Thursday, July 27, 2017

Barker and Bender on the Case-Part One

On Friday, September 19, 1952, a week after the sighting of the Flatwoods Monster, a twenty-seven-year-old movie theater booker left his office in Clarksburg, West Virginia, for Flatwoods with a journalistic assignment in hand. It was a short trip for him, one he had made many times before, for in heading out for Braxton County, Gray Barker was going home.

Barker arrived in Flatwoods that evening but not too late to begin asking questions and interviewing witnesses to the sighting. He would have to make his investigations quick, though. Having previously sent a query by telegram to Fate magazine, Barker had received a rapid reply: 3,000 words, three or four "pics," and a rigorous, fact-based investigation for his story. Deadline: Monday.

As an admitted "frustrated writer," Gray Barker couldn't have asked for a better turn of events. A big, national news story had come right out of his native county, located just down the road from his office. He knew the country and the people. He had the weekend in which to work. And he had a perfect market in Fate, a magazine founded in 1948 by Raymond A. Palmer and Curtis B. Fuller for the expressed purpose of publishing stories of this kind.

As it turns out, Gray Barker wasn't the only investigator in Flatwoods that weekend. Ivan T. Sanderson, well known as an author, explorer, zoologist, and television personality, was also on the trail of the Flatwoods Monster. At the time, he was less renowned as an investigator of strange events, but like Gray Barker, Ivan T. Sanderson would make a name for himself as one of the giants of Forteana of the 1950s and beyond.

Barker and Sanderson ran into each other in Flatwoods and even carried out part of their investigations together in that last weekend of the summer of 1952. Gray Barker met his deadline. His article, entitled "The Monster and the Saucer," was published in Fate in January 1953. Sanderson got a story out of it, too. The earliest version I have found is "Scientist Questions Observers of West Virginia 'Saucer'," located on the front page of the Baltimore Sun for Tuesday, September 23, 1952. So Gray Barker had his start. He also had an opening with another investigator out of Bridgeport, Connecticut. And then the real strangeness began.

To be continued . . . 

Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

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