Five Days of Terror

With apologies for the stretch it took to relate this to pottery history.

Never underestimate family reunions.  These rare chances to revel in the past can lead down unexpected paths.  Case in point, Van Meter, IA (current population: 1094).

My brother and I stopped in at the local library to follow up on some turn-of-the-century family headstones in the Van Meter cemetery.  The library had a poster on the wall.  A yellowish green gargoyle-like creature with a glowing light on it’s head dominated the foreground.  Behind, in silhouette, were several mounted cowboys brandishing rifles.  Underneath read: “Five Days of Terror, 1903.”

The story:

U.G. Griffith was returning home around 1am one night in October 1903 when he saw a light on the bank roof.  He approached thinking it might be thieves.  The light darted to another rooftop and disappeared.  The next night, again around 1am, O.V. White, who slept above his hardware store near the bank, was woken by a light shining in his face.  He fired five shots point blank into the hulking figure hovering over him.  O.V. was known for his dead aim, but the creature ran off without leaving a trace. 

Over the next few nights, the “Van Meter Visitor,” as it became known, was seen late at night (only within the two block downtown area of this teeny village, always around 1am).  Encounters inevitably ended with several townsfolk blasting away at the Visitor.  Each time the Visitor escaped, seemingly unharmed.  The Visitor stood about 8 feet tall.  It was half human/half bat with a light on it’s forehead.  It ran like a kangaroo.  And it stank.  A plaster cast was taken of the Visitor’s three-toed footprint to show the local “professor” (the school teacher) who declared it – obviously – an “antediluvian creature of Satan.”

A posse formed.  They tracked the Visitor to an abandoned coal mine.  It sprang out, followed by several juveniles of it’s kind.  The creatures  flew off into the cornfields, shrieking, never to be seen again.

Whether or not these events actually happened, the story is certainly true.  Next time you’re in Van Meter, stop in at the library and see for yourself…

For anyone wondering how on earth this tale might relate to pottery history, unfortunately it doesn’t.  It’s just too bizarre not to mention.  The best that can be done is to end with a  John Polak photograph of some mugs I made recently.



The Van Meter Visitor: A True and Mysterious Encounter with the Unknown.  Chad Lewis, Noah Voss and Kevin Nelson.  On The Road Publications.  2013.


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