For a hundred and seventy-five years, the towers of the historic Iowa State Penitentiary held court at Fort Madison. The large maximum security prison had a storied history – one with a lot of blood along the way. From prison riots to executions, is it any surprise that many people feel there’s something haunting about the old prison? Today, the prison has moved and the old facility stands abandoned – which means it’s open for tours. Is the penitentiary haunted? Dare you find out for yourself?


If you’ve toured the penitentiary, let us know if its haunted past made an impression on you in the comments section. If you’re interested in taking the tour for yourself or exploring the larger Fort Madison area, make sure to visit the city website.

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More haunted places in Iowa

Can you tour the Iowa State Penitentiary?

The penitentiary has had tours in the past but does not do so on a regular basis. The last set of tours was in 2018, but there has been no announcement of planned tours since then.

What are some haunted places in Iowa?

It seems anywhere tragedy strikes there is potential for spirits to linger with cries of help. There are definitely haunted Iowa places to explore, from haunted roads, buildings, bridges, and of course cemeteries. Here are a few haunted places in Iowa to give you the creepy crawlies:

  • Stony Hollow Road, Burlington, IA: The most haunted road in Iowa is Stoney Hollow Road. In the 1800s a woman was waiting for her husband, and when he didn't show up on time she assumed he was with another woman - she climbed a cliff and jumped to her death. He arrived shortly after - his wagon had been stuck in the mud.
  • Lincoln High School, Des Moines, IA: Flashing lights, cold spots, banging chairs, curtains rustling without a breeze, these are some of the paranormal experiences you might notice at Lincoln High School...
  • Dowling Catholic High School, West Des Moines, IA: It seems ghosts sure do love hanging around old schools in Iowa. At this one strange purple orbs have been seen floating around the school.
  • Merle Hay Mall Tower, Des Moines, IA: Des Moines is a hot spot for paranormal activity, and the Merle Hay Mall Tower sits on the very same spot where an old monastery was. It is said that the occasional nun would become pregnant and have a miscarriage - the babies were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds. At the Merle Hay Mall Tower, a ghostly woman in a habit carries her dead child around the halls.

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