By Mike Jones on April 13, 2018 at 1:35 pm
Ped Mall at Night
via Alan Light, Flickr

Urban legends regarding paranormal activity are commonplace among college students, even today. Ohio University has a dorm room that is allegedly so active in poltergeist activity that it has been sealed off. Illinois has so many purported hauntings that the University itself has dedicated a webpage to it. At Michigan State, a portrait of one-time university affiliate Mary Mayo is supposed to be haunted. At Iowa, we have stories of suicide pacts, a serial killer, and a ghost that apparently likes to watch the Big Ten Network. 

Currier Hall

Currier Hall, 1940
Currier Hall north entrance, The University of Iowa, 1940
Copyright, The University of Iowa. Libraries. University Archives. 

Built in 1914, Currier Hall houses 628 students and is the oldest dorm on campus. It is also haunted.


Per the legend, back in the 1930s, three female roommates on the fourth floor all fell for the same man, unbeknownst to one another. Upon finding out that they were actually all in love with the same man, they were so heartbroken they made a suicide pact and took their own lives, either via poison or hanging. There was never any report of this in the local newspapers or any evidence of this actually occurring but I don’t want to be a wet blanket.

Regardless, these three women haunt Currier, but in a benevolent manner: they will appear when roommates are arguing and offer counsel and advice. So they’re like ghost Oprahs.

Of note, back in 2005, a “paranormal expert” did some investigating and came up with nothing. I’m not sold on his conclusion though, as I tend not to trust any paranormal expert that isn’t Zac Bagans

Per HauntedHouses.com (so take it as you will), there is a lesser-known tale of a stern-faced man who wanders the halls of Currier. Supposedly,  in the “E-300s part of this building, residents report seeing an apparition of a stern, concerned man, a father of a former resident, who hangs around, watching residents intensely.”

No report on whether or not this man is actually just Kirk Ferentz.

Slater Hall

One of the two towers across the Iowa River, Slater was built in 1968 and is extremely active on a paranormal level. 

One legend is that a freshman student was so overwhelmed by the pressures of college that he jumped to his death from the ninth floor. Now, his sad ghost roams the halls. Sometimes…with an ax. Why does he have an ax? I uh…I don’t know why he has an ax. Why does anyone do anything? If I was a ghost I’d like to walk around with a shillelagh. Because people would be like “is that a club?” and I’d be like "no you idiot it’s a shillelagh." Yeah…that’s how I’d do it.

A somewhat comical legend involves a serial killer known as “The Penguin.” Say that and try not to think about serial killer Danny Devito, will you? And sure, I’m pulling a lot of this from HauntedHouses.com but it also made its way into a book so if it’s printed on paper it must be legit!

Anyway, the legend goes that sometime in the 1800’s, long before Slater was even built, a vicious serial killer known as The Penguin roamed the west bank of the Iowa River, eating babies. Seriously. Eating babies. He was eventually caught, hung for his crimes and now he roams Slater (but not Rienow, apparently) appearing as a heavyset R.A. looking for freshmen to eat. 

C’mon man. Who even came up with this?

The Big Ten Network Ghost

From a December 13th, 2012 Daily Iowan article by Ben Ross:

Every night when he got ready to go to bed, Hawkeye baseball player Trevor Kenyon usually left his TV on the Big Ten Network. One night, he decided to fall asleep to FX.
When he returned to his room after brushing his teeth, he discovered his TV had been changed to BTN. Kenyon turned the TV off and put the remote on the floor next to his bed. When he rolled over, he discovered the remote next to him on the pillow. After that, Kenyon turned the TV back on to BTN and let “Tim” watch sports as he fell asleep.

And so begins the tale of the Big Ten Network loving ghost. Kenyon lived in a house at 508 North Dubuque Street with four other baseball players and a club hockey player. Supposedly, they’d noticed some paranormal activity over a couple of years including the figure of a little girl, chairs moving at night and doors slamming. Finally, player’s girlfriends would also have their underwear removed at night and they’d be found in other places in the morning. 

There’s a lot to be said about that last thing but you know what? I’m not even going to touch it. I’ll probably just chalk that up to what this t-shirt says.

Kenyon and his roommates eventually called a team of paranormal experts who confirmed that the house was indeed haunted by an older gentleman and a little girl, approximately 10 years of age. They nicknamed the older gentleman Tim, and if that earlier excerpt tells us anything, it’s that Tim enjoys him some BTN. Perhaps he was a big fan of Barbasol or Haas Avocados?

The cause of all the paranormal activity? Apparently, the house was a funeral home in the 1920s. 

The Old Vito's

Long ago, at 118 E. College Street in the Ped Mall, there was a shitty bar by the name of Vito’s. If I could describe Vito’s I’d say it was like a slightly nicer Union but somehow still shittier. Does that make sense? OK good.

After the bar closed in 2011, the Moen Group decided to re-purpose it for something other than a bad college bar (good thinking). That’s when things started to go down. The Daily Iowan has the story:

Bobby Jett of the Moen Group, which owns the property, said one of the interning architects involved in the remodeling approached him a few months ago and said he "was never going back into the building."

"The first time, he felt the air change very rapidly … [he] got the chills. The second time, someone whispered in his ear, 'Go-oooo,' " Jett said. "It totally freaked him out; he ran out of the building."

This incident led Jett to buy a book on some of the most haunted places in Iowa City, written by Iowa alumnus Vernon Trollinger. It turns out that back in the 1910s, the building was owned by the Schneider Brothers, who were big in the real estate and furniture making business. This specific building was, of course, used as a funeral parlor. Because what else could it be if not a funeral parlor?

In that same article, it mentions that a clairvoyant named Cat Sinclair discovered a spirit she named Joseph on the second floor. "He was definitely a heavy drinker… he was disrespected and a bit feared but not necessarily liked," Sinclair said. "I don't know why he's here, but he didn't die here; he's tied here somehow."

Basically, Joseph is every frat guy I ever saw at Vito's. 

Do you know of any hauntings in Iowa City? We’d love to hear about them in the comments. And no, the Haunted Bookshop isn’t actually haunted. It’s just named after an old novel. 

Previously on Tales From Iowa City:

View 31 Comments