Beast of Busco

Giant turtle of Indiana.

Etymology: Short for Churubusco, Indiana.

Variant names: Oscar, Phantom Churubusco turtle.

Physical description: Turtle said to be as big as a dining room table or a car top. Weight, 100-500 pounds.

Distribution: Fulks Lake, near Churubusco, Indiana; Black Oak Swamp, near Hammond, Indiana.

Significant sightings: 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.

Possible explanation: 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.

Sources: Indianapolis Star Magazine, January 1, 1950; Indianapolis News, July 15, 1950; Churubusco.Net: Turtle Days, http:// members.aol.com/iga1/tdays1.htm.

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