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

Geraldine Katherine White papers

Geraldine Katherine White P0080797

We are happy to announce that the Geraldine Katherine White papers are now open for research!

Geraldine Katherine White (1903-1985) was an Indiana native who grew up in St. Joseph County, Indiana. She enrolled at Indiana University in September 1922 and graduated in 1926 with a B.S. in Commerce. During her time at IU, Geraldine was involved in a number activities associated with the School of Commerce and Finance (now known as the Kelly School of Business). The school, which was established in 1920, was still new at the time and gave Geraldine the opportunity to take part in the early formation of what would become one of the consistently high-ranking business schools in the nation. She was Vice-President of the newly established Girls’ Commerce Club, a group composed of advanced students in the commerce program. The young woman was also a charter member of IU’s Phi Chi Theta, a society for women majoring in Commerce, and was on the Executive Board for the Hoosier Journal of Business. During her senior year, she joined an inaugural pledge class for the Alpha Beta chapter of the now-defunct Beta Sigma Omicron.  She also received the honor of joining the Mortar Board, a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for their achievements in scholarship, leadership, and service.

Notes from Geraldine’s “Representative Painters” art history class

The collection contains course notes from various classes Geraldine took from Spring 1924 through Spring 1926 and two scrapbooks that hold items associated with White’s social life while at IU. The two scrapbooks, which date from 1922-1923 and 1925-1926 respectively, provide a more personal look into Geraldine’s social activities and the campus community. They contain sports schedules, pamphlets from events, bylaws and other information associated with the sororities and professional organizations that she was involved in, and pictures of friends and events.

Geraldine attended IU during the early years of the Memorial Campaign Fund, an initiative to raise money for the construction of multiple buildings on campus and to simultaneously honor the men and women from the University who had participated in World War I (for more on this see our Memorial Fund Campaign Records and a previous blog post by Alessandro Meregaglia). The new building for Geraldine’s school was a part of this campaign fund and is highlighted in her scrapbook:

School of Commerce and Finance
1924 Show Down Pamphlet
1924 Jordan River Revue Pamphlet

In addition to more items related the Memorial Campaign Fund, researchers will also find a wide array of pamphlets from theater events like the Jordan River Revue (a popular musical variety show put on by the Garrick Club, an organization that promoted University dramatic endeavors), the annual “Show Down” (another variety show hosted by the Garrick Club geared toward fraternities and sororities), and comedy shows. Music events and dances are also very popular themes in her scrapbooks. The pages are also filled to the brim with handwritten notes from friends recalling various memories during their time at IU.

If you would like to view the Geraldine Katherine White papers for yourself, please feel free to contact the IU Archives to set up an appointment.

Joseph Hayes – Novelist, Playwright, Screenwriter

Joseph A. Hayes, c.a. 1987. IU Archives, C299, Box 31.

When discussing famous Indiana Authors, names such as James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Gene Stratton-Porter, and Kurt Vonnegut are the first to come up in conversation.  Yet, another Indiana Native who had a way with words is writer Joseph Hayes.  Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 2, 1918, Joseph Arnold Hayes was the first individual to write a novel, play, and screenplay from the same parent story, The Desperate Hours.

Joseph Hayes attended St. Meinrad Seminary High School in Saint Meinrad, Indiana, and Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, before coming to Indiana University with his wife, Marrijane Johnston, in 1938.  While at Indiana University, Hayes was head of the Drama Loan Service, a former department at the university, and helped establish the Brown County Playhouse, where he wrote and directed plays.  In 1949, he had his debut on Broadway with his play “Leaf and Bough.”  He would come to have a total of four plays enter the Broadway scene during his career.

News clipping, c.a. 1949. IU Archives, C299, Box 31.

