The haunting of Maple Hill

I opened Facebook and the first picture I saw was the house I grew up in at Monroe. I did a double take. My childhood flashed before my eyes: fishing in ponds, baling hay, idyllic days of hunting rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant. I?ve written about Maple Hill before, as it is sort of famous, or has a reputation anyway, of being haunted, thus the reason for it being on Facebook: Halloween is just around the corner. Maple Hill has been featured on some national haunted-house shows, and has been on Iowa Public Television. It is a behemoth, pre-Civil War, Colonial structure that made headlines once again a couple of years ago when it was moved. Some wealthy person came along and bought it, had it moved, and began restoration. Did the ghosts accompany the structure? That was the big question.

Balderdash! There were no ghosts at Maple Hill, and I should know. We lived there for 10 years. One of the main rooms featured as the ?ghost room,? wallpapered with airplanes, was my bedroom. My mother wallpapered that bedroom.

I made a comment on Facebook as to my doubts that the house was haunted. As the day progressed, more people, some of them classmates of mine who had also lived in the house at various times, commented. They all told the same story: no ghosts.

So, how does this stuff get started? There?s some wild tale about there being a tunnel from the house to the barn, which was across the road, and that the house was a station on the Underground Railroad. Trust me on this one, if there had been a tunnel I would have known it. Like a spelunker, I explored every nook and cranny in that house, from the dirty coal room to the mousy attic. There is no tunnel, nor is there signs of what used to be one.

I still have dreams about the house: I?m a writer in isolation, holed up in an upstairs room, writing the great American Novel, looking out the window at the Grant Wood setting.

I?ve questioned relatives who stayed at the house at various times as to whether they witnessed anything strange. (Only me, they said.) But a niece tells the story that when she was little, she became lost in the home?s many staircases and hallways. She began to cry. An old woman dressed in 19th Century clothing took her by the hand and led her out. My niece has no idea who the old woman was.

One of the bedrooms had a window overlooking a stairwell. A nephew, upon awaking in the night, saw an old woman through the window, who was very angry, telling him to get out of the house, that he didn?t belong there. The old woman then turned into a young, beautiful woman fighting with an old man. The old man was on fire, and the flames spread to the young woman?s dress. To this day, my nephew believes that what he saw was real.

So, why would people who didn?t live in the house have seen these ghosts, but not us? Perhaps we belonged there?

I?ve taken Ginnie to see the house at its new location. It doesn?t seem right that it is no longer at the top of a hill surrounded by maples. The few trees there are scrub oak and scraggly piss elms. From the safety of my car, I study the windows to see if a face appears. Nothing.

But this Halloween, I?m sure the house will be a feature on spook shows once again, with tales of bizarre happenings and other paranormal nonsense. Let it be known that I lived in that house and nothing unusual, except for typical family stuff, happened there.



Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt?s stories are also read on 103.6 FM in Farmington.