Anyone who has ever been in the center of hundreds of miles of farmland can tell you that once in awhile, you get the willies. Especially at night, when late autumn has begun to rot the pumpkins left behind in the garden - when the last of the geese have flown overhead. It's those cold nights, when the smell of all the fallen leaves is strongest and you haven't yet gotten used to the cornfields being stripped bare, that you seem to become more attune to the flickering images out of the corner of your eye or the odd creaks in the attic of the old farm house.
As you are now, I once was. As I am now, you soon will be. So, come face death and follow me. ~Epitaph, Joseph Stoneking: Williamson, Iowa
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Davenport - Blackhawk Hotel
Built in 1915, this hotel has reports of a phantom lady who walks the halls in an evening gown. Also, phantom piano playing in the ballroom and other oddities have occurred. Incidentally, Cary Grant died on the 8th floor and has reportedly been seen walking around since then, earning this hotel a celebrity cameo button! 200 east 3rd street
Update 2011: The Blackhawk, after a fire gutted the historic building, has transformed from a flop house to a luxe boutique hotel. When I investigated the Cary Grant angle last winter, the staff was obviously instructed not to speak about the location or circumstances of his death. The room has been remodeled into a foyer area.
I had to come here for an art show in February 2011, and stayed on the 8th floor
- where a few "ghost" websites say he died and is still "haunting". At the time
I didnt know about the place's history at all, and the only "paranormal
occurrence" I had took place when an Iowa call girl with the wrong room number
knocked on our door at 3 am asking if we had "ordered an escort". When we said
"no...", she paused and replied "are ya sure?"
Until very recently the hotel was a run down flea bag (by many accounts), operated by a nearby riverboat casino. A local artist I was chatting with told me someone's meth lab blew up several years ago, causing a huge fire and subsequently necessitating it be closed. Luckily for this community, some company has shelled out 40 mil to bring the hotel back to it's former grandeur. It is a beautiful, swanky place again. It's a reason to go to Iowa. Fo' reals.
Here is the lobby:
asked for the Cary Grant room, and were told he died in room 621, which after
the gutting of the building is no longer there and is "an alcove now". There is,
by the way, a room 621 - but not the same 621. (Or so they said...)
When we arrived, my boyfriend told the receptionist that he had read the room he died in was on the 8th floor. She was very tight lipped and told him that either way the room no longer existed, and that staff was instructed not to speak about Cary Grant's room or give details to the public about it. "Some people believe in ghosts," she explained. She went on to imply in a roundabout politically correct way that the hotel didn't want the attention paid them by paranormal thrill seekers. (Don't they know this only makes morbid nut jobs like me dig harder?)
Ever diligent, we asked our waiter at the restaurant if he knew which floor, and he became evasive as well. When you say "Cary Grant" to the staff at the Blackhawk, it's as if a stick has been suddenly shoved in their butts from the look on their faces. Management obviously has made themselves crystal clear to staff on this subject.
We were placed in a suite near an alcove on floor 6, although it is still
debatable whether it was actually floor 8 he had his massive stroke on. The
Here is the 6th floor alcove:
Here is possibly Cary's last view through a hotel window, a few windows down from the above alcove:
*see Council Bluff - Historic Pottawattmie County Jail
*see Villisca - Axe Murder House
Haunted Iowa City Tour
Des Moines - Magical History Tours
Cedar Rapids -
The library of this National Trust mansion is said to have a glowing entity
Cedar Rapids - Westdale Mall
The ghost of a construction worker is blamed for an instance when a girl closing (probably one of the food service venues) witnessed a heavy locked freezer door being "flung open". 2600 Edgewood Rd SW
Council Bluffs - Historic Dodge House
Former home to Civil War veteran General Grenville M. Dodge, who also has the distinction of being called the "greatest railroad builder of all time", this Victorian beauty is haunted by the old general, who sits in his rocking chair and wanders the house. The noises of men arguing is said to be heard in the street in front of the home at dusk, and flashes of light are reported around the lawn and smell smoke. The statue of Dodge's wife Ruth Ann, reportedly more creepy than most, is said to "curse" passersby with ill health.
