Hoosier Monsters and Where to Find Them

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Ever wondered where to find a monster? From the 1960’s to the 1980’s students taking folklore courses at Indiana University conducted interviews around the state about topics that included local supernatural creatures. Those essays are now part of the Folklore Collection at the University Archives. To celebrate Halloween and the IU Themester on animals, I’ve selected six Hoosier Monsters for your reading and viewing terror.

Portraits of our friendly neighborhood spooks were created by fellow folklore grad student (and monster enthusiast) Ben Bridges.

“Older scouts would take some of the tenderfoots [first year scouts] out looking for the Gullywompus at the far end of camp. Older scouts would break up in groups leaving a group of tenderfoots out by themselves without a flashlight. Older scouts would then circle the tenderfoots running through the brush making wild animal sounds. This would scare the tenderfoots causing some to cry, this is when the older scouts would stop and reassure them that everything is all right and that it is just a legend.”

At Camp Louis Ernst in DuPont, Indiana, Boy Scouts in the 1960’s and 70’s would take younger scouts out into the edge of camp to look for a creature called the Gullywompus. According to an IU student’s 1977 interview with a former camper who experienced this in 1963, the Gullywompus was “a large hairy creature that will get you if you don’t watch out.” The scouts said that it had lived in the camp since the 1920s, appeared on moonlit winter nights, and had flashing red eyes in the middle of its head. They also said it would tear up trees, throw boulders, make moaning noises, and grab and shake unwary hikers.  The practice of tricking younger scouts is akin to “Snipe Hunting,” an initiation ritual practiced at summer camps across the United States.

Item number: 77/162

“..a man…was driving home one night (on Cable Line) and he saw something and it scared him, and he hit something and flew out of his car hit a tree with his body and it left the impression of his face and body in the tree, so now that whenever you drive by this tree, on the corner of 26 and 11, you can see his body in the tree. The thing that he saw was the Cable Line monster.”

In Elkhart, Indiana, there are many legends about a specific tree on Cable Line Road. The story above was shared with an IU student in 1978 by a 19-year old former resident of Cable Line Road. The “Cable Line Monster,” depending on who you ask, either caused the fatal accident or stole the body of the victim. Elkhart residents say that the monster lives near the tree, and if you drive past the scene of the accident your car will rattle and shake.

Who is said to have died in the crash varies, as does the reason for the accident – some people say it was a young couple coming home from a date and the boy fell asleep at the wheel, others that it was a motorcyclist going too fast in the rain, and still others that it was a father and his young son who were distracted by the monster. Whoever it was that met their end, it is said their spirit sometimes appears around the tree, and that if you shine your headlights on the tree at night you can clearly see the imprint of their face and body. People who live near Cable Line Road report strange happenings at night, including lights flickering on and off and phone calls with no one on the other end. The Cable Line Monster itself is the subject of much disagreement: it is usually said to have caused the accident, but it has been described by different people as a troll, a hairy bear-like animal with glowing eyes, a swamp monster, or an alien.

Item numbers: 77/145, 78/067 (story from this one), 78/102, 78/103

“Well, son, I never actually saw the thing myself. But I heard it scream. Sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Kind o’ like a woman screaming; And later when I went out fer water I seen where it had been, out at the pond drinking, left big prints in the mud.”

In Petersburg, Indiana, it was said for many years that the “strip pits,” strip mining sites near town, were inhabited by a strange creature. The figure was half-man, half-ape, twelve feet tall, and left foot prints twice the size of a man’s shoe. It had glowing eyes, and dogs would bark when the creature was nearby. The description above comes from a 93-year old Petersburg resident who shared his story with an IU student in 1973. The reports of the creature’s color varied, leading the IU student who recorded people’s stories to suggest that there might be multiple creatures who have lived in the area over the years. According to people in town, the creature would appear one day every four weeks in the late summer and early fall of every other year. The student researcher also suggested the possibility that during its two-year absences the creature was either hibernating or wandering the country under other names like “Bigfoot” and “Windago.”

Item number: 73/040

“In my mind, Oscar is the ninth wonder of the world; the Lock Ness Monster being the eighth. In a way I’m glad Oscar was never captured, if in fact he does, or did exist. People shouldn’t take his freedom away from him just because he’s unique . . . Who knows . . . Oscar just may decide to show his face some day.” – IU Student in 1973 on researching Beast of Busco

In Churubusco, Indiana, in the spring of 1949, Gale Harris saw a giant turtle that was “the size of large dinner table” in Fulk pond on his farm. The pond was named after its previous owner Oscar Fulk, so the turtle was given the name Oscar. After Harris’s first turtle sighting he began trying to capture Oscar, drawing curious onlookers from across the state. Gale’s efforts, however, were plagued by bad luck: he attempted to drain the lake, but got appendicitis and could not continue. Then he and other turtle tourists rented a diving suit, but their plans were foiled when the helmet leaked.

