Ghosts of the Prairie

Dubuque, Iowa

The Ham House is a gothic mansion that is located on the north end of Dubuque. It looks out over the Mississippi River, standing as a historic reminder of days gone by. But everything in the house may not be quite what it seems.... because as the years have passed, visitors to the house report that a strange presence lurks here, manifesting itself in unexplainable lights and in cold chills that seem to originate from nowhere.

The mansion began as a stone cottage in 1840 and shipping tycoon, Mathias Ham, lived there with his wife in five children. His first wife died in 1856 and he married again four years later. At the same time, he started to expand the house into the twenty-three room mansion that can be seen today.

The family was one of the most socially prominent in the city and Ham had a tower added onto the house to watch the movements of his ships on the river below. His wife, Margaret, passed away in 1874 and Mathias Ham himself died several years later in 1889. Two of the Ham daughters, May and Sarah, still lived at home but May died in the 1890's, leaving Sarah alone in the rambling mansion.

Late one night, an intruder broke into the house and when he approached Sarah's door, she fired two shots into it with a pistol. A blood trail was found leading from the door to the river outside. The body of a river pirate was found near the muddy banks. Some say that a mysterious light, which has been observed near the house, is that of a ghostly lamp which is carried by this old pirate as he seeks his revenge.

Since 1964, the Ham house has been operated as a museum by the Dubuque County Historical Society. The staff members here regularly report strange incidents like opening windows, phantom footsteps and odd electrical problems.

The Mathias Ham House can be found in Dubuque, Iowa at the junctions of the Iowa-Illinois-Wisconsin borders. The house is located along Lincoln Street on the north side of the city.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
. All Rights Reserved.

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