Council Bluffs -
Union Pacific Railroad Museum
The basement of this former library has had a long history of books flying from the shelves, objects that would disappear then re-appear, and dark specters.
Dakota City -
Humbolt County Historical Museum
Locals claim to see flickering lights in the buildings at night after close, and one tour guide has told tourists that she believed it could be haunted by a wrestler named Frank Gotch (who was a 'pioneer' of sports wrestling and died suddenly at a relatively young age in his hometown of Humboldt, IA - near this site). The specter of a fisherman has been reported, and there is a story of a fisherman drowning in the nearby Des Moines River. The strangest of all however, is the local legend of the Magic 8 Ball sign - if you ask the front sign of the "museum" (town) a question on a calm day, the hinged, hanging sign will swing right for "no" and left for "yes". My sources say unclear... Dakota City is just east of Humboldt in northwestern Iowa; Open Mon, Tue, Thu-Sat 10-4:30, Sun 1:30-4:30 half mile south of SR3 on CR P-26 (515) 332-3392
Des Moines -
Hidden behind and above the bowling lanes, according to locals, was formerly a depression era illegal gambling establishment. This upstairs area is said to have the odd noises of rolling dice, people talking, and some have heard their name called. 4200 Fleur Dr
Des Moines - Drake University Municipal Observatory
Dr. Robert Morehouse, founder of said observatory and discoverer of an obscure comet, is buried (along with his wife Myrtle) in the walls of the entryway to his beloved observatory. Students studying there report "an unknown force correcting the calculations in their observation logs". Wow.
Des Moines -
Merle Hay Mall Tower
Built atop the site of a monastery, local folklore says that some of the nuns who resided here had the tendency to get pregnant, and the babies would mysteriously "miscarry". Thus, the mall is said to be haunted by a phantom in archaic nun's clothing, who carries a dead baby and cries. The elevators are said to run themselves, and phantom footsteps are heard. Cold spots are also reported.
Dubuque - The Ham
No, not a pork palace brimming with red-eye gravy - it is a mansion that was built by a lead tycoon named Mathias Ham. Along with the usual fare of cold spots and phantom voices, the Ham House has had reports of screams from the empty nursery, servant's house, and master bedroom. Objects go missing and reappear elsewhere, and lights flicker.
Coffin's Grove Stage Coach Inn Museum
Reportedly haunted by the family that occupied it in life.
Marion - Granger
A woman in white is seen at the front window after closing.
Council Bluff -
Historic Pottawattamie County Jail: “The Squirrel Cage”
Formerly a state of the art jail that revolved around a stationery guard station, the "Squirrel Cage" is now a museum, that you can also spend the night at if you like. The most notorious criminal it held in it's hey day was raping serial killer Jake Bird who killed an estimated 44 women in towns along the railroads he worked on. Employees claim to have heard odd noises, such as whistling, pots clanging, the sounds of yelling and doors slamming shut. The 4th floor is said to be haunted by a jailer who dropped dead of a heart attack there.
Villisca - Axe Murder House/Olson Linn Museum
Six members of the J.B. Moore family were hacked to death while they slept here in 1912, and the murders remain unsolved. Phantom voices are heard, furniture and objects move around, and children are heard. An entrepreneur has recently opened this house to overnight guests. 323 East 4th. Street; The Axe Murder House can be reserved for an overnight stay -- maximum 10 guests, $50/guest, minimum $250.
Lyon County - Gitchie Manitou State Preserve
The huge Quartzite boulders here were used by the Oneota and Yankton Sioux tribes as medicine. They tapped into the rocks and ground the particles into herbs mixtures to be used as mystical medicines. On the farthest northwest tip of the Iowa border.
Ames - C. Y.
Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University
The tunnels beneath the auditorium that lead to the coliseum are said to be haunted by the friendly spirit of the auditorium's namesake, who causes cold spots and phantom footsteps. People have reported sightings of a man in "the back right corner of the third balcony", and performers consider his appearance good luck.
Cedar Falls - The
Strayer-Wood Theatre at University of Northern Iowa
A ghost nicknamed "Zelda" seemingly followed the living from the former theater to this newer structure. Students say that phantom piano music is heard in the empty theater and that equipment turns itself on at times.
Cedar Rapids -
Stello Performance Hall at Mount Mercy College
A sister who hung herself in the choir loft is said to still wander Warde Hall and in various hallways, scary ghostly nun's habit and all.
The staff of this old movie theater are supposedly willing and able to tell you all about the odd occurrences that happen here. The phenomena is blamed on former owner Mr. Goldie, who still sits, invisible, in the flip up seats when the theater is empty. Cherokee is in Northwest Iowa on Hwy 59; 108 E Main.
Dubuque - Grand
Vague stories of footsteps, apparitions and noises arise from this theater
Fort Dodge -
Hawkeye Community Theater
Reports range from a ghost of a little girl to otherworldly beatings from an unseen force in this theater.
Cedar Rapids -
The latest in an odd phenomena of haunted pizza joints, the Domino's in Cedar Rapids is said to be plagued by flying pizza pans, cold spots and footsteps in the empty building. One petrified worker said that after narrowly avoiding a pizza pan trauma, (s)he returned to find all the pans neatly back on the shelf. There are two Domino's in this city - I don't know which is the aforementioned one... 2210 16th Ave SW or 4105 Center Point Rd NE
Marion - Carlos O'Kellys
Plates have flown from the shelves and unplugged blenders have started whipping up cocktails by themselves at this chain restaurant. 3320 Armar Drive
Pleasant Hill -
El Azteca Restaurant
As the story goes, a group that were eating in this building witnessed a butter knife push itself up through the cracks between two tables that were pushed together, then fall to the floor. Near Des Moines 1100 N Hickory Blvd
West Union -
Locals say the Hardee's was built over a cemetery, and employees have experienced cold spots, missing items that re-appear, and heard their name whispered. 117 Highway 150 N
Algona - Plum
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her time in this area in her series of books, in particular On The Banks of Plumb Creek; the legend of this area of Plumb Creek has a more sinister tone. As locals tell it, a little boy was running along the edge of the creek at the "far corner" of "the Pits" (you'll have to ask a local where to find this area, if anyone out there knows how to get there, please email me) when he tripped and impaled himself on a fallen tree branch and died. Locals who fish there say they have seen a little boy walking along the banks who disappears when they call out to him.
Amana - a
On the minute before the start of a new year, locals say a blue specter hangs over the grave of a woman in Amana.
Centerville - Railroad Tracks
Possibly a gravity hill, the story goes that if you put your car in neutral on the railroad crossing, little phantom children will push you out of harm's way. Appanoose County - located in the southeast of the state near the Missouri line
Avon - Train
A grizzled old man carries his phantom lantern along the tracks at night, locals claim. Avon is just southeast of Des Moines
A local legend says that if you go to this area and say the "ghosts name" three times, she will appear and drop a rose on the ground - and you'll drop dead the next day. I couldn't find a "Stony Hollow" on the map, but Burlington has a "Crapo Park"... lol. If you have any info or more details (a name, perchance?) about this urban legend, drop me an email
Jacque wrote:" If you travel north on Hwy 99 out of Burlington (starts out as Des Moines Ave-runs past the Case Company) and travel approximately 5-8 miles out of town. There is a road to your left called Stony Hollow Road. If you aren't watching you will drive right past it. There is a small farm on the corner of the entrance to the road. Legend has it that a young maiden back in the 1800's was to meet her fiancée there to run off to get married. She waited and waited but he didn't come. The wagon wheel to his wagon had gotten stuck in the muddy road on his way to meet her. She finally decided that he wasn't coming and threw herself off of the cliffs along that road. These cliffs stand about 20-30 feet tall. Her name is Lucinda. Supposedly people have seen her standing along the cliff edge. My husband and I went out there to try and see her. All we saw were pure white moths flying in slow motion in our headlights and I felt a pulling towards the ditch on the south side. But nothing of her. If you have any questions just let me know. I live in Burlington and might be able to get some more information on her if you want it." Sure I do :o) ~ed.
