Beware the legendary "Beast of Busco"

June 16, 2009 4:17:37 AM PDT
Crunch is no Beast of 'Busco, but he's a decent stand-in for a legendary snapping turtle purportedly the size of a rowboat.

The northeastern Indiana town of Churubusco is hosting a four-day festival this week in honor of the 60th anniversary of a big hunt for its beast.

Problem is, he hasn't been found. Ever.

That's where Crunch comes in. He's a 150-year-old, 170-pound alligator snapping turtle that will be on display instead in a 700-gallon aquarium from Wednesday through Saturday during the Turtle Days Festival.

The Beast of 'Busco has a name: Oscar, whose legend dates in various accounts to 1900. It was after reports of a sighting in 1949 that newspapers and wire services picked up on the story and hundreds of people beat a path to the town about 10 miles northwest of Fort Wayne to watch the hunt for the giant turtle.

Jim Guiff, 97, remembers the two-month turtle hunt well. He's lived since 1927 on property that borders Fulk Lake, the pond where Oscar was said to lurk. The turtle was named after Guiff's uncle, Oscar Fulk, who once owned the farm.

The 1949 hunt attracted a diver, professional trappers, zoo officials and airplane pilots who tried to spot Oscar from above, Guiff said.

"It caused a lot of publicity. We had newspapermen out here and radio people. People from Chicago and Indianapolis and all over," he said.

Gale Harris, the property's owner after Oscar Fulk, even drained the pond with pumps, but Oscar was never found.

"I was always suspicious about the turtle being as big as he was," Guiff said. "I used to hunt for snapping turtles when I was a kid, and I never saw them that big. I never disputed them, though, because maybe I was wrong."

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