of a fire? A glowing meteorite wouldn't flare up, then fade and brighten again. Logically it should just get progressively dimmer as it cooled.
Granted, there was a saucer flap that summer. But where did witnesses get the idea of a creature with a head like the ace of spades? There weren't many "ordinary" humanoid reports back then, let alone something like that.

Lance said...

If anyone knows....

Did Frank Feschino find the supposed government letter about rockets, etc that was allegedly sent to a newspaper reporter. What was the reporter's name?



Frank Stalter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
starman said...

Another thing: before witnesses saw anything, a dog with them appeared frightened and went back. What was it scared of, meteorite fragments or nothing at all?

KRandle said...

Gentlemen -

The bolide did not land on the hill. It flashed over head and impacted miles from Flatwoods.

There were reports of a foul odor on the hill and the dog might have been reacting to that, their olfactory capabilies being far superior to ours.

starman said...

If the bolide didn't land on the hill, what was causing the bright orange light which attracted witnesses to the hill and why it did go through cycles of dimming and brightening?

starman said...

Also, what was causing the foul odor if there was nothing unusual there? Sanderson suggested a local natural odor, but why would that scare the dog? Wasn't it used to it?

DEII 99 said...

The Flatwoods Monster story was a hoax. Bill Steorts, once of Sutton and one of the accomplices, confessed in 1977. "That evening in 1952, A. Lee Stewart and I went down to Heaters in Braxton County. On our way back to Sutton, we ran out of gas. We stopped at my father's store and gas station for gas. We noticed a disturbance across the road and went to investigate. There were small children all stirred up. Having a saw-off 12-gauge in the car, we went on the hill to see what was going on. The kids had been playing in the pasture field and some of Bailey's cows were in a nearby woods. Seeing that nothing had happened, we went on to Sutton."
"Being slightly intoxicated, we fabricated the story of the Braxton county monster. We called the Gazette from the Braxton Democrat office. (Stewart's dad owned that paper at the time.) The skid marks were made by Bailey's old Ford Tractor spinning its wheels - the grease was raked from under the tractor by tall grass. We drew the artist's picture of the monster."
"From there it just mushroomed, Kathleen May and her children went to New York on a TV show. Scientists from all over came to investigate. We sat back and laughed. My father knew what we boys were doing but his store was doing a booming business from the tourist trade…"

Gwin, Adrian "Was 'Monster' a Hoax - Are UFOS for Real? Hmmmm, A possibility" Charleston West Virginia Daily Mail December 7, 1977.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

This is a first for me and so authoritatively written! Having witnessed 30 minutes of video showing Stewart telling an entirely different tale one would _never_ have thought that Stewart, a reported portrait of journalistic seriousness and a no-nonsense news man, would be capable of such _bald_ duplicity, eh?

Put the preceding together with the usual mistake of thinking the Flatwoods Affair a singular event standing in and of itself where "hillbilly kids get scared by a barn owl," and the misunderstood mud is raised further still. Though, mud raised in the tradition of a "Rendalsham" explained by a flaming manure spreader, wait... prankster with hazard lights... wait... a flying lighthouse... wait! ...See how easy it is to raise the mud?

Flatwoods was not a singular event standing alone. September 12th 1952 Flatoods is the end of a series of well documented events initiated by The Summer Of Saucers 1952, the biggest UFO flap in US history. This was followed by subsequent Shoot Them Down orders issued to the military and then the appearance at Flatwoods in September of what was described at the time as a mechanism (not a big hooded fairy in a sweet sixteen skirt) in the form of a 10 foot red and green hovering monster.

Was this a prank by delinquents that's ruined the lives (physically and emotionally) of all the principals, caused a battalion sized unit of the military to be deployed to the area looking for alleged downed aircraft, and is well documented by Bluebook records and Named Newspapers?

No... "Flaming Manure spreaders" and merry pranksters have to fit _all_ the evidence to satisfy Occam... even where they _are_ the simplest model.

Still, I'll pass this on to Feschino whose research effort, I'm sure, will be devastated by this too-little-too-late correction to a record he's ferreted out in 15 years. Maybe he has a comment or maybe he'll hang up his foil beany. I'll keep you posted.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

OK... looks like Feschino is going to keep his foil beanie.

He directed me to page 172 in his Shoot Them Down where A. Lee Bailey reports to Feschino, later, that there have been numerous such articles as is cited over the years: baseless attempts to tarnish a story only ever strengthened by official documents and investigation by the likes of, forgetting Feschino who seems able to string it all together like the forthcoming were never quite able to do: Keyhoe, Sanderson, and the early Barker. Feschino has copies of all of the negative articles in a big 3 ring binder.

