Haunted Eastern Iowa: Mason House Inn Bed & Breakfast - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Haunted Eastern Iowa: Mason House Inn Bed & Breakfast

BENTONSPORT (KWWL)-- Travel down the Des Moines River near Keosauqua and you'll float past a little town called Bentonsport.

The unincorporated community of about 35 people is home to the Mason House Inn Bed and Breakfast.

It's a building that's stood as long as Iowa's been a state, and is said to be one of the most haunted places in Iowa, if not all of America.

"The Inn was built in 1846 by a man named Billy Robinson, and he owned it for ten years and he called it the Ashland House," said owner Chuck Hanson.

The house was then sold to Lewis and Nancy Mason and it would remain in the Mason family for the next 99 years.

"They ran it in their family until 1956," said Hanson.

The building has served many functions through the years - including being a field hospital during the civil war.

"They would be brought here, stabilized, then taken down to Keokuk for a veteran's hospital. And we do have several soldiers that we know died here, and they are still here interacting with us," says Hanson.

Chuck and Joy Hanson are the fifth owners of the inn.  The couple bought it at the turn of the millennium.

They, along with their children, have learned many things about the property, some spooky, others not - one is how the inn was used as a stop for the underground railroad.

"Lewis and Nancy Mason were very active with helping slaves out of Missouri go north and we have a lot of documentation to that now and details to that effect," said Hanson.

From the 1920's to 1940's the inn served as a boarding house for local doctors and teachers. And the Hansons believe some of the patients are still with them today.

''And one particular doctor resided here with his wife, he took care of his patients here, this was his hospital. And we do have a lot of spirits here that died while he was here from different injuries and things like that," said Chuck. "In 1956 it was sold to Cal and Bretta Redhead out of Des Moines," said Hanson.

The next owners turned the building first into a museum, later establishing a bed and breakfast in the 1960's. All that rich history remains alive within the walls of the Mason House Inn. More than 90 percent of the furniture is original.  But all that history carries a spooky secret.

"Rooms 5, 6, and 7 seem to have the most activity," said Joy Hanson.  "I don't know if it's because that's the rooms most people stay in, looking for activity, right, they come here hoping to have some kind of experience and they stay in those rooms and I'd say 75-percent have some kind of experience."

The Hansons came upon purchasing the Mason House Inn almost by accident.

"I was coming up on retirement from the military and we were looking for a place that was other than the place that we were living that was Dayton, Ohio," Chuck Hanson said.

In the year 2000, they were driving back from a family reunion in California and found the Inn was for sale.

"Joy and I like antiques, so we said why don't we do over and look at this old hotel and see what it's like, and we walked in here and we just felt so comfortable, it was like coming to a place we'd never been before," said Chuck Hanson.

"Then when we came back for three days, we actually stayed in the other building that used to be a store, but I kept hearing footsteps in the hallway, like someone would listen at the door then leave again. Then I asked Cheryl why she was in the laundry room at three in the morning and she said it wasn't her," Joy Hanson said.

It was only after moving in that they learned they weren't alone in their new home..

"Somebody was back there checking on us, or something about us intrigued them," Joy Hanson said.

"It wasn't until we closed on the hotel that we actually started realizing that it was totally haunted and things started happening right away to us, right after we took possession of it," Chuck Hanson said.

"Then I saw a man with a white beard and a black suit and he would just be standing in the hallway or standing in one of the rooms watching me clean. My daughters were talking about getting touched and their fanny patted," Joy Hanson said.

"One of the interesting things that initially happened to us was the original alarm clocks in all the rooms had the pull tabs, and when we were here by ourselves, they would randomly ring throughout the day on their own, and we'd go around the house shutting them off from room to room. And after about three days we said that was enough, we got tired of it, and it would quit. And then about three months later, it would start all over again, and go on for about three days. So, we knew we had more than a little old lady on the third floor, but we didn't know who was here and what was going on," Chuck Hanson said.

"And so, we thought, ok. There's a lot more going on here than just one little old lady," Joy Hanson said.

"I will get goosebumps on my arms, my hands will stand up on my arms, and it could be 90 degrees in the room and I'll just get a chill up my arms, and that's them being right there with me," Chuck Hanson said.

"Our guests would talk about children running and playing in the hallway all night and wondered why their parents didn't put them to bed. Another one was they felt a cat jump up on the bed and they would go to pet it and there would be nothing there," Joy Hanson said.

The Hansons do hope to keep the bed and breakfast in the family, as long as their children are willing to continue running the place.

"The primary means of communication we have with the spirits is is, we have a professional ghost hunter that comes to us four times a year from Denver, Colorado. His name is Chris Moon," Chuck Hanson said.

Chris Moon brings a box with him that the Hansons say let them talk to spirits just like using a telephone. It's called Edison's Telephone to the dead, and it's something that took a little getting used to.

"He kept calling us every week for about three months. He was very persistent at it. And finally he said I can tell you who's there and why. And we said come on down, do it, and his first trip here was in May of 2005," Chuck Hanson continued.  "So, we have actually two-way conversations, real-time, with the spirits, and we're able to ask them historical questions; find out information about the building, people in town, and they'll talk to us about what's happening today as well."

The Hansons say there were about 65 ghosts living among them when they first started speaking with the dead in 2005. And now that number has grown to over 200 and is still rising.

"Three of the ghosts are previous owners. There's Mary, her husband Frank, and Fanny, their niece, who died in the dining room. Mary likes to check on the guests.  She'll go in the room and check on things then leave and people will think, that was weird, this old lady came in looked at me and left," Joy Hanson said.

Many guests have captured their experiences on video. One example is an unexplained light passing in front of the lens.  Another is what ghost hunters call an "orb" flying up the stairs. Even an area school caught what's believed to be a ghost on camera.  It's a person wearing a civil war hat in the background of a picture where none of the people were wearing hats.

But Chuck Hanson says he doesn't mind, saying they don't take up much space.

"We've learned since we moved here that they are basically, they were actually trying to make us feel comfortable. They liked us, they had picked us to be the new owners, the spirits here, and they wanted us to feel comfortable about it," Chuck Hanson said.  "There's a negative perception, especially when you watch Hollywood. You get a lot of things being thrown, or people being levitated, things like that. Now, there are bad spirits out there. And if you go ghost hunting as a profession you will find those, if you go to murder sites and places like that. People are, as they are in life, they are in death and there is a lot of evil out there. But the spirits that have tied themselves to this building are here by choice, they like it, they like to interact with the guests, there's nothing negative here. They actually use their energy to keep the bad spirits out, and they actually interview spirits who want to come here. They have to be willing to interact with the guests and they have to be compatible with the spirits that are already here."

"They make footsteps, and they knock on the walls, and they open the doors, and turn the lights off and on, they're fascinated with the water closets. It's just fun stuff, nothing evil," Joy Hanson said.

"Come to have fun," the Hansons say.  "The more energy you have, the more fun you're having, the more fun they have. They call it their food. The energy they get from you is their food to interact. They will come to see what's going on. Also, you could invite them into your room to play. That's their terminology. Bring a camera, take pictures, and bring a digital recorder see if you hear voices that you didn't before. Have fun with it, but don't think that every creak and bump is a ghost, because if there's people in the other rooms it might be them, if you're the only people here and you hear something, that's probably them."

The Hansons say they have two rooms in an attached building and a Caboose that are not haunted. So anyone who wants to stay the night without getting spooked, have that option.

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