Davenport, Iowa, has played host to several strange events over its long existence, but certainly one of the strangest took place in 1919.
In March of that year, a 41-year-old doctor named William A. Stoecks was working on the third floor of one of the city’s hospitals, Mercy Hospital. As he went about his business, he saw something fall past the window outside.
It was too large to be a bird, and for the life of him, Stoecks couldn’t figure out what it was. Curious, he went to the window to find out. There, on the ground far below, lay a woman’s body. Moving quickly, Stoecks ran outside to the woman’s aid, but it was already too late. She died a short time later.
It was determined that, in a fit of delirium, the woman had either jumped or fallen from her fourth-floor hospital room window directly above the room where Stoecks had been.
While the woman’s death was both sad and tragic, there was nothing left to do but release the body to the family and allow them to grieve in peace.
No doubt Stoecks must have thought the incident strange and unusual. In time, however, even stranger and more bizarre happenings would be associated with Dr. Stoeck’s name.
William August Stoecks was born on October 10, 1878, in Monmouth, Illinois. He was the oldest of four children born to German immigrants Henry and Sophia Stoecks.
William decided to pursue a career in medicine, earning his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, he decided to come back to the Midwest and settle in Davenport, Iowa.
Stoecks entered into a very successful private practice with other local doctors. He also joined the staff of both the hospitals in Davenport at that time: Mercy Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital.
A very civic-minded man, Stoecks was soon appointed to the office of City Physician, an elected position that made him the doctor responsible for the city’s overall health. This included dealing with such things as clean drinking water, sanitation, and outbreaks of disease.
In 1907, Stoecks married a young woman named Anna Koch. They settled into a modest, two-story wooden frame house at 723 Main Street in Davenport. The house was more than adequate for the two of them and was situated very close by William’s private practice and St. Luke’s Hospital.
Over the next decade, Stoecks continued to build his reputation as an excellent doctor. In his free time, he enjoyed membership in several fraternal orders, including the Elks.
When the United States entered World War I, Stoecks joined the war effort. He entered the United States Medical Corps, employing his skills as an experienced doctor and surgeon to treat terrible wounds inflicted on soldiers coming back from the war front. Stoecks earned the rank of Captain before receiving an honorable discharge and returning home to resume his practice.
In 1923, after being married for 16 years, William and Anna divorced. The following year, William married a second time, this time to 29-year-old Madelyn Moore. William settled back into his life at 723 Main Street with his new bride.
Already active in local politics, Stoecks ran for mayor of Davenport as the nominee of the Democratic party twice, once in the late 1930’s and again in 1940. He lost both times. Around the same time, another blow came to him in his personal life. By 1940, William and Madelyn had divorced, deciding to go their separate ways.
William continued to live on his own for several years, but by the late 1940’s, William was no longer able to practice medicine due to his declining health. Now in his old age and needing assistance, Stoecks had Carl and Dorothy Ploehn move in with him, along with their 33-year-old son.
In 1961, William passed away at Mercy Hospital. He was 83 years old.
. Eight years later, another group of men purchased the house on 723 Main Street.
In 1969, the leadership of Pi Kappa Chi, a chiropractic fraternity, bought the home at 723 Main Street to become a residence for some of its members. The campus of Palmer College of Chiropractic, where they all either worked or attended classes, was only a few blocks away.
The house was a fantastic boon for the fraternity, and the first eligible members quickly moved in, ready to take full advantage of it. However, they soon discovered that they didn’t seem to be the only ones in the house.
Strange stories began to circulate quietly amongst the fraternity brothers. Several of them had experienced unexplainable things in the house, but they were cautious who they told. They were young men who were trying their best to establish themselves in the world. They were building careers and reputations, and they were afraid that talking openly about some of the things that they had seen might damage both.
Then, in early 1972, Vernon Gielow, the public relations director for Palmer College, had an experience that would change all of that.
As a fraternity member, he would sometimes visit the house. One day, he was in the basement when he heard the front door open upstairs, followed by the distinct sound of footsteps walking across the floor.
Gielow thought that it might be the paperboy, so he stopped what he was doing and headed upstairs to greet them. But when he got there only a minute later, he found that the front door was securely closed and there was no one there.
He couldn’t believe it. Gielow knew he had heard that door open and close, and he knew that he had heard those footsteps. It hadn’t been his imagination. Gielow couldn’t explain it.
