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Haunted Places in Iowa

I'm a freelance writer and designer, as well as a mom of two wonderful children. I enjoy baking, crocheting, drawing, and reading.

Iowa's Top Haunted Places

Many people are fascinated by ghosts and haunted places. It seems strange that people would seek out places that are likely to scare them, but every year hundreds of people flock to so-called haunted places to experience paranormal activities. The following are a few sites in Iowa that are rumored to be haunted.

  1. The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery (Iowa City)
  2. Coe College (Cedar Rapids)
  3. Dodge House (Council Bluffs)
  4. Hotel Blackhawk (Davenport)
  5. The Mason House Inn (Bentonsport)
  6. Mathias Ham House (Dubuque)
  7. Villisca Axe Murder House (Villisca)
The Black Angel watching over Eddie's tree stump gravestone in Oakland Cemetary

The Black Angel watching over Eddie's tree stump gravestone in Oakland Cemetary

1. The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery

Located in Iowa City

The best way to experience the Black Angel is on foot. Enter the cemetery through the main gates off of Governor Street. Follow the road as it curves through the cemetery. You’ll be so busy looking at the old stones dating back to 1843, you won’t notice that the angel has been hovering in front of you practically the entire time. Keep your eyes on her as you walk because you can be sure she will be keeping her eyes on you. Walk up close but don’t touch. She doesn’t take kindly to people who invade her personal space.

The Story of the Black Angel

Teresa Dolezal was a physician from Bohemia who immigrated to Iowa City, Iowa with her son, Eddie sometime in the late 19th century. Teresa worked as a midwife in Iowa City until 1891 when her son died of meningitis. Eddie was only 18 at the time of his death. Teresa had Eddie buried at Oakland Cemetery under an unusual tombstone that is shaped like a tree stump.

After Eddie's untimely death Teresa moved to Oregon. She fell in love and married her second husband, Nicholas Feldevert. However, Teresa's time with Nicolas was also cut short when he died unexpectedly in 1911. After Nicolas' death Teresa returned to Iowa City, bringing her late husband's ashes with her. She hired Mario Korbel, a Bohemian artist in Chicago to create an angel monument to Nicolas and her son.

The Angel was originally bronze in color. It was erected in 1912 and stands over 8 feet tall, hovering over Eddie's tombstone. At the time of it's installment it held the ashes of Nicolas Feldvert in it's base. When Teresa died in 1924 her ashes were also added to the base of the angel.

Over the years the angel began to turn black, most likely due to oxidation of the metal. But, several different stories have appeared to explain why the angel turned black. Some people say that as Nicholas lay on his deathbed, Teresa promised to be faithful to him and not find another lover. When Teresa broke her promise after his death the angel turned black. Others say that Teresa either killed her son, her husband, or both of them and the angel turned black because of her sins. Another story claims that Teresa was evil and a there was a terrible thunderstorm the night her ashes were placed under the angel. The next morning, the beautiful bronze angel was completely black.

Curses and Strange Happenings

It is said if you touch the angel you will die within 7 years and if you kiss the angel your heart will immediately stop beating. There is a story of four boys who urinated on the angel and died that same night in a car accident. There is also the tale of a man who hacked off one of the angels thumbs and was eventually found in the Chicago River. The cause of death was strangulation but the only mark on his throat was a thumbprint.

I don't know why the angel is black or whether the stories of cursed people are true. But, there is no doubt that some strange things have occurred under the angel's ever watchful gaze. My friend, Megan was there one night with another friend. As they stood at the base of the angel, looking up her face suddenly came to life. Her eyes blinked and her lips turned up into a smile.

Another woman tells of looking into the angel's face and suddenly being overcome with sadness and a feeling of sickness. She fell to her knees sobbing and could not regain control of herself until her friend pulled her into the car and they left the cemetery.

More Information About the Black Angel

Want to know more about the spooky angel who haunts Oakland Cemetery?

  • Oakland Cemetery (Iowa City, Iowa) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    A locally famous monument, the 8.5-foot (2.6 m) tall "Black Angel" statue by Mario Korbel was erected in 1913 [2] as a memorial to Nicholas Feldevert. Local lore and superstition surround this beautiful, but eerie, Angel of Death[3]...
  • Ghosts of Iowa
    Ask anyone in Iowa City about the Black Angel, and you will hear a different spooky story from each one...

