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The Van Meter Monster



During the 1903 Autumn, numerous inhabitants of an Iowan city were subjected to a series of dreadful encounters with a mysterious winged intruder. Over a century later, both the origins and ultimate fate of this mysterious creature continue to remain shrouded in mystery. In this post, we examine the terrifying story of the Van Meter Monster.



U G Griffith's encounter


Pulling his coat a little tighter to his chest in an effort to stave off the paralyzing effects of the cold night air, U G Griffith found himself wondering just how late the hour truly was. A cursory check of his pocket watch soon confirmed the salesman's worst fears. It was already gone 1:00 in the morning, far later than he promised his wife he would be returning from his rounds. Quickening his pace, Griffith hurried through the city's business district, which was unsurprisingly devoid of activity, due to the lateness of the hour. Yet even without having to negotiate obstacles such as other pedestrians or traffic, the door to his abode still remained frustrating 10 minute hike away.


The businessman had managed to make it halfway along Main Street when something had brought him to an abrupt halt. There, atop the roof of the nearby Mather and Greggs building, someone had placed an open lantern which was burning brightly, its light spilling onto the street below. Taking into account the time and believing that no honorable man should have any business on a rooftop at such an hour, Griffith was more than a little perturbed by the sight.


Having decided that it was within his civic duty to investigate, he proceeded to walk confidently out into the middle of the road and call out a challenge. Almost immediately into his utter surprise, the light from the lantern suddenly leaped into the sky, traveling several meters up the street, and then landing on another rooftop. Dumbfounded, Griffith was momentarily at a loss as to how to proceed, before again persuading himself something illicit must be afoot.


As he began a determined pace along the building line, he again called out, demanding the holder of the lantern descend from the roof and identify themselves. Once again, the result of his order was that ball of burning light instead hurtled up into the sky, this time sailing directly over the top of him and settling on a roof situated on the opposite side of the street.



Completely stunned by what he was seeing, Griffith could only watch on in further amazement as the light now rose vertically up into the sky. It traveled in a steady and unwavering path directly upwards, before suddenly appearing to vanish into thin air. Griffith stood perfectly still for a short time, waiting for the mysterious light to reappear. When it did not, he slowly shook his head in wonder, before continuing on his way. Resolving to speak with the owners of the buildings he had seen the light on the following morning, he again quickened his pace, eager to make up for the time he had just lost.


U G Griffith was a prominent and popular member of the community in the city of Van Meter. and so on the morning of September the 30th 1903 when he began to talk about his experiences, people naturally stopped and listened. As a result of Griffith's claims, the roofs and upper levels of the buildings in question were checked for any potential trace of a prowler, but there was nothing to be found.


Whilst the day wore on, the businessman's story began to spread throughout the city, naturally resulting in a palpable increase in community tension. It was of little surprise then, but just after midnight the following evening, some of the town's inhabitants were feeling particularly nervous about who or what it was that one of their number had allegedly encountered.



Dr. Alcott's Sighting of the Monster


Amongst this group was a local physician named. Dr. Alcott. He had been lying on a cot in his back office, struggling to get off to sleep, when a bright and unnatural light had unexpectedly shone into the room through the window. Convinced this must be the same prowler that Griffith had sighted the previous evening, clearly now looking to force entry, Alcott pulled his pistol from his desk drawer and ran downstairs. But what he saw when he exited the building would end up haunting him for the rest of his days.


Clinging to the wall immediately outside his office window was a monster right from the depths of hell. It was largely humanoid in shape, possessing a huge wingspan and with what appeared to be a long beak protruding from its face. The lengthy talons which the creature possessed at the termination of each wing were unlike any known species of bird and seemed as unnatural as the blunt horn that jutted from the center of its forehead.



Alcott could see that it was this bizarre extension that was somehow projecting the unearthly light in through his window and was like nothing had ever seen before. With a cry of terror, the doctor raised his pistol and fired at which point the creature looked down at him, inadvertently blinding him with the light that was pouring forth from its horn. In desperation, Alcott fired his weapon a further four times, at which point the entity gave a piercing shriek and then flew off quickly into the night.


The following morning, the authorities found several spent shell casings on the ground outside the doctor's office, as well as what appeared to be minor damage to the brickwork and wooden sill around the window. But there was no sign of blood or that the bullets which had been fired had in any way adversely affected the strange intruder.


When added to the testimony of Mr. Griffith, the good doctor's alleged encounter had quite the detrimental effect on his fellow citizens, with several deciding to take steps to protect both themselves and their businesses from the machinations of this nocturnal intruder. As darkness once again fell upon the city, a lone figure sat holed up inside the City Bank. Clarence Dunn was employed as a teller at the premises and had decided to spend the night on the bank floor with his shotgun, in the event that it turned out to be the next premises to be targeted. After a time, Dunn had dozed off, but was subsequently awoken by a bizarre gargling and rasping sound, coming from just outside one of the nearby windows.


Checking his watch and realizing that it was past 1 a.m., he reached for his weapon and then cautiously headed across the room towards the source of the noise. But as Dunn had reached the window and peered out into the darkness, he'd been immediately blinded by a brilliant light which shone in through the glass and into his face. Staggering backwards, the bank employee had rubbed his eyes vigorously with his free hand, before opening them again to see that the mysterious beam of light was now sweeping back and forth across the room.


