Haunted Places in Iowa: Discover the Most Spooky Locations in the State

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 2 February 2024
  • Time to read: 19 min.

While you would expect to see fields and fields of corn stretching across the horizon in Iowa, this state also harbors a different kind of harvest – a rich collection of haunted locations, each with its own eerie story. From the whispers of the past echoing through old buildings to the shadowy figures that roam historic sites, Iowa’s spooky locations are a testament to the state’s intriguing blend of history and folklore. Venture into the heart of the Midwest and discover a world where the paranormal feels almost as natural as the vast, open farmland.

Some of Iowa’s most haunted places are located on college campuses. Iowa State University in Ames is believed to have several haunted spots, including Memorial Union Hall, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, and Friley Hall. These buildings are said to be haunted by the spirits of former students and staff members, and visitors have reported hearing unexplained noises and seeing apparitions. Other colleges in Iowa, such as the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Luther College in Decorah, also have their fair share of ghost stories.

Apart from college campuses, Iowa is also home to haunted theaters, hotels, and even a few bridges. The Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca is one of the most infamous haunted places in Iowa, known for the gruesome murders that took place there in 1912. Visitors have reported seeing apparitions and hearing unexplained noises at the house, which is now a museum. Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, Iowa’s haunted places are sure to give you a spine-tingling experience.

Historic Haunted Landmarks

Iowa has a rich history, and with that history comes a few ghost stories. Here are three historic landmarks that are rumored to be haunted.

The Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa is the site of a chilling, unsolved crime from 1912. Eight people, including six children, were brutally murdered in their sleep with an axe. This horrific event led to numerous investigations, but the killer was never caught, leaving the mystery unsolved to this day.

Over the years, the house has gained a reputation for being haunted. Visitors and paranormal investigators have reported strange phenomena, such as unexplained noises, moving objects, and ghostly visions. The eerie atmosphere of the house, combined with the tragic history, makes it a magnet for those interested in the supernatural and the mysteries of the past. The house remains a focus of interest for paranormal enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Mathias Ham House

The Mathias Ham House in Dubuque, Iowa, has a fascinating and eerie history that has led to numerous ghost stories and legends. Built in 1837 by Mathias Ham, a wealthy entrepreneur, the house initially had five rooms but expanded to twenty-three after the death of Ham’s wife. Mathias Ham was vigilant about protecting his property and once alerted authorities about pirates on the Mississippi River, leading to their arrest. These pirates vowed vengeance against Ham.

Vigilance and Valor: The Hams Defend Against River Pirates' Vengeance
Vigilance and Valor: The Hams Defend Against River Pirates’ Vengeance

The last surviving family member, Sarah Ham, lived alone in the house by the end of the 1800s. One night, she heard noises indicating an intruder and prepared to defend herself. The following night, hearing the same noises, she shot and killed what was believed to be the pirate captain who had threatened her father. This incident and the overall history of the house have contributed to its haunted reputation.

Today, the Mathias Ham House is a museum. Visitors and employees have reported various paranormal activities, including unexplained lights, strange noises, cold chills, and even an old broken pump organ playing on its own. The footsteps and voices heard in the house are believed to be those of Mathias Ham and possibly the pirate captain.

The Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa, has a haunting reputation that adds a chilling dimension to its unique architectural history. Built in 1885, this jail is known for its unusual “rotary jail” design, where cells were arranged in a circular pattern around a central room and rotated with a hand crank. This design aimed to minimize interaction between the jailer and inmates, but it was fraught with problems. The gears often jammed, causing injuries to inmates who stuck their limbs out, and in one tragic instance, a dead prisoner couldn’t be retrieved for days due to a mechanical failure.

The jail’s history of housing notorious criminals, including mass murderer Jake Bird, who allegedly killed up to 46 people, adds to its eerie lore. Bird is said to have cast a “hex” on those he saw as responsible for his punishment, with several people reportedly dying mysteriously after his trial. Another infamous inmate, Charles Noel Brown, went on a murderous spree and was the last man hanged in Iowa.

