Like any state, Iowa’s history also has a darker side, filled with tales of bone-chilling murders, hair-raising hauntings and spine-tingling ghost sightings. If you don’t believe in ghosts already, you definitely will after reading about these 10 haunted spots in Iowa.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Independence State Hospital
The Independence State Hospital was built in 18730 and was used to hold alcoholics, geriatrics, drug addicts, mentally ill and the criminally insane. The asylum has a gruesome and dark history and you can still see the graveyard, hydrotherapy tubs and lobotomy equipment. The staff avoids the old part of the building due to the large amount of paranormal activity.
Ghosts of former staff and patients are seen in the buildings and on the grounds. Some report the ghosts speaking, pointing and staring at them. People have also been touched, poked and pushed by unseen forces. Voices, whispers, laughter and screams have been reported as well. There are also reports of cold breezes and cold spots with seemingly no cause. Doors open and close on their own and phantom footsteps are heard. Lights have also been known to flicker or simply turn on and off. People who go there report feelings of being watched, not being wanted, not being alone, feelings of unease, light anomalies, mysterious mists and shadowy figures.
2. The Children of Iron Hill
The legend goes that sometime in the 1920's there was a fiery train crash near Charles City that killed many passengers. One car was full of orphan children who became trapped in the train car and perished in the fire. It is said that the ghost children can still be heard crying, and sometimes the smell of burning is detected. Some have seen the ghost of a little girl walking through the woods in a white dress, and one person reported finding a burnt baby doll half buried in the ground by the tracks.
3. The Farrar Schoolhouse
The Farrar Schoolhouse in Maxwell was built in 1921 and was used until 2002, when it was abandoned. A local couple, Nancy and Jim Oliver, bought the schoolhouse and soon started experiencing some very strange things. The couple reported hearing voices and seeing shadow people and orbs. One day, Nancy became unsteady on the stairs when a hand on her shoulder helped her catch her balance. She turned to thank her husband but there was nobody there. She then saw the outline of a small boy on the stairway descending into the gymnasium. Other people have darker stories about the school and claim to have been attacked by shadow figures on the third floor, leaving them with red welts on their necks. People standing outside the building have seen figures standing in the windows, staring outside.
4. Mason House Inn
This historic hotel in Keosauqua, which was built in 1846, is said to have several spirits living in it. In Room 5, the ghost of a young boy pulls on people’s clothing at night, and his apparition has been seen on the landing. In Room 7, a man was murdered, and his spirit lingers about the room. In Room 8, a floating head has been seen. Also, in several 3rd-floor bedrooms, the ghost of an elderly woman has been spotted.
5. Edinburgh Manor
Edinburgh Manor in Scotch Grove was an old mental institution, built in 1908, which is said to be haunted. At least 80 people are said to have died here, and many of them are buried right on site in a private cemetery. Visitors claim to hear voices, and see apparitions in photos they took.
6. Mathias Ham House
Currently a museum, this lovely old house in Dubuque was built in 1856 by a man named Mathias Ham. At least four members of the Ham family died in the home. Mathias’ wife, Margaret, died in 1874, and he died in the house in 1889. His daughter May died in the 1890's, leaving his other daughter, Sarah, alone. According to legend, on one dark and lonely night Sarah shot and killed an intruder, whose lamplight is still said to wander through the house after sundown. Strange things happen in the house, including the lights turning on and off. People have also heard voices and footsteps while they were alone.
7. Villisca Ax Murder House
Probably the most infamous haunting site and murder mystery in Iowa is the Villisca Murder House. In June of 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore, their children Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, and their children’s friends Lena and Ina Stillinger, were brutally murdered while they slept by an unknown assailant with an ax. The killer was never officially found, and their murder remains a mystery. No one currently lives at the home, but the owner opened it up for tours and paranormal investigations. Hundreds of people have reported strange encounters in the house, including: vanishing blood stains on the walls, feelings of an evil presence, strange green lights, cold chills, and the feeling of being pushed or pulled by unseen hands. On several occasions, people have heard ghostly voices, and even seen apparitions.
8. Terror Bridge
Terror Bridge in Webster County is an old bridge that used to run past the town of Tara. Though the town of Tara is no longer there, the strange tales remain. These stories date back to the 1800's, when it was said that a frustrated farmer cursed the winds and was struck down dead. Since then, locals have reported being chased by a howling ghost rider. The area became known as Dead Man’s Hollow. People have also reported seeing a large, hairy creature under the bridge and in the nearby woods. One of the most gruesome tales in the area is the story of a woman who took her children to the bridge and waited for a train. As it passed, she tossed them onto the tracks one by one to be crushed to death. Afterwards, she jumped off the bridge and met her own fate. According to local lore, if you stop your car on the bridge and leave it unlocked, the woman’s ghost will drag you out and throw you onto the tracks, too.
9. Stony Hollow Road
The ghost of a heartbroken young woman is believed to haunt this road a few miles north of Burlington. According to legend, a young woman named Lucinda was planning to meet her lover on the bluffs outside of town so that they could elope. The man, however, never showed. Lucinda was so heartbroken that she threw herself off the cliff to her death. Motorists have reported seeing her ghost on Stony Hollow Road for decades. Supposedly, if you go to the top of the bluff and say Lucinda’s name three times, she will appear, and if she drops a rose at your feet, you will die the next day.
10. Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge in Lake City is home to a ghost, but not a scary one, like the rest of these. The story goes that if you bring an unopened chocolate bar to the bridge at midnight, lay it in the center of the bridge, then leave the bridge, after 5 minutes you will find the unopened candy bar with an intact wrapper, but the chocolate inside will be gone. Now this sounds like a ghost I wouldn't mind running into.
What are some more haunted places and ghost stories in Iowa? Share your favorites with us!