Beast of Busco Discovered?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 24th, 2011

Churubusco, Indiana, experienced a series of good sightings of a large turtle, “the size of a dining room table,” in 1948-1949. The event is recalled in stories of the “Beast of Busco.”

The community became labeled as “Turtle Town, USA,” and has one of the longest running cryptozoological festivals in America, their “Turtle Days.”

I visited the area for a couple days, to document what a town that seems aware of their place in cryptozoo history has done with their legacy. What I discovered is a Churubusco on the doorstep of more fully realizing the cryptotourism potential of their Giant Turtle, nicknamed “Oscar.”

What I also found and documented is a rival town claiming to have physical evidence of the 1949 turtle and labeling it as “Beast of Busco.” Do they?

First of all, Churubusco has embraced, publicly, their 1949 encounter with national fame, when the Beast of Busco became the subject of American media wonder. Evidence of this is everywhere, extending daily, well beyond the annual event of their Turtle Days weekend.

The local McDonalds was redesigned a half-decade ago and a new addition was a wall of panels sharing the history of the Giant Turtle, with giant photographs from the 1949 hunt for the cryptid. It makes for an impressive display.

Next, throughout the town, there is a variety of roadside art examples, from a huge statue at the entrance to the town park, a street corner concrete turtle, and painted signs (e.g. little league, park, town entrance) everywhere.

The local newspaper, the Churubusco News sells an overview of the history for five dollars and a Turtle Days baseball cap.

But the marketing of the monster ends there. The tiny History Center is only open Mondays and Thursdays, and does not sell any Beast of Busco souvenirs. The town, which sports various storefronts for rent, could use a “Beast of Busco” museum. A small location open year-round could share the cyptozoological history of the place, with ease. Right now, there is not one store that sells Oscar turtle figurines, teeshirts, or any locally written chronicle of what is a history that is embraced by this town (save for the 1999 anniversary booklet at the paper).

Even worse, access to the Beast of Busco site of the sightings is on private property today. Fulk Lake, three miles out of town on Madden Road, is surrounded today by brushy overgrowth, hard to see from Madden Road, and cut off from further exploration. “No trespassing” signs are posted, and this is gun country that takes its “no trespassing” quite seriously.

The lake area can be seen a bit and photographed from a safe distance.

Meanwhile, a nearby town, on the other side of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is exploiting the Beast of Busco in a very commercial fashion. In Decatur, Indiana, I found a restaurant and bar named “2 Brothers” and it has embraced the Beast, using it for decades to get people to come to their place.

In the Decatur, Indiana establishment is a large snapping turtle shell, with a taxidermy-preserved head, quite old, reportedly from the 1940s. Painted on it is “Beast of Busco.”

The owner refused an offer to buy it (of course) with the well-rehearsed answer: “Sure, you can buy it, if you buy the whole restaurant and bar.”

The “Beast of Busco” shell was about a yard long (I could not more closely examine it, although photos were allowed). A sizeable turtle yes, but this was no giant. Another similarly-sized shell also hangs in the bar.

Is this the original “Beast of Busco”? It is doubtful, but it certainly is drawing attention away from Churubusco. In the long run that may not bode well for the cryptotourism of Churubusco.

The turtle battle lines have been drawn between Decatur, Indiana, and Churubusco, Indiana. Who will win the ultimate popular cultural turtle race?

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

12 Responses to “Beast of Busco Discovered?”

  1. Sordes responds:

    The taxidermy head on the old carapace seems to be from a pike.

  2. Brothermidnight responds:

    Well that’s a disappointing beast. I have seen many many shells that size and larger. Maybe it’s a baby beast.

  3. Peltboy25 responds:

    The head is indeed a northern pike or musky. But if that shell is real, it’s VERY large for a common snapper. It’s clearly not an alligator snapper shell as the tell-tale ridges are missing. A common snapper shell measuring 36″ is unheard of. Worthy of note.

  4. Cass_of_MPLS responds:

    Which town will win? Whichever town whose beast has the highest Belt in Ninjitsu one assumes. 🙂

  5. bigfoots responds:

    yeah…its not even a turtle head.. the head is from a northern pike…
    would of thought loren would know that??

  6. flame821 responds:

    Thank heavens someone else mentioned the head too. At first I thought it was just me or else a bad snapshot.

    And why put a pike on a snapper’s body? Snappers look plenty vicious enough without all the teeth.

  7. Marc Gaglione via Facebook responds:

    A friend of mine claims he saw a turtle the size of a table in the lake I live by. I saw what looked like a large flipper come out of the water once. Our lake looks like chocolate milk with zero visibilty, so who knows what’s swimming around.

  8. Redrose999 responds:

    Dang cool Loren, thanks for keeping us updated. My turtle loving son is thrilled with all this.

  9. red_pill_junkie responds:

    The name of this town does not make me happy 🙁

  10. hoosierhunter2 responds:

    I’ve lived in Indiana all my life and have heard several times of the Beast of Busco. I’ve heard that the shell was anywhere from 5 to 10 feet across. Never have met anyone who actually saw it or knew anyone who had, though. I believe they tried to drain the lake at one time to find it.

  11. sloon responds:

    Very interesting Loren. Finding the absolute largest specimen of a Macroclemys teminickii (alligator snapping turtle), is always an issue of dispute. There was an old issue of National Geographic in January 1986 that has the record holder, a specimen at the zoo in Chicago Brookfield Zoo weighed in at 250 lbs. Given the variety of habitats, (a new recognized species in Ontario discovered in a few small ponds near Glencoe, Ontario in 2007), and if conditions are favourable could achieve a very large size. These animals are a good example of something that is hard to find; they very rarely leave the water, and seldom have the heads out of the water, breathing through their long nostrils. Some turtle books consider the alligator snapping turtle the heaviest turtle in the world, but not the largest in shell size.

  12. Chelydra responds:

    The photos of the shells both show a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
    However, the size mentioned (1 yard, i.e. ~90cm straight carapace length) seem a little bit overestimated. The largest snapping turtle on record reach ~50cm SCL. I did a scientific research and publication about this a few years ago. The specimen in the 2nd picture, if compared to the decoration items (bottles etc.) is no way near this size, maybe at 30-40cm SCL. The “Beast of Bosco” is an old mature specimen but 90cm would be a record-record. Maybe someone can measure this shell exactly?


    Torsten Blanck
    Member of the IUCN Freshwater turtle and tortoise Specialist Group

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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