Sunday, September 09, 2018

My Hoax! ...Said The Grocery Clerk

The picture in question...


"My Hoax!" ...Said The Grocery Clerk
by Alfred Lehmberg


(Dedicated to Scott Santa, recovering from back surgery... one of the good guys and deserving a moment's thought.)



The 1952 Flatwoods Monster story was a hoax? That's the charge. 

On the 12th of September, the 66th anniversary of the stunning incident will arrive, but there remain those denying natterers and scurvy mumblers casting aspersion on the nearly seven decades of substantive history regarding the strange affair, and who would blithely maintain that the event had never occurred at all, still. How can we facilitate such butt-ugly cowardice?


Case in point: the late Bill Steorts, once of Sutton in West Virginia and one of the alleged Flatwoods "hoax" accomplices, "confessed" it all in 1977 in a newspaper article! This "confession" would be used to this day by those aforementioned natterers and mumblers—a device, a contrivance... somewhere for them to point away from their own cowardly inadequacies and intellectual failures—to Defame, Detract, and Deny what won't leap into a sterile test tube for a pompous science reductionist... the glad wearer of his largely empty triple "D" codpiece and herald of a baldly obtuse and too reflexively applied Occam:

"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.

Wow! This was a first for me. I missed that in Feschino's book on the Flatwoods affair, and this is a vapid and toothless debunkery to be sure, as they will often be... ...but one so authoritatively written, reader! Not.

See, having witnessed just 30 minutes of a longer video interview showing the above implicated Stewart recounting an entirely different tale??? Well, one would never have thought that our A. Lee, a reported hard-nosed portrait of journalistic seriousness and a no-nonsense newsman of competent reputation, would be capable of such bald and unprofessional duplicity, eh? Yes, I'm reminded of Steorts' weak pea bouncing unnoticed from the implacable hide of Lee's charging rhino. 


Asa Lee Stewart with reportage of the time


To the contrary, reader. Here was an on-site and take-charge kind of man to have the involved key persons by their stacking swivels and at parade rest... a genuine newsperson getting a story... truth though heaven falls

Those poor Flatwoods people got a third-degree interrogation in a Nation still fresh from the paranoia of WWII and the burgeoning Cold War. Citizens didn't fool around so much with authority in those days, forgetting that authority didn't ask for it as much as is current... we won't digress.

Back to Stewart, moreover, he had some authority of Law enforcement, remember. They sent him out there in an official capacity!

Verily, when one puts the preceding together with the usual mistake of thinking that the Flatwoods Affair is a singular event, standing in and of itself, where "hillbilly kids get scared by a hoot owl," ...the mud of misunderstanding is raised further still! Though this would be mud raised in the tradition of the famous "Rendlesham," England UFO flap, then neatly explained by a "flaming manure spreader," wait... "prankster with automobile hazard lights"... wait... "a flying lighthouse"... wait! ...See how easy it is to raise the, even ludicrous, mud, reader? Flatwoods had its like...


  • Roc-sized barn owls. [what!?] 
  • Hallucinogenic ground gasses. [never before, not since!]
  • Hillbillies "skeered" 'o 'haints and forest nixies! [Ivan T. Sanderson was emphatic that this was not so!]
  • Misleading, misled, or mentally ill, eh? [...'cause anything else is the slippery slope to an anxious admission that much of what an accusing gaslighter "knows," is likely wrong!]
One comes to find that the Flatwoods incident was not a singular event standing alone, reader. It's the shocking reality that the September 12th, 1952 "Flatwoods Incident" is actually the end of a series of well-documented events initiated in the so-called Summer Of Saucers 1952, the biggest UFO flap in US history. 

Here was a mid-century summer accessorized by UFOs brazenly flying into prohibited airspace, countered by well-publicized orders to the military to shoot those UFOs down, and conjectured UFOs forced down or perhaps, like our American fighter craft, destroyed utterly or disappearing entirely! There are voluminous records... detailed files. This writer says true.

Again, one, threatening UFO incursions into prohibited airspace areas as early as May, then two, subsequent, forget well-documented orders issued to the military to "Shoot UFOs Down"! This is followed at last by, three, the appearance at Flatwoods in September of what was described at the time (by witnesses and the aforementioned Ivan T. Sanderson, a credible investigator early on the scene), as a crafted mechanism in the unenglishable form of a... 10 foot red and green hovering "monster," ...not a big hooded scary-fairy in a sweet-sixteen skirt!  This is busier stuff!


More apt representation... by Frank Feschino.


