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:
You can begin at any of the locations nearest you. For plenty of time to explore the haunted locations, you may want to set aside at least two or three days for this trip. Happy ghost hunting!
1. Mathias Ham House
If you can, start at Mathias Ham House in Dubuque, although you can start anywhere on the route. This house is now a museum, and it was built in 1856 by a man named Mathias Ham. There were at least four members of the Ham family who died in the home. Margaret, Mathias’ wife, died in 1874, and Mathias died in in 1889. Mathias’ daughter, May, died in the 1890's, leaving Sarah, his other daughter, alone. Legend says that on a dark and lonely night, Sarah shot and killed an intruder. The killed intruder’s lamplight is said to still wander through the house after sundown. People have also noticed lights turning on and off on their own, and hearing voices and footsteps.
2. Grand Opera House
The Grand Opera House is in Dubuque and was built in 1889. This historic opera house has hosted many stars, like Henry Fonda, Ethel Barrymore, and George Cohan. While The Grand has successfully been offering performances, it is also said to be haunted. There have been many reports of strange events happening over the years, like strange, ghostly voices, inexplicable pranks and mysterious electrical problems.
3. Edinburgh Manor
Edinburgh Manor in Scotch Grove, built in 1908, was an old mental institution and poor house. It’s said to be one of the most haunted places in the Midwest. There were at least 80 people said to have died there, and many of them are buried on the grounds in a private cemetery. Visitors have reported all manner of supernatural phenomena, such as disembodied voices, orbs, and unexplained noises. There is said to be a ghost roaming the halls called The Joker, who tries to choke guests caught unawares. In the summer of 2012, The Manor was opened up for paranormal investigations, and has even been featured on the TV show, Ghost Adventures.
4. Oakland Cemetery Black Angel
The Black Angel in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City is the subject of plenty of chilling lore. It is said that the statue mysteriously changed color from bronze to black, and that the sudden color change was an evil warning to keep people away from the grave. Many other myths followed, like a girl who is kissed at the angel’s feet in moonlight would die in six months. Another myth states that touching the angel on Halloween night would cause that person to die within the next seven years. Kissing the angel itself is said to make your heart stop beating.
5. Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge
Lovers Leap in Columbus Junction is not just scary because it’s a swinging bridge over a steep ravine. It is also said to be haunted by a young Native-American woman who leaped to her death after she heard reports that her lover had died in battle. She is said to be buried in the ravine where she jumped to her death. Visitors to the bridge have reported cold drafts, feelings of being watched and disembodied crying noises.
6. Mason House Inn
This historic hotel was built in 1846, and people believe that there are several spirits living there. In Room 5, you might see the ghost of a young boy who pulls on people’s clothes at night. A man was murdered in Room 7, and it’s said that his spirit still lingers in the room. People have seen a floating head in Room 8, and there have been reports of the ghost of an elderly woman in several of the 3rd-floor bedrooms.
7. Villisca Ax Murder House
The Villisca Ax Murder House is probably the most site of the most infamous unsolved murder and haunting site that Iowa has ever seen. In June of 1912, the entire Moore family, as well as family friends, were brutally murdered by an unknown assailant with an ax while they slept. The home is now open for tours and paranormal investigations, and hundreds of people have reported strange phenomena in the house,like 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. People have also reported seeing apparitions and hearing ghostly voices.
8. Squirrel Cage Jail
The Pottawattamie County Jail in Council Bluffs is also known as the Squirrel Cage Jail, due to its unique structure of 3 floors of 18 revolving, circular, or lazy Susan, jail cells. No longer in operation, it’s now a museum and is one of only three remaining squirrel cage style jails. There are plenty of dark musings about the jail, starting with the fact that the building was built on the site of a morgue for a church. There were several deaths in the jail during its years of operation, and many people have reported paranormal activity in the building, like sightings of a little girl dressed in gray inside one of the cells, the disembodied voice of a little girl on the 3rd and 4th floors, feelings of being tugged at by an invisible hand and just the general feeling of a ghostly presence.
9. Drake University Observatory
The observatory at Drake University is said to be haunted by the ghost of Dr. Robert Morehouse, the first chairman of the Astronomy and Physics department. He and his wife’s remains are interred in the wall of the entryway, and students have reported strange things happening in the basement, like a feeling of being watched by an invisible being and calculations being inexplicably corrected in the observation logs kept onsite.
10. Farrar Schoolhouse
The Farrar Schoolhouse was built in 1921 and was in use until 2002, when it was abandoned. A local couple bought the schoolhouse and started experiencing unexplained phenomena, like seeing shadow people and orbs in the hallways. One day, one of the owners even became unsteady on the stairs, and then felt a hand on her shoulder that helped her catch her balance. When she turned to thank her husband for his help, there was nobody there. Many people have visited the abandoned schoolhouse over the years, searching for paranormal activity. There have been reports of dark stories of being attacked by shadow figures on the third floor, and the people suffering the attacks even being left with red welts on their necks. People standing outside the building have also seen shadowy figures staring out the windows.
This road trip will undoubtedly be filled with plenty of sights, sounds, interesting history, and possibly even some ghost sightings or paranormal experiences. Are you feeling brave and adventurous enough to take the trip?