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25 Things You Should Know About Des Moines

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Most people think of Des Moines as one of those cities they fly over or drive through on their way to a more interesting destination. But there’s a lot more to this Midwestern town than corn fields.

1. Your Facebook "likes" live just outside the city. In 2014, Facebook set up shop in Altoona, a suburb of Des Moines. The $300 million, 476,000-square-foot building houses servers and hard drives and is the third Facebook data center in the U.S. A second building is planned. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only company leader who sees potential in Des Moines—Microsoft is building data centers worth $2 billion in West Des Moines.

2. On January 20, 1982, a 17-year-old metal fan named Mark Neal threw a bat onstage at a Black Sabbath concert. Thinking it was fake, Ozzy Osbourne picked up the bat and chomped down—which is when he realized it was the real deal. He went to the hospital for rabies shots immediately after the show.

3. What does “Des Moines” actually mean? There are two common theories. One is that “Moines” refers to the Trappist monks (Moines de la Trappe) who once lived at the mouth of the Des Moines River. The other is that “Moines” is derived from “Moingoana,” a native tribe that also once lived along the river banks. Michael McCafferty, a scholar who specializes in Algonquian languages, says the name “Moingoana” is actually a little inside joke. In 1673, when Father Jacques Marquette asked the chief of the Peoria tribe what other tribes were in the area, the chief, not wanting Marquette to trade elsewhere, told him “mooyiinkweena” or “Moingoana.” That translates to “excrement-faces.” The joke was apparently lost on Marquette.

4. People have occupied the greater Des Moines area for at least 7000 years, drawn to the nearby river. In 2011, archaeologists uncovered a massive site they dubbed "The Palace," which housed more than 6000 artifacts dating back to that time period. 

5. Pinterest’s founder, Ben Silbermann, was born and raised in Des Moines. Though he lives in California now, Silbermann continues to promote STEM causes around Iowa.

6. In 1933, Ronald Reagan accepted a job as the chief sports announcer for WHO in Des Moines. He was a very colorful announcer, and when he interviewed singer Joy Hodges a few years later, she suggested that he call her agent. RKO Studio screen tested Reagan immediately, and after just two days back in Des Moines, he received a telegram offering him a seven-year film contract.

7. We're counting the suburbs, but here are a handful of celebs who hail from the area: actors Brandon Routh, Jason Momoa, and Cloris Leachman; musicians T-Boz Watkins (TLC) and most of the band Slipknot; author Bill Bryson; and athletes Lolo Jones and Shawn Johnson. Masters champ Zach Johnson went to school at Drake University in Des Moines, but was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

8. Speaking of world-class athletes, Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute is located in West Des Moines. Because coach Liang Chow has two Olympic gold medalists under his belt—Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas—other hopefuls are moving to Des Moines in droves just to train with him. He currently has three international elite gymnasts on his roster.

9. At 80 feet in diameter, the golden dome in Des Moines is one of the largest in the world. It cost $3500 to gild the dome back in 1905, but a 1999 restoration cost a little bit more: $400,000.

10. Iowa City was the capital of Iowa until 1855. When the state decided to move government operations to a more centralized location in Des Moines, the University of Iowa took possession of what is now called the Old Capitol Building.

11. More than a million people flock to Des Moines every August to experience the Iowa State Fair (to put that in perspective, the entire population of Iowa is about 3 million), in part because of the deliciously caloric foods. Apple Pie on a Stick and Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly on a stick are new this year, but other skewered options include funnel cake sticks, chocolate-covered chunky bacon maple nougat on a stick, Caprese salad on a stick, deep fried brownies on a stick, hot bologna on a stick, and the ever-popular Fair Squares (giant Rice Krispie treats on a stick).

Stacy Conradt

12. Another big draw for the Iowa State Fair: Its butter cow. Every year (dating back to 1911), the fair's dairy artist carves the 600-pound creation, along with a themed accompanying sculpture. (This year's paid homage to Monopoly in honor of the game's 80th anniversary.) The Iowa State Fair's butter cow is a must-see for presidential candidates passing through the swing state; this year, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina all stopped by to pay their respects. 

