Every once and a while it's fun to go down a rabbit trail and see where it takes you. If you happen to be a fan of the unexplained, spooky, or paranormal (like me), then a stop by Van Meter, Iowa may just be on the cards this fall. If you've never heard of Van Meter, there is also a good chance you've missed Iowa's most famous monster story of all time- 120 years in the making and just as strange today!

So, what's the deal with Van Meter, Iowa?

Credit: Unknown Territory YouTube Channel Historical photo of Van Meter, IA showing the town at the time of the attacks in 1903.
Credit: Unknown Territory YouTube Channel
Historical photo of Van Meter, IA showing the town at the time of the attacks in 1903.
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In the annals of American folklore, few tales are as captivating and perplexing as that of the Van Meter Monster or Visitor. To revisit this story we find ourselves thrust back to the fall of 1903 when reports emerged of a winged creature terrorizing its residents. Over a series of around 5 nights, the town's tranquil streets were haunted by a half-human, half-animal entity with enormous bat-like wings, emitting an "otherworldly light" and exuding a pungent odor that left witnesses in a state of terror and awe.

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The first sighting, recounted by local businessman Eugene Griffith, set the stage for a series of eerie encounters. As the creature soared overhead, Griffith mistook its luminous presence for that of a robber, only to realize the true nature of the phenomenon. Soon, other prominent figures in the community, including the town doctor and banker, found themselves face-to-face with the inexplicable being. Armed with firearms, they attempted to ward off the creature, but their efforts proved futile against its seemingly invincible nature.

Credit: Unknown Territory YouTube Channel The Van Meter Bank and
Credit: Unknown Territory YouTube Channel
Photo of the Van Meter bank and Clarence Dunn.
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One of the most chilling accounts came from Clarence Dunn, who spent a restless night at his bank, expecting a confrontation with a human intruder. Instead, he was met with the sight of the monstrous entity outside his window, leaving behind ominous three-toed tracks as evidence of its presence. As the town rallied together in fear and confusion, forming a posse to confront the creature near an abandoned coal mine, the Van Meter Monster vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared, leaving behind a legacy of fear and fascination.

What do people think the Van Meter Monster is?

Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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Over a decade later, the legend of the Van Meter Monster has refused to fade into obscurity. Local festivals now commemorate the sightings and have become an annual tradition.  Meanwhile, researchers and paranormal enthusiasts seek to unravel the truth behind the tale. Chad Lewis, a paranormal researcher and author, delved into the eyewitness accounts and theories surrounding the creature in his book, "The Van Meter Visitor." While some dismissed the sightings as mere flights of fancy or exaggerated accounts, others found themselves drawn to the possibility of a genuine, unexplained phenomenon. Many others have also looked into the mystery; including an episode of the Discovery Channels Expedition X.

Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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Is it an extinct animal, a cryptid, a ghost, or a demon?

Credit: Unknown Territory YouTube Channel Van Meter newspaper headline corresponding with the incidence of the Van Meter Visitor/Monster.
Credit: Unknown Territory YouTube Channel
Van Meter newspaper headline corresponding with the incidence of the Van Meter Visitor/Monster.
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Theories abound as to the true nature of the Van Meter Monster. Some speculate that it was a product of mass hysteria or the misidentification of some known animal. Still, others entertain the possibility of a supernatural (demon/ghost) or extraterrestrial origin. One intriguing hypothesis suggests that the creature may have been a surviving descendant of prehistoric creatures, such as pterosaurs or pterodactyls, whose existence in the modern world remains a subject of debate among cryptozoologists.

Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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Yet, despite decades of research and speculation, the enigma of the Van Meter Monster endures. Whether it was a product of imagination, a misunderstood natural phenomenon, or something beyond our comprehension, the legend serves as a reminder of humanity's never-ending fascination with the unknown. As we continue to explore the mysteries of our world, the story of the Van Meter Monster remains an enduring testament to the power of folklore, fear, and the unquenchable thirst for answers in the face of the inexplicable.

Credit: Canva Example of the Van Meter monster based on eyewittness reports.
Credit: Canva
Example of the Van Meter monster based on eyewitness reports.
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