As he puzzled over the incident, he began to remember rumors that he had heard from some of the fraternity brothers over the years describing similar incidents. When he had first heard them, Gielow had just dismissed them as gossip, or maybe someone trying to pull his leg. But now he wasn’t so sure.
But unlike other people, Gielow wasn’t willing to keep the incident quiet. He wanted to understand what had happened. Over the next few days, he began to talk to other members. One by one, several of them divulged their own stories of inexplicable happenings in the house.
Soon after, the fraternity brothers approached local reporter and editor Jim Arpy with their story.
Intrigued, Arpy proceeded to approach several members of the fraternity about their experiences in the house. This included Gielow, as well as two other faculty members at Palmer College. Arpy interviewed these men privately, separately from each other. Oddly enough, many of their personal experiences were eerily similar.
The most common phenomenon that happened in the home were phantom sounds and footsteps. Many of the fraternity members described similar sounds, if not the exact same ones.
Hugo Gibson, a resident of the house, claimed to have heard footsteps moving through the house when he knew he was alone. The footsteps were accompanied by the sounds of opening and closing doors, or someone rummaging around in the kitchen as if they were looking for something.
Gibson heard these sounds so often that he began to make notes about them.
To him, it seemed like there was more than one phantom visitor. One had heavy, deliberate footsteps, seeming to stride confidently through the home, while another moved with a much lighter tread. Sometimes the doors just opened and closed, and other times it sounded as if they were begin thrown open and slammed shut.
One night, Gibson was sitting with another student resident in the home when they both heard the door to the fraternity office open. This immediately got their attention because not only was no one else there, but that door was always kept firmly shut and locked.
Curious, they got up to investigate.
As they approached, they could both clearly hear drawers being opened and closed, and papers being moved around. When they went to open the door to see who was inside, they discovered that it was still locked.
Another resident described how he was in his attic room one night when he heard the front door open. He wasn’t surprised when he heard steps ascend the stairs and go into the bathroom. The bathroom door closed, then opened again, with footsteps walking down the hall and then downstairs.
Not too long after, one of his fraternity brothers came in to talk. During the course of the conversation, the resident asked who else was in the house. Slightly confused, the other fraternity member explained that they were the only ones there, and that there hadn’t been anyone else there until he had come in.
On another occasion, a student was in bed studying when he heard footsteps downstairs. He quietly listened as they made their way up the stairs. There was something that he didn’t like about them, and he began to feel uneasy as they made their way steadily closer.
The first chills of fear began to creep up his spine as the resident heard the footsteps stop outside of his bedroom door. The feeling only deepened as he heard the door open, despite the fact that the door itself never physically opened.
The footsteps started again, slowly crossing his bedroom, toward the bed. There was no one there, and yet the resident heard those footsteps making their way toward him. 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. Despite his fear and what his senses were telling him, the resident stubbornly 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.
While the spirits in the house seemed to manifest themselves primarily through sounds, it wasn’t the only way.
In one of the rooms, the fraternity brothers had hung a heavy wall plaque that listed the names of all the fraternity’s charter members. On different occasions, people in the house watched as the plaque began to vibrate and rattle on its own.
The residents tried their best to reproduce the phenomena by stomping on the floor around it, or walking hard on the floor above it, but to no avail. As they had already discovered when they tried the same methodology to explain away the phantom footsteps, the house was rock solid.
In 1972, the fraternity brothers were offered a unique opportunity to learn more about the mysterious circumstances happening in their home.
At that time, author Brad Steiger was touring the country with a Chicago woman named Irene Hughes.
Since the age of four, Irene Hughes had exhibited peculiar abilities that included an ability to predict future events, understand the past history of a given place or person, and, of course, to talk to spirits. After having developed her alleged psychic abilities over a lifetime, by 1972 she listed several successful, famous, and powerful people amongst her clientele.
The fraternity brothers knew that they needed an expert, and Irene Hughes was one of the most reputable psychics in the world at that time. After some discussion and probably more than a little hesitation, they reached out to Steiger to see about bringing Hughes to Davenport.
Arrangements were made, and in May of 1972, Hughes and Steiger came to the Phi Kappa Chi house. She was told absolutely nothing about any of the phenomenon that had taken place there. Hughes was simply told that she was begin brought to Davenport to use her powers in some capacity.