13. Actor Rob Lowe was playing in a PGA Pro-Am celebrity golf tournament in West Des Moines when a golf ball he had just hit struck and killed a goldfinch, Iowa's state bird, in mid-flight. Actuaries actually calculated the odds of him going to Iowa and killing a goldfinch with a golf ball: 1 in 747 million.

14. Tones Spices, which has a factory in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny, sometimes donates outdated garlic salt to help with icy roads in the winter. “Yes, it can make your eyes water a little bit,” Ankeny’s public works administrator said. “Everybody has a different reaction to it.”

15. With easy access to a variety of farmers and producers, it should come as no surprise that the Des Moines Farmers’ Market tops lots of “best of” lists. More than 20,000 people attend every Saturday morning from May through October, and the Des Moines Farmer’s Market is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation.

16. Don't want to go outside in below-zero winter temps or the sweltering summer sun? You don't have to if you're in downtown Des Moines. Its extensive skywalk system—climate-controlled overhead walkways that connect buildings—covers about 4 miles and 30 city blocks of “ground.”

17. Even if you’re not familiar with Claes Oldenburg, you’ve seen his work: Massive art installations of everyday objects like the Free Stamp in Cleveland, the Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis, or the Clothespin in Philadelphia. Des Moines is lucky to have two Oldenburg pieces: the Crusoe Umbrella and Plantoir.

DSM Public
ArtFoundation // Larry Bradshaw // M.J. Rowe


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. Slightly less highbrow art can be found within city limits, too. Exhibit A: the Pondering Rabbit, a sculpture by artist Barry Flanagan meant to mimic Rodin's The Thinker. 

19. If you’re a fan of Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Parents, and other magazines published by Meredith, you’re supporting a Des Moines-based business. Edwin Thomas Meredith founded Meredith Corporation in 1902 with the publication of Successful Farming magazine, then started publishing Fruit, Garden and Home magazine in 1922. Fittingly, Claes Oldenburg’s Plantoir sculpture is located outside of Meredith’s headquarters in downtown Des Moines.

20. Nearly 75 inches of rain fell in Iowa in 1851, a record that has gone unmatched since. The result was a flood that annihilated most of the town. Because it was relatively new, there were no bridges, levees, or other pieces of infrastructure in place to withstand such a substantial amount of water. According to one account,

The damage done to the farms in the river bottoms was immense. Some were stripped utterly of their fences; fields under cultivation were washed into ruts by the violence of the water; all hope of a crop for one season being destroyed, not only by what was carried away, but by the debris which was left by the subsiding of the river. It was almost impossible to estimate the losses. Roads were rendered impassable—bridges swept away—the mails stopped, and traveling by land to any distance utterly vetoed. Houses were carried away, mills damaged, timber floated off, and all manner of mischief done by the flood.

21. Likely named after the Raccoon River and not the animal itself, the town was renamed at the direction of General Winfield Scott. Even if it does mean “poopface,” Des Moines residents are likely thankful to be Des Moinesians and not Fort Raccoonsians.

22. When children trick-or-treat (on Beggar’s Night, not Halloween), many adults require them to tell a joke in exchange for candy. The tradition started in the late 1930s when Des Moines police received a record number of calls about vandalism on Halloween night. The director of recreation for the Des Moines Playground Commission started a campaign to encourage more constructive Halloween activities, and told residents that "eats should be given only if such a 'trick' as a song, a poem, a stunt or a musical number, either solo or in group participation, is presented." 70+ years later, the tradition still stands.

23. From 1942 up until 2009, it was illegal to dance between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m in Des Moines. But unlike other silly local laws, this one was actually enforced: According to a 2009 report by the Associated Press, citizens became aware of the ordinance after the Des Moines Social Club, seeking permission to host a late-night party at their facility, was told they weren't allowed. 

24. Got a thirst for … brraaaaiiinnss? Zombie enthusiasts (and anyone with an appreciation for the offbeat) flock to Des Moines' Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, where patrons can choose from burgers with names like "East Village of the Damned" and "Dead Moines."

