On the lookout for real monsters this Halloween? Lace up your boots and join the search for Iowa’s cryptozoological legends.
Vagrant kangaroos are nothing new, having been spotted in a good portion of the eastern United States and pockets of California for over a century. But in the late 1990s there was an uptick in phantom kangaroos throughout the Midwest, including two independent sightings just 30 miles southwest of Iowa City in Wellman and another in Ottumwa. On August 4, 1999, Lois Eckhart approached an animal that “looked like a deer, but it had a bigger belly and a boxy nose and a tail too long for a deer.” Lois didn’t think to report the mystery animal until she read about Mary Stangl’s phantom kangaroo spotting in Ottumwa a few weeks later. Local sheriff’s officials and area zoos confirmed no escapees, only deepening the mystery of how kangaroos continue to exist in America’s heartland.
The Lockridge Monster
On a chilly October morning in 1975, a hunter by the name of Lowell Adkins stumbled upon the carcasses of four partially devoured turkeys near a farm in Lockridge, Iowa, a small town 60 miles south of Iowa City. Accompanying the carcasses were 10-inch tracks from an unknown animal, later named The Lockridge Monster. The beast gained national attention when farmers Gloria Olsen and Herb Peiffer reported a hairy bear-like animal with a monkey face that prowled their cornfields by night. Some speculated this could be southeast Iowa’s very own Bigfoot, but Ramona Hibner of the South Mountain Research Group, a Florida-based Bigfoot think tank, laid those speculations to rest with her observation that Sasquatch tracks are typically twice the size of the Lockridge Monster prints and that animal slaughter is out-of-character for the vegetarian Bigfoot. To this date, the mystery of what lurks in the fields of Lockridge remains unsolved.
Okoboji Lake Monster
No lake monster will ever compare to the famous and quintessential cryptid, the Loch Ness Monster, but the Okoboji lake monster is Iowa’s very own Nessie. Described as a giant “fish” with a head the size of a bowling ball and a dark green hide, Obojoki, as it’s affectionately called by Dickinson County natives, has been brushing the sides of lake-users’ boats for many years. Part tourist industry invention and part Native American legend, evidence of the Spirit Lake creature can be found on user-submitted MySpace videos, paranormal websites, and of course locals’ personal tales. As the stories have it, the Iowa Great Lakes are connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a large subterranean river, giving Obojoki access to the wilds of open ocean. Okoboji visitors are urged to use the lake with caution and an open mind.
Nothing is more frightening in the realm of Iowa monsters than the possibility of being attacked on a nature trail by a lost and hungry wildcat. The story typically goes like this: A wildcat from Canada has lost its way and found itself in the wooded bluffs of northern Iowa. Throughout the years, reports of cougars (panthers, pumas, mountain lions and catamounts) have made their way into Iowa media. The numerous and varied eyewitness reports add a certain credibility to this particular monster story. For those hiking north of here–forget Bigfoot, look to the trees for potential pounces. These are officially extinct quadrupeds but those out for a scenic stroll may want to watch out for strays. Think domestic house cats leaping from bookshelves, only 200-pound stalk-and-ambush predators with razor sharp claws and a taste for blood.
Every region of the world with a patch of wilderness has its own Great Ape/Bigfoot/Yeti/Sasquatch story. The species share similar traits–a roughly eight-foot hairy hominid that wanders the forest leaving droppings, footprints and fur samples for those who dare investigate their existence. Stories of hairy men-like creatures roaming the wilds date back to earliest recorded history. The Skunk River Valley, a hotbed of Iowa monster activity, has seen a marked increase in reportings in recent months. Shawn Morrissey, operations and natural resource manager for Jefferson County Conservation doesn’t want to call it Bigfoot, but doesn’t know how to explain the recent sightings in Iowa either. “I’m not going to say they didn’t see something but I think the more likely thing is they saw something in a flash or at a strange angle,” Morrissey explains. The official position hasn’t stopped the steady stream of witnesses who have come forward this year with their own accounts of Bigfoot in their backyard. From what we’ve heard from the locals, the North American Ape is alive and well in Iowa.
Matt Butler is the chief investigator of Weird Shit Incorporated.