Was the Pi Kappa Chi House One of the Most Haunted Houses in Davenport, Iowa?

   Imagine, if you will, being a young college student who joins a fraternity. And no, I don’t mean an Animal House type of thing where they’re riding motorcycles up stairwells and having obnoxiously loud parties.

   Rather, this is a fraternity of professional men who want to become doctors in their chosen field of Chiropractic. They’re dedicating their lives to the pursuit of helping people get better, and are very, very serious about doing so.

   These young men are building reputations of respect and trust with both the community they live in and the wider world. They are quite possibly the very last people that you would ever expect to say that they live in what may have been one of the most haunted houses in the Quad Cities.

Pi Kappa Chi

   Pi Kappa Chi is a chiropractic fraternity associated closely with Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer is a notoriously difficult school to get through, and to do so demands the absolute dedication of its students.

Palmer College
Palmer School of Chiropractic, where the Pi Kappa Chi fraternity brothers worked and studied.

   In 1969, the fraternity bought a relatively modest home at 723 Main Street to become a residence for some of its members. They were probably excited to get it. It was big enough to hold several members, and was located within easy walking distance of the Palmer campus.

Main Street Davenport, IA

   After the sale was finalized, the first eager members moved in and made themselves at home. Almost immediately, inexplicable events began to take place.

Phantom Footsteps

   One day, Vernon Gielow, who was the public relations director for Palmer in the early 1970’s, was in the basement of the frat house. He was going about his business when he heard the sound of the front door opening upstairs, and then heard footsteps walking across the floor.

   Thinking that it was the paperboy or maybe some other visitor, he quickly went upstairs to greet them. When he got to the front door, however, he found it was closed, and there was no one else around. Who – or what – had made those sounds?

   The stories of supernatural phenomena happening in the house had been quietly circulating around the fraternity brothers for years at that point. But, these were professional men. Some were still students, and others who had lived there had already graduated and moved out into the working world.

   None of them wanted to be ridiculed or thought to be delusional. They had reputations, and professional images to maintain. And yet, several of them had undeniably experienced something in that house.

Never Truly Alone

   One young man from South Africa always heard noises all over the house, like someone was moving around. Living in a house with other people, he probably expected that. However, he probably didn’t expect to hear it when he was alone in the home.

  He also heard footsteps and the sounds of doors opening and closing by themselves. 

   One time, while sitting with another student, they heard the sound of the fraternity office open. Soon after, they heard the sounds of papers shuffling and moving around. Curious to see who it was, the two men got up and went to the office door, which they found firmly locked.

   Several others heard the footsteps in the house, too. Like Vernon Gielow, they would often hear the sound of the front door opening, with the steps following. Others heard the sound of the kitchen cupboards opening and closing.

   Some said that the footsteps were light and carefree, while others reported another set that were heavier, as if the person making them were angry.

   Many of the brothers experienced a feeling of being watched, either inside the house or outside of it. Some had an inexplicable feeling of dread as they approached. Whatever was happening, they weren’t entirely comfortable with it.

Unwanted Visitor

   One night, a student was in bed studying when he heard footsteps downstairs. He quietly listened as they made their way up the stairs. He began to tense as he listened to them grow closer, and then felt the first tingles of fear as they stopped outside of his bedroom door. His eyes wide, the student was almost shocked when he heard the door open, even though it was physically still closed.

   The footsteps started again, crossed his bedroom, and came to a rest beside the bed where he lay.

   Terrified, the man didn’t know what to do. He could feel a kind of presence there, almost as if someone were standing right next to the bed. Scared and nervous as he was, he did not want to admit that there was something there that he couldn’t see. So, cautiously, he turned over and faced away.

   Gradually, the feeling eased enough that the man got up and went to talk with another fraternity brother. Still, the experience had left him shaken and uneasy.

   Another time, a fraternity member who has since graduated, was sitting in his attic room when he heard footsteps climb the stairs to the bathroom. The door opened and closed, and then footsteps left again and went back downstairs.

   Soon after, another student knocked on his door and entered. The doctor asked him who else was in the house. The student replied that there wasn’t anyone else there. So what had the young man heard?

Unseen Assailant

   On rare occasions, the presence turned violent.

   One night after a party at the house, the fraternity present woke in the middle of the night feeling incredibly cold. Suddenly, he felt someone grab his throat and begin choking him. He tried to call for help, but couldn’t make a sound.  Just as suddenly as it had started, the choking stopped. Soon after, the president heard the front door slam.

   He quickly got out of bed and went around the house, where he found everyone fast asleep. The man went downstairs, turned on all the lights, and stayed up until morning. Later, he learned that other people had also experienced the same thing.

The Insistent Doors

   On another night, two students were in the living room talking when a set of glass doors leading out onto a balcony opened by themselves.  The two men though that it must have been the wind, so they crossed the room and shut the doors again, making sure they were secure.

   A few minutes later, the doors swung open again. Puzzled, the students closed the doors again, and this time pushed a heavy chiropractic adjustment table in front of them. Satisfied that the situation was resolved, they sat back down and resumed their conversation.

   A short while later, however, the doors opened again, pushing the heavy table with them!

Background Check

   Even though they were reluctant to admit it, these rational men of science and understanding had to admit that there were things going in within their house that defied conventional explanation. In short, their house was haunted.

   Looking for a reason behind the phenomena, they began to research the history of the home. They went through the abstract and exhaustively researched city directories and courthouse records.

   Their research showed that the land had originally belonged to Antoine LeClaire, one of the founding fathers of the city of Davenport. Later, the land was owned by the original St. Luke’s Hospital, which stood nearby.

   After the home was built, it was occupied by a local doctor. Later in life, he became wheelchair-bound, and buzzers were installed throughout the house so he could call for assistance no matter where he was.

   The next owners were a railroad clerk and his wife, who lived there together for nearly three decades. The wife divorced the clerk, citing cruel treatment at his hands for the reason. She continued to live in the house until 1968.

   Was one of these former residents behind the phenomena at 723 Main Street? Was it their footsteps heard walking around the house, and their presences felt? Perhaps it was all of them, still so attached to their beloved home in death that they could not bear to leave.

   Ultimately, we’ll probably never really know.

   But, what we do know is that a group of young professionals lived in a house where strange things happened. They know what they saw, and sometimes, more disturbingly, did not see.

   They tell their stories with some reluctance, because they do not want to be labeled delusional, or thought to be prone to flights of fancy. Some of them aren’t even sure if they believe in the supernatural. However, they know they experienced something beyond conventional explanation, things that they don’t understand. Whether we believe or not, is up to us.

  You have been reading John Brassard Jr., the Kitchen Table Historian. Please check in every week or so for brand new true stories of triumph, tragedy, and everything in-between.

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