1929: Where's Urkhammer?

A strange fate...
Larger version here]

The geographically central states of the United States of America have seen their share of small towns; some grew into cities, some maintained their unique small identity, and many, many, many vanished as fortunes and fate drew residents to other places. According to legend, however, one small town in Iowa suffered a much stranger fate.

        It's unknown when Urkhammer, Iowa, was established. It was a standard small town that attracted no real attention previous to an 1929 article published in the Clarion-Sun-Telegraph, newspaper of Davenport, Iowa. According to the article, two very strange things had recently happened in regard to the town of Urkhammer.

        First, photos taken by an airplane that flew over the town were said to show the town appeared abandoned, with the fields overgrown and unattended; and some now say that the photos only showed fields where buildings and roads should have been, as if the town was not actually there. Second, the newspaper recounted the experience of a visitor to the town about a week after the photos were taken. This visitor stopped to fill his gas tank, but then had his car run out of gas just two miles out of town. Angry at being cheated, the man walked back to Urkhammer to give the gas station a piece of his mind... but even after two hours of walking, the town never seemed to get closer. He was eventually helped by a passing motorist, who shared gas to his car; but the whole matter had unnerved the poor man enough that he had to spend time in a sanitarium.

        Fantastic though these stories are, they were basically lost in the newspaper against the news of the Wall Street crash of 1929, and the beginning of the Great Depression. One resident of Urkhammer had seen the articles, and wrote to the editor to protest the apparent attempt to paint the town as either non-existent or ghostly. Miss Fatima Morgana, a strange name for someone claiming to not be strange, gave a brief description of her life in Urkhammer as a school teacher and an 'Anti-Saloon League' activist; but her letter was also lost in the paper among the accounts of the fallout of the previous week's financial crash.

        Odd though the stories were, Urkhammer, located along Route #41, was still just another town to passersby, who would wave to children playing in the yards as they drove along the road. In 1932, a caravan of Illinois farm families, heading to California, made camp on the outskirts of Urkhammer one night. The groups pulled together what little money they had and sent two men into the town to purchase some supplies for the trek they were continuing in the morning. The men walked to the general store in Urkhammer, but were mystified when they got there... each attempt to mount the steps into the store failed, as their feet passed through the lowest step as if it wasn't there. They must have been desperate, for they found a board lying around, and could apparently pick it up, for they placed it over the steps and then tried to walk up the plank... and their feet then passed through that too.

        Back at the farmers' camp, their story was disbelieved until they showed they hadn't spent any of the money on liquor... then a group of a dozen or so men, some armed, went back to the store to see for themselves what was happening. When they too could not touch the building very clearly in front of them, the whole caravan soon de-camped and left with all the speed they could muster. When the story of the odd experience spread far enough, Urkhammer was then visited by a group of Iowa State Police who headed straight to the town's Sheriff's office to compare notes and clear up the obviously silly story. The leader of this group had to later report that his attempt to knock on the door of the building only resulted in his hand passing through the door as if nothing was there.

        After this, Urkhammer's very existence seemes to have slowly disintegrated. Drivers passing by no longer saw children in the yards, and the plant growth in the yards grew wild and uncontrolled. The houses, farms, and other structures became less and less substantial. It was on May 7, 1932, that a passing farmer discovered that the whole town was simply no longer where it was once located; all that occupied the area the town once stood in were abandoned fields, long rotted fences, and one cast-iron bathtub, once used to water livestock, which now sat alone in a field of weeds.

        It's been said that some years after these strange events, the site that was once Urkhammer was briefly occupied by a camp of traveling gypsies... but this group packed up and left almost as soon as they had camped. The leader of this group later told a councilman at a nearby town that the site was "saturated with the tears of the dispossessed, and with the despair of those who had never borne names."

Where Did Urkhammer Go?

        The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: Nowhere.

        Urkhammer, you see, never existed. The first mention of the story was in 2015, when it was related in a post in Cullen Hudsen's Strange State website. According to Hudsen, the story had been found by his mother while she was cleaning out old emails; she was checking them as she went along for anything that might be of interest to her son, who has an interest in oddities. Neither Hudsen nor his mother knew where the short story had originated, but Hudsen was pretty sure it was fictional and supposed that his mother could have written it and forgotten about it later. So the main take from this: in the first presentation of the story, the presentor states he believes the story is fictional... but this particular detail was left out of later re-tellings of the story, most notably in YouTube in 2017, and most recently in the Mysterious Universe website.

        An internet search for the town of Urkhammer, Iowa, turns up only references to the story above, and all of them dated for after the 2015 posting of the account to the Strange State website. As a further detail, for those of you still not convinced, the newspaper mentioned in the account above -- the Davenport Clarion-Sun-Telegraph, which was mentioned in the original Strange State posting of the Urkhammer story -- never existed. So all evidence points to this tale being a pure Internet Legend, introduced by a website and repeated in a shorter form by other websites interested in a good story more than facts.


        A big 'Thank You' goes out to Eric Stratford for pointing me to this story!

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