25. According to the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Science Center of Iowa, located in downtown Des Moines, is home to the only “functional clear toilet in the Northern Hemisphere.” If anyone knows where the clear toilet in the Southern Hemisphere is, be sure to let us know.

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8 Allegedly Cursed Places
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Some of the most picturesque spots in the world hide legends of a curse. Castles, islands, rivers, and more have supposedly suffered spooky misfortunes as the result of a muttered hex cast after a perceived slight—whether it's by a maligned monk or a mischievous pirate. Below are eight such (allegedly) unfortunate locations.

1. A WALL FROM MARGAM ABBEY // WALES

An 800-year-old ruined wall stands on the grounds of a large steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales. The wall is surrounded by a fence and held up by a number of brick buttresses—all because of an ancient curse. The story goes that when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, one of the local Cistercian monks evicted from Margam Abbey told the new owners of the site, in a bid to protect it, that if the wall fell, the entire town would fall with it (it's unclear why he would focus on that particular part of the structure). Since then, the townsfolk have tried hard to protect the wall, even as an enormous steelworks was built around it. Rumors abound that the hex-giving monk still haunts the site in a red habit, keeping an eye on his precious wall.

2. ALLOA TOWER // SCOTLAND

Alloa tower in Scotland
HARTLEPOOLMARINA2014, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, has reportedly been subject to a curse for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Earl of Mar is said to have destroyed the local Cambuskenneth Abbey and taken the stones to build his new palace. The Abbot of Cambuskenneth was so furious he supposedly cast a multi-part curse on the Erskine family—ominously known as “The Doom of Mar." It is said that at least part of the curse has come true over the years, including that three of the children of the Mar family would “never see the light” (three of the earl’s ancestors’ offspring were reportedly born blind). The curse also supposedly predicted that the house would burn down, which occurred in 1800. Another part of the curse: The house would lay in ruins until an ash sapling grew from its roof. Sure enough, around 1820 a sapling was seen sprouting from the roof, and since then the family curse is said to have been lifted.

3. A WORKERS' CEMETERY // EGYPT

In the fall of 2017, archeologists reopened an almost-4500-year-old tomb complex in Giza, Egypt, that contains the remains of hundreds of workers who built the great Pyramid of Giza. The tomb also contains the remains of the supervisor of the workers, who is believed to have added curses to the cemetery to protect it from thieves. One such curse reads: "All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it, may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land." The complex is now open to the public—who may or may not want to take their chances.

4. RUINS OF THE CHATEAU DE ROCCA SPARVIERA // FRANCE

A chateau just north of the French Riviera may sound like a delightful place to be, but amid the ruins of the Chateau de Rocca-Sparviera—the Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk—lies a disturbing legend. The tale centers around a medieval French queen named Jeanne, who supposedly fled to the castle after her husband was killed. She arrived with two young sons and a monk known to enjoy his drink. One Christmas, she went into the village to hear a midnight mass, and when she returned, she found that the monk had killed her sons in a drunken rage. (In another version of the story, she was served a banquet of her own children, which she unknowingly ate.) According to legend, Jeanne then cursed the castle, saying a bird would never sing nearby. To this day, some travelers report that the ruins are surrounded by an eerie silence.

5. THE PEBBLES OF KOH HINGHAM // THAILAND

Stopped off at a small uninhabited island that, according to Thai mythology, is cursed by the god Tarutao. If anyone dared to even take one pebble off this island they would be forever cursed! 😈 I heard from a local that every year the National Park office receive many stones back via mail from people who want to lift the curse! I was never much of a stone collector anyway... ☻☹☻☹☻ #thailand #kohlanta #kohlipe #kohhingham #islandhopping #islandlife #beachlife #pebbles #beach #speedboat #travelgram #instatraveling #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #traveleverywhere #aroundtheworld #exploringtheglobe #travelawesome #wanderer #earth_escape #natgeotravel #serialtraveler #awesomesauce #picoftheday #photooftheday #potd

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The tiny uninhabited island of Koh Hingham, off the coast of Thailand, is blessed with a covering of precious black stones. The stones are not precious because they contain anything valuable in a monetary sense, but because according to Thai mythology the god Tarutao made them so. Tarutao is said to have invoked a curse upon anyone who takes a stone off the island. As a result, every year the national park office that manages the island receives packages from all over the world, sent by tourists returning the stones and attempting to rid themselves of bad luck.

