Nov 03, 2011 I Nick Redfern

A Monster Hoax?

There can be few very people within the realms of Ufology and Cryptozoology that have never heard of the so-called Flatwoods Monster, or Braxton County Monster, of 1952 - a bizarre, giant beast that some researchers view as being definitively extraterrestrial in nature, and others perceive as having origins of a paranormal nature. But there's a third possibility, too, to explain the diabolical entity that terrorized the good folk of Braxton County all those years ago...

Formerly-classified data now in the public domain may well have some direct and significant bearing upon what was seen at Flatwoods. That data is contained in an April 14, 1950 RAND publication titled The Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare, written by one Jean M. Hungerford, for the top secret attention of the U.S. Air Force.

The 37-page document is a truly fascinating one, and delves into some very strange areas. But, what really caught my eye was a section of the document that quoted from a book titled Magic: Top Secret. It was written, in 1949, by an eccentric character with the curious name of Jasper Maskelyne, who, during the Second World War, was up his absolute neck in new, novel and bizarre ways to fool the hordes of Adolf Hitler.

Hungerford quoted the following from Maskelyne in her report, which concerns a truly alternative psychological warfare operation that was initiated during the hostilities with the Nazis:

“Our men...were able to use illusions of an amusing nature in the Italian mountains, especially when operating in small groups as advance patrols scouting out the way for our general moves forward. In one area, in particular, they used a device which was little more than a gigantic scarecrow, about twelve feet high, and able to stagger forward under its own power and emit frightful flashes and bangs. This thing scared several Italian Sicilian villages appearing in the dawn thumping its deafening way down their streets with great electric blue sparks jumping from it; and the inhabitants, who were mostly illiterate peasants, simply took to their heels for the next village, swearing that the Devil was marching ahead of the invading English.”

Hungerford continued to quote from Maskelyne’s book in her report for RAND:

"Like all tales spread among uneducated folk (and helped, no doubt, by our agents), this story assumed almost unimaginable proportions. Villages on the route of our advance began to refuse sullenly to help the retreating Germans, and to take sabotage against them; and then, instead of waiting for our troops to arrive with food and congratulations of their help, the poor people fled, thus congesting the roads along which German motorized transport was struggling to retire. The German tankmen sometimes cut through the refugees and this inflamed feeling still more, and what began almost as a joke was soon a sharp weapon in our hands which punished the Germans severely, if indirectly, for several critical weeks."

There are a number of issues worth noting here. First, the height of the Flatwoods Monster and the British Army’s devilish scarecrow were the same: 12-feet. In addition, the cover of Frank Feschino's lengthy book on the matter (which makes for essential reading) - The Braxton County Monster - shows the Flatwoods Monster emitting powerful lights. In similar fashion, the 12-foot-tall scarecrow in Italy gave off “frightful flashes and bangs” and had “great electric blue sparks jumping from it.”

Then, there was the fact that the RAND report that specifically refers to this Italian escapade – and which Jasper Maskelyne described in his Magic: Top Secret book - was prepared for psychological warfare planners in the U.S. Air Force. And, in his book on the beast of Flatwoods, Feschino notes that the Air Force took careful interest in the Flatwoods affair, and what was being reported on the affair by the media.

The RAND report was submitted to the Air Force in April 1950, and Flatwoods occurred in September 1952. Is it possible that in this two-year period, U.S. Air Force psychological-warfare planners created their very own - albeit updated and modified - version of the British Army’s 12-foot-tall flashing monster to try and determine what its reaction might be when unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace?

There are also the settings, too: the British Army's operation was focused on little, isolated villages in Italy. And Flatwoods is a small, rural town in Braxton County, West Virginia that, even as late as 2000, had a population of less than 350.

Those who suspect the Flatwoods Monster was some form of cryptozoological creature, Fortean entity, or alien being, may well scoff at such speculations and musings. However, when we can say for sure that the British Army was using 12-foot-tall, illuminated, scarecrow-style creatures for psychological-warfare reasons in the Second World War, is it really a stretch to think that the USAF might have tried something very similar in 1952, with their very own 12-foot-tall freakish monster?

Nick Redfern
Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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