Moreover, A. Lee Bailey goes on at some length in Feschino's _60_ minutes of video of Bailey that Bailey is coming forward in Feschino's book to address fanciful reportage such as has been provided. Off camera Feschino reports that Bailey branded the antagonist in the cited article as a "god-damned liar." Bailey's _only_ association with the antagonist according to an angry Bailey, was stopping by a store in Flatwoods to ask where Mrs. May lived... and then being escorted to May's property a stone's throw away. That was the total extent of their association.

Why would the antagonist lie? I don't know, that would be speculation... though many, encouraged by officiality, were, and from the start...

A fork does seem called for.

Flatwoods may be the last act in an undeclared and secret air-war prosecuted during the biggest US UFO flap ever with strict orders to shoot tose UFOs down.

"There were other and more lurid duels of death..." -- Edward Ruppelt from his book.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

Frank Feschino corrects errors I made and expands on the explanation:

"Hi Alfred, I just read your follow up response but a couple of things to check out that are not right.

The name of the Sutton newspaper photojournalist is actually:

"A. Lee Stewart, Jr."

His full name was "Asa Lee Stewart, Jr." He went by his middle name, "Lee." Lee was co-owner of the "Braxton Democrat" with his father.

The introduction of his interview actually begins on page 127 NOT page 172.

In 1996 I stayed at Stewarts house for nearly four days. Yes, I did show Stewart the 3-ring binder with the newspaper articles that I had compiled. In that binder was the newspaper article containing the Bill Steorts' hoax story where Steorts claimed that they both had concocted the Flatwoods story.

When I asked Lee about Steorts' claim that they both hoaxed the story he said, "He is a God damn liar." Stewart was really ticked off and upset about that article because he knew that it was not a hoax.

This is why Stewart opened up his interview and said, "A lot of material that he [Frank} has picked up and has given me and we have gone over this, is NOT true."

Lee continued, "A lot of tongue in cheek, a lot of disclaimer material that has no bearing whatsoever on what actually happened at that particular time."

On page 128, Stewart states, "On the road out to Flatwoods, I passed Steorts' store and Bill Steorts was working at the store with his father ... I picked him up."

At about 9:00 PM that night, Lee had received a call at his newspaper office in Sutton from the WV State Police. Trooper Corporal Tribett asked Lee to go to the May house in Flatwoods because a "Monster" was seen nearby on a farm.

The Sheriff was unable to respond to the call and called the WVSP, who were also unable to respond. Stewart, a photojournalist, had worked at crime scenes and accident sites with the WVSP. He had taken countless photos and covered hundreds of news stories with the police so he _knew_ them.


Alfred Lehmberg said...


Stewart left the Braxton Democrat in Sutton and drove to Flatwoods. Steorts General store was in Upper Flatwoods and just across the town line when driving into town. Stewart did not know the exact location of
the May house so he stopped by the store to get directions. Bill Steorts got in Stewart's car and they left the store.

Stewart stated, "He [Bill] directed me to the house and IN FACT, was there when I talked to the people. He also went up on top of the mountain with me that night."

Yes, Bill Steorts was actually at the May house and saw the hysterical group, which included seeing a bunch of sick kids and a vomiting Gene Lemon. Stewart said, "It was sheer turmoil."

Yes, Bill Steorts was also a part of the armed posse that went up onto the mountain that night to "hunt" for the so-called "Monster."

Stewart said, "So we left, the boys [Lemon and Nunley], Bill Steorts and I. We were armed. We had a twelve gauge automatic shotgun and a couple of handguns. Two or three other people who lived right around there came up and went with us. they were also armed."

(For the record, Mrs. May's father, "Joseph Lemon," was actually part of the armed group!)

When the two boys directed the armed posse to the tree area of the encounter on the farm... they all smelled the horrendous sulfur odor that made the witnesses sick. The group also saw the two large tracks in the nearby pasture when they shined their flashlights and electric lantern around.

Stewart remarked, "We just spotlighted around because not one of us was inclined to hunt for something we didn't know what it was in the dark. We decided we would go back to the Mays."

At the house, Lee talked to the witnesses and told them that he would come back in the morning. with a tape recorder. Stewart states, " I left the May residence between 10:30 and 11:00 and returned to Sutton. I took Bill Steorts home at that time."

At the time of Steorts' interview in 1977, no one, including him, knew the entire "Flatwoods Monster"story. Now, today, we many have facts and know a lot more about the case...This was NOT a hoax, as the grocery clerk wanted us to believe... this was a real occurrence."