Hunting and haunting

By Bryon Houlgrave 

02/17/07 - Muscatine Journal

MUSCATINE, Iowa — No place in Iowa is without its own haunting.

That’s what ghost hunter and author Chad Lewis believes. He has spent several months collecting information and data to illustrate some of Iowa’s more notorious haunted spots, from Council Bluffs to Davenport, and right down to Muscatine’s legendary Blue Angel.

“There’s different versions of the stories about the Blue Angel of Greenwood Cemetery,” Lewis said.

The Blue Angel sits encapsulated in the Harry W. Huttig mausoleum in a remote section of the historic cemetery. For several years, the angel, given her name due to the blue stained-glass windows at her back, held a red rose in her right hand.

The most common legend states that if she drops the rose while someone is watching, the viewer will soon meet their demise.

“Others say that the statue will come alive. People also reported hearing footsteps in the cemetery when no one was around,” Lewis said. “It’s a story that over the last 60 years has changed or moved around. It’s fascinating that these stories are still going on.”

Years ago, the angel’s hand was reported broken. Lewis said there is still speculation whether or not the hand fell off or if it was cut off.

“The legend is that someone came out and cut off the hand to protect people (from the curse),” Lewis said, adding that the statue has a new legend.

“Now the story is that if you peek into the window and see a tear on the angel you will die,” he said.

It’s unknown how recent the new legend came to life.

Lewis, who received a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin’s Stout campus, began writing about haunted locations eight years ago, after friend and co-author Terry Fisk were collecting data on haunted locations for their Web site. They repeatedly hit dead-ends and grew discouraged.

“We would find some of these stories to be made up or exaggerated, or these locations wouldn’t exist. So we decided to buy a book to tell us how to get there, and the real history behind (the location),” Lewis said.

But, he said, no such books existed.

“So we decided to write one,” he said.

The authors, both from Eau Claire, Wisc., spent months collecting data and information on alleged ghost-infested locations. They made maps, charts and included a history of the location and the significance of the haunting.

They first published “The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations” in 2004. Since then, they’ve written road guide books about Minnesota and South Dakota, and are in the process of publishing a road guide to Illinois.

The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations,” available now at Muscatine Books and More, was released in January.

The books aren’t filled with ghost stories for kids. They are annotated road maps of haunted locations in throughout the Midwest, detailed with the history of each location itself and some interesting side-trip ideas while in the area.

“We feel the books are more of a starting point for an adventure. People will get the book and may or may not have a paranormal experience,” Lewis said. “But they will meet some weird people and see some new things.”

While in Iowa, Lewis said most of the fun wasn’t so much exploring the haunted sight, but the interesting area attractions.

“We would hit the roadside attractions, like John Wayne’s birthplace,” he said.

Lewis, who said he has yet to have a paranormal experience in his years of research, said that each alleged haunting is treated very seriously.

“When we’re at a place, we talk to a lot of people, visit the libraries, dig through old cases and folklore. We talk to a lot of seniors. They remember stories of haunted homes and places,” Lewis said. “They are a great source of information.”

Lewis said the authors refuse to include source’s names in the books, because people in smaller towns often still fear their reputation will be damaged being associated with ghost stories. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people have fabricated stories in order to get their name in print.

“We have to look at motives. Are they embellishing just to get in this book? There were so many cases throughout the years that I thought were fascinating, but there was something about them, whether there weren’t enough witnesses or credible witnesses, or the backgrounds didn’t match up,” Lewis said.

The books never state if the authors personally believe the locations to be haunted.

“We give as much facts as we can, then leave it up to the reader,” he said.

In addition to Muscatine’s Blue Angel, the book also details the famous hanging ghosts of Davenport, among 73 other cases in Iowa.

For those seeking a paranormal adventure, Lewis recommends approaching with patience.

“For those looking for that adventure, if you’re looking hard enough you’ll find it. It may not be a sighting, but sometimes there’s a lot of fun just getting turned around on the backroads of Iowa,” he said. “I think people need to see that as an adventure as well.

“There are strange things going on in your neighborhood,” Lewis said. “You just have to look around a little.”

Contact Bryon Houlgrave at 563-263-2331 ext. 17 or

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