Step aside, Jennifer Garner. Take a seat, Randy Moss.
The hottest celebrity to emerge from West Virginia over the past 50 years isn’t an award-winning actress or a Pro Football Hall of Fame athlete. In fact, he’s not even 100 percent human.
He’s a short, skinny creature with saucer-like eyes, razor-sharp teeth and pointed ears. Nobody even knows his birth name, but you’re probably familiar with his nickname: Bat Boy.
Unlike his better-known colleagues Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster, Bat Boy doesn’t have his own museum or festival. What he does have is press coverage ... and lots of it.
The story of Bat Boy broke June 23, 1992, in the now-defunct supermarket tabloid known as the Weekly World News. “Bat child found in cave!” The headlines screamed. “Boy captured by explorers 2 miles underground! His giant eyes see in the dark & his ears are better than radar!”
A front-page photo captured Bat Boy mid-snarl, his mouth, fangs bared, opening wide as if to hiss, “For the last time ... I said no autographs!”
There are conflicting stories as to exactly where the 10-year-old human-bat hybrid was discovered, but the consensus is it was somewhere in West Virginia. Said to be the spawn of a human woman named Susan Boy and an unidentified “bat-like creature,” Bat Boy spent his formative years underground, free of the constraints of modern civilization. He had never set foot in a public school nor even played with children his own age, so well-meaning sociologists set about gradually introducing the young creature to society.
As Bat Boy matured, he deftly adapted to the whirlwind life of a celebrity, traveling the world and schmoozing with the all movers and shakers of high society.
Everything he did made headlines, and Weekly World News churned out the front-page stories as eager shoppers snatched the papers off the rack. He met Elvis. He bit Santa Claus. He joined the Army. He had a rumored fling with Jennifer Lopez. He even dabbled in politics— running for governor of California and vying for the VP slot during Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid.
By 1997, his exploits acquired legendary status when he became the subject of an off-Broadway show, “Bat Boy: The Musical.”
He had reached the pinnacle of success. Everyone loved Bat Boy and wanted to meet him. Perhaps some even wanted to BE him. But did they really know him? And was he truly happy?
Perhaps singer-songwriter James McMurtry said it best in his 1992 Americana ballad, “Don’t Waste Away:” “Is that smile for me? Have you kept it hidden consciously? Just like an old-time movie queen — always noticed, rarely seen.”
Had the years of fame and wealth worn too thin on this country (bat) boy?
Eventually, Weekly World News stopped publishing a print edition, and Bat Boy faded into obscurity. Had he returned home to his beloved caverns beneath the Allegheny Mountains? Or did he do what many West Virginians do when they retire and buy a home on the Redneck Riviera, aka Myrtle Beach?
But now, as he celebrates his 37th birthday, it appears the older-and-wiser Bat Man (not to be confused with Bruce Wayne) might be ready for a comeback. A peek at Weekly World News’ still-in-operation website reveals that something is brewing: “WWN to relaunch in September 2019. All media. Stay tuned for more updates ... or Bat Boy will come get you!”
The world waits with bated breath to find out where Bat Boy will re-emerge and what he’s up to these days. A true Renaissance Man, he could be anything: a visiting lecturer at Harvard University. Taylor Swift’s newest boyfriend (and soon-to-be unfortunate target of her next salty breakup song). Or maybe even the latest appointee in the revolving door-world of the Trump administration.
In the meantime, you can try looking for him at one of his old haunts, in the winding underground corridors of Lost World Caverns or in the night sky flying high above Seneca Rocks. If you’re quick, you might snap a picture of him.
But don’t ask for his autograph. Remember, he even bit Santa Claus.
It’s Bat Boy who puts the “wild” in “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.”