The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

July 13, 2008

Clarksburg author fueled America’s 1950s fascination with flying saucers

CLARKSBURG — The late Gray Barker inspired the “Men in Black” movie.

The popular author from Clarksburg wrote extensively about the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman and other weird subjects.

In one magazine article after another, Barker helped to fuel America’s fascination with flying saucers in the 1950s.

But that’s not all.

“I found that there was more to this guy than UFOs,” said Bob Wilkinson, a notable West Virginia filmmaker who’s now producing a documentary on Barker. “He’s a complex character.”

As for the documentary, “It’s a West Virginia product, so I’m pretty proud of that,” Wilkinson said.

Barker was born in the tiny hamlet of Riffle in Braxton County in 1925. He went to nearby Glenville State College and got his degree in teaching.

He taught for a while in Maryland but then came home to West Virginia where he booked films and managed theaters in the Clarksburg area.

“He would find these films that Marilyn Monroe was in as an extra, and he would acquire them for the drive-ins and advertise them as Marilyn Monroe double features,” said David Houchin, special collections librarian at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, which has a room dedicated to the life and works of Barker. It is crammed with books, articles and manuscripts.

“Maybe he was the type of person who could fool you and you never resented it,” Houchin said.

And fooling is exactly what Barker specialized in.

In 1952, Barker went to Braxton County to investigate the infamous Flatwoods Monster.

Residents claimed to have seen a glowing object fly across the sky, and went to the woods where it landed.

They said they saw a creature with glowing red eyes that smelled like something they’ve never smelled before.

Barker’s report about the strange beast was published in “Fate” magazine.

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