Iowa is a beautiful place to live, and very safe, but that doesn’t mean disturbing things don’t happen – even in small towns. Our little communities are normally quite serene, but every now and then, things can turn upside down. These horrid or unusual events don’t occur very often, and our small towns remain peaceful and relaxing, but every once in a while, something like these 9 disturbing events will happen in small town Iowa:
1. Villisca - The VIllisca Ax Murders
One warm June night in 1912, the Moore family came home from a church event, tucked the kids in, and went to bed. The family, Josiah, his wife Sara, their four children, and the two children they were watching, did not survive the night. They were found in the morning, murdered in cold blood with an ax that belonged to Josiah. Several people were tried and found not guilty, so the killer is still a mystery. The house is supposed to be haunted now, and the current owner rents it out for people to stay the night in.
2. Van Meter - The Visitor of Van Meter
Possibly the most mysterious and spine-tingling incident to have ever happened in Iowa is the infamous Visitor of Van Meter. It all began in 1903, when several of Van Meter’s most well respected citizens reported seeing a half human, half animal creature with enormous bat wings flying about the town. The townsfolk said it traveled at rates of speed they'd never seen, let off a powerful stench and shot a blinding light from its horned head. Though they shot their guns at it, the creature was unaffected. The creature had been seen by many reputable townspeople, including the town doctor and bank cashier, the local high school teacher and countless other people. The creature, which the townsfolk thought to be a demon, terrorized the town for several days until a group of citizens got together with their guns, and chased the creature into a nearby mine, where it disappeared, never to be seen again.
3. Ottosen - The Bigfoot Sightings of Ottosen
In 1978, the residents of Ottosen, Iowa reported strange sights and sounds around town, especially in the forest. Townsfolk reported being awakened by strange screams and an eerie, high-pitched whistle. But it didn't stop there. Cats showed up dead and mutilated and people woke up to dogs with their necks snapped. Many townsfolk even reported seeing a large, hairy, man-like creature wandering around town. One woman reported that she was doing dishes one night when she looked up to see a pair of glowing red eyes outside the window, staring at her. After she screamed, the creature ran away. It was seen by several different townsfolk on several different occasions but nobody ever found out what exactly happened that year.
4. Bloomfield - The Mystery at Mars Hill Church
Just southeast of Ottumwa is the Mars Hill Church, which is the oldest log cabin church west of the Mississippi River. The church and surrounding area have a mysterious and somewhat creepy history. Near the church is what the locals call Cry Baby Bridge. The story goes that many years ago, a young woman had her baby baptized in the church and then for some reason, walked to the bridge and threw it into the water, drowning the child. Legend says that on certain nights, you can hear the sound of a scream while crossing the bridge. Now the area is notorious for ghost, and even UFO, sightings. Will we ever know what's going on around Mars Hill Church? Maybe we will, maybe we won't...
5. Earling - The Earling Exorcism
The Earling Exorcism, or the exorcism of Anna Ecklund, is a prominent case not only in Iowa but throughout the country. The movie "The Exorcist" is partially based off of the Earling Exorcism. Anna was a normal Iowan girl, who went to church and said her prayers. But, at the age of 14, she started showing signs of possession. She reportedly could not enter the church, and showed extreme aversion to anything religious. It is also reported that demons spoke through her in Latin and other ancient languages she had no training in, and that a pea sized lump moved freely through her body. At the age of 26, Anna sought help from a priest, who performed the last sanctioned exorcism on her. It took 23 days, and with great difficulty, the several demons inhabiting her were exorcised. Her case remains a mystery, and it's debated whether or not she was really possessed, or just insane.
6. Clear Lake - The plane crash that killed Buddy Holly
After a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake on February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly's plane crashed into a field near Clear Lake, killing him and everyone aboard. That day will forever be referred to as the "Day the Music Died."
7. Newton - The plane crash that killed Rocky Marciano
Rocky, the inspiration for "Rocky Balboa," was an undefeated professional boxer and World Heavyweight Champion from 1952 to 1956. On August 31, 1969, the eve of his 46th birthday, Rocky was flying in a private plane outside of Newton. There was some bad weather, and the pilot tried to set the plane down in a field, but hit a tree, killing everyone on board.
8. Spirit Lake - The Spirit Lake Massacre
In March of 1857, during a particularly harsh winter, a settlement at Spirit Lake was attacked by a Wahpekute band of Santee Sioux indians. The Sioux killed 35-40 settlers and took three women hostage, bringing them north. Eventually, one of the hostages, Abbie Gardner, was ransomed back and opened up her family's home (shown above) as a museum to tell the story of the Spirit Lake Massacre. It was the last Native American attack on settlers in Iowa.
9. Fort Madison - The Last Federal Execution
In March of 1963, the last person to be executed in Iowa (and the last federal prisoner to be executed in the U.S.) was hung on the gallows at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. The prisoner's name was Victor Feguer, a convicted murderer found guilty of the killing a doctor from Dubuque. For his last meal, Feguer requested a single olive with the pit still in it, in hopes that an olive tree would sprout from his body, as olive trees are a sign of peace. After being hung, Feguer was supposedly buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Madison, with olive stone from his last meal sitting in the pocket of his suit.
Do you know of any more creepy or disturbing events that happened in small town Iowa? We’d love to hear them from you!