Goodbye Bigfoot, I’m so over you.

Animal Planet’s “Monster Week” has been going strong since Sunday, and AiPT! Science has decided to join in on the fun, with a slightly more skeptical viewpoint. Click the “MW2018” tag down below for more, all week!

There’s no denying that Monster Week has been centered around the savage sasquatch known as Bigfoot. With the final episode of Finding Bigfoot behind us, the crushing realization that we’ve been left lonely at the altar is setting in; Bigfoot+U&Me was something that was never meant to be. At least we tried. It’s time we mend our broken hearts and move on, and there’s no better way to do that than by scoping out other potential monsters.

Van Meter Brick Factory near the mine, circa 1902

While checking out some other possible interests on Monsters and Mysteries in America, something much more bizarre (and a lot less hairy than what’s-it-name) attracted my attention. It’s the Van Meter Visitor, and over the course of five days in 1903, six prominent people in a small Iowa community witnessed it — a frightening beast that sounds like a real life version of Man-Bat’s great-great-grandfather, mixed with some sort of freak unicorn, skunk thing. It supposedly had a single horn that emanated a powerful blinding light and had a scent powerful enough to knock someone out cold.

That’s my kind of monster. I had to know more.

Van Meter is a small town in Iowa 20 miles west of Des Moines that’s known for coal mining and a brick and tile company. An ominous and foreboding string of bad luck had occurred, but there was still a significant population of around 1,000 people in September of 1903, when total terror was inflicted by the Chiroptera of unusual size.

The folklore tale has been passed down orally from bygone generations of Van Meter residents for 115 years, but details of memories are easily embellished. There are newspaper accounts of the story that were printed in Des Moines, but there are also several written later that call the whole ordeal questionable.

Our story begins with a well respected agriculture businessman witnessing lights over a local shop. As he pondered the possibility of robbers, the light shifted quickly to the opposite side of the street, then mysteriously disappeared.

Courtesy of the Des Moines Daily news, October 3, 1903

On night two, the town doctor was startled awake by a blinding light. Thinking quickly, he grabbed a loaded gun and headed outside to confront the source. He was met by an inexplicable creature he described as “half-human, half-animal, with great bat-like wings.” He fearfully fired five of his six rounds, but the monstrosity didn’t react. The community began to worry, but it wasn’t until night three that people began to get into a frenzy.

Van Meter’s well respected and educated banker was standing guard that night, as the talk of odd lights and monsters also made him wary of robbers. At about one in the morning he heard something unusual that grabbed his attention, similar to someone being strangled. Before he could investigate further, a bright light shone upon him through the banks front window.

The light quickly moved away and darted around the room, and a quick glimpse through the shadows revealed a large, unfamiliar form standing before him. The light was suddenly focused back on the banker. Fearful, he fired right through the window at the fiend. It fled without signs of obvious injury. The only thing the bat-human-hybrid left behind was its three-toed footprints that would be cast in plaster later in the daylight hours. Discouragingly, the mold has been lost to time.

Courtesy of the Des Moines Register

Panic and confusion was beginning to spread through the town, but things were about to get even weirder. On night four, the local hardware shop owner was awoken by a noise outside his window. He grabbed his gun and peered outside to see a dark, terrible figure hanging on the crossmember of the telephone pole, only about 15 feet from him. The shot rang out, but the creature seemed unharmed, as it swung its luminous head in his direction and began to descend from the pole. A noxious smell wafted across the shop owner and he fainted, remembering nothing else further about the night.

Hearing all of the commotion, a separate shopkeep from across the street came out to see what was the matter. He watched in a baffled state of uncertainty as the near 8-foot creature leapt, flapping its large wings and scampering around on all fours. Startled by the mail train, the mutant bat flew off into the night towards the coal mine.

By day five, reports of sounds described as “though Satan and a regiment of imps we coming forth for a battle” were rolling in from the workers at the coal mine. The owner of the brick company nearby was feeling a bit curious and went to the mine around 1:00 am. The creature did not disappoint.

Next to its shocking arrival came the surprise of a second, smaller creature. Both flew past the entire mining crew! That was the moment the citizens decided they would ambush and kill the monsters upon their return. The scary duo arrived at daybreak to an entire mining crew and local men who fired as many rounds as they could. Screeching but unwounded, the creatures escaped deep into the shaft.

The townspeople decided to barricade them in mine. What happened next is still a mystery. Did they manage to seal “The Visitor” inside, or did it manage to escape? Could it be connected to other man-bat creature sightings? Possibly some sort of pterosaur? Will the hard evidence like the plaster mould ever be found, or are we doomed to live only with witness testimony?

Van Meter Visitor festival? Count me in.

In any case, it’s a fun story, even for a skeptic. I think I’m head over heels, but let’s not rush into anything. It may not be “the one,” but it’s definitely gotten me over … wait, who was that other monster? XOXO Van Meter Visitor+Me=<3