Grafton celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first Grafton Monster sighting

On June 15, 1964, Grafton Sentinel reporter Robert Cockrell spotted a mysterious creature in Grafton while he was on the road around 11 p.m. at night. It was large, white, tall, hairy and without a noticeable head. The monster was later known to the public as the Grafton Monster, one of the many famous cryptid figures associated with West Virginia. 

Terrified and fascinated by what he saw, Cockrell was eager to write an article on the monster. At first, his editors at the paper rejected the article because they thought it wasn’t believable. However, the news outlet eventually published a report on the monster after more sources – mostly college students in Grafton – began to spot something similar to Cockrell’s account. 

To this day, investigators have not discovered any physical evidence of the monster. Local authorities began to dismiss the stories shortly after the Grafton Sentinel article came out. However, that hasn’t stopped the curiosity and interest from monster fans and enthusiasts across the U.S. 

It has been 60 years since the Grafton Monster made his print debut and the mythology has continued to live on in the Mountain State. The cryptid has been referenced in pop culture – including the video game Fallout 76 – and has drawn people to the small town, hoping to get a look for themselves. 

60 years later, a festival arrives 

This weekend, the beast gets its due, as the first-ever Grafton Monster Festival gets underway in the Grafton Downtown Historical District. The second day of the festival also coincides with Father’s Day. 

Alicia Lyons, founder of the Grafton Monster Festival and owner of Black Cat Rookery Book Store and Curiosities, said the idea for the festival was years in the making. “I’d been attending many local conventions, like the Flatwoods Monster Convention and the Mothman Festival, and I kept thinking “why don’t we have one for the Grafton Monster,” she said. “This year was the 60th anniversary and I thought this was the perfect time to hold the festival.” 

There will be a variety of different activities for people to participate in at the two-day event, which kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday, including a Father’s Day cornhole tournament, a Grafton Monster-themed scavenger hunt and a cryptid cosplay contest. Lyons also estimated that there are about 80 vendors appearing at the festival, with monster-related items (shirts, hats, etc.) on sale for people to purchase. 

The Grafton Monster Festival also has several different speakers throughout the two-day experience. Matthew Schang from the Mothboys Podcast, Les O’Dell, Tony Breeden, Kurt McCoy and Cindie Harper are among the monster experts who will speak. Kathleen Cockrell Arbuthnot, daughter of Robert Cockrell, will also be interviewed live by the Main Corpse Podcast. 

Lyons expects a large attendance, based on the number of people following it on social media: 4,400 people responded that they were interested in the event on the Grafton Monster Festival’s Facebook page, with 403 people saying that they will be going. 

The folklore of the Grafton Monster has already brought a lot of tourism into Grafton from people all over the country, which Lyons sees as another sign of strong festival attendance. “We have fans of the Fallout 76 video game coming to the town of Grafton,” she explained. “We have people as far as the state of Washington coming to visit and they’re likely to come back for the festival.” 

Lyons said she felt relieved that so many people volunteered to help at the Grafton Monster Festival. “We had a core group in the beginning and then all their contacts reached out and contacted me,” she explained. “We had a lot of people contact us that we didn’t know about, so that’s been surprising.” 

The biggest challenge Lyons has faced has been the lack of hotels in Grafton for people to stay in, since so many people are coming from out of state. “That’s a big problem for us in Grafton,” she remarked. “We have the Tygart Lake State Park and that’s about it.” 

The opening of the Grafton Monster Museum 

Coinciding with the festival is the opening of the Grafton Monster Museum, which will open at 10 a.m.  

At the Grafton Monster Museum, people will get a closer look at the monster with key information and images. There is a wide collection of artwork, newspapers, photos, books and research archived at the museum for people to examine. 

“We’re in the process of gathering up all the lore about the monster and putting it all in the museum,” Lyons explained. 

The museum was created because, although the Grafton Monster has gotten attention, there are still people who are unfamiliar with the folklore. According to Lyons, many of the local people in the Grafton area still don’t know much about the 60-year-old story. With all the material collected, the museum is another way to educate people about the story. 

“We had talked with some of the other museums, and they said one out of three people were asking if there was a place to learn more about the Grafton Monster,” Lyons explained. “We didn’t realize there was that big of an interest.” 

The Grafton Monster Museum is located inside the Black Cat Rookery Book Store and Curiosities, which manages the exhibits. It is located at 36 W Main St. in Grafton.