There was a school near Linn County, Iowa, which was recently demolished. I was on my way to an overnight stay at Edinburgh Manor, in Scotch Grove, and noticed a decaying building. I mapped it and returned the next morning. Luckily, there was a man working inside the school, so he allowed us to explore the inside, helping us to avoid the dangerous parts. Many of the upstairs classrooms had floors so rotten they were falling in.
This one-building school was built in 1922, and the gymnasium in 1955. The last class in the school was in 1998, and the structure sat in disrepair after that. Once the roof started leaking, the decay worsened. The director of the County Public Health discussed declaring the property hazardous, although it was never condemned.
In the year 2000, the building was obtained with the plan of becoming apartments, which never happened.
In 2012, the Stone City Art Foundation obtained the building, planning to turn it into a nonprofit art facility. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places.
I really hope the mural by the students was salvaged, but I have no idea.
Heidi Liegl purchased the property, including the 4-acre grounds it sat on for only $10,000 with the intention of turning it into a community center. The decay was just too great for her to repair. In 2016, she partnered with a paranormal investigator with the International Paranormal Society, Sarah Hyatt. They planned to offer nighttime ghost-hunting tours to adults, with the proceeds going toward repairing the roof. Before the tours started, the Linn County Department of Planning and Development declared the building unsafe for the public. The entrances were then secured, and the piles of debris removed (from people piling their branches after a major storm).
Before I walked into the inside (I was photographing the outside), my daughter and friend went inside. The guy working there was trying to clean out all of the usable wood, because the owner was set on having it torn down. She had plans of putting a vineyard on the property, and planned to salvage the gymnasium.
The worker told my friend and daughter the school was haunted by a janitor who died in the gym, and a former student.
I found one article about a former teacher from the school passed away in a car accident on the way back to Viola from Illinois. Her name was Laura E. Stewart.
I found another article from March 2, 1988 that was quite disturbing. A janitor who was in his 11th year of employment at the Viola Elementary School was accused of raping a 6-year-old student. The little girl was sleeping in a small resource room (naps were a normal routine for resource students). The police learned of the assault when the student told her parents she didn’t want to go to school the next day, saying someone there hurt her. William Parker, age 56 was arrested on school grounds. The student suffered vaginal trauma. Charges against him were dropped due to insufficient evidence. The information from other witnesses did not corroborate with the girl’s story. Results from the physical testing also went against her claim. Another article from March of 1992 stated John and Randall McBride were arrested for sexually abusing their two children. Mr. McBride was charged with five counts of second-degree sexual abuse of their 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. His wife was charged with aiding and abetting. The investigation started in December of that year. The kids were removed from the home. The daughter was the same girl who the janitor was accused of abusing four years prior. I could not find any record of what happened to Mr. Parker after he was acquitted. Did he possibly go back to the school once he passed away? Possibly. He could never work in the school again, and I’m guessing his reputation was ruined. My theory is the father hurt her and the janitor took the fall.
As the the student who is supposed to haunt the school, I could not find anything about a student dying in the school. I did find articles about a boy having a classroom accident (burned with acid on his face), although he did not die.
After editing my photos, I captured some anomalies, so after you review them you can decide for yourself if you think it was haunted.
So was Viola Elementary School haunted? I think so, what do you think?
Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.