2. Coe College

Located in Cedar Rapids

Coe College was founded in 1851 by Reverend Williston Jones. The college was originally named The School of the Prophets and was actually just the Reverend's parlor which he opened to help educate young men for ministry work. A few years later, Jones received a donation for $1,500 from a man named Daniel Coe.

According to the legend, Coe sent the money to Rev. Jones in Cedar Rapids, Iowa from New York sewn in the petticoats of a lady who was traveling to Iowa via stagecoach. The one condition that Daniel Coe set for Rev. Jones was that he educate females as well as males. From there things started to take off for the small school. The money was used to purchase over 80 acres of land in what is now downtown Cedar Rapids. The school changed names a few more times before it became Coe College in 1881.

With such a long history it's not surprising to hear that Coe College is haunted. However, there is only one ghost that gets all of the attention.

The Ghost of Helen Roberts

Helen Esther Roberts arrived at Coe College in the fall of 1918 for her freshman year at school. Unfortunately, Helen was struck with the Spanish Influenza that fall and died on October 19, 1918. Shortly after her death, Helen's parents donated a grandfather clock to the school. The clock was placed in Voorhees Hall where the infirmary that Helen had died in was located.

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It is said that Helen's spirit took up residence inside the clock. Not long after Helen's death, students began reporting strange occurrences in the dorm. They told of door locking themselves, items being thrown across the room and an invisible someone playing the piano late at night. There have also been reports of a woman in glowing white watching them study or pulling the blankets off them as they sleep.

At some point in the 1960s Helen's clock began working strangely. It was marking the time wrong and would often go off at unusual times. There were even reports that the clock's hands were frequently stopped at 2:53, the time that Helen died. Although there were many attempts to fix the clock, it eventually stopped working at all.

The clock was moved to Stanley Hall in 1970. Once the clock was moved it was able to be repaired and has continued to work since that time. Moving and repairing the clock did not stop Helen's haunting though. It is said she still wanders the halls at night, sometimes in Stanley Hall where her clock is located and other time in Voorhees Hall where she died.

More Info About Coe College Hauntings

3. Dodge House

Located in Council Bluffs

Dodge House was built in 1869 by General Grenville Dodge, a civil war veteran who has been called "the greatest railroad builder of all time". The 3 story mansion stands on a terrace overlooking the Missouri River Valley. It was designated a National Historic Monument in 1961 and now a Victorian era house museum which is open for tours.

There seem to be a few ghosts in the Dodge House including General Dodge himself. A ghostly shadow of General Dodge has been seen by visitors in addition to strange lights in the house at night. The other reports include hearing two men arguing in empty rooms, strange noises and an apparition that appears as a young girl. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the house which makes it difficult to document paranormal activities.

Doesn't look very haunted in this picture, does it?

Doesn't look very haunted in this picture, does it?

4. Hotel Blackhawk

Located in Davenport

The site where the Blackhawk stands today was originally home to a small hotel called the Saratoga. After a fire destroyed the Saratoga, Davenport businessman, W.F. Miller funded the building of the "New Fireproof Hotel Blackhawk". The first 7 floors were built in 1915 and the building was finished with 11 total stories in 1920.

The hotel underwent several renovations between 1920 and 2000 when it was purchased by The Isle of Capri. The hotel steadily declined after that acquisition until 2006 when a meth lab on the 8th floor started a fire that severely damaged the building. The hotel underwent major renovations again in 2010 and is again the grand hotel it once was.

Pleasant Ghosts

This hotel is reportedly haunted by a few pleasant ghosts. Guests have reported seeing a lady dressed in a blue evening gown floating down the halls. There also seems to be a musically inclined spirit who resides in the hotel. Piano music is often heard in the ballroom when it is unoccupied. In addition, many people claim that the spirit of Cary Grant haunts the hotel, he died there in 1986. Guests often claim they have seen a well dressed man who looks like the famous actor.

No hauntings have been reported since the renovations in 2010. It is possible the spirits have taken a holiday from the location—sometimes renovations stir them up and make them leave. It is also possible that the new owners just don't want the reputation of it being a haunted place. Staff are very tight-lipped about people who have died in the Blackhawk and ghosts who may still reside there. Haunted or not, Hotel Blackhawk is a beautiful place to visit that is full of history!