The fraternity brothers weren’t exactly sure what to expect out of Hughes. Thankfully, they found her polite, congenial, and professional. If they had any initial doubts about her abilities, she tried to put it to rest by telling them things about themselves – both in their personal and professional lives – that no one else could have known, let alone a stranger.
After the initial meeting, Hughes began to tell the assembled men her impressions. Curiously, she accurately described the second floor and the attic areas, including items that were there, without ever going upstairs.
She said that although she sensed many different spirits in the house, the strongest presence by far was a medical doctor who had a keen interest in politics during his life. Hughes explained that she kept seeing him during various periods of his life, at some points walking through the home having political debates with himself.
The spirit was allegedly angry with one of the residents because that individual wasn’t doing things the way the spirit thought they should be done. However, while the entity might not have approved, it didn’t mean anyone in the house any harm.
According to Hughes, there were other spirits in the house, as well. This included an old man, a disgruntled spirit who had died in the home and was resentful about it, and a woman named Ruth who was rocking a cradle.
After Hughes left, the brothers began to investigate the history of the house. Although some of her impressions couldn’t be verified, and others were completely wrong, several of Hughes insights were uncannily accurate.
It didn’t take long before they discovered that the house had belonged to William Stoecks, as well as information about his life. They were also able to find pictures of him.
During her session, she had described the physical features of the doctor as he appeared to her. When they compared this to the pictures of Stoecks that they had found, the fraternity was shocked to see that Hughes had described the doctor almost perfectly.
Was it possible that William Stoecks was still occupying the house on 723 Main? Outside of the description that she had given of him, the fraternity members were able to match several parts of his life to the information Hughes had provided them. This included him being a doctor and surgeon, his having served in the military during war time, and his keen interest in politics.
For the time being, the fraternity brothers were satisfied with the answers they had gotten. At least now that could – maybe – put a name to the face. While that might have been some small comfort, it still didn’t make the occurrences in the home any less disturbing.
Never seeking publicity for the events in the home, the fraternity was more than happy to allow everything to quiet down again and let the story fade back into obscurity.
In 1981, Jim Arpy decided to follow up on the story with the fraternity to see if things had quieted down since the early 70’s. To his surprise, the activity had not only continued, but had, in some ways, escalated.
One man, Jim DuBel, explained that he had been nominated fraternity president in 1979. One night, he heard someone walking down the hallway outside of his second-floor bedroom. He had figured that it was one of the other residents and went to bed.
A short time later, he awakened with a jolt. The room had become incredibly cold. Suddenly, he felt something grab him by the neck and push him backwards. Startled but fully aware, DuBel tried to call out for help, but his breath was cut off by the unseen, strangling hands.
Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the unseen hand released him. As he sat there, gasping, DuBel heard the front door slam. He immediately went downstairs and turned on every light he could find, along with the television. As soon as he knew that the school cafeteria was open, he left the house and went there as quickly as he could.
DuBel later found out that at least three former fraternity presidents had experienced very similar choking by unseen hands.
Another night, two students were in the living room 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 shut the doors again, made sure they were secure, and returned to their conversation.
A few minutes later, the doors swung open again. Puzzled, the students closed them again, and this time pushed a heavy chiropractic adjustment table in front of them. Satisfied that the situation was resolved, they sat back down.
As they talked, they heard a sliding sound coming from the doors. They looked in time to see the doors opening a third time, pushing the table with them!
On another occasion, two men were in the house by themselves when they heard someone moving around in the bathroom. After they heard the toilet flush, one of them went to investigate. The bathroom was empty, but the water was still swirling around the bowl, obviously just having been flushed.
Once, when DuBel was sleeping in the basement with his dog, he was awoken at 4 o’clock in the morning. The room was unbelievably cold, despite it being nearly 90 degrees outside.
DuBel later said that he felt terrified, even though there was no reason to be. Whatever it was, his dog must have felt it, too. The animal was whining, obviously bothered by something. DuBel had enough. Taking the dog, he began to make his way upstairs.
Just as he hit the top stair, the front door of the house flew open and a woman who lived next door came rushing in. DuBel noticed that she seemed scared and was covered in duct tape. Asking her what the matter was, the woman blurted out that someone had broken into her house, taped her up, and robbed her.
What was strange was that DuBel was positive that the door had been locked. However, the woman had been able to simply walk into the house. Who had unlocked the door to allow her inside?
