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Haunted Hotels in Iowa: The Mason House Inn

Ghost stories from the historic Mason House Inn in Bentonsport, Iowa

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Haunted Hotels in Iowa

Exterior of the haunted Mason House Inn

Mason House Inn

When Joy Hanson and her husband, Chuck, purchased the Mason House Inn after Chuck's retirement from the Air Force, they knew the historic inn had at least one ghost. It was not surprising; the inn's 160-year history had seen three of its owners die in the hotel, and one guest murdered. What was surprising was how many ghostly guests remained in the hotel, and how active they were.

About Hotels: How many ghosts do you believe are in the hotel?

Joy Hanson: We have at least five spirits that we know of. The Mason House Inn was built in 1846 and three of the owners have died here. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War, and again by a doctor who was living here in 1920-40. He died here of diphtheria along with several of his patients. There was a murder in one of the rooms.

AH: Have guests of the hotel reported seeing these ghosts?

JH: We have had guests tell us of their experiences from seeing a foggy image, to seeing a boy on the landing who likes to play tricks on people, to an old lady in a white night gown, to an old man who "just looks at me and then disappears." We have a bed that gets mussed up when no one has been in the room.

A guest in Room 5 said his pajama shirt sleeve was tugged on while he was sleeping. Thinking it was his wife wanting him to turn over, he tried to turn over and his sleeve did not come with him. He looked and he could see his sleeve being tugged over and over but did not see anyone there to tug on it. He remembered that his wife did not come with him on this trip. The sleeve continued to be tugged for several more seconds and then it quit. He hopped out of bed and would not lay down again. He was very shaken by the experience. He is a Minister and did not believe in ghosts. Now he does.

A guest was checking in and she looked up the stairs to the second floor and told me "Did you know you have ghosts here?" I asked her if she could see them, she said, "No, but I can feel them. They are happy here and don't want to leave. One did not die here, but liked it here in life and came back. They like it here and won't hurt anybody. They just don't want to leave."

Another guest came to me one morning after breakfast and asked if I knew the place was haunted. I asked her to tell me why she thought so. She said, "I was sitting in the rocking chair reading a book last night. My husband was in the shower. Suddenly the room got freezing cold and a column of fog started to form about 4 feet away in front of me. It got thicker and thicker and I knew I was about to see a ghost. I broke out in goosebumps all over my body and I gasped. Then it suddenly disappeared. It was not scary, just weird. I wanted you to know the place is haunted."

Another guest checking in looked up the stairs and said "Oh no. You have a ghost here. I am too tire to deal with this tonight. Can I have a room in that building over there?" (Indicating our annex building which used to be an old store and is now 2 bedrooms.) I gave him one of the annex bedrooms and he was gone by the time I got up to make breakfast.

Two guests, who claimed to be able to see the spirits, told me there is a boy about 12 or 13 years old who hangs out on the second floor landing. He is dressed in knickers. He is waiting for something or someone. He likes to play tricks on the guests. He is aware of us and waves at people and then looks confused and sad when they do not wave back. We have named him George. George likes to knock on doors, and when people open the door, there is no one there. He likes to take things and put them in other rooms. He likes to pull the pins on the old alarm clocks and make them ring. (We put digital clocks in some of the rooms and he does not know how to work those.) Maybe he was the one tugging the man's sleeve in Room 5.

These same guests said there is an old lady on the third floor, south bedroom, who likes to look through our boxes we have stored in that room. My daughter has her bedroom in the north bedroom on the third floor and she says she has seen an old lady in a long white nightgown standing in the doorway to that room. She was visible for a second and then she vanished. People staying in Room 5, which is directly below that room, have said they heard thumping up there like something was dropped on the floor. Another complained of being kept awake all night by a squeaking rocking chair up there. There is no rocking chair in that room. It is just a storage room.

Next: Three owners and one guest have died in the hotel

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