From the single largest meteor impact site in the world, to a cave that stays frozen all year round, these 11 mysterious and unusual spots in Iowa will leave you baffled…
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. Mars Hill Church, Bloomfield
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...
2. Manson Impact Site, Manson
When the town of Manson was first settled in 1872, residents soon found something that absolutely baffled them: A 1.5 mile wide crater, the largest in the world, that was left behind by a 10 billion-ton meteorite that hit the area about 74 million years ago. The Manson Crater was originally thought to have been the asteroid impact that caused the dinosaur extinction, but the crater was later found to have hit before the extinction.
3. The Virgin Mary in a tree, Polk City
On a tree in Polk City, many people claim to see the image of the Virgin Mary. How the image got there remains unknown. Maybe it was struck by lightning, maybe the tree is diseased, or maybe the image was sent from above?
4. The Ice Cave, Decorah
This ice cave in Decorah is frozen all year round, even in the summer. What's the mystery behind this one? No, it's not magic, it's science. The cave sits on top of a glacier, which keeps the cave cold throughout the year.
5. Rainbow Bridge, Lake City
Rainbow Bridge in Lake City has a little mystery of its own. 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. The explanation? According to local lore, the culprit is a chocolate-eating ghost.
6. Effigy Mounds, Harpers Ferry
Effigy Mounds National Monument is a collection of around 200 Native American built mounds, and even effigys, which are shaped as different animals. No one is really sure what the mounds represent, but Native American legends and mythology have lead researchers to believe that the mounds were built as ceremonial and sacred sites, or as a way to mark choice hunting ground.
7. The Volkswagen Spider, Avoca
This sort of creepy, but really cool Volkswagen Beetle spider can be found in Avoca, Iowa. This one is more unusual than mysterious, but it still makes you curious as to who made it and why, right?!
8. Herbert Hoover's Goddess of Life Statue, West Branch
This mysterious and slightly creepy statue of Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of Life, was given to President Herbert Hoover by Belgians to thank him for the food relief efforts in Belgium during WWI. It was originally at Stanford and was moved to Hoover's hometown of West Branch, before the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum was built. Now you can find it on the grounds of the library/museum. It's a little strange that the Beligians chose an Egyptian goddess, and the statue itself is shrouded and somewhat mysterious.
9. The Pyramid House, Clear Lake
The Pyramid House in Clear Lake is a guest house that is available for rent. This one is also not really mysterious, but very unusual. It's a little strange that the architect would choose to make the house look like a pyramid, though. Maybe they were really big fans of ancient Egypt? Either way this is a really cool place to see, or stay, if you're in the area.
10. The tree in the middle of the road, Cass County
The big tree in the road separates the border of Cass County and Audubon County, and has long been a site of marvel for passerbys. No one is really quite sure how it got there, or why it wasn't cut down, but the local legend says that the worker platting the land stuck his walking stick (which was apparently a sapling) in the ground on the county line and left it there, then they just built the road around it.
11. The pyramids at Hickory Grove Cemetery, near Avery
These mysterious pyramids in Hickory Grove Cemetery have quite the interesting story behind them. Apparently, there was a local resident who was really into ancient Egypt and the pyramids. He was so interested, that he commissioned three pyramids for his tomb. The largest pyramid contains a crypt, where the man planned to have himself and his friend entombed upon their deaths. He even planned to have benches put in there, so him and his friend could be set on the benches across from eachother after their deaths, but these plans were never recognized and his friend was buried in a different cemetery, leaving the man to his lonely crypt.
What are some more unusual, mysterious places in Iowa to check out? Share your suggestions with us!