With Halloween just a few weeks away, thoughts turn to the supernatural and North East Iowa has its fair share of ghost stories. A recent tale of ghoulish goings on centres on Millville and to this day the jury’s out as to what actually happened.
It was Thanksgiving Day in 1959. An elderly, bed-ridden gentleman named William Meyer was relaxing in the company of his wife and grandson. Meyer had lived in the house all his life. It was a remote but comfortable place, set in the foothills north or Dubuque on the great Mississippi River and built on Meyer’s own land.
Suddenly, the calm was shattered by a loud noise accompanied by a shower of fine, powdery black dust which settled over everything, including the grandson, Gene’s face. The couple’s son, Elmer was summoned but could find no cause of the sooty substance or route by which it could have entered the room. The event was laughed off and soon forgotten about, until a few days later.
More strange events began to occur; a heavy wooden flower stand fell over, Mrs Meyer had a glass of water tipped over her, a fresh egg sailed across the room and splattered near Mr Meyer’s bed, a bottle of pills which had been stored securely in a kitchen drawer were showered all over the room and mud was found smeared over the downstairs windows, despite the fact that the ground outside was frozen solid.
The disturbances only seemed to occur when it was dark in the house. Meyer turned out the lights and the family waited. Sure enough, a series of loud noises occurred almost immediately, eggs were splattered on the floor and mud appeared on the wall above Mr Meyer’s bed. Needless to say, every light in the house was left on for the rest of that night.
More and more frightening happenings occurred over the following days. Loud knocking noises were heard upstairs and a big, old refrigerator fell over spilling empty bottles and jars all over the pantry. Suspicion for the apparently supernatural events fell on the Meyers’ teenaged grandson but he was nowhere near the house when the pantry incident and the banging upstairs occurred. They terrified Meyers finally admitted defeat and went to stay with relatives in the nearby village of Guttenberg.
Relatives refused to believe that the happenings were anything supernatural and instead blamed natural vibrations caused by water making its way through the limestone bedrock underpinning the county; until Meyer’s son returned to find that doors he had locked had unlocked themselves and he narrowly missed being decapitated by a piece of fire wood which shot past him and shattered a window.
Neighbours decided to test the ghost story for themselves. One night they entered the house and placed a glass of water with a pencil laid across it on the flower stand in Meyer’s old bedroom. The glass suddenly shattered and the pencil snapped clean in two – right in front of them as they watched.
The local Sheriff was called in to investigate the goings on. Reporters, more neighbors and even a group of college students with scientific ghost-hunting equipment visited the house to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.
News of the ‘haunted house’ quickly spread and hundreds of tourists flooded the area, all desperate to see the happenings for themselves.
No further strange events were reported at the Meyers’ house, although they refused point blank to move back there and set up home instead on the opposite side of the valley. A professor of psychic activity theorized that the disturbances could have been caused by human emotional activity and the local Sheriff’s office blamed the Meyer’s grandson as a prankster.
It’s unclear whether anyone ever took up residence in the haunted house or even if it still exists. But if it does, you can bet it won’t be empty on Halloween!
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.