Paranormal activities reported at the Squirrel Cage Jail include footsteps and voices when no one is around, doors moving on their own, and sightings of shadow figures. These occurrences have been attributed to various spirits, including a former jailer, J.M. Carter, and an apparition of a sad little girl in one of the cells. Visitors have reported feeling watched, cold chills, and unexplained gusts of icy air, particularly on the upper floors of the jail.

These three historic landmarks are just a few of the many haunted places in Iowa. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, visiting these locations can be a thrilling experience for those who enjoy a good scare.

Haunted Accommodations

If you’re looking for a spooky overnight stay in Iowa, there are a few haunted accommodations to choose from. Two of the most famous ones are the Mason House Inn and Edinburgh Manor.

The Mason House Inn in Bentonsport, Iowa, is renowned for its ghostly encounters and is considered one of the most haunted locations in the state. Built in 1846, originally as a lodging for steamboat travelers, the inn has a long history, including being used as a hospital several times and as part of the Underground Railroad.

Numerous paranormal investigations at the Mason House Inn have indicated the presence of at least five ghosts. One notable spirit is a man named Knapp, who is said to haunt Room 7, where he was allegedly murdered many years ago. Despite the eerie backstory, Knapp is considered harmless, much like the spirit of a little boy known to tug at guests’ clothing in Room 5. Guests have also reported sightings of an old lady in a white nightgown in several rooms and a disturbing floating head in Room 8. Additionally, there have been numerous reports of a strange fog, sudden drops in room temperature, and unexplained noises throughout the inn.

The inn’s former owners, three of whom have died within its walls, are also believed to contribute to its haunted reputation. The Mason House Inn served as a Civil War hospital, and one of the doctors who worked there got ill and passed away in his own office, further adding to the inn’s ghostly inhabitants.

Today, the Mason House Inn embraces its paranormal side. It hosts ghost hunting encounters and welcomes paranormal investigators. Despite the spooky occurrences, the inn is known for maintaining a positive environment, with no negative spirits or demons reported. The inn’s current owners, Joy and Chuck Hanson, emphasize respect for the spirits, who they believe walked the floors of the inn before them.

Edinburgh Manor

Edinburgh Manor, located in Jones County, Iowa, has a haunting reputation that is rooted in its long and turbulent history. Originally, the site was home to a poor farm, established around 1850. This facility was intended to provide shelter and food to the poorest people in exchange for labor, but it also housed disabled, elderly, and mentally ill individuals who had no other place to go. Over its 60 years of operation, it’s estimated that more than 150 people died there.

In 1910, the poor farm was demolished and replaced with Edinburgh Manor, a structure built to accommodate the insane, disabled, poor, and elderly. This new facility operated until November 2010. The closing of Edinburgh Manor was rather abrupt, leaving behind personal and medical files and belongings of the residents.

The paranormal reputation of Edinburgh Manor is significant, making it one of the most haunted locations in the Midwest, if not the entire country. Various spirits are reported to haunt the building. One of the most notorious spirits is known as “The Joker,” a malevolent entity known for physical interactions, such as grabbing or leaving marks on visitors. He is most active in the basement’s padded room. Another reported spirit is that of a playful little girl named “Susie,” who is heard singing and laughing on the first floor. There are also reports of a man’s spirit in room 121 and sightings of a woman in a white dress on the second floor.

Both the Mason House Inn and Edinburgh Manor offer overnight stays for those brave enough to spend the night in a haunted location. These accommodations are not for the faint of heart and are recommended for those who are interested in paranormal activity.

Spooky Cemeteries

Iowa is home to several spooky cemeteries that are said to be haunted. Here are three of the most well-known:

Oakland Cemetery

This cemetery, established in the mid-1800s, is a place where history and the supernatural seem to blend seamlessly.

The legend of the Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery is particularly famous. This eerie statue, made of bronze and standing over eight feet tall, was erected in 1912 over the graves of Teresa Feldevert, her son Eddie, and her husband Nicholas Feldevert. The angel was originally a shimmering golden bronze, but over the years, it turned an ominous black, giving rise to numerous spooky tales and superstitions. Some say the color change is due to Teresa Feldevert’s purported infidelity or evil deeds, which the angel absorbed, turning it black as a symbol of her condemned soul. Others believe touching or kissing the statue brings bad luck, illness, or even an untimely death.