Learn More About the Blackhawk Hotel

Mason House Inn, then and now.

Mason House Inn, then and now.

5. The Mason House Inn

Located in Bentonsport

The Mason House Inn is a 164 year old bed and breakfast situated on the banks of the Des Moines River.

There have been several reported ghostly encounters in this inn reported by both staff and guests. It has become a very popular place for paranormal investigators to visit.

The Mason House Inn has a long history and has served as more than an inn in it's 164 years of existence. The Mason House (Originally called Ashland House) was built in 1846 by Mormon craftsman who stayed in Bentonsport for several years on their way to Utah from Nauvoo, Illinois. The house was built for William Robinson who used it as a hotel for steamboat travelers on journeys down the Des Moines River

Lewis and Nancy Mason purchased the house in 1857 and renamed it as the Phoenix Hotel, however, everyone soon took to calling it the Mason House and it has stayed that ever since. The hotel was in the Mason family for 99 years and many members of the family died there and are haunting it to this day!

The Mason house served as an army hospital during the civil war. It was also a station on the Underground Railroad.

Reported hauntings in the house include hearing footsteps in empty rooms, hearing voices and strange noises, and even seeing apparitions! One guest reported seeing the bed in her room partially lift into the air. There have also been reports of lights flashing on and off and alarms going off without being set. There is a ghost picture taken at Mason House by A.P.R.S.

To read more stories of hauntings in the inn check out Joy's Journal on the Inn's official website. Joy is one of the owners currently and has been keeping track of paranormal experiences there since 2002.

Read More About Mason House Hauntings

6. Mathias Ham House

Located in Dubuque

This Victorian home which overlooks the Mississippi River was built in 1837 by a man named Mathias Ham. The original structure was a simple building with 2 stories and had 5 rooms. A large addition was built on to the house after Ham's death.

Mathias Ham had varied financial interests during his life, ranging from farming to brick making to shipping. Mathias spent his leisure time in a room on the second floor of the house which overlooked the river. He enjoyed keeping an eye on his ships and the other vessels traveling down the Mighty Mississippi. It is said that one night Mathias observed pirates on the river and alerted the authorities. Many of the pirates were arrested and they vowed to get revenge on Mathias Ham.

Mathias Ham died around 1855, followed by his wife. His children all moved away except for his daughter, Sarah Ham who lived in the huge house alone. One night while Sarah was in her room reading she heard heavy footsteps on the floor below her. She grabbed a candle and crept down the stairs in search of an intruder but found no one.

The next day Sarah visited her neighbors and told them about the intruder the night before. The neighbors promised to keep their eyes open for anything mysterious. Sarah told the neighbors if she heard intruders again she would place a lantern in her window to alert them.

The night Sarah was again upstairs alone when she heard intruders in the house. She lit her lantern and placed it in the window in the hopes that her neighbors would see it and come to her aid. Then Sarah grabbed her shotgun and called out to the intruders. No one answered but Sarah could hear the footsteps getting closer to the door. She fired off two shots through the bedroom door.

When the neighbors arrived at the house they found a bloody trail leading from Sarah's bedroom door to the riverbank. There, lying next to the river was the pirate captain who had threatened Mathias so many years before. He was dead, having suffered two shots to the stomach.

The Mathias Ham house is now a museum and is said to be haunted by members of the family and by pirates still looking for revenge. There have been reports of unexplained lights floating down the hallways. Strange, unidentifiable noises are often heard from the room where Mathias used to watch the river. Sometimes the organ plays itself, other times visitors are overcome with chills and feelings of foreboding.

To my knowledge there have not been any official paranormal investigations at the Mathias Ham House but if you ask the museum employees most of them will tell you that the house is haunted, without a doubt.


7. Villisca Axe Murder House

Located in Villisca

The house on Lot 310 in Villisca Iowa was built in 1868 by George Loomis. It was purchased by Josiah Moore and his wife, Sarah in 1903. At the time they had two children, Herman was 2 and Katherine was 1. They had two more children after they moved, Boyd was born in 1905 and Paul was born in 1907.

The house was a perfectly normal home in small town Iowa. That is, until the morning of June 10, 1912 when the Moore's neighbor noticed that she hadn't seen anyone at the house all morning. After finding the doors locked, she called Josiah's brother, Ross.

