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Iowa’s Top 5 Spookiest Stories

It’s spooky season, guys and ghouls! Halloween is quickly creeping up, which gives us the perfect excuse to purposely freak ourselves out. Haunted houses and frightful films are always an easy way to get your share of scare. But if you’re more interested in real life bone-chilling events, here are five seriously spooky stories about places in Iowa and things that have happened here… 


1. Villisca Axe Murder House

This story seems like one we would see straight out of a modern day crime show or movie. The actual event dates all the way back to 1912 during the dead of summer in a small white house in Villisca, Iowa. Josiah and Sarah Moore, along with their four children and two of the children’s friends, were brutally murdered during their sleep with an axe in the early morning hours of June 10th. The crime was never solved, so there is no clue as to what the murderer’s motive was. It is believed that the house is now haunted by the eight victims. Perhaps one of Iowa’s best known tragedies, this historical house is open for tours and even overnight stays for those who curious about the spirits residing there. 


2. Tara Bridge

A long-living legend has coined this “Terror Bridge” near Ames, Iowa. Legend has it, that in the 1800s this bridge was the one a train frequently passed on. After a difficult year, a local farmer was believed to have cursed the winds, making this an eerie place that people tended to stay away from. A few years later, a woman from the town of Tara, took her children to the bridge and placed them onto the track to be killed by the train, just before she jumped to her own death. In recent years, people have reported strange activity at this bridge. Head on over and see if you can spot the hairy, wolf-like person that has been seen under the bridge or hear some howling. And if you’re really looking for a fright, it is believed that if you park your car on the bridge the mother’s hand prints will appear on your window. 3. Independence State Hospital

Iowa’s second Mental Institution was built in 1873 in Independence. In the late 19th century medicine was not what it is today. They utilized much crueler forms of punishment such as shock therapy and lobotomies. The hospital is still operating today, however this massive building has experienced its fair share of disturbances and certain parts of the building are no longer in use. In the abandoned areas, there have been numerous reports of whispers and voices, cold drafts and feelings of being watched and being among other presences. 4. Johnny Gosch

A story so bizarre and widely known that it got its own documentary called Who Took Johnny, that can be found on Netflix. I won’t ruin the whole story incase you want to do some digging on your own. In 1982 a 12-year-old paperboy from Des Moines, Iowa went missing in the middle of his morning paper route. During this time runaways were quite common, so police initially scuffed it up to that because they didn’t have many leads to follow. Gosch’s mom was persistent and demanded answers, which lead to the case’s popularity. Today it is still unknown what really happened to Johnny.5. Slater Hall at University of Iowa

Buckle your seatbelts because this one is hitting close to home. Some people reading this may have lived in Slater or even living in the residence hall now. Well have you heard of its less than pleasant past? On March 13, 1973 a nursing student named Sarah Ottens was found strangled to death in her room on the fourth floor. Her murderer was convicted in 1974, but exonerated in 1984 after serving only ten years of his 50 year sentence because there were contradictions with witness testimony and suspect identification. It is also believed that the ninth floor is haunted by the spirit of a freshman who jumped out of his window to his death because he couldn’t handle the pressures and stress of his new college life. 

Image credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Source credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

I entertain myself by exploring new places, meeting new people and trying new things. There is so much the world can teach you if you’re willing to learn!
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