Mythical Monday: The Van Meter Visitor by Mae Clair

During autumn of 1903, the sleepy village of Van Meter, Iowa experienced three nights of strange visitations from a creature they believed had crept from an abandoned mine shaft. The bizarre occurrences began on September 29th when Ulysses Griffith, a traveling salesman was heading home after a business trip. Around 1AM, Mr. Griffith spied an odd light that appeared to “hop” from rooftop to rooftop. Intrigued, he was nonetheless tired after a long day of travel, and promptly headed home to bed.

The next night, September 30th at approximately the same hour, Dr. Alcott, the town physician, was drawn awake by a shaft of bright light streaming into his bedroom. Thinking a burglar lurked outside, he grabbed a firearm and headed outdoors to investigate. What he found was a gargoyle-like creature endowed with large bat wings and a blunt horn on its forehead from which light poured. Horrified, Dr. Alcott shot the beast five times, but the bullets had no effect.

The third resident to spot the creature was local banker, Clarence Dunn. On the night of October 1st at approximately 1AM, Mr. Dunn was camped out at his bank when a bright light suddenly flowed through the front window. He heard a strange wheezing and spied a shadowy figure skulking outside. Like Dr. Alcott, he shot the creature, firing directly through the window. But when he went outside to investigate, the beast had vanished, leaving a three-toed print behind in the dirt. Mr. Dunn later made a cast from the footprint as proof of the visitation.

On the same night, O.V. White spied the creature perched on a telephone pole. He fired, but the beast merely shone its light on him, then used its large hooked beak to clamber down the pole. There it encountered another resident, who estimated its height near eight feet. The creature hopped off like a kangaroo, flapping its wings as if attempting to take flight.

Finally, that same night, a group of men working a late-night shift heard strange sounds coming from an old mine shaft. When they investigated, two of the creatures abruptly appeared, one smaller than the other, and promptly winged off into the night. Determined to destroy the beasts and remove the threat to Van Meter, the men returned to town and organized a posse. Armed with rifles, the group trekked back to the mine and waited for the gargoyles to return.

The pair flew back to their lair just before sunrise where they were greeted by a deadly hail of bullets. The barrage “would have sunk the Spanish fleet” but it had no effect on them. The men found themselves engulfed by a putrid odor—perhaps the creature’s only defense?—before the winged beasts vanished into the mine shaft, never to be seen again.

There are plenty of tales about cryptids, but what gives this legend particular credence is the reputation of the men who reported seeing the monster. Most were prominent professionals and businessmen who couldn’t afford to be viewed as crackpots, yet they willingly attached their names to reports of sightings.  It has prompted many to believe this particular legend carries merit.

the-van-meter-visitor-bookAuthors Chad Lewis, Noah Voss, and Kevin Nelson have penned their own account of those three days in autumn of 1903, thoroughly investigating the circumstances surrounding the sightings. Their book, The Van Meter Visitor is available for purchase from Amazon or direct (autographed copy) from the authors’ website. This one has been on my reading list for some time and I hope to indulge in it shortly.

I find it curious that although the creature was no doubt terrifying in appearance, not once did it act in a threatening manner. Repeatedly shot at, chased, and generally sought for slaughter, it never defended itself. Only when the smaller creature was with it at the mine—perhaps a mate or offspring?—did it respond defensively. Even then it was only to release a “putrid odor” rather than attack. Surely a beast of that size with a long hooked beak, horn, and enormous wings could have inflicted damage if it chose.

It makes me think that the Van Meter Visitor may have been a peaceful creature. What’s your take?

19 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Van Meter Visitor by Mae Clair

  1. Very interesting! It makes you wonder how much each of them influenced the others’ description of the beast as well. Maybe this was some creature we’ve all seen and the first impression was under some influence of sleep deprivation or some sort. You just never know.

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    • Oooh, very cool idea, L.J. And the town was definitely freaked by their gargoyle-like visitor, so they were probably sharing descriptions among themselves. The light is the thing that gets me. I would love to know what made that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The most fascinating aspect to me is the light coming out of the horn. How handy to have that ability. I have not heart of this intriguing creature before. Thanks so much for sharing. The creature sounds pretty advanced, as it did not express hostility and aggression until its offspring was threatened. Thanks for an enlightening post!

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    • The light is what fascinates me the most, too, Flossie. And it was only as I was writing the post that I realized the creature had not acted aggressively until arriving at the mine with it’s offspring or mate. None of the blogs/websites I researched noted that circumstance, but it stood out for me. I strongly believe it didn’t want to harm anyone.

      Glad you enjoyed today’s Mythical Monday!

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  3. Absolutely fascinating! Wow! What a fright for the inhabitants. What a pity we can’t travel back in time to see with our own eyes some of these unique events!
    If it hadn’t been for the light emanating from that horn I would have said a creature that survived in the depths of the mine; some prehistorical animal. But no. It only means an alien of some type. And compare the behavior of the two species – the creatures and the humans. Killing is written in our DNA no doubt. The “visitor” wasn’t aggressive. Just scary-looking. Why shoot at him?
    Thanks for another intriguing post!

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    • Great take on the two species, Carmen–how the humans reacted and the creatures reacted. I wonder if the townspeople seemed like primitive children to it. It certainly behaved benevolently even when shot at repeatedly. Poor thing. No doubt it was scary-looking, but I have a feeling it was merely curious.

      So glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

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  4. This is one of those strange listings that hold such a ring of truth. These strange creatures were seem by so many. Did they come from underground? Were they perhaps visitors from another world. I hope they got away.
    I do love these posts.

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    • They were seen by many (just like my favorite cryptid, the Mothman), which gives them that ring of truth. The poor things vanished into the mine never to be seen again. It feels like they were chased from our world. I wonder if there wasn’t a labyrinth of some sort they found more welcoming then the town of Van Meter.

      Glad you enjoyed my Mythical Mondays, Daisy!

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    • I wouldn’t mind seeing one from a distance but I wouldn’t want to encounter one up close…. Unless it turned out to be wholly benevolent, LOL! Thanks for checking out my latest, Jessi!

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  5. My first thought, I admit, was skeptical: creatures from the underworld? We always seem to learn of these things from a distance in space and time, never up close and on the main news channels. Some form of intoxicant in the food or the atmosphere perhaps, some kind of subconscious collusion, or just a worthy attempt to give Van Meter some publicity and put it on the map. I guess we’ll never know.

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    • Hello, Frederick, and thank you for dropping by my blog! You’ve certainly raised some interesting possibilities. If the Van Meter visitor was a carefully-crafted hoax or an experiment gone awry, it wouldn’t be the first time. I do love that there are so many unsolved mysteries out there that give reign to speculation. Any “what if” scenario immediately makes me stop and ponder all the possibilities. Like you said….I guess we’ll never know!

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  6. Scared humans shooting at the unknown. Though maybe frightening in appearance (I can’t say I like the look of gargoyles), this creature did no harm. I’d love to see Supernatural of some such show do an episode about this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was focused on the fact it didn’t harm anyone either, or even act aggressively. Seeing it addressed in a TV show like Supernatural would be awesome. Consider me a built-in audience.

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