The Crawfordsville Monster

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Area(s) Reported: Crawfordsville, Indiana, United States of America
Date(s) Reported: September 5, 1891

It was in the early morning hours of September 5, 1891, when the bizarre creature was seen. The first witnesses to talk to the local paper were two ice men, Marshall McIntyre and Bill Gray, who were loading a truck for their morning rounds at about 2 AM in the morning. They saw the thing as it approached the town of Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA, in the sky from the west. It was 300 to 400 feet up in the air, and looked vaguely like a great white shroud about 18 feet long and 8 feet wide, fluttering and rippling as it swam through the air towards the town. The men also said they had seen a single, great red eye, and that the strange mass occasionally emitted an eerie cry. The object started to circle the farm high in the air and, after about an hour of watching it, the two men left on their rounds... it was gone by the time they returned after daybreak.

        The local Crawfordsville newspaper, the Daily Journal, ran the story of the sighting the same day, and they soon heard from other people who had seen the bizarre creature that night, most notably the Rev. G. W. Switzer. Switzer and his wife had seen the flying thing when he stepped out to his well to get a drink a little after midnight. They watched the thing as it twisted and squirmed in the air; they saw it descend towards a neighbor's yard as if to land, where it disappeared from view. As Switzer walked out to the street to go look in the neighbor's yard, the object once again took to the air. After watching the object for some time, the Switzers retired to bed.

        The general reactions of the newspaper's readers ranged from wondering if the thing was a ghost, to those wondering how drunk the 'witnesses' were.

A Solution to the Mystery

        There were just two more witnesses to the 'monster,' and they turned out to be the most important. John Hornbeck and Abe Hernley had spotted the thing the same night, and set out to follow it everywhere it went. They came close a few times to catching it on the ground, but then finally got a good look as the 'monster' swept down from the sky close to the ground near the men... it was a flock of birds. Killdeers, to be precise; a bird that has a mostly white underbelly, and a red spot on the back of their tails.

        In light of this discovery, the newspaper then speculated that, since the electric lighting in the town was brand new (as in less than a week old) the town's new lights might have confused the flock of birds who had never encountered such a sight before... and it was perfectly clear that the sight of a flock of birds lit up at night was new for everyone in town as well, leading to the strange description of the 'monster.'

        While this killed the story of the monster in Crawfordsville itself, unfortunately the earlier articles from the Daily Journal were picked up and given national display... but not the article that explained away the monster. These spurious reports were picked up by a man named Charles Fort, who loved stories of the bizarre and unexplained, and so was then included in one of his books on such topics, called LO!, in 1931.

        Due to the popularity of Fort's books since their publication many other authors on weird topics have freely borrowed stories from his books ever since without double-checking his facts; and so, among other tales, many people continue to tell the story of the "Crawfordsville Monster" despite the whole mystery having been solved way back in 1891!

See also: Rods
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  • "A Strange Phenomenon," article in the Daily Journal, newspaper of Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA, September 5, 1891, pg. 8. Online: Click here!
  • "Mr. Switzer Saw the Spook," article in the Daily Journal, newspaper of Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA, September 7, 1891, pg. 5. Online: Click here!
  • "The Spook Explained," article in the Daily Journal, newspaper of Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA, September 8, 1891, pg. 7. Online: Click here!
  • "Famous," article in the Daily Journal, newspaper of Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA, September 9, 1891, pg. 3. Online: Click here!
  • "Asking About the Spook," article in the Daily Journal, newspaper of Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA, September 11, 1891, pg. 3. Online: Click here!
  • "Rods," episode of MonsterQuest, first aired 2008 on the History Channel. 45 minutes. Online: Click here!
  • Lo!, by Charles Fort, 2006 Cosimo, Inc., New York, NY, USA. [originally published 1931]. ISBN: 1-59605-946-X. Pgs. 141-142
  • Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power, PDF from the Indiana Historical Society website, viewed 7-28-2017. Online: Click here!

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