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Ghost hunting in Poweshiek County

Warning: Don't read this article at night


It's an older house just west of Grinnell—about midway between Grinnell and Kellogg.

You wouldn't really see anything as you drive by because it's a house like most of the others—there are so many of them in the rural areas around Poweshiek County that you tend to just drive by and not notice them.

But if you happened to stop and check it out, you might hear about the strange happenings that take place more often than not in the basement.

The basement isn't unique—at least not in the furniture that's down there—a couple of sofas and chairs and a pool table.

There's also an extra room and a bathroom.

It's the room that has people talking and looking over their shoulders.

According to family and friends of the resident, no matter what you do, the door to the extra room will open.

Close it? It opens.

In fact, they tried putting a bowling ball in a bowling ball bag in front of the door one night.

You guessed it. The door was open the next morning.

Another time the door was closed and nobody was in the house.

When they returned the door was not only open, but the toilet in the bathroom across the hall had been shattered to pieces.

What are ghosts?

Ghosts are nothing new. In fact, they've been around forever.

Historically, ghosts have often been associated with those who are deceased and imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life.

Many early cultures, including the Egyptians, believed that the soul (or ghost) was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, including the clothes that a person wore.

Scientifically, there are any number of reasons some of us have ghostly visits.

For example, Michael Persinger, Laurentian University, Canada, speculates that changes in geomagnetic fields (possibly created by tectonic stresses in the Earth's crust or solar activity) could stimulate the brain's temporal lobes and produce many of the experiences associated with hauntings.

And the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), says no to ghosts.

CSI is a U.S. non-profit organization whose purpose is to "encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public."

To date (2000), the committee stated, "there is no credible scientific evidence that any location is inhabited by spirits of the dead."

Iowa hauntings

Still, the infatuation for ghosts is world-wide, and there have been a number of "sightings" throughout Iowa.

For example (the next few stories are located at "The Shadowlands: Ghosts and Hauntings

• Iowa State University's Memorial Hall (Gold Star Hall)—This area pays tribute to graduates of ISU who have died in various wars.

According to reports, there is a low, eerie moan that can be constantly heard in the hall. Rumor has it that the moan is the voice of the only woman to graduate from ISU and die in World War I.

• National Guard Armory, Burlington—Reportedly, there are doors that won't stay shut and that slam shut by themselves.

People working there late at night have said they have heard sounds of horses and footsteps when there is no one there. Someone also saw a reflection of a face of a man with a handle bar mustache in a computer screen and turned around to find no one there.

• University of Northern Iowa, The Strayer-Wood Theatre—This building is supposedly haunted by a ghost the theatre students call "Zelda," who apparently haunted the old theatre building before moving with the department to the new structure.

Many theatre students have reported strange noises, including piano music (when no one else was supposed to be in the building) and equipment has mysteriously worked by itself.

• Iowa Sate Penitentiary, Fort Madison—Built in the 1800's, the solitary confinement area is supposedly haunted.

Guards refuse to go to the end of the corridor at night. Inmates have experienced cold spots, hear unexplainable moaning and chains clanking.

They have also seen apparitions and have been choked or physically attacked while alone in their locked cells.

• Grinnell College, Grinnell—An article in the Des Moines Register reported that there is an old wheelchair on the stage of the performing arts building that belonged to the director of the theater department, who had died.

It's said to roll out on stage during rehearsals or performances for no reason.

• University of Iowa, Thompson Hall Dormitory, Iowa City—The dorm and a cemetery said to be nearby are both supposed to be haunted. One resident advisor reported that while spending a Christmas holiday in the dorm alone he heard footsteps and voices form the unoccupied basement floor, which was locked.

There have also been sightings of a town benefactor and other ghosts in the cemetery.

• Central College's Graham Hall, Pella—A room that is locked is believed to be haunted by the "Penguin Lady."

Residents have held sheets of paper under the door to watch as the "Penguin Lady" grabs them with a sucking action and later, when the room is unlocked by staff, they find the paper neatly stacked on an extra desk or dresser.

Remember, these are all ghost stories and nothing has been found to confirm them as fact.

Out of state hauntings

At one of the most haunted sites in the U.S., the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, a guest reported in Sept. 2009 that he had some strange happenings.

"... we heard the hotel ghost children (described the next day in the tour) giggling and running up and down the hall outside our room (#416). Nobody was outside the door!

"I got to meet the people staying in room #217 (Stephen King's room and the Presidential Suite), and while we were in the room we all started smelling a strong scent of Rose Water.

"The tour guide said that was Mrs. Stanley!

"I also set up my ... digital sound recorder in our room and got the children running not once but twice, as well as the sound of chairs sliding across the floor and dresser drawers opening and closing, although we were asleep and didn't see it happen."

(This encounter was found at

And at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, scene of the famous Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War:

"I am a Civil War reenactor ... During the 130th anniversary of the battle, two reenactors were sitting on the top of Little Round Top, when they noticed what appeared to be another reenactor approaching them. One of the sitting reenactors was a professor at Gettysburg College and he was quite impressed with the man's kit (uniform and accoutrements such as musket, cartridge case, canteen, haversack, etc.)

"The man who came up approached using lingo of that time and he said "Weren't some fight we had today, huh boys?" The other men nodded.

"Well" said the man, "You might need these here tomorrow." With that, the man reached in his kit and handed the boys some cartridges. The professor was deeply impressed, because the cartridges were tied the right way and sealed with the right amount of bees wax and he was going to say something when he felt the Minie ball inside.

In accordance with the rules and regulations of reenacting, no one is to bring live rounds on the field!

When the men looked up, the reenactor disappeared.

The relics were brought back to camp for us to see and they have been dated to 1863!

(this article was located at It can also be found in the book "Ghosts of Gettysburg" by George Coco)


UPDATED October 30, 2009 10:36 AM

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