Hayes wrote his most successful piece, The Desperate Hours, in 1954, and brought his novel to both Broadway and Hollywood the following year.  The Desperate Hours was a story of a fictional family living on Kessler Boulevard, which was terrorized by three desperadoes.  In an interview in 1987 over the novel, Hayes explained that The Desperate Hours “was written in truly desperate circumstances”:

“My influences were desperation. I wrote it in six weeks, working 16 to 17 hours a day. I did the thinking and took notes on the way down. (The situation in the novel) was the most dramatic thing I could think of that would relate to the most people.”

In 1955, Hayes won the first Indiana Authors Day Award for the most distinguished work of fiction by an Indiana Author.  In the same year, the Broadway play version won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Hayes won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay for the film version, starring Humphrey Bogart.  In 1990, The Desperate Hours film was remade, with Hayes once again participating as co-screenwriter.  Hayes stated:

Title page of The Desperate Hours; second printing, 1954. Herman B Wells Library, PS3515.A972 D4.

“Since I’m the only writer who has ever done novel, play and screenplay solo from a single work of his own I can’t let anyone else at it.”

Throughout his career, Joseph Hayes penned numerous articles, short stories, novels, plays, and screenplays, including pieces in collaboration with wife, Marrijane Johnston, who was also an author.  Together they wrote the novel Bon Voyage in 1956, eventually bringing it to Hollywood in 1962, where the husband and wife duo co-wrote the screenplay for the Walt Disney film of the same name, starring Fred MacMurray.  The hectic schedule from the film made Hayes miss the Indiana Authors Day luncheon in 1957 to celebrate his award from the previous year for The Desperate Hours:

Letter to Earl M. Hoff; January 25, 1957. IU Archives, C444, Box 2.

“Nothing would please me more than to be able to say that I could be there April 14th.  Unfortunately, I don’t know where I’ll be.  I’m working on the screenplay of the new book, Bon Voyage! — and may have to go to Italy to scout locations or to Hollywood to discuss the many details — as we want to shoot in May…”

Adapting his own writing to the theater became a hobby of Hayes’, once again adapting his 1967 novel, The Deep End, into a play.  Although writing for multiple formats, Hayes is quick to point out to Cecil K. Byrd, longtime librarian and faculty member at Indiana University, that just because someone enjoys one medium of work (books, films, plays, etc.), does not mean they enjoy the other.  In regards to his novel, The Deep End, Hayes wrote:

Letter to Cecil K. Byrd; May 20, 1967. IU Archives, C542, Box 5.

“I shall be in New York all of next week for promotion, interviews, exploitation, etc. as arranged by Viking.  A nuisance we both deplore, but apparently necessary.  I find it hard to believe that people who watch television also buy books, but apparently they do.  (It’s not set definitely, but will probably appear TODAY SHOW on May 31, pub-date.)”

To which Cecil Byrd responded:

“That promotion week in New York is a heavy drink!  Look behind you once or twice!  I’ll watch TODAY SHOW on May 31.  Hope it becomes definite.”

Letter to Joseph A. Hayes; May 24, 1967. IU Archives, C542, Box 5.

Although deemed by some as having an unsuccessful career as an author after the publication of The Desperate Hours, Hayes positively claimed:

“No book I’ve ever written could be considered a financial failure.”

In 1970, Indiana University awarded Hayes with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, and in 1972, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.  Hayes died on September 11, 2006.  Through the suggestion of Cecil Byrd many years ago, Joseph Hayes’ collection materials, including letters, manuscripts, drafts, typescripts, first editions of books, other writings, and foreign translations, are now housed at the Lilly Library.  The Hayes, Joseph Arnold mss., 1941-1977 collection (LMC 2828) can be viewed at the Lilly Library by appointment.

Rites of Spring – Indiana University May Festival

As springtime bloomed across Indiana University in 1908, an Indiana Daily Student reporter eagerly previewed an upcoming campus event. “Dainty maids in the picturesque garb of the English peasant or the flaxen-haired Norwegian will dance the complex, but graceful folk dances of long ago.” Who were these “dainty maids” and what was this dazzling-sounding spectacle? The new Indiana University May Festival collection (C693) at the University Archives tells us a history of a vernal campus tradition. Importantly, the Indiana University May Festival became an active space for female student participation in the early twentieth century.