While someone using a “water weasel” claimed to see what looked like the turtle moving under the ice when the lake was frozen over, no official sighting besides Harris’s was documented. That did not stop Oscar’s popularity, though – hundreds and then thousands of people traveled to the farm, hoping to glimpse the giant reptile. Some reports suggest the Cincinatti Zoo asked to take Oscar if they could locate him, although the Zoo now denies this. Even the Indiana Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals got involved, stating that Oscar “should not be harpooned.” Eventually Harris spent so much money and time trying to find this mysterious turtle that he lost his farm. His search, though, made news across the state and country. Although Oscar was never found, Churubusco instituted an annual celebration called Turtle Day and has re-named itself “Turtle Town, USA.”

Item numbers: 73/004, 74/240

“One day this fisherman came in from fishing and he was soaking wet. People asked him, ‘what happened, how come you are all wet?’ He said, ‘A great big monster came out of the water and tipped my boat over and I went flying out into the water. I had to swim all the way here with the monster chasing me.’ All the people just laughed and said, “Oh sure,” and took it off like he was drunk. Well as days, months and years passed other people fishermen said they had been turned over and people along the shore said that they had seen this big monster out in the lake. Pretty soon they start believing it. So people went out to see if they could look at it, and search parties went out, but they couldn’t find anything. Then in about 1952 this one fisherman, boy he was lucky, he caught this big ten foot two-hundred pound Bass. Well after that no one else ever saw that monster. People went out in search parties but never saw the monster. So they think that the monster is that big Bass.”

Lake Manitou is a man-made reservoir near Rochester, Indiana, created in 1828 as part of a treaty between the U.S. government and the Potawatomi Tribe. The tribe called it Lake Manitou, or “devil’s lake,” supposedly because they believed a monster lived in it. An IU student recorded the story above from a Manitou local in 1978, and suggested in his analysis that the legend was intended to explain the many disappearances in the lake. According to that report the stories continued at least into the 1950s, but other sources suggest that the sightings occurred mostly in the 19th century, particularly around 1838 when the Potawatomi people were forced to leave their land.

Item Number: 78/117

“…’spose you know ‘bout that big catfish in the river down by the railroad tracks…it’s ‘spose to weigh about 150 pounds…I don’t know…an old coal locomotive went off the bridge down there and years and years ago…and he’s liven in the locomotive.”

In Terre Haute, Indiana, an IU student in 1973 interviewed an elderly plant worker about local folklore related to fishing. He shared with her the story above about a giant catfish living in the wreckage of an old train that had gone off a bridge over the Wabash River. The student who conducted the interview didn’t provide much information beyond the text of the story, but there was a train that fell in the Wabash River in the 1900 Big Four Bridge collapse. Despite later attempts to locate the ruins, part of the train is believed to remain underwater to this day. While the story of the giant catfish in the Wabash doesn’t appear to have become very well known, it is similar to many other stories of large fish appearing in rivers and lakes across the state.

Item Number: 73/128

Fraternity Exchange Students in the 1930s

We recently received a reference request concerning an exchange student from England during the 1930s. This spurred research into an interesting exchange student program that Indiana University had just begun at the time. Although we don’t have much information on the student the original reference request was about, we do have a letter from the IU student who went to England.

Fraternity exchange plans began in 1935-1936 with the Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter at IU. They provided a German student with free room and board, and the university gave the student free tuition. The next academic year, a student from IU went to Germany and received free room, board, and tuition. In the 1937-1938 academic year, the Board of Trustees (see the May 18, 1937 Trustees minutes) in conjunction with three fraternities offered free tuition, room, and board to a Swiss student, a German student, and an English student.

Terence Lane
Gilbert Bailey

Gilbert Bailey was the IU exchange student to University of London Southampton in 1937-1938. Originally, an English student was to come to IU the same year, but delays from the University of London Southampton kept him from coming until the following academic year. That student was Terence Lane. He attended IU and received room and board at Phi Delta Theta for the 1938-1939 year. In the letter below to Paul Feltus, the editor of the Bloomington Star, in 1937, Bailey writes,

The officials of the university here have received the plan enthusiastically and are already making plans to submit the idea to the English National Students’ Union in the hope that the plan will be extended to include exchanges between many English and American universities. It is only because the idea is new here that more time is needed to complete the first American-English exchange.

