The dark entities of Appalachia

Paranormal

New film investigates the Mothman, Flatwoods Monster, other shady characters, and UFOs that are often seen in the hills of West Virginia

MYSTERY WIRE — The hills and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains are steeped in dark legends and strange encounters. Few places in the world have generated more weird stories than the hills and hollows of West Virginia.

A newly released film tries to document the intersection of legend and fact.

To some, West Virginia is the capital of the paranormal. The state is the birthplace of several deeply entrenched entities and legends, including the famed Mothman, an equally bizarre creature known as the Flatwoods Monster, and encounters with the eerie, inexplicable men in black.

Filmmaker Seth Breedlove and his company Small Town Monsters have explored the backwoods of coal country for six film projects, including the latest, “On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky”, which looks at possible intersections of things seen in the sky and beings seen on the ground.

“It is a home to some really weird stuff,” Breedlove said while defending the integrity of his witnesses. “When you get back into the backwoods of that state, and you talk to people that live there, a lot of those people have encountered things that they are not comfortable discussing with out of towners, unless they feel like you’re someone who isn’t going to make a mockery of their story. And I think some of that comes from the fact that so many people have turned it into kind of a joke that it’s, you know, too much moonshine or whatever.”

Paranormal investigator Shannon LeGro of Las Vegas is the main voice in Breedlove’s latest film. They highlight previously unreported UFO cases, creature sightings, and how they might fit together.

The documentary “On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky” can be watched on at least the following streaming platforms:


Below you can read the transcript of the conversation between George Knapp and Seth Breedlove.

George Knapp 
Seth Breedlove, great to talk to you again. You know, it occurs to me you’ve spent so much time in West Virginia on various film projects that if Joe Manchin ever steps down from the Senate, you know enough people in every town in every little burgh and hollow in the state that you could run for his job.

Seth Breedlove  
Yeah, we’re based in Ohio, but we filmed in West Virginia far more than I’ve ever shot in Ohio. We’ve now done like six productions in the state of West Virginia.

George Knapp 
Well, I mean, it’s understandable. I mean, there’s a reason why you concentrate so much there. There’s so much material I mean, so much of it is dark. I mean dark as the coal mines that dot the state, dark mountains, dark valleys, dark hollows, and abandoned mines and cave systems. And it’s the kind of place that would just naturally generate strange stories.

Seth Breedlove   
Yeah, and well, I think it’s baked into the culture of the area too. I mean, that’s why we made Mothman Legacy was to really dig into that almost ancient history that exists there. A lot of it tied to unusual, bizarre stories, but definitely when you get into those hills and hollers, there’s something about those places that invites you to feel a sense of something being out of place there. I mean, it’s my favorite state to visit. But at night, it is one of the creepier places I’ve been, especially in those back roads and those hills and hollers.

George Knapp   
I can hear a smart aleck saying, well, it’s just country folk, country bumpkins. They’re rubes. They’re subject to legends and stories and ghost tales and things of that sort. Not sophisticated. What do you say to that?

Seth Breedlove   
Yeah, it’s funny. As soon as the reviews for the movie started coming in, within like the first three with multiple mentions of like moonshine and, you know, the stills in the backwoods and all that kind of stuff. That’s the thing you hear about the most. Meth comes up a lot. Whenever I read that stuff, I assume this is someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in West Virginia, the people that I know from West Virginia, you know, tend to be very thoughtful, intelligent people. Some of those, you know, the small towns that we’ve been through, are home to some of the friendliest and most intelligent people you’ll meet. It’s not what you pop culture has led us to believe at all and you know, someday I want to live there. Honestly, it’s a great place. And the people are not surprisingly intelligent. It’s only surprising if you’re going off of what you’ve seen from Hollywood or whatever. But I will say it is a home to some really weird stuff. And when you get back into the backwoods of that state, and you talk to people that live there, a lot of those people have encountered things that they are not comfortable discussing with out of towners, unless they feel like you’re someone who isn’t going to make a mockery of their story. And I think some of that comes from the fact that so many people have turned it into kind of a joke that it’s, you know, too much moonshine or whatever.

George Knapp 
Well, your latest film “On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky” starts with a whopper of a UFO story. This red diamond, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a UFO described like that, but tell us the story and why it looked like this thing was siphoning power off these power lines.