A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives photograph. Eight women dance in a field.
A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives no. P0026270

The IU May Festival began in earnest in 1905, when the IU Lecture Association organized an event featuring orchestral and choral performances in the Men’s Gymnasium. A cantata rendition of “The Swan and the Skylark” and ballet music from Faust evoked a springtime feeling. Despite glowing reviews, the IULA-hosted May Festival suffered from poor student participation. An Indiana Daily Student reporter expressed disappointment in 1906: “The small attendance is inconceivable. If the singers of Bloomington and the University knew what the chorus is doing, there would be a regular attendance of 200 instead of 30 or 40.” The event satisfied a Bloomington audience, but didn’t impact enough IU students at the time.

Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives
Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives C693

Beginning in 1908, the Women’s Athletic Association and Department of Physical Education for Women hosted the event in the Women’s Gymnasium for an invitation-only audience. Female students demonstrated exercises like dumbbell handling and club-swinging “with all the vigor and skill of their brothers,” as an IDS reporter noted. In the afternoon, they transformed into “dainty maids” to dance and wind cream and crimson streamers around a tall May Pole. Interestingly, the IDS also notes that only a small number of male students received invitations to the 1908 event.

This iteration of the May Festival was a staple of campus life by the 1920s. By 1922, the Women’s Self-Government Association (WSGA) sponsored an integral feature of the event: the election and crowning of a May Queen. The 1924 May Festival program names Mildred Wight as May Queen, with her heralds Ethel Budrow and Dorothy Tousley. Following a procession with flower girls, crown bearers, maids of honor, and other attendants, “The newly crowned May Queen is entertained by the joyous peasants.” IU students in pastoral garb performed six folk dances for the May Queen, followed by the mythical dance program “Fantasy of Dusk and Dawn.” The programs in this collection show how the all-female May Festival committee staged a mythological renaissance for modern day Bloomington.

Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693
Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693

By the 1922 May Festival, the WAA and WSGA had moved proceedings to Dunn Meadow. Rather than an invitation-only event in the Women’s Gymnasium, the May Festival had turned into a public performance. This collection also includes a 25-cent ticket for “Sylvia” to attend the Dance Drama portion of the festival at Dunn Meadow in 1927. IDS articles from this time also list the delightful box lunches served to attendees (who could say no to shrimp and mayonnaise sandwiches?) at no cost. One reporter indicated that the WAA and WSGA prepared 800 of these lunches—enough for a huge crowd. The May Festival shows how women at IU transformed a small musical celebration into a popular event that highlighted their talents as athletes, dancers, singers, and artists.

It appears that the WAA and WSGA ceased sponsorship of the May Festival after the 1920s. The last program contained in this collection is from 1928. IU women, however, carried on celebrating the tradition into at least the 1940s, as documented in the IU women’s residence halls scrapbooks. Collection C631, which contains 82 such scrapbooks from 1925-1959, is open for research and offers images from these later unofficial celebrations.

May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from "The Towers" (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory.
May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from “The Towers” (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory. IU Archives image no. P0052722

To learn more about the May Festival collection or to view the collection yourself, please feel free to contact the University Archives to set up an appointment.

A Processing Story: The Claire Robertson papers, 1964-2012

The Claire Robertson papers, 1964-2012 are now available for research!

Claire C. Robertson (b. 1944) received her B.A. from Carleton College in 1966, her M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1968, and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1974. She is the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles on women, class and gender relations, and African studies. Dr. Robertson was a professor at Ohio State University and a visiting scholar and adjunct professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. Robertson’s teaching and research focused primarily on the history and culture of women in Africa and on women’s studies. This collection consists of a portion of Robertson’s teaching materials, her research materials, manuscripts and writings, and other records relating to her career and professional activities. The collection arrived at the University Archives in multiple accessions between 2010 and 2012 totaling over 60 cubic feet of records.


