Iowa’s Van Meter Monster
It has been fun researching America’s cryptids. I’ve been learning about each state’s exciting monsters. This week is Iowa, and I discovered a fascinating cryptid.
Iowa is home to the Van Meter Monster, which turns out to be a Dragon. Yes, a real-life dragon. Not myth and lore, but a real creature that terrorized a town for almost a week.
The first sighting was in Bedford, Iowa. On a hot summer day, August 11, 1887, Lee Corder saw a flying serpent. The mysterious flying serpent had protruding eyes and a forked tongue. It had scales that glowed in the sun on its huge body. Corder said it landed on the ground hard before taking off again.
Several people saw a flying monster with horns on its head in 1890 in Independence, Iowa. Witnesses say it had a mouth like an alligator. Talk about spooky and fascinating. The idea that dragons could be real. Witnesses say that scales covered the creature and looked green.
In 2005, a witness named “Megan” saw the dragon in Burlington, Iowa. She said that the 10-foot long snake looking monster was flying overhead. It was the middle of the night, and Megan and her husband were driving home. They said it had bat-like wings with a seahorse head.
Tales of dragons fill books about myths and legends. I loved reading those stories. The idea of a real dragon flying around would be exciting. I wish I had been one of those witnesses to see such a sight.
I pulled a lot of my research from articles written on the subject matter. People who claimed to have seen the dragon themselves left comments on one of these articles. One of those people named Zeuz stated they lived in Iowa. He said he saw dragons all the time in Grand Mound. He stated they came in the fall when the harvest moon was full. Zeuz says the dragons fly away with his next-door neighbor’s cattle. He even swears that he saw dragons all the time and sometimes even in a group of three.
I read a novel series titled “Dragonriders of Pern,” written by Anne McCaffrey. In the novels, there were different levels of dragons indicated by their color. These witness accounts reported seeing green and blue dragons. The statements remind me of those novels as they had green and blue dragons too.
If one was dubious of Zeuz’s accounting, one could think he read Dragonriders of Pern. Zeuz could be taking what he read in past articles and expanding on them. He could be a reader of Anne McCaffrey’s work and combined the two sources. Then he wrote his version in the comments section.
Except, in the fall of 1903 a winged creature harassed, Van Meter, Iowa, for almost a week. The witnesses were upstanding citizens of the town and believable. They all reported seeing a half-human, half-animal with enormous bat wings. The creature moved at incredible speeds and shot a blinding light from its horn.
The legendary Van Meter Monster was born. The first night, U.G. Griffith shot at it as it flew over buildings. The bullets didn’t even faze the monster. The next night, Peter Dunn saw the creature, and he, too, shot at it. The town doctor’s shots had the same effect as Griffith’s. The monster flew on its merry way, not even bothered by people shooting at it. The third night, O.V. White, awakened by the winged fiend, also shot at it.
It crouched on the telephone pole above his hardware store. The expert shooter either missed, or his bullets too did not affect the fearsome dragon. The shots woke Sidney Gregg sleeping in his nearby store. Gregg said the Van Meter monster hopped like a kangaroo. The high school teacher saw the beast and said it looked prehistoric.
The town of Van Meter wasn’t happy about the flying serpent terrorizing their town. The townspeople formed a hunting party and went after it. J. L. Platt, Jr heard a scary noise at an abandoned coal mine, so the posse started its search there.
The Des Moines Daily News published an article about the battle that happened that night. October 3, 1903, all hell broke loose. The town let loose with enough firepower to level Van Meter itself. The monster appeared at the mine’s entrance wrapped in golden light, but not alone. It had a smaller one with it, and they both flew off amidst the metal barrage. The cascade of gunfire that rained that night didn’t even bother them.
The gunfire didn’t stop them from returning and entering the mine once more.
From September 29, 1903, to October 3, 1903, the Van Meter monster haunted the town. Respected men told their stories even though they knew many would think them crazy. Yet, they saw something during that week. Sightings during one day are not unusual, but for the entire week?
It is a little harder to explain away an entire week of sightings. Accounts told by top citizens. These citizens people believed, no matter how crazy the stories sounded.
Theories about what the Van Meter monster is and where it came from teased the locals. One of the views is that it came from another dimension by ripping a hole into ours.
The big question then is why? Why would the dragons come into our dimension? Was it an accident? Another idea is that fear created the monster. Fear fueled by mass hysteria. A similar hypothesis is how the Slenderman was born.
The Slenderman is an urban legend that is an internet meme created by Eric Knudsen. Slenderman is from Knudsen’s imagination. It gained life through fear fueled by people’s beliefs. They willed it into life. There were sightings and interactions soon after Knudsen posted his creation. Everybody believed the Slenderman was real.
Did fear manifest the Van Meter monster like it did the Slenderman? In this case, there are too many stories and accounts of the dragon-like creature. Dragon stories came from different towns in Iowa at different times. This fact separates the dragon from Slenderman. It makes the dragon stories more believable and real.
If you are ever in Iowa, look to the sky. You might see one of these ancient creatures flying in the night. The full moon’s golden light highlighting its graceful moves.
I can’t help but think of the similarity between this and the Lake Elizabeth monster, which was said to terrorize the only naturally-occurring lake in Los Angeles County during the 1800s. The Lake Elizabeth monster was subsequently thought to have flown to the area of Tombstone, AZ where some accounts claim it was killed by ranchers angered by the fact that it was hunting cattle (not unlike the behavior exhibited in California as reported by early settlers).
When there are different names given to unrelated creatures at different points in time but with similar physical characteristics — in this case potentially also related to mythologies about dragons if not also native American tales of the thunderbird — it lends credence to the idea that we may be looking back on what were the endangered species of a former era, who were ultimately finished off by the encroachment of armed settlers.
Conceivably, some winged creatures, like some prehistoric fish that were believed to be extinct only to be discovered in the oceans, survived for a time beyond the catastrophe that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. In an American past where large prey animals such as bison, elk and deer were once plentiful, the few remaining prehistoric predators would have had a survival advantage for a time — at least until the advent of gun powder.