The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery
The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery – Credit Krista Kennedy

But the legends don’t stop there. Countless stories swirl around the Black Angel, each more chilling than the last. One of the most unsettling tales tells of a woman who kissed the angel’s feet and died six months later. Another story involves a pregnant woman touching the statue, only to lose her child shortly afterward. The statue’s eyes are said to glow red at midnight, and some claim it comes to life on Halloween night. These tales, whether rooted in truth or mere superstition, contribute to the cemetery’s haunting aura.

Fairview Cemetery

Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa, carries with it a history as haunting as it is rich. Established in the 19th century, this cemetery has become a source of numerous eerie legends and tales of the paranormal, capturing the imagination of both locals and visitors alike.

The most notable story from Fairview Cemetery is that of the “Black Angel,” a statue that has become the subject of many chilling tales. Unlike the more famous Black Angel in Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City, the Black Angel of Fairview has its own unique and mysterious aura. According to local lore, the statue was erected in memory of Ruth Anne Dodge, the daughter of General Grenville M. Dodge. Ruth Anne reportedly had a premonition of an angel offering her a drink of water just days before her sudden death. This vision was later immortalized in the form of the Black Angel statue by sculptor Daniel Chester French.

The second paragraph of this story delves into the paranormal experiences associated with the Black Angel. Visitors and locals alike have reported a range of unexplained phenomena surrounding the statue. Some claim to have seen the statue weeping tears of blood, while others report a feeling of overwhelming sadness or dread upon approaching it. The most eerie tales involve the statue moving or changing expressions, especially during the night. These stories, while unverified, contribute to the cemetery’s mystique and have made the Black Angel a subject of fascination and fear.

Beyond the Black Angel, Fairview Cemetery is also known for its tranquil beauty and historical significance. It serves as the final resting place for many of Council Bluffs’ early settlers and prominent citizens, each with their own stories contributing to the tapestry of local history. The cemetery, with its old gravestones and serene atmosphere, offers a window into the past and a touchstone for local legends, making it a place of intrigue for those interested in both history and the paranormal.

Vegors Cemetery

Vegors Cemetery in Lehigh, Iowa, is shrouded in a tapestry of ghostly tales and legends, making it a fascinating site for those interested in the paranormal. This small, rural cemetery dates back to the 19th century and is known for its eerie ambiance and unsettling stories.

The most famous legend of Vegors Cemetery revolves around a Native American spirit said to guard the grounds. According to local lore, the spirit belongs to a Native American chief, whose grave is marked by an impressive, large stone in the cemetery. It’s said that this spirit watches over the cemetery, ensuring the peace and sanctity of those buried there. Visitors have reported feeling a watchful presence, sometimes accompanied by inexplicable chills or the sensation of being followed. Some even claim to have seen apparitions or heard ghostly whispers near the chief’s grave, especially on foggy nights or during the twilight hours.

If you’re a fan of the paranormal, these spooky cemeteries are definitely worth a visit. Just be sure to bring a friend with you, as you never know what you might encounter.

Paranormal Hotspots in Cities

Iowa is known for its haunted places, and some cities have more paranormal activity than others. Here are some of the most haunted cities in Iowa and the places within them that are known for their ghostly encounters.


Burlington has a long history of paranormal activity, with reports of hauntings dating back to the 1800s. Visitors can take a ghost tour of the city to learn about the many haunted locations, including the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, the historic Drake Hardware and Software building, and the Snake Alley district.

Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs has its fair share of haunted locations as well, including the Squirrel Cage Jail, which was once home to notorious criminals and is said to be haunted by their spirits. The Historic General Dodge House and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum are also known for paranormal activity.


Dubuque is another city with a rich history of paranormal activity. Visitors can take a ghost tour of the city to learn about the many haunted locations, including the historic Hotel Julien Dubuque, the Mathias Ham House, and the Mines of Spain Recreation Area.


