Whether you’re reading your kids a fairy tale or watching a scary movie, every creepy story has one thing in common: an eerie location. The top of a castle tower. A crumbling city. Or, commonly, shadowy, endless woods. There’s something especially unsettling about a dark patch in the wilderness, where anything could be lurking behind the trees.
Well, in 1952, some children found themselves in a horror film of their very own. Just as the sun was setting, they had a chilling encounter in thickets of tall trees that even the United States Air Force struggled to explain.
One afternoon, three boys, Tommy Hyer, Ed May, and his brother, Freddie, were playing together in the small town of Flatwoods, West Virginia. Their day, however, was about to take an unforgettable turn.
They were having so much fun that they lost track of time. Before long, the sun was setting behind the mountains; the boys knew their parents wouldn’t be happy if they stayed out too late.
The group decided they would take the quickest route home and promptly started walking. As the trio passed a local farm, however, something strange happened. Suddenly, the evening sky flashed red.
Streaking across the sky, a pulsating red light lit up the clouds, appearing to crash into the ground somewhere beyond the farm. None of the boys were quite sure that they saw, but they knew it wasn’t good.
They sprinted home and explained what had happened by the farm. Mrs. May agreed to go with her boys to investigate the sight; a few other kids and one dog decided to tag along, too.
The posse returned to the woods and started combing through the darkness. At first, it seemed their search was in vain. But then, screams pierced the night. The boys had found something.
Succumbing to the terror of the moment, “one of the boys peed his pants,” said John Gibson, a local teenager who knew the group that went into woods. After some time searching, something caught their attention.
“A National Guard member, [teenager] Gene Lemon, was leading the group,” a local newspaper reported. “He saw what appeared to be a pair of bright eyes in a tree.” They were accompanied by a strange, metallic odor.
He said the eyes belonged to something 10-feet tall, resembling a distorted human. It reportedly had a red body, claws, and a glowing face. Whatever the boys saw, it was clearly something unearthly.
Before long, news of the mysterious “Flatwoods monster” had spread throughout the country. Some of the witnesses even took a trip up to New York City to discuss their sightings on CBS.