I told you we weren’t done with the Braxton County Monster after our photo essay last week.
In 1995, my friend, Matt Mullins, and my brother, Frank Panucci teamed up to produce a pilot for a proposed television series devoted to the paranormal in West Virginia. This first episode of Weird Wonderful was all about The Braxton County Monster.
Nothing came of it, and the project was scrapped while the second episode, devoted to Mothman, was still in the early research phase.
After I revived Radio Free Charleston as a web video show in 2006, I started asking Frank what had happened with the footage. He had no idea, as he had moved on to other jobs and never really had that precise of a memory to begin with.
Digging around in a closet one day, looking for old footage of Charleston bands, I found a VHS cassette labelled “Braxton County” and it turned out that Frank wasn’t the only one with a faulty memory. Apparently I had not only narrated, but also edited the show into a workable finished package, and then managed to completely forget that I’d done either of those things.
I was able to digitize it and burn it to a DVD, and it was shown in public once, at the Radio Free Charleston Halloween event in 2008 at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston, thirteen years after it was produced.
Then it sat, forgotten, on one of my hard drives until last weekend, when I was reminded that I had this 24-minute documentary in my files, and had never shared it with my PopCult readers (except for a short trailer in an episode of RFC).
So here, on Halloween, thirteen more years after it was last seen in public, we have the pilot episode for Weird Wonderful, devoted to The Braxton County Monster.
Written and researched by Matt Mullins, with camera work, animation and direction by Frank Panucci, and narrated and edited by yours truly, this project could have easily been lost to foggy memories and dusty closets.
Matt did a killer job on the research, lining up interviews with James Haught and Terry Marchal of The Charleston Gazette, and UFO experts Richard Taylor and Bob Teets. Frank shot the video and contributed some animation that looks way better than anything created on such a primitive computer has any right to. I have vague memories of recording my narration using a cheap microphone plugged directly into the back of a VCR, and I’m guessing I added the heavy reverb while editing it. I had no input on the script.
The special thanks to Steve Gilliland, Marc Porter and Jamie Cope tell me that I must’ve edited this at West Virginia State College, a few years before it blossomed into a University. The occasional use of negative video tells me that this was probably shot with my old camcorder, and I would imagine Jamie Cope loaned the microphones and lights used on location.
The irony that every piece of equipment used on this project is far less sophisticated that what most people carry around on their phone today is not lost on me.