Ghost ‘tourists’ search for the paranormal in Fort Madison

October 31, 2016 GMT

Emily Smith distinctly felt something — someone? — lift up strands of her hair and let them down while sitting in a room at the Kingsley Inn.

Shaeleigh Garr would later make the same claim but at the Lee County Abstract building next door.

Glen Gerling felt some heaviness on his chest in another room at the Kingsley.

These and other unexplained phenomena were reported, not by guests of the local downtown hotel, but by patrons of the Fort Madison Main Street Ghost Tour. The 158 tickets available were sold out two weeks before the event.

Besides the Kingsley and the Lee County Abstract building, the Eclectic downtown business and the Old Lee County Jail were the other sites visited.

Smith and her friend, Jade Hierstein, both of Burlington, were in a room at the Kingsley Inn — the lights were never turned on during the tour — and Hierstein said, “I heard something rustling. I wasn’t sure if it was someone in the other room.”


Smith went to the corner, and Hierstein said, “The whole wall went from orange to blue.”

That’s when Smith said she felt someone lift up her hair. “I told whoever was there they could keep doing it,” she said as a trio of Centerville women — including Garr — entered the room.

Garr would later have that experience in the abstract building. She had brought her camera and was taking digital pictures. She would notice that she would a take a photograph in a room and it would be a clear picture. But she might take another one in the same spot and it was blurry, indicating an unexplained presence, she said.

Paranormal group

Although Main Street hosted it as a fundraiser — it’s held every other year — a group known as Iowa Paranormal from Centerville had recommended the local inn and led the Kingsley portion of this year’s event.

Steven Tracy said, “We’ve been here the last two years doing our own private investigation.”

Back in November of 2014, someone called the group to report experiencing some “activity,” Tracy said.

“We found enough evidence to warrant coming back in April of 2015.”

Main Street personnel called Tracy back in March and “they asked if we would be interested in coming here, and we jumped on board,” he said.

Gerling, of Fort Madison, came with his wife, Kim, who was encourged to come by a co-worker, Katy Blindt.

“I felt a little heaviness on the second floor,” Glenn said, and it happened immediately as he entered one of the rooms. “It makes you slow down and check yourself” to make sure he wasn’t having a heart attack.

Mallory Johnstone came from Wapello for her first Ghost Tour, but she has been interested in the paranormal for the past 10 years, since she was in high school.

“I took a class at SCC (Southeastern Community College) on how to find stuff and why sometimes spirits don’t leave the earth,” Johnstone said.

Locked room mystery


Jamie and Mendy Carle had a spooky experience before making their first Ghost Tour.

“We went to Bentonsport and stayed at a haunted hotel,” Jamie said. “We saw some ‘orbs,’” which are balls of light that are said to indicate a paranormal presence. “We saw doors open on their own.”

But the eeriest experience was when Mendy came out of the shower and found the door locked from the outside. But Jamie had already gone downstairs. Mendy said she was locked in the room for about 20 minutes before “It let me out.”

Brittany Smutzer of Fort Madison had the most experiences to report but from her own home.

For all the talk of orbs and mysterious happenings and unexplained touches by others, Smutzer was asked if she had actually seen “ghosts,” in the traditional scary movie sense.

“I’ve seen full apparitions,” she said.

“One night, in between a dream state, I opened my eyes and saw a man in flannel,” but it was just the torso, Smutzer said.

“I’ve had nephews who have seen shadows in the house, and I’ve had my ankles yanked while sleeping.”

She also showed a video she posted on a YouTube of her brother talking to his stepdaughter. He was just trying to get her say something when a growl is heard on the video. The girl reacts and soon made her own growl sound. But Smutzer said it wasn’t until after the tape was replayed that anyone else heard the growl.

Smutzer said, “It seemed like more I watched the show Ghost Adventure, the more activity would happen.”

But that would soon diminish. “I think once the family pet passed away, the activity has gone down . “He’s been our protector. It’s like he’s watching over us.”