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Mason House Inn

Guests and Ghosts September / October 2007
by Lori Erickson
The Mason House Inn Bed & Breakfast boasts several permanent spectral residents. See for yourself during a Ghost Hunting Class.


Iowa has its fair share of sites. But only one location claims the title of Iowa’s most haunted house. The Mason House Inn Bed & Breakfast on the banks of the Des Moines River in the small village of Bentonsport is supposedly inhabited by no fewer than 20 spirits (including one cat).


After initially wanting to keep its phantom residents secret, owners Joy and Chuck Hanson now welcome publicity about the inn’s eerie reputation. In October 2006, the Today show featured the Mason House on a Halloween segment covering America’s most haunted houses.


When the Hansons purchased the federal-style brick structure in 2001, the previous owner informed them that the inn had a ghost. Joy says the initial warning didn’t bother the couple, but the proliferation of strange activity in the house led them to suspect that more than one spirit haunted their new home.


“Doors locked themselves, we’d hear our names being called when no one was there and alarm clocks kept going off when we hadn’t set them,” says Joy. “Also, guests often would come to breakfast with stories of odd things happening at night, like door handles jiggling and tapping on the walls.”


At the suggestion of a guest, the Hansons invited professional ghost hunter Christopher Moon to visit the inn in 2004. Moon’s first visit was so intriguing that he since has returned more than 10 times.


“The Mason House Inn has one of the highest levels of paranormal activity of any building I’ve visited in the country,” says Moon, who is based in Denver and leads ghost-hunting classes around the nation. “What happens there is not the sort of spooky-scary hauntings that people associate with Hollywood movies. Instead, the spirits seem to be people associated with the history of the inn and former guests.”

Moon returns four times a year to the Mason House to lead courses called Ghost Hunting 101. A typical class includes a primer in investigation techniques, an overview of the house’s history and a description of the spirits who have previously made appearances. In the evening, class members go from room to room seeking to make contact with the apparitions.


 “Almost everyone goes home with some sort of supernatural experience, from hearing tapping on the walls to seeing an orb, which is how spirits often manifest themselves,” says Joy, who admits that she has seen spirits
in the house.


Heather Thompson of Fort Madison, Iowa, has taken the ghost-hunting class twice. Her most dramatic experience came when she saw a woman wearing an old-fashioned dress walk down the stairs and into a backroom—a figure no one else saw.


“Another time, I was in bed when the window shades in my room blew inwards several times, even though the windows were closed,” she recalls. “I didn’t feel threatened or scared by these experiences. In fact, I’d love to take another class.”


Why do so many spirits congregate at the Mason House? The Hansons speculate that part of the reason is that the house has been a gathering place for the local community since it was built in 1846, and that many joyful times happened within its walls. They also believe that the spirits watch over the house and that they enjoy the parade of people who come to stay. (Guests who are leery of supernatural encounters can stay in the non-historic part of the inn, which isn’t believed to be haunted.)


“We have great respect for the spirits who live here, and I think they like that,” says Chuck. “We know that they’re the longtime residents here, and we’re just temporary.” 

Before You Go



The next Ghost Hunting 101 class will be held Nov. 10. The cost is $75. Guests can stay at the inn (rates from $74–$105) or attend only the class.

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