Was this then a prank by adult delinquent Steorts? First, ruining the peace of mind (physically and emotionally to some extent) of all the principals. Second, causing the deployment of a battalion-sized unit of the military to the area (outfitted from bazookas to pontoon boats and led by a video-interviewed Colonel Dale Leavitt), also looking for alleged "downed aircraft," (cue a justified spooky music). At last, a final third, the degradation of a compelling Flatwoods West Virginia story abundantly well documented by Project Bluebook records, famed researchers, named newspapers, and blameless eyewitnesses, still? To what end? What was served? Not an aggregate humanity is this writer's best guess.


Commander of Military deployed to Flatwoods, WV

"[Steorts'] glove don't fit [and] we must acquit." Such is abundantly so.

No... "Flaming Manure spreaders" or "Credulous Hillbillies" (and other merry pranksters!) have to fit all the reasonable evidence to satisfy Occam... even where they are the simplest model. That's the way it's supposed to work for everybody.

Still, I'd pass this on to Feschino whose well over 2-decade research effort, I'm sure, was to be devastated by this too-little-too-late correction to a fulsome record he's exhaustively ferreted out over the years. Maybe he would have a comment or maybe he'd hang up his foil beany.

Yeah... as it turned out? Feschino was able to keep his foil hat and make comment.

He directed me to pages 27 and 28 of his (Updated and Revised) Flatwoods Monster book (above). Here, A. Lee Stewart, Jr. reports to Feschino that there have been numerous such articles as Steorts' bland toxicity over the years: baseless attempts of unsupportable debunkery employed to tarnish a story only ever strengthened over time in official documents and investigation by the intrepid likes of, forgetting Feschino who seems able to string it all together like the upcoming were never quite able to do: Keyhoe, Sanderson, and West Virginia's own Gray Barker! He'd just never seen them in one place before and Feschino had copies of all of those contrarily "naysaying" articles in a big 3 ring binder. Daunting.

A. Lee Stewart goes on at some length in Feschino's over 60 minutes of video interview highlighting a very staid and stoic Mr. Stewart professionally recounting the bizarre tale like he was Joe Friday. Additionally, he comes decidedly forward in Feschino's books to address the "facts" of fanciful faux-reportage such as has been provided by Steorts' ilk. Off camera, Feschino reports that Mr. Stewart specifically branded the antagonist Steorts in the cited article as a "god-damned liar."

By account, Stewart's only association with the antagonist, according to an angry A. Lee, was stopping by Steorts' father's store in Flatwoods to ask where Mrs. May lived... no gas! He then used Steorts, being escorted by same to May's property a stone's throw away, and then going up the monster's hill that initial time.* That, and a ride home, was the total extent of their "association." They were not "driving back" from anywhere! Steorts had been picked up in Flatwoods.

Why would the antagonist lie? I don't know, that would be speculation... though many were I offer, encouraged by "officiality," and from the start... lying outright facilitating the fatuous debunker who would later be grasping at these desperate and ludicrous straws. There's your speculation.



No, the proverbial serving "fork" does seem called for. A demonstrated fraud, Steorts is done. The fat lady has sung and left the building.



See, remaining, Flatwoods may be the last act in an undeclared and secret air-war prosecuted during the biggest US UFO flap ever, a war with strict orders to shoot those UFOs down. "There were other and more lurid duels of death..." Edward Ruppelt, a Blue Book chief, reminds us from his book. What was going on?



Feschino expanded on a background. He would inform that the name of the Sutton newspaper co-owner and photojournalist is actually: A. Lee Stewart, Jr. 



Stewart's 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.



In 1996 Feschino stayed at Stewart's house for nearly four days. Yes, he did show Stewart the 3-ring binder with the compiled contrary newspaper articles. In that binder was the newspaper article containing the Steorts hoax story where Steorts fraudulently claimed that they'd concocted the Flatwoods tale, together.

On that first morning after arriving at Lee's house, Feschino awoke, walked into the living room, and found Stewart reading that self-same research binder in his big recliner chair. Frank approached him affably and remarked about the incident in question and the collection of other newspaper articles in the binder. 
Contained in that binder, remember, was the article with Steort's interview claiming the hoax and Stewart as a shiftless charlatan. Tense. 

Feschino writes in his book, "As I looked at Lee, he raised his head, shaking it in sad disgust with regard to how the incident had been portrayed through the years. Moreover, he did not like the fact that he'd been grossly misquoted and badly portrayed, himself, not just by Steorts, but by fellow reporters, writers, and even some of the Flatwoods locals." One portion of their conversation was edited from Feschino's book manuscript: the segment when he asked Stewart about Bill Steorts' claim that they had both hoaxed the story. 

