All the way to Bakers Run Campground in Braxton County, I kept thinking there had to be a sign or a monument somewhere marking the official geographic center of the state. I just didn’t see it.
Finding the “official” center of the state seemed like a good thing to check off my list of things to see during my travels to all 55 of West Virginia’s counties.
Braxton isn’t just the home to the state’s geographical center. There’s also Sutton Lake, if you’re inclined to boat and/or fish.
I’ve lived in West Virginia for 30 years and had been there once, but it was where I got in my first kayak. I also got an awful case of sunburn, which I realize was not the fault of the lake.
Braxton has plenty of other things besides the lake, like two monster museums and a haunted house. The local hostel is also supposedly haunted, but I didn’t get to it.
Most West Virginians have probably heard about the Flatwoods Monster or the Braxton County Monster, an other-worldly visitor who arrived in 1952 to scare the bejesus out of everyone.
The area came to embrace the legend. Locals opened a museum and gift shop inside the county convention and visitor’s bureau in Sutton. There, you can hear about the creature, see various depictions of the thing and purchase a wide range of related merchandise.
You can also pet Braxie, the museum’s very friendly cat.
Up the street from the Flatwoods Monster Museum is the new Bigfoot Museum.
A couple of years back, Lou and Laurel Petolicchio opened the Mountain Laurel Country Store. Then Lou marched in a local parade dressed as a Bigfoot.
“People loved it,” Laurel said.
In one of those very weird (but entirely plausible) West Virginia one-thing-leads-to-another situations, the couple became acquainted with Marion County supernatural investigator Les O’Dell, who, among other things, has tracked Bigfoot creatures. When the Petolicchios decided to open a Bigfoot Museum and gift shop in a small room off from their store, O’Dell supplied some of his Bigfoot evidence.
Across the bridge from Sutton is the W.E. Haymond House, owned by Teresa Frame.
Frame said the 125-year-old place is haunted. She gives tours of the building and books paranormal investigator groups who come to spend the night and seek the spirits.
Glowing orbs, shrieks in the middle of the night, a weeping woman and a Civil War-era solider pacing in the front yard are all encounters she or others have had, Frame said.
Along with haunts and hairy beasts, there are plenty of eats.
Sticking with the monster theme, up the road in Flatwoods is The Spot, a UFO-themed hamburger stand, pizza joint and dairy bar. If you’re looking for something monstrous, try one of the UFO Signature Saucer Sandwiches.
Wrapped in a grilled pizza crust and loaded with fillings, you’re going to need to bring a friend to finish it. At least, I couldn’t do it on my own.
I never did find the “official” geographic center of the state, just a corroded metal sign saying it was nearby. I don’t know, maybe the actual center of the state is in the middle of somebody’s yard.
I’m sure someone will tell me.
Regardless, I had a blast in Braxton County.
Other places to eat
- Lloyd’s Family Restaurant (Sutton)
- Waffle Hut (Flatwoods)
- Woods & Waters (Flatwoods)
- Sutton Lake
- Flatwoods Center and Everything Fiesta
- Braxton County Jamboree (Gassaway)
- June 24-26 — Gassaway Days
- June 26 — West Virginia Bigfoot Festival
- July 10 — Elk River Summer Float
For more information, visit www.braxtonwv.org