It’s Halloween weekend, and there is a good chance you’ll spend most of tonight dealing with hungry ghosts, goblins and witches.
Maybe it’s the Hannah Montana backpacks or the constant giggles that make your nocturnal visitors less than terrifying; more probably, though, it’s because you know all those spooky characters just don’t exist in real life.
Kathleen Vyn, author of “Haunted Iowa,” one of at least three recent books on paranormal activity in the state, thinks differently.
“Iowa has a long history of being haunted,” she said. “Iowa is very haunted.”
Vyn said the rural setting and plenty of isolated, aging buildings are what make the state prime real estate for restless spirits.
“Many times when a family buys an old mansion and renovates it, they begin seeing ghosts there,” she said.
Another firm believer and authority on Iowa things that go bump in the night is Terry Lutzow, co-founder of the Estherville-based Iowa Paranormal Activity Study Team (IPAST).
“From our experience, there are many types of activity present here in Iowa,” he said. “We’ve experienced disembodied voices, doors opening and closing forcefully on their own, objects moving without any outside influence, and team members pushed by someone who couldn’t be seen.”
Lutzow’s not-for-profit organization does what it can to help people who report feeling threatened by unseen forces, and often comforts them by finding rational explanations.
“In extreme cases, we refer our clients to other avenues of help, including clergy,” he said.
IPAST investigates claims of paranormal activity using an arsenal of high-tech equipment that includes infrared cameras and instruments that measure electromagnetic fields.
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Cemeteries are a great place to test out the group’s equipment, said Lutzow. “We’ve gotten some of our best EVPs — that’s electronic voice phenomena recordings — in cemeteries.”
Three cemeteries in the North Iowa area are thought by paranormal enthusiasts to be haunted, said Vyn.
Riverside Cemetery in Charles City, she said, beautifully wooded on its windswept bluff, is positively eerie to some. “People have observed ghosts while standing by the mausoleum. They’ve seen the ghost of an Indian and dark figures in the trees.”
Hazel Green Cemetery, an old country cemetery south of Ackley, is said to be home to two ghosts, possibly of the same family. “People have seen an old woman in the gazebo holding a baby,” explains Vyn.
The tale of a curse attached to the oldest section of rural Algona’s Union Township Cemetery (the “gypsy cemetery”), she said, is “purely superstition.”
Although there have been reports of a little boy haunting the cemetery, Vyn said the menacing element to the stories is unfounded.
“Ghosts can’t curse anyone,” she said. “They live on another plane of existence, so they can’t harm you.”
So, say the experts, Iowa is haunted, but you probably aren’t in any paranormal danger.
Still, it is Halloween, and getting spooked might be a little fun, even if it takes a little effort to think of our friendly, corn-fed state as a frightening place.
“Anyplace can get scary, if you let it,” said Lutzow.