1903. Van Meter, Iowa. On dark and brooding nights in the autumn of that year, a mysterious beast was sighted. Half-human, half-animal. It was seen flying around the town, adorned with mighty and smooth bat-like wings, eight feet in diameter. It carried a powerful stench and frightened the locals with its rapid pace. Nobody knew just quite what had descended on Van Meter, but they knew it was nothing normal. Its most unusual feature was a blinding light shining from the middle of its forehead. Terrified, the locals banded together, fed up of the menace, and went hunting for a monster…
Multiple gunshots were heard echoing around the town over those nights. The first shots were fired by implement dealer U.G. Griffith, who sighted the creature flying across the tops of buildings. The monster was not affected, barely registering the man frantically firing at it. The following night, town doctor and bank cashier Peter Dunn saw the creature elsewhere in town and opened fire. Once more, the creature was not harmed. But Dunn noticed something. Three-toed tracks on the ground where the creature had stood. He took a plaster cast as evidence of his encounter.
O.V. White saw the creature the following night. He knew what he saw was the thing terrorising the community. He saw it sitting atop a telephone pole. Sidney Gregg also saw the creature that night, claiming it hopped like a kangaroo. And the local high school teacher saw it too, saying it was a beast from ancient times, a Biblical monster.
The people of the town gathered, armed themselves and went in search of the beast. Their aim was to end the terror. Whilst wandering around one night, one of the group, J.L. Platt Jr., heard a noise near to the old abandoned coal mine. “Presently the noise opened up again, as though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for battle”, he later told the Des Moines Daily News. The group saw the monster. A volley of bullets was launched, like armada charging into war. The monster they saw fled and disappeared down the dark gloom of the old mine shaft. It was never seen again.
Perhaps this is just local folklore. Then again, the men in this story were prominent. Figures of authority that had nothing to gain by fabricating tales of some unusual beast. With their reputations on the line, they certainly believed what they were saying. Even to this very day, the locals are still divided on the story. Some firmly believe in it, whereas others don’t. Some even think it was a creature born of the devil, a villain of pure evil. Many today are still scared to go anywhere near the mine, where it was sighted and fired upon on that dark and cold autumn night, with some today claiming they feel uneasy around there.
A more scientific approach points toward the hundreds of other local legends plus ancient beliefs held by the indigenous peoples of the land. Truths becoming muddied in history and warped thanks to suggestibility and unexplained phenomena. Before you know it, a legend is born. From an era when science was starting to gain momentum. When anything was possible. Perhaps even some strange monster lurking in a sleepy Iowa town. Maybe, just maybe, this has a ring of truth to it after all.
So I’ll give this creature a 75 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 9th in the list of 30, with the Basilisk still bottom and the Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
The Van Meter Monster. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
Image (Click on It to Enlarge)
1) One of many artist’s impressions of the Van Meter Monster
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