The newspaper story on the murders.

The newspaper story on the murders.

Ross arrived at the house quickly and when he was unable to wake up anyone in the house he unlocked the door, stepped inside and was met with a horrific sight. Josiah, Sarah, their four children and two young house guests, Lena and Ina Stillinger had bludgeoned to death by the blunt end of an axe.

Since that time, the house has been a source of mystery for everyone in the town. The Villisca Axe Murders have been called one of the grisliest murder in Iowa's History. Although several people were suspected of the crime and three people were arrested, no one was ever convicted of the murders.

There have been a few reports of hauntings in the house before it's renovations in 1994 including a woman who actually saw a ghostly man at the foot of the bed, holding an axe over his head. But, nothing compared to the reports that have come out since the house was renovated.

Darwin Lynn bought the house in 1994 and started renovations to bring the house back to the state it was in when the Moore family lived there. He removed the electrical wiring and plumbing. He also purchased antique furniture and using crime scene photos and testimonies, arranged the furniture in the same way that the Moore's had it. It seems that the renovations to the house inspired the spirits of the victims to reclaim their old home. Some believe that the murderer has also returned to this tragic site.

Reports of hauntings at the Villisca Axe Murder House include children's balls moving of their own accord, doors opening and closing on demand, shadowy figures, strange mist and even occasional sightings of the actual spirits as they looked in life.

The house is now a museum for people who are curious to learn more about the murders and see paranormal experiences with their own eyes. Guests are even allowed to stay overnight, if they dare!

"Four of our investigators were very uncomfortable all night any time we were upstairs. I was one of them. I have been investigating for years and I have to say this house makes me uncomfortable like no place else. Usually nothing rattles me but this house does. Two of our investigators became physically ill when they were upstairs at the beginning of the investigation and they had to go outside and recover. I also felt nauseous and lightheaded."

Learn More About Villisca

  • The Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912
    On a quiet residential street in this small town sits an old white frame house. On a dark evening, the absence of lights and sounds are the first indication to visitors that this house is different from the other homes that surround her...
  • The 1912 Villisca Axe Murders Blog
    In July 1987, my wife Tammy and I first learned of the 1912 Villisca, Iowa Axe Murders when we watched a portion of a local television interview with Dr. Edgar Epperly, the foremost authority on the famous unsolved crime...

Enjoy Your Visit to Haunted Iowa

Thank you for visiting Haunted Iowa with me. I will be updating soon with even more haunted locations and ghost stories! Do you know of any other haunted places in Iowa? Have you experienced the paranormal in any of the places above? I'd love to hear your stories and feature them on this article. Scroll down to comment.

Comments & Suggestions on March 13, 2018:

I will get you pictures of the inside of the co.bluffs dodge house next time I go, it's such an amazing home.

Rachael Ryhn - Jones from Forest Lake, MN on December 12, 2015:

Thank you for this great article! If you haven't heard of them , another two notable Iowa haunted locations is the Squirrel Hill Jail in Council Bluffs, and the Old Farrar Schoolhouse in Maxwell, IA.

I had the honor to investigate the Villisca Ax Murder House overnight at the end of 2014, and the Old Farrar Schoolhouse this past summer (2015). We're hoping to do an investigation tour next summer by hitting the above two locations again, along with the Squirrel Hill Jail over a few day span.

If you are interested, I wrote a hub on our Villisca Ax Murder House trip shortly following our investigation. It includes some of the history, and the evidence we captured.

Thanks again for this interesting hub tour of haunted Iowa!

Linda Govednik on March 19, 2015:

I went to vallisca house around 3 years ago. Apparently a couple ghosts followed me back to my children's daycare center and my restaurant. All in the same building. So many things keep happening up until this day. I have had employees and family witness many paranormal activities. It gets scary at times.

Shantell1027 on August 03, 2014:

I went to the Merle Hay tower one time. I think that is one of the most haunted place in Des Moines.

Bernie from Corbin, KY on January 05, 2013:

since I live in the area, the Dodge house in Council Bluffs does not seem to overlook the valley, but is in the bottom of the valley. A countour map will show it to be only about 50 feet above the river. It is about two miles from the river, all flat.

profitsimon on October 29, 2012:

awesome lens!

TriviaChamp on September 25, 2012:

I would love to have the chance of visiting these places!

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