Seth Breedlove   
Yeah, well, it’s funny you’d say that. The only thing I thought of as soon as we were standing there, he’s telling us the story of this man Kenneth. The first thing that came to my mind was the Cash-Landrum UFO because that also had that kind of like diamond shape but it is a different sort of description. So Kenneth, as a young boy lived on the outskirts of Clarksburg you know, country road kind of middle of nowhere coal mine area, huge coal mine on the other side of the hill from his house. And then also these huge power lines that ran right near his house as well. And over the course of one week, during I believe, the very early 1980s. He began noticing this craft in the sky outside his house, and actually the first time it appeared, most of his family saw it. They were actually eating dinner, they came outside. A number of them saw it. Unfortunately, this had to be cut from the movie, but there was a neighbor that actually fired a shot at the thing. And that was cut from the movie because it led into this whole side story that I really would love to get into at some point. But basically once, once the shots were fired something fell off the object and then took off into the woods. And still to this day, they supposedly see these round, floating, sort of orbs moving through the woods around the area, which again is not in the movie. So that’s a cool little side story. But the whole thing kind of culminated in an event where he went into the woods one evening and encountered what what he thought was a man in a hazmat suit, in the woods behind the house, right around the area where the object was seen, where the craft was seen, he did feel like this craft was leeching energy off the power lines, because it was always hovering right above those lines. And on multiple occasions, he saw sparks shooting off the line. So it’s a very unusual story. The best thing about that story to me anyway, and there’s a number of the stories that are like this in the film, but that story had never been told. publicly. So our researcher, Heather had found that story, through reading through some old books and managed to track him down and he was willing to talk about it. 

George Knapp   
He saw the UFO as a kid. And then when he saw that creature, and he had a BB gun. He took a shot at the guy in the hazmat suit.

Seth Breedlove  
Yeah, a lot of shots being fired in the woods in West Virginia. But yeah, I mean, Shannon, really, he was very nervous about telling that story. For a number of reasons. He talks about how he hadn’t gone back to that location in a long time, how he hasn’t traveled back through there anymore. So Shannon really had to put him at ease to tell that story. And thankfully, she was able to do it. And he came forward with the whole thing.

George Knapp 
Shannon LeGro lives in Las Vegas. She’s written a couple of books. She hosts her own podcast. She’s an investigator, part of your investigative team that goes after these subjects. She’s a great narrator in this. She has a way of opening people up and putting them at ease.

Seth Breedlove
Yeah, one of the best things about working with her is she is as focused on gaining the authenticity of a story as she is simply getting someone to talk. And I think that’s an important trait when it comes to, I mean, obviously, you’re going to be aware of that. But having someone simply relate a story is one thing, getting them to dig a little deeper for the emotional effects and things like that, that’s a special skill. And she’s really good at making people comfortable and getting them to open up about things. And in a story like this and a movie like this that is very important, because that’s what we’re going for.

George Knapp 
I mean, a lot of the events that we’re going to talk about are in West Virginia, but it’s really about Appalachia. I thought I heard her say somewhere in the course of your film that it is the oldest mountain range in the world?

Seth Breedlove 
Yeah, I believe Joe Purdue and Ron Lanham, who run a paranormal organization out of West Virginia are the ones that said that. And I believe I’ve heard that elsewhere as well. I mean, one of the questions we get asked quite a bit is, is there something specific about that mountain range that invites weirdness, you know, and I don’t, I don’t have the answers to that. I just do know that if you want the largest preponderance of reports, in this area, in this part of the country on the East Coast, go to Appalachia, because that’s where that’s where they’re coming from.

George Knapp 
Well, you got a lot of cross reference weirdness. So you’ve got Mothman, and other weird things in the sky, apparitions, and men and black, you’ve got monsters, the Flatwoods Monster and UFOs. There’s a lot of things that don’t stay in their category in your film.

