This Project Blue Book review contains spoilers.
Project Blue Book Episode 2
A fireball streaks across the sky crashing into the ground. Several kids and their mother see it crash and race to the scene. What they find in the forest terrifies them. This is the case of The Flatwoods Monster and it’s the subject of the second episode of Project Blue Book.
Project Blue Book season 1 episode 2 covers another interesting case from the files of the actual Project Blue Book U.S. Air Force investigation into UFOs. However, to insert more drama and intrigue, the episode also builds on several side stories. Namely, the government’s UFO cover-up, the mysterious man in a black hat leaving curious clues for Hynek, and Mimi Hynek’s pretty new friend who is apparently trying to seduce Mimi.
First, let’s get into the UFO case as it is represented on the show. The fireball crashed in a rural area of West Virginia, near the town of Flatwoods. Sarah, her two kids, and their dog raced to the site to see what happened. They find a large crash site with trees on fire, and what appears to be parts of a spaceship. Then, out of the flames, comes a large tree-looking alien with big eyes.
When Hynek and Captain Quinn arrive to investigate, they find a town on edge. The townsfolk are not keen on city slickers interfering in their affairs, and they are further agitated by the idea that Sarah may have made this whole thing up. This adds a new dimension to the investigation. Somehow Hynek and Quinn need to debunk the sighting while avoiding the town thinking Sarah lied and do something drastic.
To add to the mystery, the kids are suffering from burns on their faces. Another piece of unexplained evidence is that the area of the crash is highly radioactive.
Meanwhile, back in the Hynek household, the seduction of Mimi continues. Mimi’s new friend, Susie, is a stylish blonde young woman, who is very flirty. It is obvious she is being flirtatious, and Mimi does not seem to mind. However, there does not appear to be any reason Mimi would respond to the flirtations. She is in a happy marriage, and there is no sign she is gay. So it doesn’t make sense that Susie would use this tactic to get close to her.
Perhaps it is just a tool for the show to add some steamy sexual tension between two attractive women, but it is a bit confusing as to how it fits. It turns out Susie is a Russian agent, which isn’t too surprising, and it would make sense the Russians would want to know what the Americans know about UFOs. But why they would send a female agent to seduce Hynek’s wife is unclear, unless they know something about her past we do not know that they will reveal in time.
Another area of intrigue is the mysterious man in the black hat. This man represents the Men in Black mythology. We all know the movie Men in Black, but the idea of these mysterious characters in black fedoras and back hats goes back for years. Allegedly, they have harassed UFO witnesses, but no one knows who they are. This man in black leaves Hynek clues. In the first episode, he left Hynek a drawing of a strange triangular symbol. In this episode he has a crazy woman deliver a picture to Hynek of a rock formation, perhaps an obelisk, with that symbol and others etched into it. What is that thing, and who is the man in black? We will have to wait to find out.
The final area of intrigue is the U.S. Air Force. Hynek and Quinn handily figure out the mystery to the Flatwoods Monster. The fireball was a meteorite, and the alien was an owl in a tree. They prove this by luring out the owl at the crash site and taking a picture of it on a tree to show it looks just like what the witnesses described. They also convince the townsfolk Sarah wasn’t lying, she and the kids just made an honest mistake. Although this is their official answer, a few loose ends seem to nag Hynek.
Hynek seems distant as he considers the outstanding mysteries related to the case. Frustrated that Hynek is not satisfied with their conclusions, Quinn tells him to let it go and asks the question many viewers also likely have on their minds. Does Hynek believe in UFOs and aliens?
Hynek responds, “Statistically the probability of us being alone in the universe is zero.”
Quinn presses him on whether he thinks aliens are here. Hynek says the distances between planets is too vast for them to get here, that possibility is “improbable.”
At about this time, towards the end of the show, I was thinking, well it is good they come up with mundane conclusions on some of these cases. Then we see Quinn’s superiors walk into a room with what appears to a large disk-shaped object under a tarp. Did they capture a UFO in the forest outside of Flatwoods after all? We are left to wonder as no explanation is given.
The Project Blue Book Files
Now for how this episode jives with reality. Indeed, in 1952 a group of people claimed to have seen a monster in the forest near Flatwoods. It started when two boys saw a pulsing red light crossing the sky. They ran to one of the boy’s home and got his mother. The group headed out to find where the object crashed and along the way picked up several more local adventurers, including one with a dog. Leading the group was Gene Lemon, a 17-year-old National Guard member. Through the mist in the forest Lemon spotted two lights that appeared to be eyes in a tree. When he focused the light on the eyes, he fell back in terror. According to a local newspaper, Lemon says he saw “a 10-foot monster with a blood-red body and a green face that seemed to glow.”
Seven people in the group claimed to have seen the monster. Some of them described the monster’s hands as having claws. Sketches were made based on witness accounts, and rather than appearing tree-like, as the illustrations in the show, the drawings depict more of a robot looking creature.
The Air Force concluded the fireball was just a meteor. The Project Blue Book files say they confirmed this with an astronomy club out of Ohio. As for the monster, although the Blue Book file does reference the case as the “West Virginia monster so called (sic),” it does not attempt to explain it. Skeptics did put forth the idea that it had to have been just an owl on a tree.
When it comes to the burns on the faces of the children, supposedly some had reported nausea, but nothing more severe. However, the burning of the kids’ eyes and the radiation traces in the forest are reminiscent of another UFO case.
In December 1980, Vickie Landrum, her grandson Colby Landrum, and their friend Betty Cash were driving home after eating out in Dayton, Texas. While driving on a deserted stretch of street in a dense forest, they claim to have come upon a large diamond-shaped object hovering over the road at tree level. The object had flames coming out of the bottom. The adults got out to take a better look. Vickie ended up getting back into the car to comfort her grandson who was terrified. They claim the vehicle then began to heat up. The metal was too hot to touch, and even the dashboard started to melt enough to where a handprint was left where it had been touched.
The witnesses claim the object then flew off and was pursued by helicopters. All of the witnesses suffered distressing health issues soon after. It began with nausea and burning eyes but turned into soars and hair loss. Cash, who had spent the most time out of the car, spent weeks in the hospital and lost patches of skin and clumps of hair.
The government denied having any helicopters in the area or a large diamond-shaped craft. This case occurred well after Project Blue Book was closed, and was not investigated by any government agency.
Another important point of fact is that Roswell is mentioned several times in this episode, even by one of the locals in Flatwoods. However, Roswell was not well known in the Project Blue Book years. The alleged crash of an alien spacecraft outside of Roswell occurred in 1947, but the day after the Air Force sent out a press release saying they captured a flying disk, they informed the public it was just a weather balloon. It was then forgotten. Roswell did not become famous until the eighties after the Air Force Army intelligence officer who first saw the Roswell wreckage came out claiming it was no weather balloon, but something otherworldly.
So again, Project Blue Book adds a lot of dramatic fiction around a nugget of reality. However, the fictional arcs that are developing represent the mythology that has sprung up in public around the UFO issue that did not really affect Project Blue Book and gives us a long game to look forward to as the series progresses.
I still do not know why Susie the Russian is choosing to seduce Mimi, but I am hopeful we will get an explanation. However, besides that bit of titillating oddness, the show is pretty tight, and the characters are engaging. It has me on-board and excited for more.