Haunted Dubuque

Dubuque was founded in 1833, and many things have happened over the years, some good, some not so good. People have come and gone but a few have chosen to stay and stay and stay.

Consider the reports of the haunting of many of the well-known places that we all have visited. BOO!

The Grand Theater is reputed to be haunted by "Zelda" and her entourage of unknown spirits. Built in 1890, the theater has hosted stars such as George M. Cohan, Sarah Bernhardt, and Lillian Russell. But the police have recorded many calls reporting strange voices, footsteps, singing, piano playing, and the all-too-familiar blasts of cold air. It's been claimed that an apparition even appeared during a taped stage performance. Now that's dramatic!

Sitting on a hill overlooking the river at the northern end of Dubuque, a gothic mansion of stone may not be as placid as it seems. Built in 1840 by shipping tycoon Mathias Ham, the 23-room Ham House is one of the most prominent in the city. It is said that sometime during the 1890s, when the last remaining family member was living in the home, the haunting began. Sarah Ham was alone in an upstairs bedroom when an intruder broke in. Two shots rang out and the intruder fled, leaving a bloody trail that led to the nearby river. There, on the muddy bank, lay the body of a dead river pirate. To this day at the Ham House, footsteps can be heard descending at a run from the fourth floor to the basement. At dusk, a mysterious bobbing light appears to travel up from the river to the great mansion. Is it the spirit of the dead seeking revenge? Only three floors of the home are open for tours, the fourth is blocked off. Is that where one can find the door against which the dying man leaned, and where his blood still "bleeds" through many coats of paint?

Even the three colleges in Dubuque can't escape the stories of ghosts. Like the dorm room at Clarke College. It is rumored that a 22-year-old nursing student hung herself in the closet. Does she still share the room with the current student? Does she make her presence known by playing with electronic buttons and lights? Is that her occasional cold breath felt upon an unwilling neck?

The fourth floor of the University of Dubuque's Cassat Hall is the last place many students would want to live. Resident assistants claim that during their nightly "rounds," they often run through the halls because they feel an eerie presence and sometimes a rush of cold air.

Loras College has its share of spirits as well. One is said to be a ghostly priest that performs midnight masses. Although he accepted many contributions for masses, he was accidentally killed before he had a chance to fulfill his obligations. Emily recalls another story of spirits on the Loras campus, "Harry and Flora Wahlert are buried in the crypt below Christ the King Chapel. Rumor has it that late at night you can hear Mrs. Wahlert playing the organ. And if you are brave enough to take a peek, you can see her husband sitting in a wheelchair listening to her play."

The second floor of Keane Hall is haunted by the ghost of a student who committed suicide in his room after his girlfriend broke up with him. The door to the room looks typical enough. But if you hold a black light up to it, you can see a face and what could be tears or blood. The door has been replaced, but the image keeps returning.

Mt. Carmel, one of the area's oldest nunneries, was built in 1889. A ghostly number of sister's reportedly still wander about the buildings,moving things to keep the place orderly and turning lights on and off as they deem necessary. Mt. Carmel has suffered two fires. One conflagration was said to have been so terrible that a room full of school children perished. The hall was rebuilt, but you can still hear the cries of children and the crackling of flames when the night is right. So, next time you¹re alone and the windows rattle or a door flies shut, maybe it's not the wind, but a visitor of the past. Beware.

Dubuque can be a scary place, especially at Halloween.