Seth Breedlove 
Yeah, it’s it’s a high strangeness state. So we made a movie a few years ago about the Chestnut Ridge in Pennsylvania, it’s home to a lot of weirdness. West Virginia is a much larger version of that, you know, or like even something like Skinwalker Ranch, where you’ve just got this massive preponderance of weirdness that happens on a daily basis. There’s not a lot of people there, there’s, you know, really, major cities would be small towns in any other state, especially on the east coast. And you’ve got those dark skies. I don’t know what contributes to the massive amounts of strangeness, but it definitely exists there. And, again, we’ve covered the state so much in our films because of the fact that we’ll go to the state make a movie about something and while we’re there making the movie about one thing, we’ll have six other things come across our radar that we we find an interest in or think we could cover in a in a film. A lot of what we covered in this film are rabbit trails that we discovered while making the Mothman of Point Pleasant or the Mothman Legacy or the Flatwoods Monster. You know, I was aware of the sightings that were taking place of UFOs in the skies over West Virginia during the 60s, especially around the time of the Mothman flap. And I had wanted to cover that much more extensively in our first Mothman movie, but there just wasn’t room to do it. So this movie allowed us to really expand upon a lot of the side notes that we had discovered while making other films. And that’s not something we typically get to do. The good thing for us is we’re only a two hour drive from West Virginia. So it’s a place we can easily get to. And it’s a place where there’s any number of stories to cover.

George Knapp 
Well, you do a great job of tying it together with national phenomena, they’re going on on a broader scope. These flaps that you mentioned, UFO flaps in the 50s and 60s, each time one of those national things is underway it seems like there’s a lot going on that spikes in West Virginia.

Seth Breedlove 
Well, the interesting thing about that 50s and 60s era, we connect West Virginia to this flap that kicked up around the mid 60s that lasted well into the 70s. And that was covered, you know, by a lot of really well known UFO researchers. So that’s kind of the era that everyone knows about. But the fact is like, in the 50s, and into the early 60s, there was no wane, waxing, and waning in reports. It was nonstop like it was always going on and still going on today, just since the movie (has) come out, earlier last night, I’ve had people contacting me today about, oh I saw this and you know, because now they know my name because of the movie coming out. I’ve had people contacting me about reports, but that 50s and early 60s era always fascinated me because those sightings were almost relegated to like the central part of West Virginia. And they were predominantly witnessed by the type of people that don’t ever talk about those sightings. So you only learn about them through relatives and generations later, my grandma told me about this object that landed behind a barn, you know, behind my house and things like that. We get a lot of those reports. When we were making our Flatwoods Monster movie, there were a number of reports that came in that I had never seen anywhere just told to me by relatives of people that lived near Braxton County who’d witnessed things in the woods prior to the Braxton you know, the famous Flatwoods Monster flap. But there’s also been a number of people who’ve come forward and told me they saw the object land on the hill, you know, during the Flatwoods Monster event. So there’s a lot more that’s gone on there that I think we’ll ever be able to document and I think that’s probably true on a national scale, as well. But there’s something more there than I think we’ll ever be able to cover regardless how many movies we make.

George Knapp
So you meet this lady, we meet this lady Susan Shepard, who is a walking encyclopedia of paranormal stuff and legends and lore in the West Virginia area. What a great character. What a great storyteller. But things have happened to her as well that you peel back the onion for the course of your film.

Seth Breedlove 
Yeah, and if you watch this movie as sort of a surrogate sequel to the Mothman legacy, she was featured in that film as well. And, she’s building upon some of the same story threads that we uncovered in Mothman legacy. But this time, she goes into some personal accounts of not just UFO sightings, but encounters with the men in black. And I had been aware of those men in black encounters going back to our Mothman Legacy movie, because while we were making that movie she offhandedly mentioned these encounters. And again, it’s one of those things where as a filmmaker, you leave a lot of gold on the ground. And she had stories that went far beyond what is in the film. In the film, she tells one story in particular that I really loved about being a little girl and her and a friend walking up on the hill behind their house and seeing these two men in black in the woods behind her house. It’s a really creepy kind of encounter, because one of them smiling the whole time and they just look completely out of place in the forest, you know, behind their house, you can kind of picture these two little kids encountering these guys, especially when we sort of have this mental image of what the men in black are like, you know, thanks to pop culture and years of looking into that subject, but Susan’s encounters didn’t end there. She actually believed that she had multiple encounters over the course of her life with men in black and possibly even injured Cold. And that this movie does bring up the idea of connecting injured Cold to the men in black and Cold is, you know, in terms of West Virginia UFO lore, he’s probably you know, next to the Mothman, the most famous iconic character from that state when it comes to the paranormal.

George Knapp  
Yeah, we should tell our listeners who might not be as familiar with it as you are. The Mothman legend, the Richard Gere movie, the John Keel book, this Mothman figure, nobody exactly knows what it is, some kind of cryptid, some kind of a harbinger warning of doom in the future, or a strange creature. But John Keel during the course of his investigation gets a phone call or more than one I guess from someone identifying themselves as Indrid Cold. Who is this? I don’t know, what is it? What is he?

