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Saturday, December 23, 2023

Decemystery (2022.3) 23: Terry Lopi's Disappearing Barn


I won’t lie; I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to think of an introduction for this story. I swear, this is the hardest part of these write-ups; it wasn’t always that way. Oh well, I shouldn’t complain too much about my woes because today’s story is one I alluded to earlier this month!

Back when I wrote about The Kentucky Horsewalker, I said that I hoped there were no stories of disappearing barns. Well, surprise, surprise, there are. One of two safe havens for one man in Utah disappeared; that’s like a 50% Defense nerf! But what could cause one man’s barn to up and vanish? Well, come along, dear reader, let’s find that out; it’s time to dive into the story of Terry Lopi’s Disappearing Barn.


Oh no, even the silly title has disappeared!

This is the second story to originate from the Fortean Map; I had only intended to cover The Groves Kurt Incident this year, but I’m prone to changing my writing plans on the fly. Nowhere is that more evident than with Decemystery—trust me on that. I had planned to cover this story, nixed it, added it again, nixed it again, then added it yet again. This story was thrown around like its name was Dead Island 2.

Anyway, onto the story. Back in 1978—the date isn’t given, sadly—and takes place in Newton, Utah. Funny thing, actually; I brought this story up to a friend of mine who’s from Utah; he immediately wanted to know more. When I told him it was from Newton, his immediate reaction was that he had no idea where that was.

As it turns out, Newton is a very small community in the northern part of the state; its population, as of 2019, is estimated to be 817. Back in 1970, it was a mere 444. Keep this in mind because it’s going to be incredibly important for later.

Getting back on track: On this unknown day, a man named Terry Lopi awoke and was ready to take on the day. A farmer, Terry had a to-do list: do whatever a farmer in Utah does, go to the grocery store, and feed his animals. And so Terry did just that; he went out to get groceries and feed his animals. However, when he got back, there was something missing: one of his two barns.

Yes, that’s right, one of his barns was missing. The dirt that surrounded the foundation where the barn used to be was there. However, nothing else was. Exactly what was inside the barn isn’t mentioned, but I’m guessing hay, some animals, and tools. Whatever it may have been, it was all gone.

To make things even wilder, the Fortean Map says that Terry’s trip only took him a mere hour. So someone, or something, managed to disassemble this barn and took both it and its contents, then hightailed it out of there.

And that’s it; that’s where the story ends. Like The Elevator Riddle, The Signal of Isla Han Samar, and The Groves Kurt Incident, no links or references were left in the summary. As you can imagine, I have extreme doubts about this story. However, I didn’t want to go into the theories section acting like Cole Phelps. So, I did a bit of research; allow me to talk about what I found.


The first thing I want to talk about is the idea of someone stealing a barn. That, to me, sounds like the single most preposterous thing to steal. Yet, by some ungodly chance, it has happened. The best part? As far as I can tell, the case was never solved. Yes, somehow, a band of devious thieves out there managed to steal a barn and got away with it. The only articles I can find on the case are from when it was initially reported, which was back on (and around) April 7, 2015.

According to CBS, over in Welton, Iowa, Sally Ruggeberg found that some thieves had “cut 24-foot-long sections of beams, walls, and floors from the 100-year-old barn on March 10.” According to the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, there are no known suspects. Honestly, that’s flabbergasting since I can’t fathom who would want to steal a barn—a century-old one at that.

Anyway, Sally’s of the opinion that it was “a crew” who stole the barn. She suspects that they “likely used power tools and a generator” since the property’s electricity had been turned off the previous autumn.

Rounding things off, Deputy Tom Christoffersen said that a surveillance camera was set up in hopes of getting evidence should the thieves have returned. Unfortunately, they never did. I guess they only wanted the barn.

Although that’s where CBS’ article ends, I found additional details from an article on the Des Moines Register’s site. While the article itself begins roughly the same, it has some quotes from Sally that give insight into what she wanted to do with the barn.

According to Sally, her intention was to respectfully take the barn as she (or the Ruggeberg family as a whole) had done with the house that had stood on the property. The keyword in that sentence is “respectfully,” Sally stated she had a “salvage plan” since “the boards from the barn would be valuable.”

By taking the barn down, the Ruggeberg family “would have a continuous 37 acres of tillable land.” With the barn gone, Sally and her family had that, though not in the way she had wanted it. In Sally’s own words:

People could say, “So what?” It was going to come down, anyway. But that’s not it at all. It’s the disrespect. It’s not like we put it out to the curb. It wasn’t our garbage. This is our land. It is not for the taking.

As far as I’m aware, this case has never been solved; there are no suspects. If I’m wrong, do inform me; I may revisit this one in the future, though. But, with all of this in mind, I now know one thing for certain: Terry Lopi’s situation has precedent.

