A Haunted Summer in Alton
Growing up in Alton, IL I’ve always heard how it was “one of the most haunted small towns in America” but I never really knew why. When I started interning for the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau I learned about all the different haunted activities that take place in the area. I asked if I could attend a couple of events and next thing I know I was signed up for my haunted summer throughout the Meeting of the Great Rivers.
Haunted America Conference
The first stop on my haunted summer was the 21st Annual Haunted America Conference held at Best Western Premier Alton – St. Louis. This conference is the biggest ghost conference held in America. When I arrived at the conference on the first day, I walked around the room and was amazed at how many different paranormal vendors were there. Some items available included books written by the different speakers for the conference while others were selling crystals, grave yard terrariums, skull lights and other paranormal trinkets.
I attended several different speakers throughout the conference but my favorite was Greg and Dana Newkirk with their Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult. They first talked about why items become haunted and then told us about different objects and how they ended up in their paranormal traveling museum. I’ve always been indifferent to whether paranormal activity is real but after listening to them talk and seeing their videos I definitely think there is some truth to it.
Haunted History Walking Tour
The haunted activity I was most looking forward to this summer was the Haunted History Walking Tour, part of Troy Taylor’s Alton Hauntings Tours. Our first stop of the night was Illinois’ first penitentiary which was built in Alton. I’ve heard the penitentiary mentioned before but never knew the history of it. Our tour guide told us of the horrific living conditions the prisoners had to ensue and showed us the remnant of a cellblock wall that is now a monument commemorating the infamous penitentiary. We then walked to the site of the famous Lincoln – Douglas Debate and learned about Lincoln’s history in Alton.
My favorite part of the night was visiting the Enos Apartments. We learned that the house was an active stop on the Underground Railroad and the owner carved tunnels beneath the house for fleeing slaves to hide when they arrived in Illinois. We got to go into the actual tunnel where the slaves hid long ago and it was a surreal experience I’ll never forget. The last stop of our tour was the First Unitarian Church which many would say is the most haunted spot in Alton. The eeriest part of the whole tour was sitting in the dark church while our tour guide told us the story of the priest that was found hanging from the ceiling above where we were sitting. There were many more stops along the way filled with history and ghost stories and I highly suggest taking an Alton Hauntings Tour to learn what makes Alton “one of the most haunted small towns in America”.
McPike Mansion Tour
The last stop of my haunted summer was the famous McPike Mansion. Henry McPike’s birthday is in July so this tour celebrated his 192nd birthday. We ate his favorite dessert, sponge cake with strawberries, while we learned about Henry McPike’s life and the history of the mansion. We then saw a compilation of pictures taken throughout the years that showed different paranormal activity that has been captured throughout the mansion.
After eating Henry’s favorite dessert and learning the history of the McPike Mansion, we walked around the mansion into the wine cellar for a 30 minute dark room session. I quickly learned that a dark room session is when they turn off all the lights then the medium calls the different spirits that dwell within the house to join you in the wine cellar. Needless to say I was a little freaked out but also excited.
Before going into the cellar the medium said you could tell the spirits were in the cellar if you felt a change in temperature, something brush against you or your hair get tugged. She said the spirits can also be seen as different colored orbs. Orbs or circular “light balls” are thought to be spheres of energy from the spiritual realm. While we were walking into the cellar I took the picture below and afterwards noticed the bluish dot in the bottom left hand corner. I believe this is an orb and is one of the spirits that still dwells in the mansion. I didn’t experience anything personally during the dark room session but others in the group did.
Overall I really enjoyed my haunted summer and learned a lot of history about Alton I never knew before. No matter if you’re a believer in the paranormal or a not, you’ll still get a fascinating history of the town and people who lived in it. If you’re planning a visit to the area or even if you’ve lived in the region your whole life, like me, I highly suggest adding one of these events to your to calendar.