It was the Spring of 1972, and a group of young men in Davenport, Iowa were hosting a very unusual woman as their guest.
This isn’t to say that she was rude and untoward; quite the contrary. A southern-born woman who had called Chicago her home for several years, their guest was very polite and congenial. What made her unusual were her rather peculiar gifts.
Since the age of four, Irene Hughes had exhibited psychic abilities that included an ability to predict future events, understand the past history of a given place, and, of course, to talk to spirits. It was this latter gift that had caused her hosts to contact her in the first place.
In the early 1970’s, Irene Hughes was one of the most reputable psychics in the world. She was said to have had an uncanny accuracy in predicting certain types of future events, including the deaths of both President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert. Hughes listed several successful, famous, and powerful people among her clientele.
When her hosts, the Pi Kappa Chi Chiropractic fraternity, were at wits end to explain several instances of bizarre and seemingly paranormal events that took place in their fraternity house, they decided to contact Hughes, an expert in her field.
The mention of fraternities often conjure to mind images of alcohol-fueled college mega parties, where people ride motorcycles up stairwells and commit outrageous pranks on the unsuspecting. However, this image is usually far from accurate, especially in this case.
This fraternity of professional men wanted to become doctors in their chosen field of Chiropractic. They’ve dedicated their lives to the pursuit of helping people get better, and are very, very serious about doing so.
They work very hard to build bonds 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 Eastern Iowa.
Pi Kappa Chi was, and is, associated closely with Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.
Modern Chiropractic more or less began in downtown Davenport, when Daniel David Palmer, a man with a keen interest in science and anatomy, performed the first chiropractic adjustment on a local janitor.
It had a profound effect on the man’s health and well-being, intriguing Palmer. Over the next few years, he began an extensive study of the effects of spinal manipulations on an individuals health.
By 1897, Daniel Palmer founded the world’s first school of chiropractic in Davenport, dedicated to teaching his own methods, but also developing and researching better ones as developments and discoveries opened new doors of knowledge in science and medicine.
Daniel David Palmer. Courtesy of Wikipedia
From then on, Palmer College of Chiropractic, as it would eventually become known, would be the premiere school of chiropractic in the world.
Palmer is a notoriously difficult school to get through, and to do so demands the absolute dedication of its students.
In 1969, the Pi Kappa Chi 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 people, and was located within easy walking distance of the Palmer campus.
After the sale was finalized, the first eager members moved in and made themselves at home. Almost immediately, inexplicable events began to take place.
The stories of supernatural phenomena happening there circulated quietly among the fraternity brothers over the next several years . 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.
One day, in the early 1970’s, Vernon Gielow, who was the public relations director for Palmer at that time, was going about his business in the home’s basement. As he did, he distinctly heard the sound of the front door opening upstairs, and then footsteps walking across the floor.
Thinking that it was maybe a 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.
Another man claimed that he 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.
Once, while sitting with another student, they heard the door to 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 members also heard footsteps in the house. 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 as well.
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.
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 thought 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 once more closed them, 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 for a third time, pushing the heavy table with them!
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.
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’s fear grew when he heard the door open, even though it was physically still closed.
The footsteps started again, slowly crossing his bedroom, toward the bed. They stopped directly beside him.
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 still didn’t 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 in an effort to calm his nerves. While it helped, the experience had still left him shaken and uneasy.
Still, as disturbing as it had been, nothing bad had happened to the student. Others were not so fortunate.
One night after a party at the house, a resident 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, they 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.
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 other words, their house was haunted.
Looking for a reason behind the phenomena, they began to research the history of the home, researching the abstract, courthouse records, and city directories.
Their research took them back to the earliest years of the region, when it was owned first by a founding father of the city and later a local hospital.
After the home was built, it was occupied for decades by Dr. William A. Stoecks, a very prominent doctor in Davenport throughout the first half of the 20th century.
Stoecks had been born and raised in Monmouth, Illinois. After attending medical school, he ended up in Davenport, where he began to very successfully practice his craft.
