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A Roundup of Indiana’s Top Monsters
They (probably) don’t breathe radioactive fire like Godzilla, but our mythical beasts are just as terrifying as Japan’s classic.
The new Godzilla movie hit theaters this month, but Indiana residents who crave monster thrills needn’t settle for a Japanese import. According to certain not-entirely reliable sources, our state is crawling (and slithering and flying) with home-grown horrors.
For instance, a Bigfoot-type hominid is said to stalk the dense forests and untrammeled wilds (and probably the picnic area and parking lot as well) of the Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area in Jennings County. In 2006, some campers allegedly encountered the thing, which promptly chased them off the property. One of these intrepid outdoorsmen said he encountered the beast again a few weeks later, while out hunting squirrel. Which is pretty gutsy, because if The Hoosierist ever got chased by a giant ape man, he’d spend the rest of his life hiding under his bed, not harassing tree rats.
Indiana's most serious monster action can be found in its lakes and rivers. In 1955, two women were swimming in the Ohio River near Evansville when one was tugged underwater by a green, hairy, clawed hand. The victim escaped and returned to shore bruised, cut, and bearing a green handprint on her leg that lingered for days. In a startling coincidence, this encounter occurred shortly after the release of the famous gill-man epic Creature from the Black Lagoon. There's even a similar scene in the movie. What are the odds?
Legend has it that a much larger aquatic horror inhabits Lake Manitou, near the town of Rochester. Apparently it gets quite upset if anyone messes around in its home. In 1827, workers surveying the shore for a mill (which certainly qualifies as "messing around") reported a 30-foot behemoth with a long neck and a horse-like head. Sightings of the "Devil's Lake Monster" continued throughout the first half of the 19th century. They tapered off after 1849, when locals caught a gigantic buffalo carp that everyone figured had to be the creature. Because carp are famous for their long necks and horse-like heads.
No listing of Indiana kaiju would be complete without the famed Beast of Busco, a gigantic turtle that supposedly inhabits the smallish, seven-acre Fulk's Lake just east of the Whitley County town of Churubusco. First sighted in 1898, it's described as a snapping turtle-ish creature with a five-foot-wide shell. Nicknamed Oscar, it was next spotted in 1948, briefly becoming a national sensation. No one has seen it lately, but Churubusco still calls itself Turtle Town and stages an annual Turtle Days festival.
The Hoosier State contains enough giant reptiles to populate a drive-in double feature, but it's also home to a couple of genuinely unsettling horrors that sound like denizens of a Lovecraft tale. In 1891, the Crawfordsville Journal reported that a couple of locals spotted a strange creature hovering in the sky above them. The entity was 18 feet long, eight feet wide, and pure white with a single flaming eye, and moved with the assistance of several sets of fins. Locals explained it away using deductions worthy of a Scooby-Doo episode. The monster, according to "experts," was a huge flock of killdeer (a small bird) disoriented by the town's recently installed electric lights. Yeah, a flock of birds looks exactly like a finned, one-eyed nightmare from the howling void between the stars. Whatever lets you sleep at night, Crawfordsville.
Speaking of eldritch horrors, they don't come more eldritch-y than the monster snake that was said to inhabit a cemetery near Oxford in Benton County. First reported in 1889, it was described as 15 feet long and as big around as a stovepipe, with fiery eyes and horns. But that wasn't the worst. In a plot twist worthy of a straight-to-Netflix horror movie, the serpent lived in the cemetery so it could "feed upon the dead bodies interred therein." Cue the scary music.
Finally, lest we think that creature sightings are a thing of the past, consider The Lakeside Ness Monster. The creature allegedly lives in Fort Wayne, in a body of water inside Lakeside Park. In 2009 a local even took a picture of it. Or rather, of something. It could be some sort of aquatic monster. But it could also be a muskrat. Or a beaver. Or maybe one of those buffalo carp. Those things are huge.
Got an Indiana- or Indy-related question? E-mail The Hoosierist here.