Nowadays when you turn on the television you see many shows on haunted houses, especially during the month of October. This raised a question in my mind. Did things go bump in Davenport houses long ago?
In the spirit of Halloween I decided to do some searching to see what the oldest newspaper story of a haunted house in Davenport might be (or even if there was one).
Older papers were frequently filled with stories of ghosts who haunted famous locations and faraway places. Tales of spooky happenings in London, England; Scotland; and (the not-so-distant) Canada filled the news during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But were there any local ghost stories?
Access Newspaper Archives (online in the Davenport libraries) and our newspaper collection on microfilm did not disappoint me. The earliest account of a haunted house in Davenport that I found came not from a local Davenport newspaper, but from nearby Burlington, Iowa.
On July 24, 1874 the Burlington Daily Hawk Eye reported that Davenport had a haunted house. The short paragraph was located on page 4 under the Iowa News section. It was placed between a story of an Iowa Falls man whose pet wolf got loose and ate many of the local citizens’ chickens and the Onawa Public Schools superintendent’s report showing the schools to be doing well.
The paragraph simply reads:
“Davenport has a haunted house, in which the ghost shuffles around the rooms in slip-shod shoes, bangs tinware, scratches at the doors, and occasionally goes out doors and drives the dogs into convulsions of rage by teasing him and inducing him to bite at the impalpable legs of the ghostly intruder.”
Unfortunately, no specific details were given to help us locate either the house’s owners or street location in the Davenport City Directories to do further research.
Whether true or not, it certainly may have caused a few chills to go down the spines of readers in 1874. Isn’t that the true point of a ghost story?
(posted by Amy D.)