The Midwest is best known for its miles of farmland, intense college football rivalries, and unpredictable weather. You may be surprised, then, to discover that America’s Heartland is also home to some seriously haunted locations.

In rural eastern Iowa, a sprawling manor sits abandoned, but not empty. A former poor farm and sanctuary for the destitute, Edinburgh Manor is now home to restless and unhappy spirits.

This article will explore the manor’s transformation from a well-meaning institution into a spectral time capsule of trauma and mistreatment.

Poor Farms in America

Poor farms were commonplace in the 19th century, housing those that were unable to provide for themselves. Such facilities were often working farms, and residents were meant to work in the fields or in the house, in exchange for their room and board.

Many who ended up on these farms though, were mentally or physically disabled, or too elderly to perform any sort of manual labor. Poor farms often were treated as a dumping ground for those whose families no longer wished to take care of them.

Like many residential institutions of this time, poor farms frequently struggled with both overcrowding and understaffing. In many cases, this, combined with the varying levels of capability among the residents, led to rampant abuse.

In the case of Iowa’s Edinburgh Manor, the trauma that occurred within these walls left an imprint of unsettled energy that would linger long past the closing of the farm.

Edinburgh Manor History

The land on which Edinburgh Manor was built was originally intended to be the site of the Jones County courthouse. In 1840, the now dissolved town of Edinburgh, Iowa served as the county seat.

President James Buchanan signed a grant that would allow for a plot of land to be designated as the courthouse. However, shortly after this grant was signed, the county government moved their seat 10 miles west to the town of Anamosa. Rather than forfeit the land grant, the county opted to use the plot to build a poor farm.

The Jones County Home opened on this land in 1850, surrounded by 11 acres of corn fields. According to records, at least 30 people lived in the home at any given time. Although they were free to come and go as they pleased, residents were referred to as “inmates”, and many stayed on the farm until the end of their lives.

Edinburgh Manor Iowa
There are over 230 documented deaths on the property, with at least 80 of them buried in a pauper’s cemetery on site.

There are rumors that allege that there were other deaths that were not properly recorded, and these inmates were buried in unmarked graves around the estate.

In 1909, the Jones County Board of Supervisors decided to build a newer and larger residential home on the farm. The original home was closed and demolished in 1910, and the new home, Edinburgh Manor, was opened the following year.

The Manor stands two stories tall and covers 12,000 square feet including the basement. Just as the poor farm had done, the Manor housed both men and women. The west side of the building was designated to the men, and the women kept to the east side.

Despite this separation of the sexes, sexual abuse was a prevalent issue, both at the hands of inmates and employees of the home. Additionally, residents suffering with mental illness faced the use of harsh restraints in response to their symptoms.

Edinburgh Manor remained in operation into the 2000s, continuing to take in the mentally unwell and the elderly. By this time, the building cost $500,000 a year to maintain and operate.

In an effort to reduce costs, the county hired a not-for-profit company, Community Care Inc., to take over and provide proper mental health services and care for the older residents.

Edinburgh Manor Haunted Corridor
Community Care, however, deemed the Manor “dangerous… and not conducive to having disabled people live there.”

They made the decision to move the Manor’s residents to a newly renovated hospital in Anamosa in October 2009.

Edinburgh Manor was officially closed in November of 2010, leaving nearly everything behind. Shortly after, the Manor was purchased by a couple intending to restore the property and turn it into a bed and breakfast.

It quickly became apparent that bringing the property up to a habitable state was a bigger and more expensive job than initially thought. Not only were significant repairs required, but the work was made more difficult by unexplainable interruptions.

The new owners decided to pivot from the original plan and open Edinburgh Manor for paranormal investigators instead.

Ghosts of Edinburgh Manor

The Manor seems to be alive with activity at all hours of the day. Giggling, footsteps, EVPs, apparitions, and poltergeist activity are all reported, even in broad daylight.

The first floor of the home has several individual entities that have been noted. One such entity is that of a little girl named Susie. Susie is said to be a very playful and sweet spirit.

She can often be heard singing, laughing, or running down hallways. She likes to play with the toys in room 106 and is more likely to interact with investigators if they bring their own toys. She is commonly associated with items moving on their own.

Haunted room at the Edinburgh Manor
Another spirit that lurks on the first floor is that of a man who is rumored to have committed suicide in the janitor’s closet.

He is generally encountered in room 121 but has also been seen walking down the hall to room 108.

This man is said to be the cause for feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. A photo captured by a paranormal group outside of the Manor shows the apparition of a man in a first-floor window, with a white face and sunken eyes.

The second floor is known for physical interactions. When the new owners first took over Edinburgh Manor, one slept in room 200 and woke in the night to the feeling of someone squeezing his foot.

Later, an EVP was captured in the same room, stating, “I grabbed you.” A woman in a white dress is also seen on the second floor at the top of the stairwell.

This apparition is exclusively seen between the hours of 12 and 2 in the afternoon. Sometimes, a white mist can be seen floating near the ceiling at the top of the stairwell instead.

The basement is home to a darker energy. The door to the basement tends to open and slam shut on its own. Visitors have felt invisible forces pulling on them and grabbing their necks.

There are two male spirits thought to dwell on the lowest floor. One is often seen as a full-bodied apparition. He appears as a tall man, wearing a brown cowboy hat and a long brown duster.  Just like the woman in white, the cowboy is only encountered between 12 and 2 pm.

The Joker Ghost at Edinburgh Manor
The most infamous spirit in Edinburgh Manor, is known as the Joker.

The Joker is thought to be a malevolent spirit. He is known to touch people, leave marks, and throw objects to the floor, including dishes from the basement dining room. He appears as a tall, slender man with an unsettling smile on his face.

He is encountered all throughout the basement but is particularly fond of the padded room, where it is believed he took his own life. He tends to show himself as orbs in photos or as a shadow figure.

He is often associated with the feeling of hands around visitors’ necks, difficulty breathing, and the feeling of being strangled.

Edinburgh Manor Today

Haunted Edinburgh Manor Ghost Hunts

Today, Edinburgh Manor is open for both daytime tours and overnight stays. Any visits to the property must be reserved in advance. The fee for a daytime tour is $10 per person and must be paid in cash.

Available dates can be found on the Edinburgh Manor website. You can also book the manor for paranormal investigations!