Boxes from the Claire Robertson papers

Archival processing, a term that encompasses the tasks of arrangement and description for the collections in an archive, can often be a time-consuming task. Depending on the size of a collection, the level of organization that a collection has when it is donated to the archive, any preservation issues, and the level of detail which needs described in a finding aid, processing archival collections can take anywhere from a few days, to a few months, or maybe even years! Processing the Claire Robertson papers took some time between 2017 and March 2018 because of the size and condition of the collection.

Archivists often work on multiple tasks at a time. For student processors (like me!) this provides a great chance to learn how to ‘wear many hats’ so to speak. This project was ongoing while I managed other smaller projects and had the opportunity to learn more about different kinds of processing needs for different collections. The end result is an arranged collection and a detailed finding aid to help researchers access all parts of the collection!

Processing the Claire Robertson papers at the IU Archive
Processing the Claire Robertson papers at the IU Archive

The Claire Robertson papers contains materials relating to Robertson’s time in graduate school, her teaching files from classes taught at places other than OSU, manuscripts and drafts of her many articles and books, items relating to her professional activities, and a large amount of research and data that she created and used while writing her books Sharing the Same Bowl and Trouble Shows the Way. Much of her research involved surveying participants in Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya, and then compiling the data to analyze with a computer. But, in the 1980s and early 1990s computers weren’t very advanced. The print-outs of the computer data fill numerous oversize boxes on their own!

Robertson’s collection contains her drafts, manuscripts, research, and other materials relating to her many books and other publications

As a professor and instructor, Robertson taught history, African studies, and women’s studies courses at a number of universities, including Indiana University, Bloomington. She is also the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles on women, class and gender relations, and African Studies. In 1985, she was the winner of the African Studies Association’s  Herskovits Book Award. In 1987-1988, she held a Fulbright Fellowship to study the development of Kenyan trade and market women in the Nairobi area. Robertson was a professor of history and women’s studies at The Ohio State University for over twenty years, and active on numerous committees and projects.

She also served in various capacities at Indiana University throughout her career. Beginning in 1978 she served as a Faculty Research Associate in the African Studies Program and in 1984 she was the Co-Director of the Office of Women’s Affairs. From 1992 until 1993 she was appointed as a Visiting Scholar in the Women’s Studies Program, and she has since served as a Lecturer and been involved in IU’s Fair Trade Bloomington selling artisan-made items to benefit two projects. The Indiana University Press published her books, Sharing the Same Bowl: A Socioeconomic History of Women and Class in Accra, Ghana in 1984 and Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area, 1890-1990 in 1997. Much of the archival collection consists of Robertson’s data and analysis for her various research projects and publications.

Central Accra Market Photos, 1978, Claire Robertson papers, Collection C633, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

In Bloomington, Robertson now works on two projects to provide help to children affected by AIDS and to assist women in Kenya. For each of the projects, Ndethya wa Ngutethya Women’s Group and Spurgeon School for AIDS Orphans in Kenya, Robertson raises funds in the U.S. to buy clothing for African women and children, and then travels to Kenya and brings artisan-made items back from the Nairobi markets to sell at Fair Trade Bloomington and other fundraisers to benefit the Kenyan artists.

Claire Robertson’s papers in the IU Archives are now open for research. Anyone interested in the research process, or in topics relating to African Studies or Women’s Studies will find this collection to be full of interesting material!

In the Claire Robertson papers there are many items that she collected relating to her interests in Africa and women’s studies

In addition to items relating to Robertson’s work, the collection contains some other materials relating to her interests which she collected throughout her career. Contact the IU Archives for more information.

Portions of the collection such as African Newspapers and journals are now part of African Studies Collection here at IU, and  files documenting her teaching activities at the Ohio State University  were transferred to the OSU Archives.