A sketch of the bizarre creature that terrorized Van Meter in 1903 based on eyewitness accounts
A bizarre legend and unsolved mystery which has haunted a small Iowa town for more than 100 years is the subject of a new book called The Van Meter Visitor.
For several nights in 1903, the small town of Van Meter, Iowa 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 over 100 years later a new book is retelling the amazing tale and hoping to shed some light on what happened all those years ago.
The legend dates back to the fall of 1903, when several of Van Meter’s most well respected citizens reported a half human, half animal with enormous, smooth bat wings flying about.
The creature is described as moving at speeds the townsfolk had never witnessed before, plus it let off a powerful stench and shot a blinding light from its horned head.
Each time the townsfolk encountered the creature they fired their guns at it, but this appeared to have no impact on the creature.
On the first night it was first spotted flying across the building tops. The next evening it was spotted 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 it perched atop a telephone pole. Another resident who saw it, described the monster as hopping like a kangaroo, while the local high school teacher likened it to a devil.
Scared and angered by what they had witnessed, the townsfolk followed the creature to an abandoned coal mine near an old brickyard where they heard a noise from the mine.
‘Presently the noise opened up again, as though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for battle,’ reads an article in the Des Moines Daily News from Oct. 3, 1903.
The unsolved mystery of the strange creature has haunted the Iowa town of Van Meter for more than 100 years
A photo of the ‘1901 Bachelors of Van Meter,’ including several men who claimed to have seen the mysterious monster
The monster appeared together with a smaller version. In a flash of bright light they sailed away, but returned in the morning when the town’s men had gathered with weapons ‘to rid the earth of them’.
‘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.’
The creature was never seen again.
This amazing tale has survived and been retold for several generations now and a written version even exists in the town’s centennial book.
The new book is the work of Chad Lewis, who has written over 15 books about the supernatural, plus co-authors Noah Voss and Kevin Lee Nelson and help from local librarian Jolena Walker.
Author Chad Lewis visited Van Meter to speak to local residents about the creature and visit several historic locations including the mine
A historic portrait of Van Meter, Iowa near the time of the unexplained sightings in 1903
The myth of the strange creature has survived and been retold for several generations and a written version even exists in the town’s centennial book
The authors visited the quiet town and spoke to local residents who told them the stories about the creature which passed been down and they visited several historic locations including the mine.
Lewis says he has found no evidence to suggest the monster was a hoax, although be believes the facts of the story may have been embellished over the years.
Lewis told the Des Moines Register that even though he said he’s unsure what happened those fall nights in 1903 in Van Meter, seeking the 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,’ he told. ‘People were open to the fact that anything could happen.’
A new book explores the unsolved mystery of the strange creature that attacked the Iowa town of Van Meter more than 100 years ago