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. Lover’s Leap Bridge, Columbus Junction
Columbus Junction is home to a swinging bridge known as Lover’s Leap Bridge. It is said to be haunted by a young Native-American maiden who leaped to her death after she mistakenly thought her lover was dead. Said to be buried in the ravine below the bridge, people have reported ghostly activity in the area, including feelings of being watched, cold drafts and disembodied crying. IA-92, Columbus Junction, IA.
2. Squirrel Cage Jail, Council Bluffs
The Pottawattamie County Jail in Council Bluffs, also known as the Squirrel Cage Jail, is a unique and historic jail with revolving, circular, or lazy Susan, jail cells. It’s one of only three remaining squirrel cage style jails. The building was originally built on the site of a morgue for the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and there were several deaths in the jail. There have been many reports of ghostly activity there, from sightings of a little girl dressed in gray inside one of the cells, to the feeling of tugging at people’s clothing. The jail is now a museum and is open for tours, if you dare. 226 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, IA.
3. Villisca Ax Murder House, Villisca
Villisca became notorious for a grisly murder that took place in 1912. An entire family was murdered in their sleep by an unknown assailant with an ax, and now, the house is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the murdered family. People have reported cold spots in the house and have captured electronic voice phenomena, as well as video of strange occurrences. The house is open for tours, and even overnight stays, if you’re brave enough. Call Martha at 712-621-1530 to book an overnight tour. 508 E 2nd St, Villisca, IA
4. Farrar Schoolhouse, Maxwell
Built in 1921, the Farrar Schoolhouse was abandoned in 2002. Nancy and Jim Oliver, a local couple, bought the abandoned schoolhouse and soon started experiencing strange phenomena, like hearing disembodied voices and seeing shadow people and orbs. One day, Nancy lost her balance on the stairs and felt a hand on her shoulder helping her catch her balance. She turned to thank who she thought was her husband, but it turned out that nobody was there. Other people have reported being attacked by shadow figures on the third floor and seeing shadowy figures standing in the windows. 11125 NE 134th Ave., Maxwell, IA.
5. Edinburgh Manor, Scotch Grove
Edinburgh Manor once served as a mental institution and is said to be home to a violent ghost called “The Joker.” The ghost is said to have choked visitors, and other visitors have reported seeing ghostly figures and feeling strange presences in the now defunct facility. 13241 E23 County Home Rd., Scotch Grove, IA.
Urbandale is home to a ghost named “Uncle Charlie.” People have reported seeing him running through the woods at night. It is said that if you take a picture with the flash on, he will show up in the background, looking pale and ghostly and terrifying. People have also reported seeing his face peering into their windows at night.
7. Stony Hollow Road, Burlington
This road a few miles north of Burlington is said to be haunted. According to local legend, a young woman named Lucinda made plans to meet her lover on the bluffs outside of town to elope. The young man didn’t show up at their appointed meeting place, Lucinda was so heartbroken, she jumped off the cliff to her death. People traveling the road have reported seeing her ghost for decades. Another legend says that 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.
8. Independence Mental Health Institute, Independence
The Independence Mental Health Institute was built in 1873, and there is some dark history behind the facility. There have been countless deaths inside the building, and employees have reported cold drafts, eerie feelings, hearing voices, and feeling nervous or uneasy in the building. Some people have even felt invisible things grab them.
9. The Mason House Inn, Bentonsport
The Mason House Inn was built in 1846, and, like many old buildings, has a reputation for being haunted. People have reported the ghost of a young boy pulling on people’s clothing at night in room 5, the ghost of a man named Knapp who was murdered in room 7, and, in Room 8, people have seen a floating head. Guests have also reported seeing the ghost of an elderly woman in several of the 3rd-floor bedrooms. 21982 Hawk Dr., Keosauqua, IA.
10. Rainbow Bridge, Lake City
Rainbow Bridge in Lake City is said to be home to a benevolent, chocolate loving ghost. Legend has it that if you bring an unopened chocolate bar to the bridge at midnight and lay it in the center of the bridge, after 5 minutes, you will find the candy bar with an intact wrapper, but the chocolate inside will be gone.
11. Drake University Observatory, Des Moines
The Drake University Observatory is said to be haunted by Dr. Robert Morehouse, the first director of the astronomy department. Interred at the entryway of the observatory are the remains of the Dr. Morehouse and his wife, and students have reported strange occurrences there, including an unknown force correcting calculations in the observation logs. 4898 Observatory Rd., Des Moines, IA.