Merle Hay Mall

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The mall and its tower are rumored to be built over a monastery that was closed in the 1950s. According to the stories, some nuns became pregnant and had miscarriages, and the babies were buried in unmarked graves at this site. Reports say ghosts of both nuns and infants have been seen here, and the tower is currently said to be haunted by a crying nun who carries a dead baby. Cold spots, a feeling of being watched, and unexplained noises have been experienced here, including footsteps. The elevator is said to move between floors with no one aboard.

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Geographic Information

Merle Hay Road and Douglas Ave
Des Moines, Iowa
United States

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41.63005, -93.70050900000001
Polk County, Iowa
Nearest Towns:
Urbandale, IA (0.6 mi.)
Clive, IA (2.2 mi.)
Windsor Heights, IA (2.3 mi.)
Johnston, IA (3.0 mi.)
West Des Moines, IA (4.6 mi.)
Saylorville, IA (5.0 mi.)
Des Moines, IA (5.1 mi.)
Grimes, IA (6.2 mi.)
Ankeny, IA (8.4 mi.)
Waukee, IA (9.6 mi.)


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Comments (18)

  1. Merle Hay mall is indeed on the site of a former monastarie. I remember seeing it and others remember the monks walking nearby. It is highly unlikely that nun’s dead babies were ever buried there.

  2. In 1978 there was a fire at the old Younkers which has been rebuilt and is now Target, ten people lost their lives in that fire including my grandmother. The survivors said it was like a ball of fire rolling through the building.,

  3. I was walking through the tower and saw a nun looking figure walking from a room to the one across the hall.I thought it was a coworker playing a prank on me I searched each room I was the only one on that floor

  4. Back in the early 1970’s I worked at the Bishop’s Buffet in Merle Hay Plaza, as it was then known. In the basement area of Bishops were storage rooms and employee locker rooms. At night it was a bit of an unsettling place to be. More than one co-worker claimed to have seen translucent apparitions of everything from Nuns in full habits to Priests in full frocks, and faint Gregorian chants. I personally observed the same priest walk down the hallway from the main storeroom to the men’s locker room and vanish into the door. I never felt threatened or menaced, but several of my female coworkers refused to use the locker room, or even go into the basement after dark.

  5. I work at the mall currently and have a lot of friends on the security staff. While I myself never experienced anything in my store, I have heard plenty of stories from the security who work overnights, though none of them include nuns or anything of the sort. I have heard four different stories of a lady in white being spotted in the tower, by multiple people on very separate occasions. I have also been told of extra mannequins being stored in the Garden Court, I believe it’s called. I’ve been told that these mannequins move around on their own, all the time. One of the staff rearranged the mannequins in order to try to scare a coworker as a prank, but in the twenty minutes before the coworker arrived, the mannequins had all moved. They also hear the sounds of children laughing, similar to the sounds that the kiddie rides on the main floor make, in the basement, where there are none of these rides and certainly shouldn’t be any children.

  6. one time when i was in the elevator in mearl hay with my sister then all of the sudden the lights flashed and a ghostly noise was heard by both of us then i closed my eyes and my sister screamed when i asked why she said she had seen a ghost of a nun her normally paper white skin was beond white and she was scared to enter the mall for the next five years

  7. I just got back from there and I had a strange feeling and heard what sounded like distant crying and whispers, and I felt like I was being watched so I turned around saw this figure that like disappeared, I decided to look up something about it and found this.

  8. I used to work there as security and there are tunnels that run under the mall that go somewhere i never had the balls to check it was way to creepy.

  9. i heard recently that there was a man who committed suicide in one of the bathrooms at the mall. it came across the police scanner that they had found an unresponsive man in the bathroom there. some witnesses had said that he hung himself in there. of course there was nothing about it on the news due to it being a suicide.. but it doesn’t make it any less creepy in my opinion.

  10. If you have ever been in Merle Hay Tower you would know few rooms are occupied. The elevators even have walls that are covered for the mentally unstable patients brought into the counseling offices. Me and my friends have played hide and seek in there and have come across some scary thing such as empty rooms with dark figures inside them and blocked off doors and even blood streaks by the doors windows to look into them.

  11. Dave (the bowling alley worker)  |  

    I currently work in the mall and I’ve heard all of these stories from coworkers but never seen anything myself just feelings of being watched and occasional strange noises. I work down in the bowling alley and take the elevator most days cause it’s faster. I haven’t been down to the hidden away basement areas yet but I’ve heard there’s abandoned stores and tunnel systems and about the mannequins moving as well as a room filled with dolls that apparently will move their heads and watch you when your not looking and sometimes even follow people. I always feel safe at the mall atleast when I’m just hanging out there or working but it’s creepy at night. If anyone has any pictures of these hidden areas please email me or something or reply idk how that works but I want to see it for myself and I’m too new to go down to the basements where I work. I kinda am hoping that one of the managers show me the abandoned underground mall areas cause I’ve only seen a small portion of a video my manager took that just showed the sort of stuff you’d see in one of those creepy abandoned malls(closed down shops, bloody walls, dirtiness, dim lights, old fountains and pillars)

  12. I work in the Target in the mall and team members have reported balls rolling back and forth across the floor in the middle of the night, toys going off with no one around, the sound of running coming up behind people, breathing in peoples ear and apparitions. That’s just a few recollections

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Disclaimer: The stories posted here are user-submitted and are, in the nature of "ghost stories," largely unverifiable. makes no claims that any of the statements posted here are factually accurate. The vast majority of information provided on this web site is anecdotal, and as such, should be viewed in the same light as local folklore and urban legends.