The state of Indiana is best known for its sports, like the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 motorsports races, the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and college basketball. It’s also home to farmland, rivers, lakes, and plains. It’s the 38th largest state with the 16th greatest population. Indiana has its share of famous residents, such as the King of Pop Michael Jackson, basketball great Larry Bird, actor James Dean, and KFC founder Colonel Sanders.
It’s also filled with creepy crawlies.
The Green Clawed Beast
While swimming in the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana, on 21 August 1955, an unseen “claw-like hand” grabbed Mrs Darwin Johnson and pulled her beneath the water. Her friend, Mrs Chris Lamble, lay sunning herself on a nearby raft when she heard her friend yelp, and turned to see her pulled under.
The hand released Johnson who swam to the surface only to be grabbed, and pulled under again. She kicked free and pulled herself onto the raft with the screaming Lamble. Later, when treated for multiple injuries from the attack, a green handprint was found on Johnson’s leg. The stain lasted for days. The women never saw the monster, and no reports have surfaced since.
Mill Race Monster
Two groups of girls in Mill Race Park in Columbus, Indiana, on 1 November 1974 reported encountering a “green, hairy and large” monster. The first report was at 3 p.m., the second at 11 p.m., according to The Columbus Republic. During the 11 p.m. encounter, the monster jumped on the victims’ car and left “claw marks in the paint.”
Days later, city dogcatcher Rick Duckworth claimed to have seen the creature, and described it to the newspaper as looking “like a person wrapped in blankets and wearing a mask.”
The park became flooded with monster hunters, so much so the city had to close the park from dusk to dawn, stationing police around the entrances to turn away thrill seekers.
Although the sightings stopped as quickly as they began, the legend of the creature has left its mark on Columbus.
The Beast of Busco
In 1898, farmer Oscar Fulk claimed to see an enormous snapping turtle in a lake on his farm near Churubusco, Indiana. Dubbed Oscar by the locals, the giant turtle was only a story until two fishermen, Ora Blue, and Charley Wilson, saw the creature in the lake in 1948. They claimed the turtle weighed at least 500 pounds. Gale Harris, who now owned Fulk Lake, also saw the creature and said he was going to capture it. The legend had grown, and so apparently had the turtle. Reports had the shell being as big as the roof of a car.
Although Harris drained the lake, the turtle was never found. That doesn’t stop Churubusco from hosting its Turtle Days festival every June.
In 1891, two ice deliverymen in Crawfordsville, Indiana, saw a “horrible apparition” flying over them. Their claim was bolstered by the local Methodist minister and his wife, who told the Crawfordsville Journal they saw a monster “about eighteen feet long and eight feet wide” fly through the air. It appeared to the minister and his wife to resemble a white shroud with “propelling fins.” They didn’t spot a tail or a head, but heard it wheezing from an “invisible” mouth. “It flapped like a flag in the winds as it came on and frequently gave a great squirm as though suffering unutterable agony.”
Indiana has more than its share of stories of enormous snakes. The most terrifying is from Benton County.
A ghoulish snake that inhabits a cemetery west of Oxford, Indiana, and feeds off the corpses within, has been reported for years. The creature, “measuring fifteen feet in length, as large in circumference as a good-sized stovepipe, with eyes of fire, adorned with horns underneath fully ten inches long … has been seen by at least a dozen people,” according to the Lafayette Courier, 3 September 1889. Reports claim large holes were discovered that lead into graves.
Other claims of monster snakes dot Indiana, from the twenty-five to thirty-five feet long reptile seen near Greensburg in the 1920s, to the thirty-feet-long snake of fire seen by farmer Mark Weston near Alexander in 1893.
The Potawatomi Indians near what is now Rochester stayed away from Lake Manitou because of its inhabitant, the Meshekenabek. According to the book Recollections of the Early Settlements of the Wabash Valley, “The Indians would not hunt upon its borders, nor fish in its waters for fear of incurring the anger of the evil spirit that made its home in this little woodland lake.”
The Meshekenabek, a dark thirty-feet-long serpent-like monster with the head of a horse, was seen in that lake in 1827 by men building a corn mill. The local blacksmith saw the beast and added it had “large yellow spots.”
The monster was seen again in 1838 by two men who claimed the monster was “sixty feet long, and looked like a huge snake,” according to the Logansport Telegraph.
Although enormous fish have been caught in the lake, no one has ever captured the Meshekenabek.