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The Monster of Van Meter

By Chris Capps    10/6/09

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There are several famous monster stories written in the annals of history in the American Midwest, but there is one story which, when remembered, still chills the bones of the inhabitants of a small town called Van Meter, Iowa.  The creature was first spotted on October 05, 1903 by a Mr. US Griffith, who first spotted what appeared to be an electric searchlight coasting across a storefront to another building before disappearing.  Less than one week later, the peaceful town of 1,000 would be in the grips of panic, refusing to turn any lights off after dark, several refusing to sleep, instead gripping rifles and shotguns and feverishly looking out windows for any signs of a dreaded monster.

It didn’t start so quickly, however.  The morning after Mr. Griffith reported seeing the spot-light hovering in front of storefronts, he was met with ridicule.  No one believed him, and why should they?  The town had not seen anything strange or unusual since its founding in 1886.  As the sun dipped below the horizon on October 06, however, something stirred on Principle Street, just outside of Dr. Olcott’s office.  Dr. Olcott was sleeping in his office when suddenly a flash of light awakened him, prompting him to grab his shotgun and run outside.  There he saw a creature slamming to the ground with a tremendous thud.  It seemed half-human, though what the other half was could not be discerned.  It had enormous bat-like wings stretching from either side of it, and a horn protruding from the front of its monstrous beaked face emitted a dazzling light, which blinded Dr. Olcott.  Similar to the fabled Jersey Devil, it appeared to have movements similar to a kangaroo as it leaped down the street using its massive featherless wings to assist it.  Dr. Olcott leveled the shotgun in his shaking hands, hoping to wound or kill the creature.  The shotgun fire boomed through the town’s streets, summoning Sidney Gregg who saw the creature leap from the ground and take to the sky, illuminated by the night sky.  Gregg and Olcott both noticed a foul odor, possibly from the wounded creature.  Suddenly, US Griffith’s story did not seem sensational in the least, and multiple witnesses had seen the creature.  But it didn’t stop there…  Later that night, another Doctor by the name of White saw a strange shape climbing a telephone pole in a manner similar to a parrot.  He fired at the creature through his window, breaking it and possibly hitting the creature.  It fled, but would be making another appearance soon.

JL Platt, the foreman of the town’s brick plant began receiving reports of peculiar sounds coming from the nearby abandoned coal mine.  Finally he could stand idly by no more, and he assembled a party of investigators who trekked toward the mine at the early hours of the night, arming themselves well, in case they may run into the monster.  Sure enough, as they approached the mine the creature burst from the shaft, followed by another.  The hunting party fired, but to no effect, possibly due to the frightening celerity by which the creatures fled.  Soon this story would reach the town, and guards would be posted at the shaft for the whole night.  Just as the party was beginning to think nothing would be seen, the creatures returned and swooped back into the mine, disappearing into the shaft’s darkness.  No one pursued them.  Several days passed, but the creatures were never seen in Van Meter again.

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