Appanoose Petrified Giant

From Kook Science

The Appanoose Petrified Giant was an alleged petrified corpse that was claimed to have been excavated from a planned coal shaft at the farm of Thomas Barker in Appanoose County, Iowa, some twenty miles south of Albia, Iowa, on 19 January 1895, described in early press coverage as measuring around 20 feet (6.1 m.) in height with enormous appendages and features to match. The claims were almost immediately decried as a hoax by regional newspapers, being credited to an unnamed Albia newspaper editor who was accused of fabricating other stories about the town that were also picked-up by national papers. However, despite the accusation that the story was a fraud, reports of the Appanoose County giant continued to circulate, its measure being reduced to 16 ft. 4 in. (5 m.) and a weight of 4000 lbs. (1814 kg.), and it was further noted that it had been acquired by Al Swalm on behalf of the Iowa State University, where it was said to be on display.

Press Coverage

  • "HERE'S A FAIRY STORY: Albia's Enterprising Newspaper Correspondent's Latest Effort. THE CARDIFF GIANT OUTDONE. Petrified Man Twenty Feet Long Reported to Have Been Found.", Burlington Daily Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA): 1, 31 Jan. 1895,, "Centerville, Ia., Jan. 30. — (Special.) — The Albia correspondent of the Chicago daily was gulled. Our Albia friend deserves a leather medal for his enterprise. The "big giant" originated in the fertile brain of the versatile editor of a local daily, and was a "fake" of the first order. Nobody but the gullible Albia correspondent would have swallowed such a fabulous yarn. For a number of weeks, the daily papers have printed startling dispatches from Albia, Iowa, telling of raids by horse thieves, highway robbers, moonshiners, outlaws and illicit distillers of liquor, giving locality an unenviable reputation for toughness and sensationalism. In most all of these news items The Hawkeye and other leading dally papers which have reliable correspondents at Albia, have been "scooped," despite their watchful efforts. Even after the publication of such items the reputable correspondents could learn nothing that would give a reasonable foundation for the stories. Albia and the surrounding country, this community has no gang of horse thieves, moonshiners, outlaws or illicit distillers as would appear from reading the daily papers. It Is all the imagination of some fool's brain which is no credit to himself and surely reflects no credit on our town. It is a Pure Fake. Now comes the most startling story of all, printed in Chicago and other daily papers. It is as follows: Aliba, Ia., Jan. 20 —The petrified body of a man twenty feet long was found on Thomas Barker's farm, near the Appanoose county line, about twenty miles south of Albia, yesterday. The discovery was made while Mr. Barker was making excavations on his farm to sink a coal shaft. The face is a perfect stone image of a man, with the exception of the nose, the end of which is fully as large as a man's fist. It had apparently been broken off by the pick or shovel. Mr. Barker and his men set to work to excavate the body. For two hours they worked hard and had only brought to light the head and shoulders of the giant. Some of the men were sent to Centerville to summon assistance. The fingers were as long and large as an ordinary man's arm and could be traced very readily in the rock in which they are embedded. The hands are of enormous proportions and the arms fully as large as one's body. Those who read the story yesterday had little doubt of its true nature and great surprise was expressed that reliable daily papers should he trapped by such a palpable "fake." Queries concerning the truth of the matter were sent to our Albia and Centerville correspondents with the following results: No One Knows Anything About It. Albia, la., Jan. 20. — (Special.) — The dispatch in the Chicago Herald this morning about the "petrified giant" caused much comment, but The Hawk-Eye correspondent could find no one in the city or neighborhood who knew anything about it. There is no doubt it is a "fake," as all the other dispatches appearing in the Chicago and other dailies from Albia have been." 
  • "APPANOOSE COUNTY'S GIANT. The Petrified "Phenom" Donated to the State University.", Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, IA): 7, 1 Feb. 1895,, "Centerville, Jan. 31. Special: The Appanoose county petrified giant continues to be the wonder of the year in this section of Iowa, and there now remains no doubt that this wonderful find is a discovery of genuine, scientific importance. The first news of the finding of the remains of the giant reached this city last Saturday and a number of persons went out to the farm to help get it out of the ground. The first report was that the giant was over twenty feet long, but when it was taken out this proved to have been incorrect. It is only 16 feet, 4 inches in length, actual measurement, and the width of the body at the shoulders is 52 inches, with a thickness of 28 inches through the chest. The whole body was in stone, and it weighed two tons on the city scales in this city. When Al Swalm, of Oskaloosa, first heard of the discovery he started at once for this city and arrived here on Monday. He is one of the regents of the Iowa State university and he met here Maj. C. A. Stanton, another of the regents, and together they went out to see the monster. At once discerning the importance of the find they entered into negotiations with Mr. Barker, the finder of the giant, to secure it for the museum of the state university. He was at first reluctant to part with it, but was finally prevailed upon to do so. The regents succeeded in purchasing the giant for a small sum. As soon as it had been purchased for the state university the excavation was concluded and the monster stone hauled to this city, where it was placed on a car and shipped to Iowa City, where it will be for the inspection of the public and the glory of the state university." 
  • "A Fossil Giant.", Crawfordsville Review (Crawfordsville, IN): 3, 25 Dec. 1897,, "A huge petrified giant was found in Appanoose county, Iowa, two years ago. The huge fossil was excavated and taken to the office of the Centerville "Daily Citizen." Its exact measurement was sixteen feet four inches high, fifty-two inches across the shoulders and twenty-eight inches through the breast, and it weighed four thousand pounds. Mr. Swalm, one of the regents of the state university, visited the place where the petrified giant was found, and procured it for the museum of the state university of Iowa City, where it may now be seen."