At the library in Manson they are delighted to show you a collection of newspaper articles and a box of core samples from a 1991-92 drilling program——indeed, they positively bustle to produce them—but you have to ask to see them. Nothing permanent is on display, and nowhere in the town is there any historical marker.
To most people in Manson the biggest thing ever to happen was a tornado that rolled up Main Street in 1979, tearing apart the business district. One of the advantages of all that surrounding flatness is that you can see danger from a long way off. Virtually the whole town turned out at one end of Main Street and watched for half an hour as the tornado came toward them, hoping it would veer off, then prudently scampered when it did not.
Four of them, alas, didn't move quite fast enough and were killed. Every June now Manson has a weeklong event called Crater Days, which was dreamed up as a way of helping people forget that unhappy anniversary. It doesn't really have anything to do with the crater. Nobody's figured out a way to capitalize on an impact site that isn't visible.
"Very occasionally we get people coming in and asking where they should go to see the crater and we have to tell them that there is nothing to see," says Anna Schlapkohl, the town's friendly librarian. "Then they go away kind of disappointed." However, most people, including most Iowans, have never heard of the Manson crater. Even for geologists it barely rates a footnote. But for one brief period in the 1980s, Manson was the most geologically exciting place on Earth.