Late October. The air turning brisk, leaves falling to the ground, candy corn, and costumes. Maybe also a ghost tale or two as you sit around a fire in the gathering dusk.
Davenport has a few ghost stories that have been told over the generations. As many of these spooky tales are based on some historical facts, we decided to explore the legend of the Banshee of Brady Street to see if we could discover the origin of the story. Following is a synopsis of the story Jerome Pohlen included in his book Oddball Iowa:
Legend tells of a family named the Schachts who purchased a home around the 500 block of Brady Street in Davenport around 1918. Soon bad luck fell upon the home. The young son fell out of a window and was impaled on a fencepost. The daughter drowned in a bathtub soon after. Mrs. Schachts hung herself in the basement and Mr. Schachts ended his life by hanging himself in the kitchen.
After their deaths, the house remained empty until purchased by a gangster from Chicago who ran a bordello in the home during the 1920’s. Years later the house was divided into apartments frequently rented to college students. The students reported hearing strange noises including moaning. Eventually the house was torn down and a parking lot put in its place. Legend has that the banshee, as it was called, moved along the houses and buildings on Brady Street screaming and moaning as it moved from place to place.
The location of the Banshee legend is only a few blocks from the Davenport Public Library’s Main Street branch. Would we discover that a Banshee actually was roaming the streets only blocks from the library?
Our search started with the Davenport City Directories from 1918 – 1920. These large volumes not only list residents alphabetically, but also by street and house numbers in the rear of the books. We did find families with the name of Schacht, not Schachts, but not on or near Brady Street.
We then pulled off a shelf a copy of the Abstracted Names from the Davenport (Iowa) Democrat & Leader. None of the Schacht(s) families had obituaries from 1910 to 1919. We next looked at the Ambulance Records from January 1, 1917 – January 20, 1920 maintained by the police department. No Schachts family on Brady Street was found in a search of 1918. A search of the census records from 1920 showed all Schacht families located in the 1918 city directories were alive in 1920. In fact, no one by the name of Schacht is listed in the Scott County death records from 1915 to 1919.
So, just in case the last name was wrong, we also compared the list of those who died in 1918 to the list of people living on and around the 500 block of Brady Street in 1918 and 1919. No matches.
Our brief search turned up no historical evidence for the origins of the Brady Street Banshee. Does this mean the legend has no basis in truth? Could the cry of the Banshee be nothing but the wind whistling up from the Mississippi River?
Well, maybe the family name was wrong. Or maybe the date was wrong. Or perhaps the street name was changed for alliterations’ sake—the Banshee of Marquette Street just doesn’t have the same ring to it. We invite you to come explore this legend, and others, in the Special Collections Department.
Who knows–hidden away in our resources, a connection might be awaiting discovery!
(Posted by Karen)