Editor’s note: This story originally published in October 2016.
The October chill is here, bringing with it tales of spirits past.
From murders and tragic loss to evil and vengeful souls, Iowa has a darker side this time of year. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, these stories will send shivers down your spine.
The Black Angel of Fairview Cemetery
Location: Council Bluffs
The skinny: The black winged statue stands with her right hand extended, as if she’s inviting you closer. She is tall, overlooking the Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs. On a clear night, the fall breeze shakes the leaves from surrounding trees and squirrels dash across the graves. The statue is a memorial of Ruth Anne Dodge, who died in 1916. Just days before her unexpected passing, Mrs. Dodge told her daughters of an angel who kept appearing in her dreams. To honor their mother’s memory, an angel statue was sculpted in bronze in 1920. Since then, the figure has turned a dark, lusterless black. Legend has it that the angel is cursed. If you look into her eyes at midnight, they say, prepare for death to soon follow.
Source: Omaha World Herald
The ghost of Stony Hollow Road
Location: North of Burlington
The skinny: A tale of a heartbroken woman named Lucinda is said to haunt Stony Hollow Road. According to legend, she was planning to meet the love of her life just outside of town to elope. The man, however, never showed. Heartbroken Lucinda committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. There are many reports of people seeing the ghost. Local urban legend also says that if you say her name three times she will appear, and if she drops a rose for you, you will die the following day.
The ghost of Lover’s Leap
Location: Columbus Junction
The skinny: Myth has it that a young Native American girl threw herself from the original 1880 bridge into the ravine below, ending her life after learning that her lover died in battle. The woman is said to be buried below in the gorge, haunting the bridge. If you visit the bridge at night, you might hear the heartbroken woman crying.
Location: Cedar Rapids
The skinny: Coe College is said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl named Helen Roberts, who died Oct. 19, 1918. She was once a resident of Voorhees Hall and died during the influenza epidemic. Her spirit has now taken up residence inside of an old grandfather clock in the building where she once lived. It had been donated to the school by Helen’s parents after her death. During the night, the spirit is said to appear beside student’s beds, slam doors and pull the covers off the beds.
The children of Iron Hill
Location: Charles City
The skinny: Legend has it that a fiery 1920s train accident killed many of its passengers. One of the train cars was filled with orphan children, all of whom burned and perished in the crash. It is rumored that the ghostly children can still be heard crying and sometimes the smell of burning is reported. People have reported seeing the spirit of a little girl in a white dress wandering through the woods.
The ghost of George
The skinny: There is a legend about this old house in Clarion. They say if you go into the house, walk upstairs and take one of the old family photos home and sleep with it, that when you wake up, the photo will be gone. When you go back into the house, the photo will be back on the floor where you found it and there will be a dark figure in the picture. The figure’s name is George and he will haunt you after you touch the photograph. They say that if you let him touch you, he will take a part of your soul.
The skinny: Monticello is home to the 150-year-old Edinburgh Manor. The home is rumored to be haunted by a ghost named The Joker. The Joker is a violent spirit known to choke visitors. The manor was once a mental institution where at least 80 people are said to have died and buried there. Visitors have reported seeing ghostly figures and feeling strange presences.
The ghost of the Hotel Blackhawk
The skinny: Hotel Blackhawk has undergone extensive renovation over its storied existence. It has hosted many celebrities, including Cary Grant. During the 1990s, the hotel gained a sleazy reputation, and in 2006 a meth lab exploded on the 8th floor. Since then, Hotel Blackhawk has been restored to its former glory. Today, there are stories of paranormal activity, including the ghost of a woman in a blue or red evening gown floating through the hallways. Mr. Grant himself is also said to make an appearance from the afterlife.
Independence State Hospital
The skinny: Built in 1873, the Independence State Hospital was used to hold alcoholics, geriatrics, drug addicts, the mentally ill and the criminally insane. On site, you can see the graveyard, hydrotherapy tubs and lobotomy equipment from the asylum’s gruesome and dim past. The old part of the building is neglected due to the large amount of paranormal activity. Ghosts of former staff and patients are seen in the buildings and on the grounds. People have reported being touched and pushed by unseen forces along with voices, whispers and laughter. Doors open and close on their own and phantom footsteps are heard. Lights have also been known to flicker or simply turn on and off.
Villisca Ax Murder House
The skinny: On the night of June 9, 1912, eight members of the Moore and Stillinger family were brutally murdered. The unknown assailant murdered them in their sleep with an ax. The killer was never found, though George Kelly, a traveling preacher, was tried and acquitted of the crime. In 2016, the house is empty, but the current owner opened it up for tours and paranormal investigations. Visitors have reported strange encounters including vanishing blood stains, feelings of evil presences, unknown green lights, chills, unseen touches, and ghostly voices.