The Van Meter Visitor of 1903 Sept 27, 2015 0:51:46 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Sept 27, 2015 0:51:46 GMT -5
The Van Meter Visitor
VAN METER, Iowa – The 112-year-old tale of one of Iowa’s more bizarre mysteries was revived this weekend with a festival celebrating the case of the Van Meter Visitor. The winged monster shot light from a horn on its forehead and shrugged off gunfire from residents of the central Iowa town back in 1903 – or so the story goes.
Those attending this year’s celebration, Saturday, September 26, were treated to an afternoon and evening of investigations, presentations and other activities tied to the Visitor. Beginning at 1 p.m., researcher and author Chad Lewis guided a walking tour of Van Meter Visitor sites and thereafter, paranormal investigators Nash Hoover and Caitlin Ricker gave a presentation about their work. Among the activities was a fundraiser dinner for the benefit of the Van Meter Fire Department. Kevin Lee Nelson also gave a presentation on how to hunt monsters and he and Noah Voss shared their inquiries about the Visitor and what they believe happened.
The Van Meter Visitor. A bizarre legend and unsolved mystery which has haunted a small Iowa town for more than a hundred years is the subject of The Van Meter Visitor: A True and Mysterious Encounter with the Unknown, a book by Chad Lewis and Kevin Lee Nelson, illustrated by Noah Voss. For several nights in 1903, the small town was terrorized by a giant bat-like creature that emerged from an old abandoned mine. The identity of this mysterious monster has never been discovered, but the book attempts to shed light on what happened way back at the turn of the 20th century.
The legend dates to the fall of 1903 when several of Van Meter’s most well-respected citizens reported seeing a half-human, half-animal creature with enormous, smooth bat wings flying about. The beast was said to move at speeds the townsfolk had never witnessed, emitted a powerful stench and shot a blinding light from its horned head. Numerous townsfolk fired shots at the flying monster, but the bullets had no effect whatsoever.
On the first night, it was spotted flying above the tops of buildings. The following evening, the winged demon was seen by both the town doctor and bank cashier Peter Dunn who took a plaster cast of its “great three-toed tracks.” On the third night, a man spotted the creature perched atop a telephone pole. Another resident who saw it the same night, said the monster hopped like a kangaroo and a third witness, the local high school teacher, likened it to the devil himself.
People were scared and some were angry that they were being plagued by something not-of-this-world and one night, a group of concerned citizens followed the monster to an abandoned coal mine near an old brickyard. They heard a noise emanating from the mine and according to the Des Moines Daily News of October 3, 1903: “Presently the noise opened up again, as though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for battle.” Then the creature appeared – this time accompanied by a smaller version of itself – and in a bright flash of light, the two took wing and sailed off into the sky. But the menfolk were determined to “rid the earth of them” and, according to the newspaper, when the flying beasts appeared the following morning: “The reception they received would have sunk the Spanish fleet, but aside from unearthly noise and peculiar odor, they did not seem to mind it, but slowly descended the shaft of the old mine.” Neither creature was ever seen again.
The amazing tale of the Van Meter Visitor has survived and been retold for several generations. While investigating the sightings, the authors visited the quiet Iowa town and spoke to local residents who related tales passed down by their forebears about the creature. They also visited several locations, including the infamous mine. Lewis insisted he found no evidence suggesting the monster was a hoax, though he personally believed the facts of the story could have been embellished through the years. He revealed to the Des Moines Register that even though he was unsure what happened in those early fall nights of 1903, seeking an answer was more important than finding it. “It was an era when anything was possible. Science was starting to gain momentum. In fact, they had just discovered the mountain gorilla. So the beast in the jungle was real,” Lewis said. “People were open to the fact that anything could happen.”
Sources: The Des Moines Register, September 25, 2015, and David McCormack, The Daily Mail, May 4, 2013.
Van Meter Visitor Festival 2019