In the spirit of Halloween, we’re taking a brief look at local ‘haunted’ sites and even invited the Jasper County Paranormal Idealist to investigate for spooks and spirits at the NDN!
1. Jasper County Care Facility
Probably the subject of the most paranormal speculation in Jasper County is the old Jasper County Care Facility (pictured at top), located southeast of Newton.
The care facility was built as the county poor farm in 1867 for those who were elderly, orphaned or physically or mentally handicapped. The original building was replaced in 1896 and has been added on to and renovated multiple times. The three-story facility closed in 2000 and has sat vacant ever since.
According to ParanormalKnowledge.com, former employees have reported seeing people vanish while walking down hallways and through doors. Temperature fluctuations and other signs of ghostly activity also have been reported. Paranormal groups have been attempting — without success — to gain permission to conduct investigations at the site for years.
2. Maple Hill Mansion
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Maple Hill Mansion — built in 1860 and located just west of Monroe on Highway F70 — is a hotbed for rumors and speculation.
The house originally was built by Joseph Grayson Long and is known as the oldest wood-frame home in Jasper County. It has been said that the house was a stop on the underground railroad and has an underground tunnel connecting it to the barn.
The house was featured in Kathleen Vyn’s “Haunted Iowa” book, with previous owners, including Judy Salier, citing incidents of moving objects and apparitions. However, Curt Swarm, guest columnist for the Daily News, stated in his Aug. 27 column that he grew up in the house and never experienced any paranormal activity.
3. David Ryan House
Built in 1868 by Civil War veteran and colonel David Ryan, the residence now dubbed the David Ryan House recently became a site of interest for the Supernatural Research Society of Iowa. The home is owned by John and Annie Gerkin, who own and operate the August Bergman Inn right next door, and is used as a guest house for the inn.
According to Annie, overnight guests have heard footsteps, a man’s voice and even the music of a trumpet during their stay in the David Ryan House. The SRSOI investigative team also determined the house has paranormal activity, but Annie insisted good-naturedly, “They are friendly ghosts.”
4. Capitol II Theater
The Capitol II Theater in Newton has been in operation for more than 85 years, first opening in April 1927. Rumors of its haunting have cropped up in recent years, so former manager Dawn Bleeker invited the Iowa Paranormal Researchers & Investigators to spend the night in March 2012. What they found were unexplained photos, sounds and even physical contact. Former worker Casey Clarke can attest to feeling a “presence.”
“One night, after I got done threading the film, I turned away from the projector and started to walk out of the room. After just a step or two, something suddenly pulled me backwards, like my hair was being pulled,” Clarke said. “The pull was so forceful, it caused me to stumble backwards and hit the back of my head on the projector. There was no one else (alive) in the booth or even upstairs at the time.”
The theater, which has been closed since Sept. 12, is tentatively set to reopen Nov. 9.
5. Community Theater
According to ParanormalKnowledge.com, the Newton Community Theatre has been said to be haunted by a ghost — referred to as “T.G.” for “Theatre Ghost” — since it relocated to its current site next to the Newton YMCA in 1976. Although the Supernatural Research Society of Iowa’s investigation of the site yielded inconclusive results, NCT board member Lonnie Appleby recalled once seeing the figure of a man passing between the stage curtains when no living person was on stage. But Appleby characterized the ghost as more of a prankster than mean, noting that the actors often have trouble finding their props.
6. Glowing Tombstone
The first known burial in the Sugar Grove Cemetery, located south of the Interstate 80 bridge in the old Metz area, was Anna Sims, who died April 27, 1857. By 1881, according to the cemetery information booth, about 48 irregular-sized spaces were staked out for burial purposes in what is known as the original part of the cemetery.
One of those headstones — believed to belong to Charles M. Baker, who died April 17, 1881 — is rumored to emit an eerie glow at night for no apparent reason. Area residents claim to have seen the glow when car headlights traveling over the interstate bridge shine into the cemetery.
7. Metz Mud Man
Longtime area residents might remember hearing stories of the Metz “Mud Man” or “Mud Monster.”
Located south of the Sugar Grove Cemetery along West 66th Street South in rural Jasper County is a now privately-owned park (seen in right of photo) resting along the Skunk River near a bridge. County residents — old and young alike — may remember having been warned as teenagers against hanging out at the park or near the bridge at night lest the Metz Mud Man emerge from the river and attack. Most believe the story, or urban legend, was invented to discourage teens from parking near the river to make out.
8. Children’s Forest
Rumors that the Children’s Forest, located directly behind Newton Senior High School, is haunted have circulated among students for years, although information to confirm the rumors is sparse.
StrangeUSA.com claims the Children’s Forest is located on an old Native Indian burial ground, although that information has never been confirmed. According to the website, the teenagers have reported hearing screams from the forest and seeing the spirit of a Native American walking through area. However, a member of Supernatural Research Society of Iowa said she believes the “haunting” of the forest is just an urban legend.
9. Old Rock Island Depot
Another location in Newton speculated to be haunted is the former Rock Island Depot, which is now the home to graphic design company Art A La Carte.
The depot opened for business in 1912. The train station operated until closing in the early 1980s, and the building was purchased by Art A La Carte LTD in 1996. Owner Cathy Rickers said, “To my knowledge, the building is not haunted. But it can be creepy if you’re here alone at night.” A paranormal group once investigated the site but could not determine for certain whether the old depot is haunted. Rickers did, however, say that one front door opens by itself on occasion, particularly in the summer. Humidity or haunting? One can’t be sure.
10. Newton Daily News
Wrapping up the list of local haunted sites is none other than the Newton Daily News.
The Daily News building was built in 1921 specifically for the town newspaper. Over the years, rumors and jokes have been heard from the newsroom to the press room about ghosts haunting the old building. Since inviting members of the Jasper County Paranormal Idealist to investigate the building on Oct. 20, Daily News workers have complained of papers disappearing from their desks and clocks being turned back. Whether the ghosts have been stirred into action or paranoia is sweeping through the creaky halls remains to be seen. Regardless, all at the Daily News want to wish you a Happy Halloween!