SUTTON, W.Va. — Folklore and scary stories are often passed down through generations, but one West Virginia county is creatively using those tales to promote tourism.
The Flatwoods Monster, commonly referred to as “Braxie,” has been a popular Braxton County tale since Sept. 12, 1952, when there was a supposed alien sighting in the hills of Flatwoods.
“What makes it particularly interesting is it was a group of a lot of boys, from the ages of like 10 to 17 or so, and two of the boys’ mothers,” said Andrew Smith, executive director of Braxton County Convention Visitors Bureau. “It was a kind of reputable group and an interesting group, which I think was one of things that kind of helped propel it into notoriety nationally at the time.”
With the national attention that the excitement quickly gained, Braxton County continues to use that fame as a method of tourism to the area.
Smith said the story of Braxie is what makes Braxton County so unique.
“We have it and nobody else does,” he said. “Just like Point Pleasant has with Mothman for the last 20 years or so, we’re more or less doing the same thing. If you want potential travelers to take note of your area as a possible destination, the first thing you’ve got to get them to do is stop and look and listen.”
Braxie has even gained some international attention, with frequent spottings in popular video games.
“I’m not sure why but it seems like Japanese video game designers particularly really grabbed ahold of our monster,” Smith said. “It’s been used for ‘bosses’ for games, which is the person you have to beat at the end of the game, for four of five different games and spanning a couple decades.”
The most famous video game appearance of Braxie’s has been in Zelda.
Of course, Braxie isn’t the only attraction in Braxton County, but simply a way to draw people in to all that the county has to offer.
“Of course we’re home to two great lakes — not Great Lakes with a capital ‘G’ but fantastic lakes — the Burnsville Lake and the Sutton Lake,” Smith said. “We have the Elk River Water Trail that starts at the Sutton Dam and goes all the way down to Charleston.”
Coupled with its central proximity and Interstate 79 running through the middle of the county, towns such as Sutton and Flatwoods are a great meeting spot for many state organizations. Several hotels and conference centers have popped up in the area as a result.
Those destinations will continue to be attractions for years to come, and area businesses gladly welcome those looking to explore Braxie’s story.
“I think they’re seeing the positivity that’s coming from it, and maybe what could have been thought as negativity that could’ve come from it just doesn’t come,” Smith said.