Letter to Paul Feltus from Gilbert Bailey, August 24, 1937, C213

Bailey received good reviews as a student from the University of London Southampton. Bailey went on to encourage more university exchanges. While he was a student at IU, he was a member of the IDS staff. He was from Delphi, Indiana.

When Bailey had gone to study in England, the university there was supposed to send one of their students to IU. However, they were unable to do so until the following academic year. That student was Terence Lane. He attended IU and received room and board at Phi Delta Theta for the 1938-1939 year.

If you would like to know more about exchange programs at IU, please contact the Archives.

Celebrating 20 years of the Asian Culture Center at IU

Chancellor Herman B Wells visits students at the Asian Culture Center, January 2000.

As the Asian Culture Center (ACC) prepares to celebrate 20 years on campus, the University Archives are happy to announce that the records of the ACC (Collection C691) are now open for research.

Opened in 1998, the Asian Culture Center was the first center of its kind in the Midwest. In addition to daily activities and numerous events (Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, CultureFest, Holi, Lunar New Year to name only a few), the Center serves as resource that is open to the entire IU community. Over the years, the faculty, staff, and students at the ACC (led by director Melanie Castillo-Cullather since 1999) have successfully campaigned for an Asian American Studies Program (created in 2008); advocated for more diverse recruitment; established a lasting network of Asian Alumni; facilitated dialogue in response to acts of racism on campus; provided scholarships; the list goes on and on.

A newspaper article from the aftermath of murder of Won Joon-Yoon, a Korean graduate student, on July 4, 1999.

Next month’s anniversary (October 11-13, 2018) celebrates 20 years since the opening of their facilities on East Tenth Street, but what you may not realize is the dream of an Asian Culture Center reaches back another 10 years, to 1988! This collection documents the growth and development of the ACC, including background research into the Asian population at IU and the growing call to action in the early 1990’s.

Tireless organizing by faculty, staff, and students made this dream a reality. We wish to not only to congratulate the Asian Culture Center on 20 years of outstanding advocacy for the Asian community, but to recognize 30 years of activism culminating in the recognizable presence of the ACC today.

A richly detailed history of this timeline (along with more photos, newsletters, and articles) can be found on the anniversary website.

Behind the Curtain: Jennifer Liss, Head of Monographic Image Cataloging

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. 

Title and Role: Jennifer is the Head of Monographic Image Cataloging for the Cataloging Department at the Herman B Wells Library. The Cataloging Department helps IU Libraries’ users discover the collections curated, purchased, and licensed by IU Libraries through tools such as IUCAT, WorldCat, Archives Online, Image Collections Online, and Media Collections Online.

Educational background: Jennifer wanted to study everything as an undergraduate, which is perhaps why she was an English major, with a heavy focus in Anglo-Irish literature, and minors in history and biology. While earning her B.A. at Rutgers, Jennifer spent a few weeks in Ireland and became fascinated with special collections and, to her surprise, the art of science of special collections librarianship. She moved to Bloomington to complete a M.L.S. degree with the rare books and manuscripts specialization at Indiana University.

Work Experience: As a graduate student at IU, Jennifer had the good fortune of being able to work at the Chemistry Library, the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab, and the Owen County Public Library. Shortly after completing a fascinating cataloging internship at the Lilly Library, Jennifer accepted her first full-time appointment as a copy cataloger in the Wells Library Cataloging Department. Although it was not her initial plan to stay in the Midwest, she quickly learned that there was MUCH more to learn about cataloging and metadata—and IU is one of the best public universities in the Unites States to do just that. Jennifer worked as an original cataloger before accepting a faculty appointment as a Metadata/Cataloging Librarian, where she managed multiple digital collections metadata projects. In what has proven to be the biggest surprise in her career thus far, Jennifer found that she loved managing processes and helping her colleagues succeed in their respective roles. She has worked as a Cataloging Department manager since 2013.

Work with the IU Archives: Jennifer has worked with IU Archives since 2011, when the Cataloging Department first began cataloging collections curated by IU Archives. She remembers that time fondly, not only because she got to play in the archives, but because it was her first real taste of developing metadata strategy in an environment that was new to her. Compared with books, archival collections have different description and access needs and Jennifer enjoyed learning more about how users of primary sources find information.

Favorite experience working with the IU Archives: Jennifer notes that “My favorite experience working with the IU Archives involved researching the history of the IU women’s residence halls in the early twentieth century. What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to collaborate with IU Archives colleagues on the Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks. IU Archives staff possess an immense wealth of knowledge of institutional history and human stories. Their ability to weave these independent threads of knowledge together into a complex, many hued fabric representing the history and culture of Indiana University is an outcome of their rigorous professional training, extensive experience, and individual commitments to intellectual inquiry. Any day that I can head up to the Archives is a good day!”

