|Hot off the press, "The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations" by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk soon will be followed by the Illinois guide the authors are working on.
They have their own publishing house, Unexplained Publishing, that is starting to publish books about the paranormal by other authors after putting out their own road guides to haunted locations in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and now Iowa.
They live in Eau Claire, Wis., and I talked with Chad Lewis to find out how this undertaking came about.
"I studied psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menominee," he said, "and I was interested in UFOs and alien abductions, wondering why people believed in those things. People started telling me stories of the paranormal."
He met Terry Fisk, who studied philosophy and religion at the University of Wisconsin and is a shamanic Buddhist practitioner, when he was doing a presentation on UFOs.
"He was interested in the religions and spiritual aspect of the phenomena, and I was interested in the scientific view," Mr. Lewis said. "We started traveling in Wisconsin and found that the directions to sites were horrible and the stories were exaggerated. We decided to write a book, and people from all over the country started calling to tell us their stories.
"We were over-run by stories from Iowa. The state is packed with so many ghosts that you won’t have to venture far to seek out your own paranormal experiences. Iowans will learn that their state is weirder than they thought."
They’ve covered the state from border to border, and two sites in Davenport are described. One is City Hall at 226 W. 4th St. downtown. The building once was the police station, and according to the lore they discovered, “Prisoners were housed in the station and when it came time for their punishment they did not have to travel far, as they were hanged in the bell tower.
"We were unable to find any reports of hangings that took place in the building, although we are still searching for more evidence."
They were told that residents walking past the building would look up and see the figure of a man hanging from a rope in the bell tower. When they looked again, the ghost was no longer there.
Another specter in the building is a heavy-set man smoking a cigar who walks around the premises and often attends city council meetings.
The Banshee of Brady Street is the second phenomenon in Davenport. Somewhere near 5th and Brady there was a large Victorian home that seemed to be cursed. Within a single year a seven-year-old boy fell out of the attic window and was impaled on a fencepost, a daughter was drowned in the bathtub, the mother hanged herself in the basement, and the father did the same in the kitchen.
Selling the house was difficult, but a gangster from Chicago finally bought it and opened a bordello that was not successful. Years later it was used as a boarding house for college students, but they heard strange noises, felt unexplained cold drafts and saw mysterious figures in the house.
The book says, "Ever since the house was torn down, the haunting activity seems to have moved to the streets and homes along Brady Street. Residents report hearing the strange sounds of a banshee. Loud screams and strange whistling are often reported."
The Illinois guide will discuss the ghost lore of The Villa in Rock Island. The authors were told of aborted fetuses hidden in the walls and the ghosts of children who disappeared and presumably committed suicide walking through the buildings at night and disappearing into thin air.
"We found no evidence of that," Mr. Lewis said, "but the stories go on."
"The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations" can be purchased at area book stores for $14 or ordered for $12.60 at www.unexplainedresearch.com.
What's haunting you these days? Let me know by calling me at (563) 355-7246, e-mailing me at McDonaldJulie@ambrose.sau.edu, or writing to me at 2802 E. Locust St., Davenport, IA, 52803.
The Write Stuff, covering the area literary scene and written by local author Julie Jensen, runs the second and last Sundays of the month.