Ames is home to Iowa State University, which has its own share of paranormal activity. The Memorial Union is said to be haunted by the ghost of a student who died in a fire, while the Campanile is said to be haunted by the ghost of a construction worker who fell to his death during its construction.

Overall, Iowa has many haunted places to explore, and these cities are just a few of the many paranormal hotspots in the state. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, these locations are sure to give you a spooky experience.

Haunted Institutions

Iowa has a long history of institutions that have been associated with paranormal activity. Here are two of the most haunted institutions in the state:

Farrar Schoolhouse

The legend of the Farrar Schoolhouse is rooted in various accounts of paranormal activity reported by visitors and investigators. Many believe that the spirits of former students and teachers still roam the halls. There have been numerous reports of ghostly voices, echoing laughter, and footsteps in empty corridors. Some visitors have even claimed to see apparitions of children playing or hear the sound of a phantom piano playing in the deserted music room. These experiences are often described as more eerie than threatening, evoking a sense of the past lingering in the present.

Haunted School House- Farrar iowa
Haunted School House – Credit WinRanch

Delving deeper into the paranormal side, the Farrar Schoolhouse has been the site of more intense spectral encounters. People have reported feeling sudden cold spots, witnessing doors opening and closing on their own, and experiencing unexplained feelings of being watched or touched. One of the most spine-chilling stories involves a shadowy figure seen in the gymnasium, believed by some to be the spirit of a former teacher or caretaker. In addition, there are claims of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings capturing mysterious voices, further fueling the belief that the schoolhouse is a hotspot for paranormal activity.

Despite its spooky reputation, the Farrar Schoolhouse is also a place of historical significance, providing a glimpse into the educational practices of early 20th-century rural Iowa. Today, it stands as a fascinating destination for those intrigued by the intersection of history and the supernatural. Whether visitors are drawn by the allure of ghost hunting or the charm of its educational past, the Farrar Schoolhouse remains an enduring symbol of Iowa’s rich and mysterious heritage.

Independence State Mental Health Institute

The Independence State Mental Health Institute, located in Independence, Iowa, was once a state hospital for the mentally ill. The hospital was opened in 1873 and operated until 2014, providing care for thousands of patients over the years.

The hospital was known for its controversial treatments, including lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Many patients died at the hospital, and it is said that their spirits still haunt the building. Visitors have reported hearing strange noises, seeing apparitions, and feeling an eerie presence throughout the hospital.

In conclusion, these two institutions are just a few examples of the haunted places in Iowa. Paranormal activity is often associated with places that have a dark and tragic past, and these institutions are no exception.

Ghost Stories and Legends

Iowa is home to many ghost stories and legends that have been passed down through generations. Here are just a few of the most famous:

Legend of the Black Angel

One of the most well-known legends in Iowa is the story of the Black Angel statue in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. The statue is said to be cursed, and those who touch it will meet an untimely death. The statue was erected in 1913 in memory of Teresa Dolezal Feldevert, and its dark appearance has led to many spooky tales over the years. While there is no evidence to support the curse, the Black Angel remains a popular attraction for those interested in the paranormal.

The Ghost of Lucinda

Another famous ghost story in Iowa is the legend of Lucinda, a young woman who haunts Stony Hollow Road near Burlington. According to the legend, Lucinda was stood up by her lover and died of a broken heart. Her ghost is said to appear on the road at night, searching for her lost love. While there is no proof that Lucinda ever existed, many people claim to have seen her ghostly apparition over the years.

The Joker of the Poor Farm

The Johnson County Poor Farm, located near Iowa City, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a former inmate who was known as the “Joker.” The Joker was a mentally ill man who was confined to the Poor Farm in the early 1900s. He was known for his mischievous behavior and was often seen playing pranks on the other inmates. After his death, his ghost is said to have continued his antics, with reports of strange noises and objects moving on their own.

These are just a few of the many ghost stories and legends that have been passed down through the years in Iowa. While some may be based on fact, others are likely just tall tales. However, they all add to the rich history and folklore of the state, and continue to fascinate and intrigue those interested in the paranormal.

