An illustration of the Van Meter Monster

The Van Meter Monster of Iowa 1903

What Terrorized the Town of Van Meter in 1903?

It was a dark night when what would soon to be called the Van Meter Monster arrived.  For several nights it harassed this small town before slinking back into the dark recesses of the unknown leaving behind little more than questions and possibly a cast of it’s footprints.

A Cousin of Mothman Perhaps?

An illustration of the Van Meter Monster
An illustration of what the Van Meter Monster may have looked like.

The Van Meter Monster was described as half human and half animal with horns, huge wings and shot light from it’s head.  Sounds similar to Mothman to me as it is described at big, winged, human like with glowing eyes.  Could the story have grown a bit and the glowing eyes be re-imagined as actually shooting beams of light?

Theories have been batted about and it does sound like a throwback monster from the age of dinosaurs.  Could it have been a Pterodactyl?  Might it have been a version of the Thunderbird which is sometimes described as looking huge and leathery.

What is known is that the beast seemed to care little for the efforts to kill it or drive it away.


Several men in the town shot at the beast with seemingly no effect.  First was U.G. Griffith who fired on it as it flew across building tops.  The following night, the town doctor and a bank cashier had encounters with the Van Meter Monster and fired on it. The beast shrug­ged off the bullets like a minor nuisance.

Newpaper Transcript of the Van Meter Monster article

Awful Winged Form Shedding Dazzling Light Terrifies an Iowa Town
The World, New York, New York5 October 1903
DES MOINES, Ia., Oct. 4–The town of Van Meter, containing 1000 persons, is terribly wrought up by what is described as a horrible monster. Every man, woman and child in the town is in a state of terror, and fully half of them fail to close their eyes in slumber except in broad daylight.
Friday night while the population was keeping the dreadful vigil every electric light in the city was kept burning to satisfy the most timid.
The monster put in its appearance Monday night. U.G. Griffith, an implement dealer, drove into town at 1 A.M. and saw what seemed to be an electric searchlight on Maher and Grigg’s store. While he gazed it sailed across to another building and then disappeared.
His story was not believed the next day. But the following night Dr. A. C. Olcott, who sleeps in his office on the principal street, was awakened by a bright light shining in his face.
He grabbed a shotgun and ran outside the building where he saw a monster, seemingly half-human and half-beast, with great bat-like wings. A dazzling light that fairly blinded him came from a blunt, horn-like protuberance in the middle of the animal’s forehead and gave off a stupefying odor that almost overcame him.
The doctor discharged his weapon and fled into his office, barring doors and windows and remained there in abject terror until morning.
Peter Dunn, cashier of the only bank in the town, fearing bank robbers, loaded a repeating shotgun, with shells filled with buckshot, and prepared to guard his funds next night. At 2 o’clock he was blinded by the presence of a light of great intensity.
Eventually he recovered his senses sufficiently to distinguish the monster through the window. The plate glass and sash were torn out and the monster disappeared. Next morning imprints of great three-toed feet were discernible in the soft earth. Plaster casts of them were taken.
That night Dr. O.W. White saw the monster climbing down a telephone pole, us a beak much in the manner of a parrot. As it struck the ground it seemed to travel in leaps, like a kangaroo, using its huge, featherless wings to assist. It gave off no light. He fired at it, and believes he wounded it. The shot was followed by an overpowering odor. Sidney Gregg, attracted by the shot, saw the monster flying away.
But the climax came Friday night. The whole town was aroused by this time. Prof. Martin, principal of the schools, decided that upon the description that it was an ante-diluvian animal.
Shortly after midnight J. L. Platt, foreman of the brick plant, heard a peculiar sound in an abandoned coal mine, and as the men had reported a similar sound before, a body of volunteers started an investigation. Presently the monster emerged from the shaft, accompanied by a smaller one. A score of shots were fired without effect.
The whole town was aroused and vigil was maintained the rest of the night, but without result, until just at dawn, when the two monsters returned and disappeared down the shaft.
– Des Moines, Ia., Cor. New York World
van meter monster newspaper illustration

 New Life For the Van Meter Monster

The story of the Van Meter Monster was starting to die along with the old timers that still had memory of the event.  Luckily a team of researchers has come together, done a bunch of field work and research and written a book documenting this unusual encounter with a cryptid beast.

The book titled The Van Meter Visitor: A True and Mysterious Encounter with the Unknown covers all the details of the nights of terror that the people of Van Meter experienced and some possible answers to what the creature that descended on Van Meter might have been.

 What Do You Think It Was?

What is your theory on the Van Meter Monster? Alien, cryptid creature or something else?  Leave a comment down below with your best ideas of what this beast might have been.

Table of Contents

About The Author

Leave A Comment On This Post

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *