Haunted Alton, Illinois and Civil War history
Just over the Mississippi River Alton, Illinois is replete with ghostly sightings. Few are more affecting than those coming out of the horrors of the Civil War. But there was even more to come.
Led by Gary Hawkins of Haunted Alton, we followed the haunting history of the Civil War and the deplorable conditions of their prison. Built to hold 256 cells, at one time over 1200 prisoners men up to four people in a 4 foot x 7 foot cell. Their cries were said to have been heard in the neighborhood. Today all that remains of the prison is a bit of stone wall. A marker designates the tumbling down portion of a cellblock. The land itself has become a park. You can find it near the intersection of Broadway and William
Our tour continued along Hop Hollow Road, a small rural route overhung with trees. But the bucolic feel hides a gruesome history. It was along this road that the bodies of the POWs who died of small pox was carried along the road to the Confederate Soldiers' Cemetery. Or perhaps simply dumped alongside the road. Although the trench graves were to be marked, the wooden stakes used as markers soon deteriorated and their graves soon became unmarked. In 1905 the United Daughters of the Confederacy lobbied the government for a marker memorial for the long gone soldiers. The 40 foot high granite column completed in 1909. It's located at Rozier St. (2 blocks west of State Street.)
There is, of course, little to mark the graves and the passing of the men, women, and children who died enslaved, but in one of those karmic moments, on the edge of the site of the prison is a building that now houses the Madison County Urban League. It is said that a Confederate general lurks in the basement, most displeased by the outcome of the war.
I asked our guide why Alton might have so much supernatural activity. "It's the limestone" he replied. "It has the ability to hold the psychic energy and emotional history." The area is rich with limestone and many of the structures reused old limestone blocks in their foundation. In fact, the stone blocks of the torn down prison have been used throughout Alton. As a result there are orbs and spirits and even pieces of events replayed like bits of a ghostly video, or spectral hologram.
Despite taking photographs everywhere I went there was only one place where I caught a spectral image - the lovely, historic and haunted McPike Mansion. The ghost said to live in this gorgeous Victorian being restored by Sharyn and George Luedke is that of a previous owner, Paul Laichinger who bought the house in 1925 and lived there until he died in 1945. Laichinger was said to have loved that house and folks suggest that his benign spirit remains there simply because he doesn't wish to leave. Snapping a few images just seconds apart in time one picture shows a small but definite orb. Images taken before and after show no such light, nor does it have the geometric pattern typical of a lens flare.
Whatever the explanation, there are plenty of chilling experiences in Haunted Alton and Spooktacular St. Louis. And frankly, next time I have the opportunity to stay in a truly haunted house, I think I'll opt for the hotel down the road instead.