Jacque continued: " I just happened to think, I didn't tell you that this was added information to the story you had on your site pertaining to the lady in Burlington. The urban legend about Stony Hollow Road and the lady who's name you say 3 times, she appears and drops a rose, and according to legend you will drop dead the next day. Sorry, I didn't explain this initially. Hope this adds some light to the story you initially had. Thank you. Happy ghost hunting. "
Update: Anna was nice enough to write me and add:
"Stony Hollow is actually a country road just a few miles north of Burlington of Highway 99. It's a curvy road and if you take a left off of 99 and go back just about half a mile you'll see a rocky bluff on your right side. I haven't heard of the story you have on your website. I can't exactly remember how the story goes but I think like this.... A young white woman fell in love with a black man and they couldn't be together so she jumped off the cliff. If you go out there you can hear her scream. People have tired to climb up the rock cliff but for some reason every time you start getting close to the top you fall. (This is true because I have tried and I've seen many others try.) The house she lived in is right on the bluff. I don't know this for a fact but I have heard the house still has all of the furniture in it, but nobody takes it because it's supposedly cursed.
Something kind of eerie happened one time when I was out there one time, as we got in my car to leave the CD player turned on automatically without the car being on or key turned to keep the battery running. When I went to start it, it would turn over. We got really scared and finally after the third try it turned on.
By the way, Crapo Park is towards the south end of town. It's actually a very beautiful park. However, it is not pronounced like it looks. (Cray-po Park)". Thanks, Anna! And sorry about the "Crappo" humor ~ed.
Carrollton - Town
This partially abandoned town (by someone else's account, not mine...) lays claim to some odd phenomena including ghostly little girls dancing about, spirits standing at the cemetery gates, and a fog that almost magically appears as you walk. Northwest of Des Moines in Carroll County - drive east out of Carroll on HWY 30, turn right at the Deham turn near the golf course, drive about 5 miles until you reach Willey, then go through Willey until you see a sign for Carrollton 4 miles. Turn left and drive straight. Got all that?
Charles City -
Woods behind the old Oliver, Hart-Parr factory (White Farm)
The woods behind the former life blood of the city, White Farm Equipment Company (closed and from all accounts demolished - but you can buy a brick from the place here!) is said by locals to be haunted by little girls dressed in white who giggle and sing. Seemingly plucked from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay of 'The Ring 3: Iowa', this deceased brownie troupe utters such bone chilling lines as "wanna come burn with me" and a soul crushing rendition of "Ring around the Rosy" that will turn your hair white. The history, it is said, is that a train accident in the 1920's burnt a car full of chronically unlucky orphans near here - and that their desolate and rarely visited graveyard is in the woods as well. Charles City is in Northeast Iowa, on Hwy 218
Conover - Conover
A family of four who died along this road is said to still appear.
