Beast of ’Busco ; Giant Turtle of Indiana.
Short for Churubusco, Indiana.
Oscar, Phantom Churubusco turtle.
Turtle said to be as big as a dining room table or a car top. Weight, 100–500 pounds.
Fulks Lake, near Churubusco, Indiana; Black Oak Swamp, near Hammond, Indiana.
Oscar Fulk saw a huge turtle in Fulks Lake in 1898. It was seen again in 1914 and then in July 1948 when Ora Blue and Charley Wilson glimpsed it while fishing. Gail Harris, on whose farm the turtle was spotted, launched a major effort to catch the animal in March 1949, employing scuba divers, deep-sea gear, a female sea turtle, a sump pump, and a dredging crane to drain the lake. The Fort Wayne newspapers played up the story, and thousands of people trampled across the farm looking for the turtle. On October 13, about 200 people got their wish as the turtle leaped from the water to try to catch a duck used as a lure. But by December, the draining efforts were failing, and Harris fell ill with appendicitis and called the search off. A documentary film about the event, called The Hunt for Oscar, was made in 1994 by Terry Doran.
When a swamp was drained near Black Oak, Indiana, in July 1950, a huge turtle with a head as big as a human’s was seen swimming around a drain leading into the Little Calumet River.
The Alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) reportedly grows to a maximum weight of 400 pounds. It
has a huge head with hooked upper and lower beaks, prominent dorsal keels, and an extra row of scutes at the side of the carapace. It lives almost exclusively in the Mississippi River drainage areas of Mississippi, Louisiana,
Arkansas, and Missouri. It may occasionally migrate further afield.
- Indianapolis Star Magazine, January 1, 1950; Indianapolis News, July 15, 1950; Churubusco.Net: Turtle Days, http://members.aol.com/iga1/tdays1.htm.
Churubusco (near Fort Wayne), Indiana, has been the home for almost sixty years of a legendary Giant Turtle with the affectionate nickname Beast of ’Busco, or Oscar. The turtle allegedly lives in Falk Lake. Over the years many hunters have tried to catch it without success. ’Busco is said to have measured about four feet across the shell, and to weigh between one hundred and five hundred pounds. A spate of sightings in 1949 attracted national press attention.
In his Natural Mysteries, Mark A. Hall takes note of reports of another Giant Turtle in Indiana. In July 1950, a surveyor for Lake County, Samuel E. Brownsten, and farmer Henry “Potato King” Ewen were draining one of four swamps at Black Oak, near Hammond, to convert them to farmland. The two men made an opening into a culvert (thirty inches wide) into the Little Calumet River. Soon the drain was clogged with frogs and fish, and as the men tried to unplug it, they noticed something bigger. It was approaching them, and when it got close enough, Brownsten reported, “We saw a turtle. Its head was as big as a human’s.”
Ewen added: “It was too big to even get into the thirty-inch drain. I tried to help it. I pushed on its shell, but man, when I saw the size of that thing, I knew I didn’t want to tangle with it. It was as big as a beer barrel.”
Hall speculates that the draining of swamps across the South and Midwest destroyed the habitat of many old, large turtles, forcing them to move closer and closer to human communities. While the reported sizes of the American mystery turtles sound extraordinary, they are well within the range of those associated with the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminicki). These giant turtles can measure up to two hundred pounds routinely, and one individual found in 1937, in Kansas in the Neosho River, weighed 403 pounds.
The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters,Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature
Written by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark – Copyright 1999 Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark