Local Legends Around Iowa's "Haunted" Locations
Periwinkle Place Manor
The Periwinkle Place Manor can be found in Chelsea, Iowa. It was once the Historic Hrabak Funeral Home , founded in 1892 by Joseph Hrabak. The funeral home was closed in 2003, and it was sold to a private homeowner. A fire nearly destroyed the building, but it was saved by the now owner and “Lady of the Manor, '' Jodi Philip. She turned it into a bed and breakfast with an eerie reputation. According to the website, guests of the bed and breakfast have reported rocking horses and dolls moving on their own, disembodied humming and footsteps, doors opening and closing, and even full bodied apparitions. We may have even had a paranormal experience ourselves – the cameras were really acting up at this location, and a lot of the photos turned out blurry or with a blue tint! Jodi offers ghost hunts, and provides multiple videos of ghostly evidence on their website, so you’re welcome to go check it out yourself.
Black Angel Statue
Many people find angels to be comforting symbolism, often represented with composed smiles and heads held towards the heavens. But unlike most angels, the Black Angel grave marker, found in Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery, is more likely to fill a person with dread than with peace. Standing at nine feet tall atop a four foot pedestal, oxidized from bronze to black over years of weathering, this daunting statue has easily earned its creepy reputation. Many rumors follow this statue. Some people say that if you kiss or touch the angel, you will drop dead unless you are a virgin. Others say that the color turns a shade darker every year as a reminder of those that it has killed. It draws crowds on Halloween, because touching the angel at midnight on October 31 means that you will die in seven years. It is not known if any of these rumors are true, but it is known that security keeps a very close eye on this statue because of past vandalism, so best to keep your hands off either way!
Edinburgh Manor is located in Jones County, Iowa. The land originally housed a “poor farm," that housed the poor, incurably insane and disabled. Tenants were given shelter and food for their labor on the farm. It was in operation from 1850-1910, and in that time there were over 150 deaths on the property. After the farm was closed in 1910, the structure on the property was demolished to make way for Edinburgh Manor to house the incurably insane, the poor and the elderly, no farming necessary. It was in operation until November of 2010. When the last employees and patients left the building in 2010, they never returned, and all documents and personal belongings left can still be found in the manor.
In the present day, visitors have claimed to see apparitions of a little girl that likes to play games and a woman dressed in white that vanishes without explanation. The current owners of the manor have posted multiple videos and soundbites of potential evidence of hauntings, but you are welcome to come see for yourself. They offer day tours and overnights.
The Franklin Hotel in Strawberry Point, Iowa, dates back to the early 1900s. It was bought and is operated by Doug and Christine Schmidt in 1989, and they began a restoration project on the building. It is said that a ghost of a 1920s prostitute named Lily can be heard singing and wandering the halls. A ghost named Leo, who possibly operated the hotel’s laundry at one point in its long history, has been heard ringing the hotel bell system at night. Furniture has moved on its own.
Independence Mental Hospital
The Independence Mental Hospital in Independence, Iowa, was built in 1873 as an asylum to hold drug addicts, alcoholics, geriatrics, and the mentally ill. It still continues to operate as a psychiatric hospital today, and it includes a museum to teach about the olden days of the institution. But there is another, more spine-chilling side to this hospital. People who have toured the unused wings of the building report hearing whispers and feeling cold drafts. People who work in the hospital tend to avoid these parts, because they have heard disembodied voices and screaming.
Villisca Axe Murder House
On June 10, 1912, six members of the Moore family and two visitors were found bludgeoned to death in their home in the town of Villisca, Iowa. The crime was never solved, and the house still stands to this day. The home has gone through multiple owners and multiple renovations, and now it is open for tours and overnight stays. Guests have had a myriad of crazy experiences in the house, from lights turning on and off at request, EVP captures, cold spots, and more. It is arguably the best documented and possibly most haunted location on this list, or even in Iowa.
Squirrel Cage Jail
Squirrel Cage Jail is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was built in 1885, and is one of the only remaining rotary jails. The cells were built this way to minimize the interactions between jailer and convict, as the cell could just be spun around. The jail was closed in 1969, as the rotary function often got stuck. It is now a museum site, and possibly a haunted location. There were four known deaths in Squirrel Cage Jail, and museum staff report hearing footsteps, voices, whispers, and unexplained movement. The jail was built on the land of an old church morgue, which only adds to its creepiness.
Flashlight tours and overnight investigations are offered, so you’re welcome to go check it out for yourself!
Clarinda Treatment Complex
The Clarinda Treatment Complex was built in Clarinda, Iowa, in 1884. It was the third mental hospital in Iowa, built to house alcoholics, geriatrics, drug addicts, the mentally ill, and the criminally insane. In 2015, the hospital was shut down and all services were terminated. Now, it houses the Clarinda Academy.
Some former employees and residents have reported hauntings at the Clarinda Treatment Complex, which is not surprising. About a quarter mile from the main building is the CTC Cemetery, with markers for each of the people that passed while residents of the complex. At least 1,200 people are buried there. People have reported hearing footsteps and feeling like they were being watched.
The first building on Iowa State campus, built in 1860, is now known as the Farmhouse Museum. After some renovations in the 1970’s, it was established as a museum to document agriculture in Iowa’s history. Being the oldest building on campus, it is no surprise that it has gained a reputation for being a little spooky. Objects in the house move on their own, most notably the shades moving up and down by themselves and flatware on the table changing angles. A student posted on the Iowa State Reddit thread about seeing a door opening and closing. Museum curators also found a door that led to nothing but a brick wall, which adds to the mystery of the place.
The Vincent House, found in Fort Dodge, claims to be the oldest building in the community. It was built in 1872 by James and Adeline Swain. The Swains were members of a spiritualist society, meaning that they believed in, spoke to, and welcomed spirits into their home. The current caretaker of the house believes that these spirits, along with those of James and Adeline themselves, still reside in the Vincent House. He once invited a medium to the home, who claimed that there were at least 25 spirits inhabiting it. There were also two known deaths in the house - that of Helen Vincent and Charles Vincent, who owned the home after the Swains. Some say that they have seen full apparitions of both Helen and Charles. Others have claimed to hear noise from floors above them and witness objects moving.
The Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge just south of Lake City, Iowa dates back to 1914 and spans the North Raccoon River. Surprisingly, the rainbow name came from the arched profile, and not the colorful graffiti that covers it now. This haunted bridge has a pretty silly story behind it. Supposedly, the spirit that haunts it is a lover of chocolate. The story goes that if you leave an unopened bar of chocolate in the middle of the bridge at midnight and leave, the chocolate will be gone within five minutes, but the wrapper will remain intact.
Grotto of the Redemption
When a seminary student named Paul Dobberstein fell critically ill with pneumonia, he prayed to Mary, mother of God, promising to build a shrine in her honor if he lived through the illness. He survived, and upon graduating seminary school, he traveled to West Bend, Iowa in 1898 to begin his priesthood. He kept his promise, and the Grotto of the Redemption was built in West Bend over the course of 42 years. Stories of hauntings here are few and far between, but there have been enough strange experiences that it has earned a mild reputation for being a little chilling. Visitors have reported strange shadowed shapes showing up in their photos of the grotto, and feeling as though they were being watched.