Over a series of nights in the fall of 1903, several respected and prominent men of Van Meter reported a half human, half animal with enormous, smooth bat wings flying about. It let off a powerful stench and scared the daylights out of them because it moved at speeds never seen before. And it shot a blinding light from its horned head. Shots were fired each time, first by implement dealer U.G. Griffith as it flew across building tops. The monster shrugged them off like a minor nuisance. The next night the town doctor and bank cashier Peter Dunn separately saw the creature and opened fire. Dunn even took a plaster cast of the great three-toed tracks.
The following night, O.V. White, reportedly a dead-eye with a gun, was awakened from his slumber in his quarters above the hardware store and shot at the creature that was perching atop a telephone pole. This awakened Sidney Gregg, who had been sleeping in his store nearby. Gregg said the monster hopped like a kangaroo. Even the local high school teacher saw it and deemed it some sort of antediluvian monster.
Was this a Mothman-like being?
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.
The morning after Mr. Griffith reported seeing the spot-light hovering in front of storefronts, he was met with ridicule. No one believed him. 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. Olcotts 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. 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 towns 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. Later that night, another physician 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 towns brick plant began receiving reports of peculiar sounds coming from the nearby abandoned coal mine. 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. 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 shafts darkness. No one pursued them. Several days passed, but the creatures were never seen in Van Meter again.
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 Meters 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.
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 monster appeared together with a smaller version. In a flash of bright light they sailed away, but returned in the morning when the towns 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.
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 hes 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.