Feschino told me that Stewart shouted, call them incensed expletives in a huge agitation! "He [Steorts] is a God-damn liar," he'd exhorted among other more colorful criticisms. 

Frank explained, "Stewart was hugely pissed off and upset about that article where Steorts reported it was a hoax." Yes, Reader, Lee knew that it was not, as had been proffered in the perennial and ever-present misinformation, a hoax. Frank said to me, "I will never forget that look of revulsion on his face!"

This is the reason 
Stewart opened up his video interview saying, "...A lot of material that he [Feschino] 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." You can hear him for yourself.



On page 28, 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."



See, at about 9:00 PM that night Stewart got a call at his newspaper office in Sutton from the WV State Police (WVSP). Trooper Corporal Tribett asked Lee to go to the May house in Flatwoods and investigate... because a "Monster" was seen nearby on a farm!



The local Sheriff was unable to respond to the call (an "odd" story in itself!) and called the WVSP. These were also unable to respond... another peculiar tale... briefly all the police were officially out investigating sightings and downed aircraft reports! True! 



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.


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 in. Stewart did not know the exact location of the May house so he stopped by the market to get directions. Bill Steorts got in Stewart's car and they left the store.

Stewart stated, "He [Steorts] 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 and traumatized kids, Ed and Freddie May among others... and a vomiting Gene Lemon,  after Ms. May, all event principals. 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 with the witnesses and told them that he would come back in the morning... with a tape recorder. He would do just that. 

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." Less than a week later he would be on National TV describing the event with May and Lemon.

Additionally, in the misleading Steorts article, Steorts stated the following lie about Stewart and himself as noted in red above, "We drew the artist's picture of the monster." That's preposterous!

No, once again Bill Steorts got caught with his pants decidedly ankle-puddled.  It has been well-known for decades that the picture of the monster was drawn by a sketch artist in the TV studio of "We The People" in New York on September 19, 1952. Lying makes one a liar, reader.

Additionally, there is another specious lie and inconsistency in Steorts' fabricated story. He stated, "...From there it just mushroomed, Kathleen May and her children went to New York on a TV show.

Mrs. May's children did not go to New York with her for the TV show. Her two children, Freddie and Edison, stayed home in Flatwoods. Mrs. May was accompanied to New York by eyewitness Eugene Lemon and reporter A. Lee Stewart, Jr. All three of them were interviewed by the very popular "We The People" host, Daniel Seymour. 





At the time of Steorts' interview in 1977, no one, including him, knew the entire "Flatwoods Monster" story. Now, today, thanks to Mr. Feschino, we have hard facts and know magnitudes more about the case...

...You know...


Someone should landmark all this—establish a museum, perhaps. Even a shrine might not be too out of line, given the times and that forgetting's a crime. 

Suggested are vast horizons beyond even the limits of shadows lit by our meager, at this point sputtering, fire, reader. These horizons speak to the need of memorializing the consequent. Did a downed ET aviator at Flatwoods signify a largely unheralded air war with ET? That's what glows in the forest, reader.  

Grandad's Store would be historic and apt! It was lit up by the overflying fireball, after all. Permissions secured, one can easily walk to the environs where the event took place. 

This writer jests. The understanding is that one John Clise of Flatwoods is making an initiative to start a museum similar to that described above. I offer that one gives it all support. It's consequent, even highly strange, and consequence deserves memorialization. Moreover, the reader can buy the book there! [g].

"Truth's gonna come out sometime!" The reader can be in at the ground floor. Take it in, in its nascent state, and watch it grow over the years! Dare I say help it grow! Smiling broadly, and observing that on the other side of our fear are infinite horizons of instruction and reward upon graduation from our child's crib... eternity and grace if we aspire to it... this writer will say no more.

Closing, Flatwoods was NOT a hoax, reader, as our grocery clerk wanted us to believe, inexplicably... No, this was a real occurrence, a felt presence in a stark existential. 

Remains, what we can make from it... if we've the courage and imagination to reject our superstition and misinformed denial... to embrace a 21st Century alive with instructive threats and beneficent wonders... and not retreat from same in cowardice. That seems key.

Read on.



*See, Steorts knew what the truth was. Why'd he fudge?

1 comments:

regan lee said...

Excellent work Alfred! linked to it. . .