Police Department Bell Tower
The apparition of hung men is said to be seen through the windows of the tower, which reportedly used to be used as a gallows
Davenport - City Hall
A fat male ghost named "Hal" is said to have gone after an alderman's position after a beef he had with city government. After losing the election, he attended the city council meetings relentlessly until his death. Obviously still pissed at the city, he still shows up, and reportedly has been seen "at least 100 times" in and around the building, often smoking a cigar. Des Moines -
Dowling - Dowling
A purple spook light has been seen in this area
Emmetsburg - Lot
behind Nauss Oil
On this site was a Motor Lodge, and at times a ghostly old man in a plaid shirt walks along, pausing 6 times, as if he is checking the doors to the rooms that no longer exist. Emmetsberg is in north central Iowa on Highway 18
A resident along this street reports odd poltergeist-type of phenomena in her home. Formerly the location of " Iowa Institution for Feeble Minded Children", but the home owner hints that Indian spirits might be involved. Glenwood is southeast of Omaha
Independence - Buchanan County Court House
A Man who was hung here a century ago is said to re-appear, hanging from the rafters. Near Hwy 20 north of Cedar Rapids
Near Algona - Little Africa
I looked far and wide to figure out the puzzling name of "Little Africa" (in rural Iowa?!?), but couldn't find any info on the internet (please email me if you know where the name comes from). Local folklore says that several murders, including hangings from the bridge trestle, took place here, and that accidents have been caused on the bridge there because a spirit appeared in the path of the oncoming car. A woman is said to haunt around an abandoned home here. Kossuth county, roughly Between Davenport and Quincy, near Burlington in Algona, "past the hospital cemetery". Directions from this site say: "Start out going north on McGregor and keep going until you hit the second gravel road (lots of skid marks), take a right and keep going straight. You come to a fork in the road, then you take a right. You go up a slight hill and then on your left there will be a trail that takes you into Little Africa."
Lake City - Rainbow Bridge
South of town is a "bow string" bridge, which according to folklore, if someone leaves a chocolate candy bar on it, the chocolate will vanish from the wrapper within a few minutes. Lake City, which from looking at the map is nowhere within 1,000 miles of a lake, is located in northwest Iowa.
A boy murdered in the 1960's or 70's is said to call out to you and leaves carvings in the trees a'la "Blair Witch Project". Marshalltown is northeast of Des Moines
Near Clear Lake -
Buddy Holly Crash Site
Locals claim to have seen a phantom repeat of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson after a show in Wisconsin on February 3, 1959. Spook lights have also been seen at the location of the crash, which has been described as about seven miles northwest of the Mason City Municipal airport.
A stainless steel monument at or near the location of the crash site is located on private farmland, about one quarter mile west of the intersection of 315th Street and Gull Avenue, approximately eight miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa. There is a lot of nifty info on the crash site and all about how Buddy Holly's glasses popped up in an envelope in the Cerro Gordo county courthouse in 1980 at this website.
Metz - Metz
A "Mud Monster" is said to live beneath the bridge. Metz is east of Des Moines just south of I-80
Mount Pleasant -
Once a year a girl who hung herself on her birthday appears swinging from the bridge Hwy 218 on Kentucky Rd
New Providence - Reece Park
The apparition of a screaming young woman who killed herself appears in the cornfields around the park New Providence is located northeast of Des Moines, east of I-35
West Des Moines -
Barnes and Noble
Books fly from the shelves, employees say 4550 University Ave
Protivin - the
town dairy (creamery)
Locals blame phantom faces in the windows on a long ago fire that claimed two lives here. Protivin is located in northeast Iowa
Marquette - Three
The cries and moans of Indians is reported by locals, who say there are Native American burial mounds atop the three bluffs. Marquette is on the Mississippi River on the Wisconsin border
Sioux City -
United Flight 232 crashed at this airport in 1989, killing 112 people. Local folklore speaks of orbs and the sounds of screaming on the runway.
Spencer - Moose
Every 23rd of December at 8:47 pm the sounds of a boy who drowned there after falling through the ice is said to be heard beating on the ice from underneath Spencer is in northwest Iowa
Stockport - Two
The vision of a boy jumping from the grain silos at the edge of town is seen by locals Stockport is in southeast Iowa
A Young boy is said to haunt the store, playing pranks on employees like moving merchandise and pulling on their clothing. Those who have seen "Jeremiah" describe him as pale and thin dressed in Amish attire. Flammang Drive; Crossroads shopping center
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