Peaceful little Lost Nation, Iowa — which is about 45 minutes northwest of the Quad-Cities — is alive once again. No longer is it a city of the dead.
That is appropriately spooky, now that we are in the season of ghouls and ghosts. Mostly ghouls for Lost Nation, which had been transformed into a ghost city for a Hollywood horror movie.
Last week, they pulled all the cornstalks off the buildings and swept the hay from Main Street. The people in Lost Nation (pop. 497) could cut their grass again, so now all the lawns look neatly clipped. Some places had been sprayed gray so they would look old and smudgy. They have been washed clean.
Lost Nation is back to normal after being a movie set for the film “Children of the Corn” from the horrifying Stephen King book of the same name. The book/movie called for a rural town where every adult had been murdered by the children.
Producers searched the land for a town that fit the script. Lost Nation was picked, and it became the most exciting and shocking thing ever to happen to this peaceful place since it was founded in 1872.
“I warned everyone this was not going to be a Disney movie,” said Lost Nation Mayor Jimmy Schroeder, while visiting over lunch last week at the Pub Club. For the movie, the Pub’s front door had been boarded up, so it would look abandoned. Customers had to enter through the back door during filming. It was the same for other businesses in town.
Downtown blocks were made to look like an abandoned city where grownups were long dead. Stalks of corn were stuck to buildings or from rooftops, as if they had been growing there. Store windows were either boarded up, or dirtied and cob-webbed to look like nothing had happened since 1960 when “all the citizens were murdered.” To simulate a ladies-to-wear store, one dusty ex-grocery window displayed women’s clothing on skeletons.
The climax came on a Saturday afternoon when a gorgeously restored old Thunderbird was exploded in a ball of fire in the middle of Lost Nation’s Main Street. Inside the car was supposedly the hacked-up body of a woman.
“This whole thing has been an experience that Lost Nation will never forget,” says Carm Randolph, an ex-Bettendorf resident whose husband, Ken, was the town’s long-time veterinarian.
The shocked residents became accustomed to hear a director yell, “Bloody them up some more.” The script called for a lot of hacking and stabbing, so actors were regularly splattered with corn syrup colored with red dye.
This week of horror brought about 150 volunteer “child stars” to town. They were recruited from the Quad-City region. Nineteen vehicles came to Lost Nation, along with a crew of 45 camera people, technicians, etc., plus several stars, none of whose names seemed big time.
Adults in the crew dined at the American Legion. Young stars were fed kid food, picnic style. Lost Nation introduced the Californians to biscuits and gravy, which the mayor said they loved. Crews and stars stayed overnight at The Lodge in Bettendorf.
“We figure that filming brought $20,000 to $30,000 income to Lost Nation,” the mayor says. Plus, a lot of attention. CBS sent in a crew for a national segment. National Public Radio did a program.
Volunteers and a paid crew cleaned up the cornstalks and other messes left after the filming. The movie crew was so thankful for the cooperation of the Lost Nation people that they signed a big poster-card of thanks.
It hangs in the post office building.
Bill Wundram can be contacted at (563) 383-2249 or email@example.com.