Outside of practicing medicine full time, Stoecks was also very civic minded, and sought to serve both the local medical community and the city as a whole. He served on hospital staffs, and as president of the Scott County Medical Society. Stoecks also served several terms as city physician, an elected position that made him the official doctor who tended to the cities health, dealing with such things as clean drinking water, sanitation as it effected the communities health, and disease outbreaks.
During the First World War, Stoecks left his practice to serve in the war effort, and served as a captain in the United States Medical Corps. After his time in the Army was complete, he returned home and resumed his work.
He continued to practice medicine at the highest levels that he could, and became active in both fraternal orders and local politics. In the late 1930’s and again in 1940, Stoecks unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of the City of Davenport.
Through it all, he continued to live at 723 Main Street until his death at the age of 83 in 1961.
Later owners included a railroad clerk and his wife. The wife divorced her husband, citing cruel treatment from him as the cause. She continued to live in the house until 1968.
While they were more educated about the history of the house, nothing could be said to definitively say who – or what- might have been behind these actions. They needed something a little more, someone with more insight into these matters.
And so, on a May afternoon in 1972, they watched as renowned psychic Irene Hughes made her way through their house.
She was taken there without being given any knowledge of the location or the events that took place. Her companion, writer Brad Steiger, later wrote that they didn’t even tell Irene where they were going that day.
As she wandered from room to room, Hughes began to recount the history of the home with startling accuracy, just as she had done at several other locations.
Soon, Hughes inferred that, although there was more then one spirit there, the main one was a doctor. She further claimed that he felt the young men were disturbing him, and that he also disagreed with their chosen profession of chiropractic.
Through a combination of their personal research and the psychic gifts of Irene Hughes, the Pi Kappa Chi fraternity brothers now believed that their house was haunted by the ghost of the former resident, William Stoecks.
Was Dr. Stoecks truly behind the phenomena at 723 Main Street? Was it his footsteps heard walking around the house, and his presence felt?
Despite having gained more acceptance over the years, Chiropractic has been ridiculed by members of the medical community for decades, with many of them arguing that its so much nonsense. This was especially true in the early years, when Stoecks was practicing.
He had also lived in the house for over thirty years, and no doubt would have thought of it as his private and personal space. When the fraternity brothers moved in, it stands to reason that Stoecks would have been upset.
But Hughes had said that, although perturbed, Stoecks ultimately meant the fraternity no harm. She had also suggested that while he was the primary ghost within the house, he wasn’t the only one. Was it one of these others that had choked and attacked some of the residents?
Ultimately, we’ll probably never really know.
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 more disturbingly, did not see.
They tell told stories with some reluctance, because they didn’t want to be labeled delusional, or thought to be prone to flights of fancy. Some of them weren’t even sure if they believed in the supernatural. However, they know they experienced something beyond conventional explanation, things that they didn’t understand.
With little other recourse, they learned to live with things. Not much is known about any haunting activities going on in the fraternity house today, so it can be safely assumed that they were successful. Perhaps the hauntings died away, as they often do.
Then again, maybe all of the residents at 723 Main Street – both living and dead – have learned to live with their uninvited guests.
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Sheridan, Joe. Irene Hughes – Psychic Investigator. Quad City Times, 5/15/1977
Steiger, Brad. Psychic Safaris. Quad City Times, 12/10/1972
Dr. W.A. Stoecks New President of the Medics. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 11/7/1929
Nominate A Winner. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 2/24/1938
Dr. Stoecks Says Follow Advice of Medical Men. The Daily Times, 12/7/1918
Dr. W.A. Stoecks Consents To Become Candidate for Mayor if Party Decrees. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 10/15/1937
Democrats Have Representative Citizen for Mayor in Dr. W.A. Stoecks. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 1/24/1940
25 Years Ago. Quad City Times, 3/30/1965
Dr. Stoecks Dies at 83. 10/18/1961
Arpy, Jim. The fraternity brothers are shaking their heads (and in their boots) over theh mystery on Main Street. Quad City Times, 2/15/1981
Arpy, Jim. Is This Davenport House. Quad City Times, 3/29/1972
Arpy, Jim. A Ghost Chaser Unravels the Mystery of Davenport’s ‘Haunted House.’ Quad City Times, 5/11/1972