Okay, I lied; I knew a bit about that story, including said precedent. I had tried finding information on this story in the past and had seen passing glimpses of articles of the story above, but I only skimmed them. It still doesn’t make it any less surreal, though.

Still, as I said just two paragraphs ago, we now know this story—that of Terry Lopi—has some merit to it. However, what about the man himself? Is he real? The last three Fortean Map stories have been met with a resounding “no,” but is this one any different? Well, let’s find out.

Something I Found That I Want to Mention But Couldn’t Fit Into the Previous Section

I found a weird bit of information on a website called Modern Farmer that had run an article about the barn theft case. Get a load of this:

In Iowa, where more people were convicted in 2011 (the latest figures) of farm-related thefts than for stealing cars, lawmakers are considering upping the penalties for these types of crimes. It’s unclear if barn theft would qualify.

I’m not sure what to say about this, but I wanted to share it. Anyway, onto the next section, for real!

Farming For Answers

The final stop before we get to the theories is that I wanted to see if I could find any record of a man named Terry Lopi. I tried checking Find A Grave, but I got no results for a man named Terry Lopi or Terrence Lopi. Granted, it’s possible that he’s still alive; the Fortean Map pin doesn’t state how old he was. Though given that 1978 was 44 years ago, I imagine Terry would be quite old now. At the same time, Newton’s small population likely means they would be a tightly-knit community that wouldn’t want to put all of their news out there to the world on something like the Internet. But, hey, I know little about small-town values and what they’re like, so I won’t make too many broad assumptions.

My next destination was to look around on Bing; I’ve found that Bing tends to give me the results I want more often than Google. However, in this case, I didn’t get that when I looked up both Terry’s name and when I added “barn theft” after it. Interestingly, when I looked up the former of those two, the third result I got was from Newsweek for an article entitled “Old MacDonald’s Stolen Barn: Farm Theft Is on the Rise.” It was about the Ruggeberg case and details a few other instances where unusual things (things I won’t mention here because they’re disgusting) were stolen from farms. Unfortunately, Terry’s story was not among those things.

In fact, no matter how much I looked, Terry Lopi was nowhere to be found. Sure, people by that name exist; it isn’t like the name is something, but none of them appear to be the man in question. The one we’re looking for—the one who had one of his barns stolen in a mere hour while he went for groceries—is nowhere to be found.

So, with that, our story comes to a close. Like the other three Fortean Map stories, this one concludes on a very open-ended note; it’s like a movie or video game that ended on a cliffhanger but never got a sequel. Woe to those who wanted to see the Snyderverse come to fruition or the two fans of the Dark Universe. Though lucky for us, there are some theories, so let’s get into them!


1. It was made up for the Fortean Map

Let me get the theory that will make me feel like a colossal jerk out of the way first. I talked about how I hate this theory because there’s a very real possibility the story is real, but I simply can’t find the source of it. As a result, I feel like I’m calling the maker of the map a liar or something along those lines. So, let me stress: I don’t mean to sound like that.

Given the astonishing lack of information on this story, it’s hard to not think of this story like the many, many meme entries on the various Iceberg Charts that are out there. A little joke slipped in to send people in wild goose chases for the amusement of the creator. If that’s the case, I’ve gone on three of them, and truthfully, I’ve enjoyed all three. There’s something about these stories that always end up being among the most enjoyable.

However, if that isn’t the case, then I can only guess it was in some incredibly obscure book; the map’s creator heard it from a friend or family member or read it on a fringe website. I think that the book hypothesis is the most plausible due to my own experience with knowing a story about minotaur sightings in New York from a book. Also, I still haven’t found that book between the time I wrote about The Groves Kurt Incident and this story. I’m convinced I will never find that book unless I go to some mega library.

In short, there’s a lot going for this theory, but there are plausible reasons to not buy completely into it. Now, onto the next theory.

2. The map’s creator got a story from Utah mixed up with the Iowa story

I didn’t say it earlier, but man, people are willing to steal some really absurd stuff, huh? Never thought that barns—alongside their contents—would be the target of robberies. I guess everything really does have a price.

This was a theory I thought of because of one very basic reason: human error. Given how long it must have taken to make the map, I wouldn’t be shocked if the creator got exhausted and got two stories mixed up and thought the story from Iowa was from Utah.

Human error is, in my eyes, one of the most likely explanations for a lot of supposedly strange things people report seeing or claim to experience. In this case, I wouldn’t be shocked if the map’s creator was exhausted and winged it with the barn robbery from Iowa.

3. It did happen, but it never got major coverage due to Newton’s small population

I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world, but I’ve heard that small towns in the United States are incredibly close-knit; some outright don’t take kindly to outsiders. It’s like everyone in the town is a family, and when someone stays, it’s akin to a stranger staying at your house. That could make for a great horror movie, actually.

