I’m not usually one for haunted houses or scary movies, but in the spirit of Halloween spookiness I decided to make an exception. While I haven’t visited all of these locations (and probably don’t plan to in the future), thrill seekers can explore five of Iowa’s most notoriously haunted spots.
Drake University Observatory (Des Moines)
During my time at Drake, I once visited the Observatory for an introductory astronomy class. While I don’t remember anything particularly paranormal happening, I do remember the small brick building being a bit eerie.
It’s said that Dr. Robert Morehouse, the first Chairman of the Astronomy and Physics Department at Drake, haunts the Observatory. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch since his remains, as well as his wife’s, are interred in the entryway’s wall. Students (not me) have reported feeling like they were being watched while in the basement and noticed ghostly corrections on their observation logs.
Drake University Observatory, Waveland Golf Course grounds, 4908 University Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa
Edinburgh Manor (Scotch Grove)
The Edinburgh Manor was originally the county seat of Jones County. Since it has been called one of the most haunted places in the Midwest. The Manor served as a mental asylum for about a century and in 2012 opened to paranormal investigators.
Edinburgh Manor, 13241 E23 County Home Road in Scotch Grove, Iowa
Matsell Bridge (Viola)
Legend around Viola is that if you drive onto the bridge at night and shift your car into neutral an unknown force will push you to the other side. Mysterious hand prints on cars’ bumpers and back windows have also been reported. But beware: locals say the ghosts are easily angered and may try to break windows or push cars off the bridge.
Matsell Bridge (across the Wapsipinicon River), Matsell Park Road, North of Viola, Iowa
Oakland Cemetery’s Black Angel (Iowa City)
Ever since it was erected in 1918, the black, eight-and-a-half-foot tall statue in Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery has been a source of mystery and site of much local lore. Legend has it that anyone kissed in front of the angel at midnight on Halloween will die within seven years. It’s also said that anyone who kisses the angel will be killed instantly.
Villisca Ax Murder House (Villisca)
Located in the small town of Villisca, Iowa—population 1,250—this white farmhouse could easily be the clone of its neighbors. That is, except for the plywood sign in its front yard. On June 10, 1912, eight people, including six children under the age of 12, were murdered while they slept. An eerily staged crime scene and utter lack of suspects rocked the small town, leaving many questions unanswered for decades.
Do you enjoy spooky attractions? What’s your favorite?