Seth Breedlove  
Well, so yeah, so a man named Woodrow Derenberger was driving on 77. This is the old 77, this is the two lane Highway 77. Back in 1966. This is two weeks prior to the Mothman flap, he encounters an object in the sky right along the road. It seems to tail him, he pulls off the road lands and a man gets out and speaks to him what he claimed telepathically. The man always had kind of a creepy grin on his face, which is why we refer to Indrid Cold as the grinning man. Cold becomes connected, very connected to the Mothman prophecies story because of John Keel like you said. And then over time, he becomes this hugely, I guess, influential pop cultural figure, you know, he was the impetus behind a character that was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all kinds of stuff like very, very famous character. I knew of Cold before I knew of the Mothman. So we connect him to the Mothman but over the years, sort of on the periphery, there’s always been stories of encounters with beings matching Indrid Cold’s description. In our film, the case is made that Cold may have been connected to the military. Susan believes he straight up was one of the men in black, that he was one of those enigmatic characters that seem to be all around West Virginia during the 60s and 70s. While the UFO waves were taking place. And I said to someone recently, like I go to Point Pleasant frequently, I was just down there last Thursday. It seems like I have a much easier time of running into men and black witnesses in Point Pleasant than I do Mothman or UFO. It seems like every time I’m there, I talk to someone who’s had an encounter with a man in black. And the idea that Cold might be connected to the men in black makes sense to me because of the you know, the descriptions kind of line up with that. It’s weird. I don’t know what they are. It’s part of the fun for me of looking into the subject is wondering what’s actually going on there. There is this. If they’re military, if the men in black are military, they’re in the perfect state for it because there’s all these rumors of secret military bases and then there are the military bases that we know exist there in addition to things like the CIA and FBI being headquartered and in Clarksburg I believe it is.

George Knapp
Well as you note in the film, I mean, the men and black were basically born in West Virginia, and that Gray Barker wrote about them and then the story spread. Indrid Cold seems like he’s one of them. He shows up and I guess that driver you’re talking about who had to stop his car, and then he has telepathic communication. The guy gives his name and says, Well, you know, we’ve been watching you and we’ll see you again. And then two weeks later, the Mothman stuff pops up and he shows up in that part of the story. In your film. You found another connection to it. Right?

Seth Breedlove 
The Florida connection. Yeah. I can’t remember the era. I want to say it was the 1970s there was a UFO sighting near a school in Florida. It was a pretty big UFO event. I believe he says over 100 students and teachers witnessed this craft. And what happened next is that the government showed up and started interviewing children and teachers about this sighting that happened. And Mark Muncie is the one who found this story and thankfully he was willing to do an interview with us about it, but he interviewed one of the children. He was a child at the time and now an adult but he interviewed them about their citing and they offhandedly mentioned, going in for an interview with two military men and a third man. And the third man was sort of a plainclothes individual wearing a black suit, who didn’t say anything for the duration of the interview, just kind of stood at the back of the room. And these men, the military men asked this witness all these strange questions. Their father was president, which is why we have the notes. And when it was all done, their father got the names of the three men. And I remember Mark said that the other two men, the military men, just normal names like Jones and Smith, and the third man who stood at the back with this strange sort of grin on his face, for the duration of the interview, all that was marked down there was Cold. So it’s a very strange story. I’m really pleased that Mark was willing to tell us that story, because he had discovered that whole connection himself. So it does make you wonder if somehow, you know, Cold wasn’t just some sort of, maybe a disinformation agent for the government or someone who was, you know,  Mark has an interesting take on that to Mark’s belief is that maybe Indrid Cold was actually an alien, and was somehow in cahoots with the US government.

George Knapp  
So I was wondering, I was wondering that thing, I mean, Cold, that’s a perfect name for that character, he is dark and mysterious and cold. So you’ve got Mothman, the Flatwoods Monster, the men in black, Indrid Cold, and all kinds of UFO sightings and other monsters all mixed together. At one point in the film, you try to see if there’s a connection between abandoned mines and some of these kind of lore. You map it out, which I thought was a really creative way to approach it. What did you find?