Paranormal Investigations and Tours

Iowa is known for its many haunted places, and many people are interested in paranormal investigations and tours. These tours offer a unique opportunity to explore the history and mystery of these haunted locations.

There are several companies in Iowa that offer paranormal investigations and tours. These companies provide a range of options, from basic tours to overnight investigations. Many of these tours are led by experienced paranormal investigators who use specialized equipment to detect and capture evidence of paranormal activity.

One popular location for paranormal investigations and tours is the Villisca Ax Murder House. This house is the site of one of Iowa’s most infamous murders, and is said to be haunted by the spirits of the victims. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house during the day, or participate in an overnight investigation.

Another popular location is the Edinburgh Manor, a former mental institution that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of former patients. Tours of the manor are available during the day, and overnight investigations are also available.

Many of these tours are popular among both locals and tourists, and offer a unique way to experience the history and mystery of Iowa’s haunted places. However, it is important to note that not all of these tours are created equal. It is important to do your research and choose a reputable company with experienced paranormal investigators.

Overall, paranormal investigations and tours are a great way to explore Iowa’s haunted places and learn about the history and mystery of these locations. Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, these tours offer a unique and fascinating experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Haunted Events

Iowa is a state that takes Halloween seriously, and there are plenty of haunted events to attend during the spooky season. From haunted houses to ghost tours, there is something for everyone who loves a good scare.

One popular event is the Scream Acres Haunted House, located in Atkins. This attraction has been named one of the scariest in the state, and it is not for the faint of heart. The haunted house is set on a farm and features multiple attractions, including a corn maze, zombie paintball, and a haunted hayride.

Another popular event is the Spooktacular Halloween Parade in Cedar Rapids. This parade features floats, costumes, and plenty of candy for the kids. The parade route is lined with spooky decorations and is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit.

For those interested in the paranormal, there are several ghost tours available throughout the state. The Villisca Ax Murder House, located in Villisca, is a popular destination for ghost hunters. The house is said to be haunted by the spirits of the eight people who were brutally murdered there in 1912. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house and even spend the night if they dare.

The Edinburgh Manor in Monticello is another popular spot for ghost hunters. This former mental hospital is said to be haunted by the spirits of former patients and staff. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building or participate in an overnight ghost hunt.

Overall, Iowa has plenty of haunted events to keep thrill-seekers entertained during the Halloween season. Whether you’re looking for a scary haunted house or a spooky ghost tour, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the most haunted places in Iowa?

There are several places in Iowa that are believed to be haunted. Some of the most famous ones include the Villisca Ax Murder House, Edinburgh Manor, Malvern Manor, Farrar Schoolhouse, and the Mason House Inn.

Have there been any reported paranormal activities in Iowa?

Yes, there have been several reports of paranormal activities in Iowa. Visitors and locals have reported sightings of ghosts, hearing unexplained noises, and feeling the presence of something supernatural in many of Iowa’s haunted places.

Are there any ghost tours available in Iowa?

Yes, there are several ghost tours available in Iowa. These tours take visitors to some of the most haunted places in the state and provide a unique experience to those interested in the paranormal.

What is the history behind the haunted places in Iowa?

The history behind Iowa’s haunted places varies from location to location. Some places have a tragic past, such as the Villisca Ax Murder House, while others are believed to be haunted by former residents or workers. Regardless of the history, these places have gained a reputation for being haunted due to the reported paranormal activities.

Can you visit haunted places in Iowa?

Yes, many of Iowa’s haunted places are open for visitors. However, it is important to respect the property and follow any rules or guidelines set by the owners. It is also important to remember that these places are believed to be haunted, so visitors should be prepared for any unexplained occurrences.

Are there any famous haunted places in Iowa?

Yes, there are several famous haunted places in Iowa. The Villisca Ax Murder House is one of the most well-known haunted places in the state, as it is the site of a gruesome murder that remains unsolved to this day. Other famous haunted places include the Edinburgh Manor, Malvern Manor, and the Farrar Schoolhouse.

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