Anyway, not everything makes the news, especially news from super small towns. For this theory, we have the idea that the story really didn’t make it out of Newton; maybe it made it to some surrounding communities, but it didn’t go beyond them.

So, how did the map’s creator catch wind of it? Maybe they knew someone from said area. Or, again, maybe an obscure book or fringe website. Honestly, that explanation can be used to explain so many of the most absurd stories I cover. They originate from the weirdest parts of literature and the Internet. I can’t wait until I fall into that category!

4. The barn was eaten by a black hole

Okay, the next seven theories are just memes; I couldn’t resist messing around with this story. Why? Honestly, the story is ripe for some wonderful silliness. So feel free to skip to my personal take if you want; I just wanted to goof around. Otherwise, let’s have some fun!

Our fourth theory posits that a black hole ate it. Somehow, breaking all known laws of physics and other things that I have no understanding of, a black hole formed within Terry’s barn. It proceeded to eat it before dissipating and going back to space. How that works, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog, who also loves science and physics, wants to beat the heck out of me. Don’t worry, dear reader (or readers), I’m way ahead of you!

5. Interdimensional beings stole it

Who said that interdimensional beings couldn’t be criminals, too? That’s why the interdimensional FBI exists! Also, do a push-up every time I say “interdimensional” during the theories section from here on out. You’ll get a decent workout if you don’t already go to the gym (you actually won’t).

This theory posits that a bunch of interdimensional rascals decided to steal Terry’s barn for reasons unknown. Perhaps they want to pull a Walter White and start up some sort of interdimensional drug trade. Or maybe they really wanted a barn. Either way, their intentions are unknown. I just hope they got some good value out of that barn.

6. Aliens stole it

If interdimensional beings didn’t do it, then it must be aliens. It’s the natural hierarchy of High-Strangeness suspects.

Through the power of interdimensional magic, quantum technology, and antigravity, the aliens abducted the barn and everything inside of it while leaving the dirt. It’s like a side activity in a video game, only considerably less fun, and you can’t retry as many times as you want.

The reason the aliens wanted to take this barn is unknown. If I had to guess, they wanted to probe the farm animals, wooden beams, and barn door. Or maybe they really needed it for their Feng Shui on their home planet in some other galaxy. I wonder if they could be charged with robbery if they ever returned to Earth. Or would the lack of intergalactic law on our end let them get off scot-free? Food for thought.

7. Bigfoot stole it

An interdimensional fiend known for stealing cattle, hay, pets, and keys, the demon known as Bigfoot upped its game. Seeing the beautiful barn belonging to Terry Lopis, Bigfoot decided to use its hellish powers to cause a portal to the 17th circle of interdimensional Hell to open. And that’s all InterDantemensional ever wrote about this beast. Lazy bum.

8. The government stole it

Just like your tax money, the government stole Terry’s barn.

9. Terry Lopi’s evil twin stole it

As it turns out, Terry has an evil twin named Larry. In an effort to mess with his twin, Larry stole the barn with his interdimensional gang of interdimensional Larrys. They dismantled it with interdimensional tools and then sold the wood to interdimensional beings for several 

American dollars so Larry could build his own barn somewhere else in Utah. Such a dastardly act; one has to wonder what Larry did after building his own barn!

10.              stole it

What!? No, it’s not possible! How could that devious trickster steal part of the theory!? Now, I’ll never be able to stop him! :(

My Take

Like with The Groves Kurt Incident, I do feel bad for doubting this story’s veracity, but I would be lying if I said I thought this story was legitimate. There’s nothing on it outside of the entry on the Fortean Map; it’s mentioned there and only there.

On top of that, I find it hard to believe that someone could steal an entire barn in only an hour. Granted, I have no idea how demolition works, but I imagine taking an entire without leaving any sign that you were there is rather hard to believe. Then again, I have no idea if any clues were left behind at the Ruggeberg barn theft, nor do I know if there were any guesses as to how long it took to steal that barn.

Now, at the same time, I must echo what I said not only in The Groves Kurt Incident but in many other write-ups. I am not a great researcher, and as such, it’s very possible I didn’t look hard enough. As such, I could very much be wrong in doubting this story’s legitimacy. However, until I’m proven wrong, I’m gonna press X to doubt with this one. I’m just not feeling it. Still, it was a blast to write about! Also, I hope you enjoyed your possible workout with me saying “interdimensional” a bunch. :)


This isn’t the last tale from the Fortean Map that lacks information, and I hope to get to some (if not all) of them next year. While they may not have a satisfying conclusion, I love covering them; the journey is always worth it. Until then, we have plenty of other stories to go over! So, as always, stay happy, stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

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