Van Meter, Iowa, is a small town in the Des Moines metropolitan area that had a population of just over 400 in 1903. During that same time, it may have also been home to a demon, which naturally has the friendly title of the Van Meter Visitor.

It was the fall of 1903, and several of Van Meter's most prominent men were about to encounter the strangest sight of their lives. The monster came out at night. It stood about nine-foot-tall and had wings like a bat. There was a horn on its head, which it used to shoot a beam of light. Witnesses claim that it had a distinct odor to it and that it moved at impossibly fast speeds.

Accounts of the Visitor's nightly appearances were often the same. Someone of note from the town saw the creature flying or moving about, and, as any good early twentieth-century man would do, they shot it. Bullets did nothing to stop Iowa's most powerful monster, and it carried on.

Des Moines Daily News

“Maybe we should have asked questions first and shot later?”

After days of being tormented by the Van Meter Visitor (well, "tormented" may be a strong word, as the monster never seemed to threaten anyone), the men decided that a good ol' mob was the solution. They gathered with their seemingly ineffective firearms in hand and ventured to the town's abandoned mine, where the monster reportedly was. When they arrived, they found the Van Meter Visitor and a second Visitor that was about half the original's size. Firstly, adorable. Secondly, the men of Van Meter fired away. Just as previous attempts, though, the gunfire did nothing to stop the beast, and the Visitor and its son went down the mineshaft. 

This is where the 1903 story of the Van Meter Visitor ends. The dudes in the mob could all high-five (or whatever the 1903 equivalent was) each other and claim that they scared the monster away. There have been sporadic sightings of the bat-man since then, though, including within the past few years.

Local lore like this often fades away, especially when it is confined to such a specific area, but thankfully for the Van Meter Visitor, it is more famous now than ever before. There is an annual Van Meter Visitor Festival held every September in the monster's hometown. An event for fans of the paranormal and interested community members alike, the festival includes a walking tour of the supposed path of the creature. 

One thing it does not offer is an explanation. What separates the Van Meter Visitor from some cryptid sightings is that everyone who encountered the monster in 1903 was someone with a positive reputation. Running around and shooting at imaginary creatures was something that would have made them look bad, so they would not have been as open about it if they didn't genuinely believe that there was, in fact, a giant bat monster in their town. It also seems unlikely that this was someone in a costume since, again, everyone who encountered the creature shot it into oblivion. 

Maybe they were all victims to the same wave of town-wide hysteria. Or maybe, someday, the Visitor will make an appearance once again, perhaps to greet his adoring fans during the festival in his honor. Until then, we can only speculate what was going on when every wealthy man in a small Iowa town tried to murder a monster.

Top Image: Des Moines Daily News

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