The end of October is upon us with cooler days, rustling leaves, and stories of haunted houses and ghosts. We have found, though, that rumored hauntings are not just for Halloween.
One such alleged haunting merited a small article in the July 14, 1926 evening edition of The Davenport Democrat and Leader. Several boys contacted the police on that summer morning with a story about a house in their Davenport neighborhood. It was haunted they proclaimed! The boys reported not only hearing water running in the unoccupied house, but seeing a hand pull down a shade as well.
The police responded and searched the house from top to bottom. No ghost was found and the only form of “spirit”, according to the newspaper, was an old wine bottle in the basement which was found to hold gasoline and not alcohol*.
Why would the boys think that house was haunted (besides hearing water running and a ghost hand of course)? We have found that tragedies, factual or not, often play a part in ghost stories that we sometimes hear from visitors. And let’s admit having a rumored haunted house on your street as a child would be both scary and exciting!
The article gives the address (as the home still stands I am not including it in the blog for the current owners privacy) and mentions an accident that took place some months earlier to one of the original owners. Our research found the home was built in 1915 and the first owners were an elderly couple named Henry and Catherine. Henry passed away in 1921, leaving Catherine alone in the house for the next five years.
In early April 1926, Catherine’s neighbors became worried when they didn’t see her about the house one day. Newspaper articles indicated police were called and found Catherine unconscious in her basement after suffering a stroke. She died at St. Luke’s Hospital the next day. One can picture children in the neighborhood whispering about the tragedy as thoughts of ghosts and haunted houses began to creep into their imagination.
The house remained vacant until 1931 according to city directories. After checking probate microfilm we found that Catherine left a will that took until about 1930 to settle. Her house sitting empty for that many years probably added to the ghost stories as well.
What did the children see that day? We will never know. Are we ever asked to help patrons who wonder if their homes might have ghosts or if the story of a tragedy is true? Yes, that does happen (and we always like a research mystery).
While we don’t have a list of every person who died in every home or apartment in Davenport (Oh, we wish we did as we are frequently asked for one); we do have many useful resources to help explore the history of a home or neighborhood. City directories, maps, probates, death records, and newspaper articles are just a few of the ways we can help patrons research their homes or neighborhoods.
Haunted or not, our staff enjoys helping you find resources to help you learn more about your home, neighborhood, or ancestors. We always enjoy researching local ghost stories as well!
May your Halloween be a quite one with the only ghosts at your home be the kind ringing your doorbell and asking for candy.
*Not an unusual way to store gasoline in the early twentieth century, but somewhat scary from our current prospective.
(posted by Amy D.)