For a vacation that’s out of the ordinary, consider a spine-tingling trip to Alton in Southwest Illinois, where ghostly residents, chilling mysteries, and eerie hauntings await. This small town boasts a reputation as the most haunted in America. Buckle up for a paranormal journey through Alton’s ghostly history.
A Haunting History of Alton
Alton was founded in 1818 along the banks of the Mississippi River, but its history reaches back further, with Native American inhabitants predating the town’s establishment. The town’s reputation as a paranormal hotspot is rooted in its dark history. From Civil War prisons to the Underground Railroad, Alton’s past is steeped in death, disease, and violence.
According to Cory Jobe, President & CEO of Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau, the limestone bluffs that surround Alton play a significant role in the town’s hauntings. Limestone, composed of organic matter, is believed to record past events, causing paranormal activity. This phenomenon leads to past events being imprinted on the present world, adding to Alton’s haunted legacy.
Meet Alton Ghostly Residents
Troy Taylor, Founder and Investigator of Alton Hauntings Tour and American Hauntings, introduces some of the town’s most infamous spirits.
McPike Mansion: Henry McPike, a prominent Alton resident from the late 19th and 20th centuries, still lingers at his former home, McPike Mansion.
Mineral Springs Hotel: Guests attempting to leave are bound to the hotel. The “Jasmine Lady” and L.M. Harwood remain here, along with Clarence Blair, who drowned in the hotel’s swimming pool.
First Unitarian Church: Pastor Phillip Mercer, who took his own life in 1936, haunts the church. His spirit appears as an apparition or the scent of men’s cologne.
Morrison’s Irish Pub: Once Alton’s First National Bank, it was the site of a fatal bank robbery. L.H. Filley, the patrolman killed that Halloween night in 1868, haunts his former home.
These are just a few of Alton’s many specters, including little girls, phantom nuns, screaming spirits, and more.
The Scariest of Them All
Among Alton’s spirits, the phantoms haunting the old Illinois State Penitentiary site are particularly chilling. The penitentiary, which opened in 1830, witnessed brutal conditions and many prisoner deaths. During the Civil War, it became a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp, where hundreds succumbed to a smallpox epidemic. Encounters with these phantoms date back to the 1870s.
Another frightful spirit was Tom Boothby, an old soldier who terrorized guests at the Mansion House. His nightmares about the men he killed in battle haunted him until his death, and his ghost continued to haunt the hotel.
Exploring McPike Mansion
The McPike Mansion, owned by Sharyn and George Luedke, stands as one of Alton’s most popular attractions. Though it was initially purchased to become a bed and breakfast, it now serves as a historical and paranormal destination. The mansion’s spirits enjoy interacting with visitors, sometimes revealing themselves as shadows or eerie noises.
Soul Asylum at Mineral Springs Hotel
David Nunnally owns Soul Asylum at Mineral Springs Hotel, an intriguing collection of oddities and esoteric artifacts. Items on display challenge conventional wisdom and include relics from a shared human understanding. Among the spookiest items in the collection is an autopsy table from the Dixmont State Hospital in Pennsylvania, where countless patients were studied post-mortem to determine the causes of mental illness. Visitors frequently report feeling unsettled near the table, which rests beside a 1871 Durfee portable embalming table. Combined, these objects have witnessed thousands of deaths.
A Frightening Experience
David is hands-on in managing the museum, located in the original grand ballroom of the Mineral Springs Hotel. He leads historic walking tours and paranormal investigations of the abandoned but very haunted hotel. With over 1,000 items from his collections on display, he encourages dialogue with every visitor, particularly those with apprehensions about the unknown.
Are Ghosts Real in Alton?
Skeptics may dismiss Alton hauntings as mere coincidences. However, Troy maintains that while most ghostly disturbances have logical explanations, there is a small percentage that defies easy debunking. He points out that historical records, where unconnected people describe the same experiences in the same location, build a compelling case for hauntings. Science may never provide conclusive proof of ghosts, but Alton’s history suggests a different story.
A Haunting Destination
Alton draws visitors from around the world, attracting paranormal investigators and enthusiasts. Situated at the intersection of the Great Rivers Road and Route 66, Alton offers more than just ghostly encounters. Eagle watching, craft breweries, and a vibrant community guarantee visitors an unforgettable experience. So, if you’re in the mood for a ghostly getaway, Alton, America most haunted small town, awaits your visit.