C631 Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks – Forest Folio, 1938-1939

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: There are so many contenders but among my favorite is C631 Women’s Residence Hall scrapbooks mentioned above. I appreciated learning more about what it was like to attend a university, particularly as a woman, in the decades leading up to World War II. Which parts of those experiences were unique to IU? Which were typical of American higher education during that time? Fascinating!

Current project that relates to working with the IU Archives: Next up in my cataloging queue is the Parks House publications. The collection includes humorous publications created by the male student residents of the Wright Quadrangle on the Indiana University Bloomington campus from 1960 through at least 1980. As a cataloging manager, I find my time not only devoted to cataloging but also finding ways to shift the Cataloging Department’s resources toward providing access to unique, special collections, like those of the IU Archives. This is no easy thing to do, given that Libraries acquires and licenses more and more electronic resources, while still building its rich physical collections.

Learned by working with the IU Archives: Working with IU Archives led to insights in an area of my professional interest, the history of library discovery technologies. Although much of the early history of IU Libraries was lost to fires, IU Archives remains the best repository for information about how the Libraries operated.

Sincerely Yours: How Artists Research with Alma Eikerman

Alma Eikerman, IU Archives image no. P0059062

I recently had the opportunity to reprocess correspondence in the increasingly popular Alma Eikerman papers (C621) for better researcher access. The series contains slices of the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts’ life, including letters home from her extensive travels, thoughtful communications with former students, discussions with fellow IU faculty, and more. Eikerman’s correspondence shows her independent spirit, wit, and artistic and pedagogical philosophies.

Recently, I’ve been experiencing some summer blues—it is always difficult for me to not feel vegetative in the hot months between school years. In my dreary state, I came across a 1984 letter from Eikerman to Metalsmith editor Sara Bodine that mentioned the Metropolitan Museum of Art—something that piqued my interest. As I continued to read, I could almost hear Alma laughing at my intellectual lethargy. Her passion is evident:

“My life has been made most rewarding by following my interests. My research started when I was in college, it followed no plan, except that of my interests, and continues today. I have been a world traveler, and research of many different areas of metal objects has certainly added to the pleasure and my knowledge. I acquired a strong feeling that a professor of metal should also know as much as possible about the history of metal. Well, that means, knowing almost all of world history.”

Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April, 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington
Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Her honest account of following her research interests struck a chord with me. As practicing artists may know, however, it can be overwhelming to know where to start research. Alma includes helpful—and non-intimidating—advice for Metalsmith readers:

“For a beginner it is fun to start with a historical object that fascinates you. Gather a number of library books about the area of your interest. Fortify yourself with good maps of the area and begin to make sketches of all the important pieces in a given field. Sketches help you see and seek out the details.”

This is why research in the visual arts interests me so much. Artists are able to use their technical skills of creation to understand research material in a unique way. Being able to actually draw one’s research subjects is a powerful way to connect with learning. She continues to emphasize the importance of looking as an active verb in research, writing:

“Learn where the pieces were made or found-and in which museum they are located…This kind of study research can start in the museum nearest to you—or it can simply start from book study. Libraries are full of wonderful books, with good reproductions.”

As someone whose most vivid childhood memories include parent-dictated art museum trips and the pages of the Time-Life Library of Art books, I second Alma’s affections. For artists, visual research (or looking) is just as important as text-based research.

Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April, 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April, 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington
Alma Eikerman to Sara Bodine, 2 April 1984. Alma Eikerman papers, C621, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Even so, Alma’s powers of textual description make this letter so fun. Following her advice, which she wrote to serve as an introduction to a piece in Metalsmith, Alma describes three pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that she wants to include with her magazine piece. There are no accompanying slides for these, so in order to identify them a reader has to do a bit of searching. Amazingly, just entering her description of each piece + “Metropolitan Museum of Art” into a search engine immediately retrieved the three pieces. Now that is some powerful descriptive skill!
The three pieces are: a pair of gold armbands with two tritons from Hellenistic Greece, a 4th century silver head of a Sasanian king, and a gold and stone necklace from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom. Looking at these pieces, it is easy to understand Alma’s perspective on art history. Although she was a mid-twentieth century artist, she was able to pull from eons of history to inform her research and work. For anyone feeling stuck on an artistic or research project this summer, take Alma’s advice and trust your instincts—follow your interests. The way forward may not always be clear, but there is a path.

Feeling inspired? Get more motivation by contacting an archivist to check out this collection.