Go Ahead, Call the Electrician—But Don't Expect a Quick Fix

John Francis Rague, architect of Iowa's Old Capitol, poured his monumentalist talents into this 1856 Italianate mansion for Dubuque lead mining mogul Mathias Ham. From his riverside mansion, Ham monitored merchant and pirate ships along the Mississippi. The house eventually passed to his children. His last unmarried daughter, Sarah, was living alone there when she shot an intruding buccaneer and killed him. In 1964 when the house was converted to a museum, the pirate ghost took to shivering timbers: lights turned off and on by themselves; organ music streamed from sockets. Electricians couldn't figure it out. But current curator Tacie Campbell seems as if she has—she says the haunting was a hoax concocted by well-meaning volunteers trying to drum up interest in the nascent landmark.
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