It was a seemingly average day in Van Meter, Iowa on September 29th, 1903. However, the creature known as the Van Meter Visitor would radically alter this average day. The nights of Tuesday, Sept 29th through October 3rd would be filled with terror, shock, and the sound of giant wings flapping in the sky.
The Van Meter Visitor appeared out of, apparently, nowhere. Which is surprising, considering its size. It was reported by dozens of witnesses as roughly an 8 foot-tall half-man-half-winged-beast. It had a horn on its head that, at the tip, shot out a blinding and disorienting white light. To me, it sounds similar to the Jersey Devil but bigger, especially the detail of leathery wings. Although, unlike the Jersey Devil, the Van Meter Visitor seems to have a development that specifically works to disorient and confuse people that see it. Some people even said the light temporarily blinded them.
The first event took place downtown, right in the heard of the city’s business district which meant many credible witnesses and town pillars came out in defense of seeing the Van Meter Visitor. It’s the first appearance, though, happened at 1am.
U.G. Griffith was the first person, it is believed, to have experienced the Van Meter Visitor. Initially, he thought it was a spotlight moving around a rooftop and woke up annoyed and ready to confront whoever was behind it. When he approached the source of the light, something huge jumped to a different rooftop all the way across the street and then completely disappeared into the night.
The very next night around the same time, Dr. Alcott, the town doctor was fast asleep in a room above his office. Like Griffith, he was also was awoken by a bright light shining into his window. And, also like Griffith, he rushed out to confront whoever was shining that light. Gun in hand, he was shocked to discover the Van Meter Visitor, which he described as a humanoid with bat-like wings. He reported that he also saw that the blinding light came from a blunt horn in the creature’s forehead. Shocked, but still well in control of his faculties, he attempted to shoot the creature down a shocking five times. After firing, he noticed that there was absolutely no effect on the creature and fled back into his home.
Because all bad things come in threes, there is one more experience to go over.
Once again the Van Meter Visitor made his nightly rounds, this time shining his onto a watchful Clarence Dunn. By this time and after two encounters by trusted people in the community rumors were just beginning to swirl. Dunn had heard about Dr. Alcott’s experiences (although it is not clear if he had heard about Griffith’s) and decided to keep watch through the night. He posted up in the bank and brought his shotgun along to keep him company, should the Visitor stop by. Although, he still believed clever burglars were behind the strange sightings. Like the other two men, at around 1am the Van Meter Visitor made himself known. Unlike the other experiences though, this time Dunn said he heard a ‘strangling noise’ outside his home and that is what pushed him to investigate, not a light shining in the window. Almost instantaneously, as he moved to open the door he was hit in close range in the face through the window with the blinding light of the Van Meter Visitor. When the light briefly let up, according to The Bigfoot Diaries interview with the authors of the Van Meter Visitor, “some kind of great from behind the light.” Dunn, instinctively, fired his shotgun at the mysterious being, right through the bank’s front window. Like the shots by Dr. Alcott, it had no effect on the Visitor. The next morning outside of the bank he saw several sets of three-toed footprints (another call back to the Jersey Devil?) and said he made plaster casts of them, although they have never been found.
More sightings were reported throughout the three days. This includes O.V. White, the owner of a local hardware store, who saw the monster asleep on a telephone pole and tried to shoot it. Interestingly, instead of using his light or making a strangling noise, the Van Meter Visitor expressed his annoyance by releasing a ‘terrible smell’ towards White. Mr. White’s neighbor, Sidney Gregg, also saw the creature at the same time dismount the pole and then fly through town, apparently heading towards the old coal mine on the outskirts of town. Most interestingly and semi-related to the Mothman, rather than the Jersey Devil, is the experience at the mine.
Fed up after three days of their town being terrorized at sundown, several people from Van Meter geared up and headed towards the mines, where Sidney had said the creature had flown to the previous day. By this time, strange noises were being reported coming from the abandoned coal mines.
A local allegedly described these sounds as, “though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for a battle.” When the men got to the mines, they found the Van Meter Visitor wasn’t alone. Instead, it was accompanied by a second creature (which was spotted emerging from the mine and taking off into the night). Before they could confront either creature, they both had fled.
The men decided to wait to see if the creatures returned. They eventually did and the crowd opened fire on the creatures. Apparently, they didn’t think very much of the previous attempts to bring down the Van Meter Visitor with the gunshot. Once again, despite the increased numbers and firepower, they were still shocked when the creatures were completely immune to their firepower.
Unsure of what to do next or how to handle these creatures that could not be easily brought down, they decided to simply brick up the abandoned mines to ensure that those things could never see the light of day again. Perhaps there was another way out and perhaps they flew away into the night, but they were never seen again in Van Meter.
Thanks to Ander S for the suggestion!
The above image is not directly related to the story. It is by Blondinrikard Fröberg, entitled Spotlight Graveyard live at Liseberg, Göteborg, August 6, 2014. It is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)