As it had swiveled from right to left, seemingly searching the inside of the premises, Dunn had caught a glimpse of the nightmarish and demonic face behind it, complete with a pointed snout full of sharp teeth, and a pair of soulless dead eyes. Without hesitation, the teller's finger had automatically tightened against the trigger of the shotgun, firing the weapon directly through the window at the creature which was lurking outside.


The glass had instantly shattered as the buckshot smashed into the small panes, with the creature once again fixing him in the beam of light being projected from the center of its head, before disappearing into the night. The following morning, the police found what appeared to be footprints on the floor outside the window. They were abnormally large in size, with three toes sticking out from the end of each imprint. Several efforts would be made to take plaster casts of these, each unfortunately proving unsuccessful.



Sighting of the Van Meter Monster at a hardware store


The following evening, there would be yet another traumatic encounter with the creature, this time at a hardware store situated a little further along Main Street from the location of the original sighting. As with Clarence Dunn, the proprietor, O.V White had been awoken by an odd rasping noise coming from the street outside.


Seizing his rifle, he'd hurried out of the side door to find a large shape regarding him from a position perched on top of a nearby telegraph pole. But before he could open fire, the figure had opened its wings and admitted a horrific and overpowering odor. As white had dropped to his knees, choking and coughing, the creature had immediately taken flight, passing over the head of another shopkeeper named Sidney Gregg, who had heard the commotion.


Both men watched on as the winged figure slowly disappeared from sight, heading in the direction of the aging coal mines around which the city had originally been built. The following morning, when the pair had related their experience to their neighbors, it was decided that enough was enough.


Having been confronted by a deputation of angry local business owners, the Mayor had sent for the director of the mine to be brought before him. A rather flustered Mr. Platt arrived a short time later, unsure of why he had been summonsed. But after a brief back and forth with the city elders, Platt revealed that some of his men had recently reported strange sounds floating up from the depths of several long-abandoned shafts located near the main site.

Their claims had largely being dismissed as nonsense.


That evening, a couple of armed men were posted to watch the mine entrance, with orders to notify the police if they saw or heard anything suspicious. In no time at all, they had subsequently come hurrying back into the city, to report that they had not seen one, but two of the entities emerge from the mine shaft and fly off up into the night. A combined force of miners and local residents were promptly pulled from their beds and set off to lay a hasty ambush for the creatures, which both reappeared just as dawn was breaking.


Descending towards the mine, they were subjected to a volley of murderous gunfire. The only effect that the hail of buckshot and bullets seemed to have on the two entities was to produce inhuman screams and further noxious emissions. Despite numerous hits, neither creature seemed to sustain any form of injury, instead flying directly past the townsfolk and fleeing back into the abandoned mineworks. Wasting no time at all, the men who were present had quickly dynamited the entrance to the shaft in question, ensuring that no one could access it or that anything could get out.


Volunteers were posted over the next week and a half to search for any sight or sound of the creatures, but nothing further was ever seen or heard of them. It may be that the Van Meter Monsters eventually passed away in the depths of the mine shaft, or somehow found a different way to escape into the wilderness, but in truth, nobody can say.



Observation and Conclusion


In the century that has passed since the people of Iowa fought off and drove away their mysterious winged trespasser, the story of the Van Meter Monster has grown into a global legend. The enigmatic creature now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other notorious flying cryptids such as the Mothman and the Lawndale Thunderbird. But at the time of the alleged sightings, the story was largely dismissed by commentators. Despite being described in great detail by a number of local newspapers, National distributors were highly skeptical that the incident had ever taken place, citing a notable lack of supporting evidence.


But for the people of Van Meter, there is little doubt that this bizarre occurrence did indeed take place. The witnesses to it were amongst the city's most affluent residents, hard-working men of learning and standing, all impassioned and consistent in their description of the beast. And yet, over a century later, nothing even remotely resembling this fantastic creature has ever been encountered anywhere else on this Earth.


It seems the unnatural combination of a flying monster with the ability to project a beam of light from its body is almost too bizarre a phenomenon to replicate. Some who have investigated the matter have speculated that it may have been a prank executed by local youths, using flying lanterns backed up with animal calls which were misinterpreted by an already frightened and intimidated populace.


Others have gone further, claiming that the town was experiencing severe economic issues around the time of the incident. They believe that elements within the city council deliberately concocted the story, in the hopes that national interest would bring tourism and investment to the community.


The dawn of the 20th century was a fitful and worrying time for the American people. With the memory of the Civil War still lingering in the minds of the older generation and indications that a confrontation of a similar scale was brewing in Mainland Europe, tensions were high. A number of infamous hoaxes took place around the same time such as in Cardiff, New York, where the skeleton of an alleged giant turned out to be a money-making scheme by a local grifter. And in the state of Texas, where a slew of reports describing dragons and flying lizards turned out to be simple trickery.


Ultimately, the reason for the longevity of the story surrounding the Van Meter visitor is because of it's truly unique elements. The description of the creature remains unique in cryptid lore, so outlandish and fantastic that it eclipses scientific argument and the lack of any physical evidence. Whether the creature did exist or the people of the time merely willed it into existence, it continues to live on in some form to this day, like so many more of North America's shadowy and monstrous interlopers.

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