Meservey, Iowa—Despite a struggling economy and numerous code violations, Irv and Erma’s Roadside Inn in north Iowa soldiers on.
Owner Linda Monroe has operated the 16-room motel the past seven years.
“I was really hoping Conde Nast was going to come, but I guess you’ll do,” Monroe said to a MMW News Network reporter during a recent visit.
Monroe, a girthy woman in her mid-50s with an array of bedazzled muumuus, purchased the facility from previous owners Irv and Erma Sharpe. The Sharpes opened the inn shortly after marrying 1967.
“Real nice people. Hard working, dedicated to the community,” Monroe said. “They’re buried out back.”
Monroe and the Sharpes, though, had differing management philosophies. The previous owners wanted to provide clean, comfortable rooms at a fair price while Monroe has taken a different approach.
“You want a boring old room that hasn’t been used in a séance, go to Super 8,” Monroe said. “You pay your $25 a night, and I don’t ask any questions. I got two rules: 1. I get to keep any sex toys left behind. 2. The cops tell me if I find any body parts I gotta let them know. I tell that to Rollie, our housekeeper, all the time. ‘Rollie, don’t keep them eyeballs.’ ”
Thirteen times she’s been cited for state health code violations and had been shut down four times.
“The worst was when there was when she had that outbreak of mange,” said Tom Burwell, the State of Iowa’s Hotel/Motel Chief Inspector. “We hired some guys to clean the carpets and they all quit on the spot. Last I knew the crew chief had gone back to being a male prostitute and says he doesn’t regret it.”
That was in 2017. A year later the motel was shuttered when a Sarin gas leak forced the evacuation of anyone within 20 miles. No official reason was ever given, but rumors floated around town that the CIA was manufacturing the nerve agent in the motel’s honeymoon suite.
“Them guys from the government said they needed a room for two months and they paid cash,” Monroe said. “Plus, that whatchamacallit gas killed the aphids that’d been eating the wallpaper.”
Despite those setbacks and numerous bad reviews on Yelp (Hawkeye72 posted recently “If you have a choice between staying here and being entombed in a pit of excrement…ask if the TV works in the pit.”) Monroe says she is doing a brisk business.
“Travelocity rated us the No. 3 hotel in America for people on a killing spree,” she said, “And No. 4 for those with a dissociative disorder.”
Each room has a theme. Room 1 is “The Badger Suite.” It features pelts, including in the shower, of rodents that used to live in the room. “Space Odyssey” can be found in Room 4. It is perfect for star gazers because the roof blew off in a tornado two years ago.
“No. 6 ‘The ER’, that’s my favorite. It’s full of old medical equipment. I replaced the bed with a MRI machine the hospital over in Mason City got rid of. Got some old scalpels and turned them into a clock, over in the corner I got an iron lung I made into a fish tank, and I put in that walker/toilet thing I had when I had my knee replacement a couple years ago,” Monroe said. “Don’t worry, I cleaned it good.”
Room 13 has no furniture, and the floor, ceiling, and walls are painted black. It is simply called “The Hole.” Numerous customers have claimed the room is haunted, including Dan Sullivan, an insurance adjuster from Minneapolis who got stuck in a blizzard last winter on his way to Kansas City.
“I saw a sign for it on I-35 and I knew I couldn’t make it much further. The snow was so bad. I pulled up and I thought it would be, like, a real motel but…” Sullivan said. “I tried to make a bed out of some towels the owner had. They were all stained, but she assured me they’d just been used to clean deer. I just…I just felt like someone was watching me. I ended up sleeping in the car even thought it was freezing. I only lost two toes.”
Monroe has a more earthly explanation.
“It was just me starin’ through the peep hole. I ain’t a perv, I just like watchin’ people sleep,” Monroe said. “OK, sure, if a guy’s really cute – you know, Brad Pitt-type – I’ll hike up my dress and start rollin’ the pea, but it’s just good fun.”
The reporter then tried to end the interview, but Monroe wanted it to continue.
“Why not stay the night and get the feel of the place. (Room 9) ‘The Gulag’ is open, or there’s (Room 11) ‘Ode to Hieronymous Bosch’ that’s available,” Monroe said. “First night’s on me. I don’t mean free, I mean, on me.”
The reporter then ran to his car, peeled out of the parking lot, and checked his rearview mirror for at least an hour to confirm that he wasn’t being followed.