Coming home one night, Bob Gleason noticed that there was a blue light on in one of the second-floor windows. No other lights were on in the house at the time. Gleason didn’t think that the person who lived in that room had any kind of blue light, but he assumed that they must have put one in at some point.
Going inside, he realized that he was the only one home. He went upstairs to shut the blue light off. As he entered the room, Gleason realized that there was no light of any kind on in that room. What had caused the blue light?
Just a short time before Arpy contacted the fraternity in 1981, all of the power in the house suddenly went out, along with the home’s boiler. A few of the residents were using a vacuum when this happened, so everyone figured that they must have blown a fuse. The boiler didn’t make sense to them, though, because it wasn’t connected to the home’s electrical system.
The residents went downstairs and replaced the fuses, but the lights refused to come back on. Calling another fraternity member who worked as an electrician, they asked him to come over and help. That individual couldn’t find anything wrong with the wiring, and so replaced the fuses again. Still, the lights wouldn’t come back on.
Stumped, the residents called yet another electrician to come and take a look at their problem. They couldn’t find anything wrong either, so they replaced the fuses again. This time, however, all the lights came back on without any kind of issue.
A repairman with the utility company that serviced the home came out to examine the boiler. It was sealed behind a plywood partition that couldn’t be accessed without removing the plywood.
Looking it over, the repairman found an old toggle switch that turned the boiler on and off. Flicking the switch, the boiler roared back to life. Although the issue had been solved, it still didn’t answer how the switch had been flipped behind a sealed plywood panel with no exterior access.
After the 1981 article by Arpy, the fraternity once again allowed the story to go quiet. They kept any further happenings in the home to themselves. Outside of a séance held there in the 1990’s to select local media members, no more ghost stories came out of the house.
Was William Stoecks still walking the halls of his former home? Was he just one of many, lost and lonely souls looking to influence the living world?
These phenomena raise questions that cannot be definitively answered. The men that occupied 723 Main Street between 1969 and 1981 knew what they saw and experienced, and there can be little doubt that they have long ago made peace with the fact that there may never be a rational explanation to satisfy them.
William Stoecks dedicated his life to helping and healing other people. He served the people of Iowa and Illinois as a doctor and surgeon, then later served the nation treating the soldiers maimed on the battlefields of Europe and the sick with Spanish Influenza. After he died in 1961, did he stay on in the house, eventually interacting with a new generation of healers?
In 2021, the house was demolished. The basement was filled in, and the ground leveled. No sign remains that there was ever a home there at all. Perhaps, now that it’s gone, Stoecks – along with the other resident spirits of 723 Main – will finally find their final rest.
Arpy, Jim. A Ghost Chaser Unravels the Mystery of Davenport’s ‘Haunted House.’ The Times-Democrat, 5/11/1972
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
William A. Stoecks, www.findagrave.com
25 Years Ago. Quad City Times, 3/30/1965
Dr. Stoecks Dies at 83. The Daily Times, 10/18/1961
Doctor, Active in Politics, Dies. The Morning Democrat, 10/19/1961
Saturday Rites Set for Doctor. The Daily Times, 10/19/1961
Arpy, Jim. The fraternity brothers are shaking their heads (and in their boots) over the mystery on Main Street. Quad City Times, 2/15/1981
Arpy, Jim. Haunted House. The Times-Democrat, 4/11/1972
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
Iowa Department of Public Health; Des Moines, Iowa; Series Title: Iowa Marriage Records, 1923–1937; Record Type: Marriage
Stoecks-Moore. Rock Island Argus, 8/26/1924
Dr. Stoecks Wedded to Miss Koch of Davenport. The Daily Times, 1/28/1907
Stoecks Asks a Divorce. The Daily Times, 1/27/1923
Dr. W.A. Stoecks Defeated in 1938 Primary by Charles Gimble, to Be Democratic Candidate for May. The Daily Times, 1/23/1940
Commits Suicide to Avoid Capture. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 2/3/1913
Jim Thorpe, Great Indian Athlete, Writes Dr. Stoecks. Democrat and Leader, 3/12/1950
Year: 1900; Census Place: Monmouth, Warren, Illinois; Roll: 350; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0092; FHL microfilm: 1240350
Year: 1930; Census Place: Davenport, Scott, Iowa; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 0034; FHL microfilm: 2340416
Year: 1940; Census Place: Davenport, Scott, Iowa; Roll: m-t0627-01203; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 82-47B
Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.