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Geographical Index > United States > Iowa > Humboldt County > Article # 57

Media Article # 57

Sunday, August 6, 1978

Town Has Hairy Time With 'Monster'

By Frank Santiago
Omaha World-Herald

OTTOSEN, IOWA - On a typical August evening, when the sky is ablaze with stars and the breeze is warm and slight, you can stand near the pop machine on Main Street and hear traffic whiz by on the distant highway.

After the lights go out in Twig's grocery and the post office is long closed, the village of about 100 slips into a soft slumber in the middle of cornfields that stretch to the horizon.

But lately, Ottosen has been no peaceful isolated respite. It has been more like Times square.

Trucks, cars and motorcycles have roared into town, some of the occupants brandishing flashlights - and a few guns.

The visitors have trampled through vacant houses and weedy lots, probing the shadows and knocking on doors and asking for directions.

One resident, appalled by the intrusion, called the Humboldt County Sheriff Marvin Anderson to complain that she couldn't safely cross the street in front of her home.


The source of the commotion is stories of a creature lurking in Ottosen, a hairy, foul-smelling, 5-foot-high ape-like monster that growls and grunts and lives in the shadows.

On at least three separate occasions in the past 1-1/2 weeks, the creature reportedly has been seen.

The witnesses include two women and six children. Mrs. Jan Henkins, who said she briefly saw the creature twice, said, "It isn't anything like I've seen before."

"People think I'm just crazy," she said. "But I know what I saw."

Mrs. Hawkins said she believes two of her daughters saw the 'monster'. She described the girls as "white with fright."

Adding to the drama are assorted stories of dogs and rabbits being mutilated, of cats disappearing, of May Helleseth's grapevines being mysteriously stripped of their fruit and leaves.

One resident said, "Every dog in town was barking on the nights when the creature was seen."

Trampled Grass

The visitor to Ottosen is shown paths of trampled tall grass where he is told "the monster ran". In and near cornfields where the animal allegedly vanished, there are impressions in the mud. But they are old impressions and undefined.

There is now the claim of a Des Moines man that the so-called Ottosen creature may, in fact, be Bigfoot, the elusive, legendary primate of the Northwest.

Kevin Cook, who said he has stalked Bigfoot for 10 years, said there are a small group of Bigfoots (or Bigfeet?) traveling by night through the Midlands, generally following the Missouri and Mississippi river basins. Ottosen is about three miles east of the west fork of the Des Moines River.

Cook, who pursues Bigfoot as a hobby and works as a customer service officer for United Airlines at the Des Moines airport, said the Ottosen sightings are among many in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

He said there are more than one species of the creature, some as small as 5 to 6 feet and similar to the creature believed to have been seen at Ottosen.

There are, however, skeptics about the Ottosen claims and the talk of hairy creatures roaming the Iowa countryside.

The cautious include Sheriff Anderson, who said he would like to have "something solid to go on."

"I believe these people saw something, but I don't know what."

In his office at the Humboldt County Courthouse in Dakota City, Anderson said: "I wouldn't rule out the possibility of someone wearing a costume. I would think he'd get by with it at night. But what has me puzzled is that one of the sightings was during the day. And anybody wearing a costume would be taking an awful chance. They could get shot."

Large Animal?

Anderson took samples of what were believed to be footprints where the alleged creature fled into a cornfield, but the impressions were inconclusive.

Mrs. Richard Kinseth, wife of Ottosen's mayor said, "Possibly there is some large animal. It could be a bear, a large bird or some creature."

"I don't think you can dismiss what people said they saw, but we don't have to go wild about it."

John Wolfe, 11, was walking about 12:30 p.m., Monday with Greg Masters, 10 and Steve Bennet, 12, near the sale barns at the edge of town.

"We were sort of goofing around and chased a cat up a tree. It was scared and it was bleeding," he said.

"We heard this scratching noise come from in one of the small buildings like something rubbing up against something. We tossed a rock into the building."

Suddenly, in a window, a face appeared and then as quickly disappeared, he said.

"It was a big head, square-like," the youngster said. "he had big eyes and a flat nose and broad shoulders. He was covered by black or dark brown hair."

Big Leaps

Frightened, the youngsters ran. John said he looked over his shoulder and saw the creature, his broad legs moving in big leaps, his body hunched over, vanish into the cornfield. He said the animal had left behind a pungent odor "like stinkweeds."

The sighting was the third in about a week.

Earlier, 9-year-old Donette Henkins, daughter of Jan Henkins, was walking out of her grandmother's home at night, when she came face to face with a hairy figure.

"It had deep-set eyes and fangs," she said. "It kind of growled and grunted."

The girl screamed and fled.

A few days later, her 12-year-old sister Dawn was riding her bicycle on Main Street at night when she said she saw a 5-foot-high figure in the light of a street light standing near a garage less than a half a block away.

Stood There

"He just stood there. I couldn't see his face because it was in the shadow. But I could see he was broad and was covered with hair."

The girl's scream brought her mother and Gina Dahl, 12, and Pat Young, 24. Riding bikes to where Dawn had been, the trio stopped when they heard a man's voice.

"Somebody asked, 'Does anybody know what time it is?'" Mrs. Henkins said.

"I don't know where the voice came from, but we looked down toward the garage and saw this head looking at us around the corner. It had dazzling eyes, in the dark. They were as big as golf balls. It had a big head covered with hair."

The women bolted.

Mrs. Henkins said the source of the man's voice remains a mystery to her.

Deputies Patrol

Sheriff Anderson said he isn't sure what will happen next. He said he has sent a team of deputies to patrol the village at night "to look around" and to handle the nocturnal traffic of sightseers.

"There really isn't much we can do," he said.

"If there is an Ottosen creature, it has likely by now taken off for parts unknown," Cook said. "Townsfolk and curiosity seekers have long scared it off," he said. But he remains firm in his belief about Bigfoot in the Midlands.

"He is intelligent in the sense he knows how to survive. He is very shy toward people. People have seen him but they either don't believe what they see or they're afraid to speak out because people think they're crazy."

"But its only a matter of time before he's caught. It may be a hunter or somebody who is out looking for him."

Mrs. Henkins said she hopes that day isn't too far away.

One late evening, when the sightseers are gone and the wind whips through the trees, Mrs. Henkins wonders if something is roaming outside in the shadows.

"There are nights I just can't sleep," she said.

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