Seth Breedlove  
Well, I gotta give credit where it’s due. My friend Mark Matzke is the first person that pointed this out. And thankfully, Mark pointed it out the day before the shoot started. So usually when we make a movie, we’re sort of piecing things together as you’re going. And by the time you’re done, all you’ve got is what you’ve been given, you know, and then you get to put the puzzle pieces together and post production. And in this case, Mark told us on the first day, so we were kind of pulling on that thread for the duration of the shoot. Yeah, what we discovered is that literally every single interview, every single witness sighting that we covered in the film, ties to coal mines. And, of course, the thing you’re going to hear back the most frequently is that of course they are. It’s West Virginia, there’s coal mines everywhere. It’s not true. There are coal mines everywhere. there’s far more coal mines in Colorado than there are in West Virginia. I know that because we’re going to Colorado in a few weeks. So, perfect examples. I have two really perfect examples. One is Mason County, where the Mothman was seen. So in the western portion of West Virginia, especially like Southwestern and central Western, there are very few mines in that area. I don’t know what accounts for that. It’s just not an area frequently mined. Unless you go to Mason County, where the Point Pleasant, where Point Pleasant located where the Mothman was seen. And then you have mines opened up in that area starting in like the 1940s and going up to the present day. And there’s actually a really large confluence of mines there, not confluence, a large concentration of mines there. The same thing happens in Braxton County. This one’s a little more difficult, because we all know of the Flatwoods Monster is being like a crashed craft or something like that. But it is strange that in 1952, the only mine in Braxton County was opened up right outside of Flatwoods. It’s just a weird thing. And we’re not necessarily saying these things are coming out of mines or going into mines. I have no idea. We’re just looking for some sort of correlation between all the events. And the thing that came up the most frequently in this particular project were the coal mines. Now, I will tell you, we’ve started to do the same thing with other locations around the country. I mentioned Colorado, and a lot of what we found is similar to West Virginia, there’s definitely, to me there seems to be some sort of connection between mines or mining or caves and sightings. And it’s funny because when we originally started going down this avenue We had it broadened all the way out to energy sources. So we were trying to okay, okay, well, we have the Chemical Valley sightings here in West Virginia. And then we’ve got this going on in West Virginia. And we were way broad with it. And then we found that the more concentrated we got, you know, the more we narrowed the point of view to just mines, it stayed the same, the sightings all happen near minds. So, it’s one of the weirder aspects of this particular story.

George Knapp
It reminded me of Skinwalker Ranch and that the story that was told by the previous owners to the Gorman family that started the whole Skinwalker thing rolling is that please don’t dig or if you’re going to dig or disturb the ground let us know ahead of time suggesting that there was something underground, that something lived under there.

Seth Breedlove  
Yeah, it’s a weird connection to make. And one of the I’ve always loved those rabbit trails, you can find yourself going off down, you know, when it comes to UFOlogy and high strangeness. And this is one of those rabbit trails that I really enjoy letting my mind wander down. Like what does it mean? Why does that happen? Is it just a coincidence?

George Knapp 
I mentioned about Susan Shepard who is so key, such a key character in your film. And I see at the end of your film, that it’s dedicated to her, in memory up so she was dying while she was making this film with you.

Seth Breedlove 
Yeah. And Susan’s health wasn’t great to begin with, but she had cancer. And when we made the movie, she was kind enough to meet us in Parkersburg. One of the great illustrations of what a beloved figure she was in West Virginia was that we could not, we were having a really difficult time finding a place to shoot this interview because it was last November, COVID was popping off all over West Virginia. We contacted the oil and gas museum because Susan told us to and when they found out it was in connection with Susan that we were there because of Susan, they said that she is loved by the city of Parkersburg and they would do anything for her. So that was something I came across very frequently and working with her for almost two years. I mean, she was involved, very involved in the Mothman Legacy film and then this one, just an amazing woman, so knowledgeable about all the weirdness in that state and so connected to it.

George Knapp  
Is that the Flatwoods Monster behind you?

Seth Breedlove 
Yeah, yeah.

George Knapp 
We’ll have to talk about that the next time we get together, but I enjoyed the film. Where do people see?

Seth Breedlove 
It’s everywhere on all major VOD platforms as of today, so iTunes, Google Play. VUDU,  Amazon, 1091 Pictures is distributing it so it’s got a very wide release.

George Knapp 
Oh, great. I enjoyed it, hope people will check it out. And you want to give us a hint? What’s in Colorado?

Seth Breedlove  
A cattle mutilations. So that’s where we’re heading next.

George Knapp 
All right. Great to talk to you Seth.

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