Once upon a time near a town known as Inman, in the land of Kansas, a legend was born — a legend that 50 years ago would bring this sleepy little town notoriety for a time. The legend became that of Sink Hole Sam.


Once upon a time near a town known as Inman, in the land of Kansas, a legend was born — a legend that 50 years ago would bring this sleepy little town notoriety for a time. The legend became that of Sink Hole Sam.

Believe it or not, prior to the 1920s, a string of small freshwater lakes stretched across part of central Kansas, coming within a couple miles of the town of Inman. It is reported people from around the state actually came here to fish in those lakes.

Eventually the lakes were drained, leaving Lake Inman, and a few low pockets of water now known as “sinkholes.” Inman Lake remains as the largest natural lake in the state. The largest of the sinkholes took the astonishing name “the big sinkhole.”

Here a legend was born in the form of a large serpent-like creature became Sink Hole Sam. People speculated that Sam had been living in some prehistoric underground cavern that had somehow filled with water from the sinkhole, allowing him to finally venture forth. Evidently no one got close enough to see if the creature should be named Sam or Samantha, but I’ll stay true to the legend and use “him.”

Two unidentified Inman men fishing at the sinkhole first reported seeing Sam. Soon after, Inmanites Albert Neufeld and George Regehr also spotted him. Albert sought to save the town by taking pot shots at poor Sam from a nearby bridge (I suspect the bridge was not really all that nearby!) Of course descriptions of the beast varied according to the audience and the time of day, but Sam ended up being a very large snake-like creature, about 15 feet long and the diameter of an automobile tire.

Now everyone likes a good legend, and the discovery of Sam was no exception. The story spread like hot peanut butter! Newspapers caught wind of the tale, (no pun intended), and locals started getting calls from strangers all across the country. Today, some residents still recall seeing hundreds of cars parked around the big sinkhole hoping “Sammy” would make a curtain call.

In an attempt to quell speculation about their new prehistoric mascot, (here the legend takes a slight southern detour) some “great scientific minds” were brought on board in the persons of Ernest Dewey and his assistant Dr. Erasmus P. Quattlebaum.

Earnest D. and the Dr. informed Inman that Sam was a “Foopengerkle,” one of a species thought to be the “extinctest” creatures ever to inhabit the Kansas Plains. This must be where he became Sam rather than Samantha, because Ernest and Dr. Q. maintained that no female “Foopengerkles” ever existed. Their final report urged caution, since Sam did not seem to realize he was extinct.

Like I said, everyone likes a good legend. Millions of dollars have been spent attempting to disprove the existence of Bigfoot and The Loch Ness Monster. As far as I know, all such attempts have failed, so both creatures must still live, if only in myth.

Sink Hole Sam put Inman on the map and in the news those many years ago, and no one has ever disproven his existence to me. After all, this is America, and stranger things have happened! Like I said, everyone likes a good legend. … Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve Gilliland is a syndicated outdoors columnist and can be contacted by e-mail at stevegilliland@idkcom.net.