6. INITIALS OUTSIDE THE CHAPEL AT ST. ANDREWS UNIVERSITY // SCOTLAND

The "cursed" PH stones of St. Andrews University
Nuwandalice, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The initials PH are paved into the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They mark the spot where 24-year-old preacher and faculty member Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake for heresy in 1528—an early trigger of the Scottish Reformation. The location is therefore supposed to be cursed, and it is said that any student who stands on the initials is doomed to fail their exams. As a result of this superstition, after graduation day many students purposefully go back to stand on the spot now that all danger of failure has passed.

7. CHARLES ISLAND // CONNECTICUT

Charles Island, Connecticut
Michael Shaheen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Charles Island lies off the coast of Milford, Connecticut, and is accessible from the mainland via a sandbar when the tide is low. Today it's home to a peaceful nature reserve for local birds, but its long history supposedly includes three curses. The first is said to have been cast in 1639 by the chief of the Paugussett tribe, after the nation was driven off the land by settlers—the chief supposedly cursed any building erected on the land. The second was supposedly laid in 1699 when the pirate Captain William Kidd stopped by the island to bury his booty and protected it with a curse. Shortly afterward, Kidd was caught and executed for his crimes—taking the location of his treasure to his grave.

The third curse is said to have come all the way from Mexico. In 1525, Mexican emperor Guatimozin was tortured by Spaniards hoping to locate Aztec treasure, but he refused to give up its whereabouts. In 1721, a group of sailors from Connecticut supposedly stumbled across the Aztec loot hidden in a cave in Mexico. After an unfortunate journey home in which disaster after disaster slowly depleted the crew, the sole surviving sailor reportedly landed on Charles Island, where he buried the cursed treasure in the hope of negating its hex.

8. THE GHOST TOWN OF BODIE // CALIFORNIA

A house in Bodie, California
Jim Bahn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevadas, sprang up as a result of the gold rush. The town boomed in the late 19th century, with a population nearing 10,000 people. But as the gold seams ran dry, Bodie began a slow and steady decline, hastened by a series of devastating fires. By the 1950s, the place had become a ghost town, and in 1962 it was designated a State Historic Park, with the the buildings kept in a state of “arrested decay." Bodie's sad history has encouraged rumors of a curse, and many visitors to the site who have picked up an abandoned souvenir have reportedly been dogged with bad luck. So much so, the Bodie museum displays numerous letters from tourists who have sent back pilfered booty in the hope of breaking their run of ill fortune.

But the curse didn't start with prospectors or spooked visitors. The rumor apparently originated from rangers at the park, who hoped that the story would prevent visitors from continuing to steal items. In one sense the story worked, since many people are now too scared to pocket artifacts from the site; in another, the rangers have just succeeded in increasing their workload, as they now receive letter after letter expressing regret for taking an item and reporting on the bad luck it caused—further reinforcing the idea of the Bodie curse.

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21 Other Royal Babies Born In The Last 20 Years
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by Kenny Hemphill

At 11:01 a.m. on April 23, 2018, the Royal Family got a new member when it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed their third child, a (yet-to-be-named) boy, who will become fifth in line to the throne. While William and Kate's three children may be the youngsters closest to the throne, they're not the only pint-sized descendants of Queen Elizabeth II to be born in the past 20 years. Here are 21 more of them.

1. ARTHUR CHATTO

Arthur Robert Nathaniel Chatto, who turned 19 years old February 5, is the younger son of Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto. He is 23rd in the line of succession—and has been raising some royal eyebrows with his penchant for Instagram selfies.

2. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

The grandson of Lord Snowden and Princess Margaret, and son of the 2nd Earl and Countess of Snowdon, Charles—who was born on July 1, 1999—is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

3. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) speaks to Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon (L), David Armstrong-Jones (2L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (2R).
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Born on May 14, 2002, Lady Margarita is sister to Charles Armstrong-Jones, and great-niece to the Queen. She's 20th in line to the throne.

4. LADY LOUISE WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor is the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She was born on November 8, 2003 and is 11th in line for the throne.

5. ELOISE TAYLOR

The third child of Lady Helen and Timothy Taylor, Eloise Olivia Katherine Taylor was born on March 2, 2003 and is 43rd in line for the throne.

6. ESTELLA TAYLOR

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge chats to Estella Taylor on the balcony during Trooping the Colour - Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Parade, at The Royal Horseguards on June 14, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Eloise's younger sister, Estella Olga Elizabeth Taylor, was born on December 21, 2004. She is the youngest of the four Taylor children and is 44th in succession.

7. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

The younger child of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor—or Viscount Severn—was born on December 17, 2007 and is 10th in line for the throne.

8. ALBERT WINDSOR

Albert Louis Philip Edward Windsor, born September 22, 2007, is notable for being the first royal baby to be baptized a Catholic since 1688. He is the son of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and grandson of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. According to the Act of Settlement, which was passed in 1701, being baptized Catholic would automatically exclude a potential royal from the line of succession. But there was some controversy surrounding this when, up until 2015, the Royal Family website included Albert.

9. XAN WINDSOR

Lord Culloden, Xan Richard Anders Windsor, is son to the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and grandson of the Duke of Gloucester. He was born on March 2, 2007 and is 26th in succession.

10. LEOPOLD WINDSOR

Like his older brother Albert, Leopold Windsor—who was born on September 8, 2009—is not in line to the throne, by virtue of being baptized a Roman Catholic (though he, too, was listed on the Royal Family's website for a time).

11. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Autumn Phillips, Isla Phillips, Peter Philips and Savannah Phillips attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, the Queen's first great-grandchild, was born on December 29, 2010 to Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, and Autumn Kelly. She is 14th in line for the throne.

12. SENNA LEWIS

Senna Kowhai Lewis, who was born on June 2, 2010, is the daughter of Gary and Lady Davina Lewis, elder daughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. She was a beneficiary of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which abolished the practice of giving sons precedence over daughters in the line of succession, regardless of when they are born. As a result, she is 29th in succession.

13. LYLA GILMAN

Daughter of Lady Rose and George Gilman, and granddaughter of Prince Richard, 2nd Duke of Gloucester, Lyla Beatrix Christabel Gilman was born on May 30, 2010. She is 32nd in succession.

14. COSIMA WINDSOR

Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor was born on May 20, 2010. She is sister to Lord Culloden, daughter of the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and granddaughter to the Duke of Gloucester. She's 27th in line for the throne.

15. RUFUS GILMAN

Lyla Gilman's brother, Rufus, born in October 2012, is 33rd in line for the throne.

16. TĀNE LEWIS

Tāne Mahuta Lewis, Senna's brother, was named after a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland region of New Zealand. He was born on May 25, 2012 and is 30th in line for the throne, following the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.

17. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Peter and Autumn Phillips's second and youngest daughter, Isla Elizabeth Phillips, was born on March 29, 2012 and is 15th in succession.

18. MAUD WINDSOR

Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina Windsor, the daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor and granddaughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was born on August 15, 2013 and is 47th in line for the throne.

19. LOUIS WINDSOR

Louis Arthur Nicholas Felix Windsor, who was born on May 27, 2014, is the youngest child of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and brother of Leopold and Albert. As he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church, he's not in line to the throne.

20. MIA GRACE TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Daughter of Zara Phillips and her husband, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, Mia Grace Tindall was born on January 17, 2014 and is 17th in the line of succession.

21. ISABELLA WINDSOR

Isabella Alexandra May, the second and youngest daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor, was the last addition to the royal family. In July 2016, she was christened at Kensington Palace wearing the same gown worn by both Prince George and Princess Charlotte (it's a replica of the one that Queen Victoria's children wore). Looking on was celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is one of Isabella's godparents.

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