The Ghosts of Alton, Illinois

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story, the kind that brings goose bumps to your arms and makes the hair on the back of your neck stick up?

Alton, Illinois is said to be one of the country’s most haunted towns and for nine years, I lived down the street from the most famous of its ghostly houses.

The McPike Mansion was built in1869 by architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger, who designed the 16-room Italianate-Victorian style house for Henry Guest McPike. Situated on 15 acres of land known as Mount Lookout Park, the McPike family occupied the home until 1936. It’s been vacant since the 1950s and today, after years of neglect, owners Sharyn and George Luedke are slowly bringing the house back to life.

But sometimes the house has a life of its own.


The McPike Mansion in Alton, Illinois. It's reputed to be haunted, especially the wine cellar in the basement.
The McPike Mansion in Alton, Illinois. It's reputed to be haunted, especially the wine cellar in the basement. | Source

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Over the years, there have been a number of paranormal incidents at the mansion. Shadowy figures materialize in windows. Orbs of light appear in photographs. Inexplicable cold spots are noticeable around the grounds of the house, even in the middle of a hot summer’s day.

Shortly after the Luedkes bought the mansion at auction in 1994 and moved into the house next to it, my family and I walked over to meet the new neighbors. We were lucky that Sharyn Luedke gave us a tour of the once grand home, including its upper floors.

Nowadays, because of the deteriorating condition of the house, tours are restricted to just the wine cellar in the basement. Nevertheless, that’s where a number of odd sightings have occurred, including one experienced by Troy Taylor. Taylor was taking part in a paranormal investigation at the mansion in which the sounds of footsteps and the wine cellar’s metal door scraping open were all captured on videotape – except that no one was there!


McPike Mansion as seen on SyFy

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The McPike Mansion isn’t the only eerie spot in town.

Taylor sends shivers down readers’ spines with tales of ghost sightings, hauntings and other paranormal activity in the Alton-Godfrey area in his book, Haunted Alton: History and hauntings of the Riverbend region.

Native Altonians grow up hearing stories of the spirits that roam the halls of Milton School.

Built in 1904, the school was the site of the brutal rape and murder of a girl who has since come to be known as Mary. One day, she stayed after school to finish a bulletin board. That was the last time anyone saw her alive. The next morning, her body was discovered in the girls’ shower room in the basement of the school.

The school janitor became a suspect, although the police could never pin the crime on him. Shortly after Mary was murdered, the janitor hanged himself from an exposed beam above an upstairs hallway. Beneath his feet was a note that read: I did it!

Whether it was mob justice or the confession of a pedophile is uncertain but to those who believe, there’s been no doubt that Mary’s restless spirit wanders the school’s hallways to this day.


Reid Memorial Library on Lewis & Clark's main campus. Some students and faculty claim to have seen the ghost of Harriett Haskell there.
Reid Memorial Library on Lewis & Clark's main campus. Some students and faculty claim to have seen the ghost of Harriett Haskell there. | Source

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The hauntings of Harriet Haskell

Nearby Godfrey has its own haunted history at Lewis and Clark Community College.

New students attending the college soon learn about the ghost of Harriett Haskell, who served for 40 years as the beloved headmistress of Monticello College. The college was a private liberal arts college for women founded by Benjamin Godfrey in 1838. When it closed in 1971, Lewis and Clark Community College began holding classes on the 215-acre campus.

Local lore has it that Monticello’s chapel was Harriett’s favorite room. Today, the chapel is now the campus library and it is here that Harriett’s presence is seen and felt most often. Students and staff working late at night have reported seeing her standing by the main desk or feeling her touch their shoulder.


The front door of the McPike Mansion
The front door of the McPike Mansion | Source

Alton Haunting Tours

There are many more haunted places in Alton, including the pool in the Mineral Springs Hotel basement. Today, the site is now called Mineral Springs Mall and it's the location of the Historic Museum of Torture Devices.

Legends of the wandering spirits of Civil War soldiers, runaway slaves traveling the Underground Railroad and hotel guests make for spine-chilling tales of the beyond.

To see these haunted places yourself check out Alton Haunting Tours and learn the real stories behind the legends of Alton’s ghosts.


Alton IL is said to be one of the most haunted cities in the country

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Comments 29 comments

Robyne O'Mara 6 years ago

I really enjoyed the article, and intend to read the book Danette referenced. She sold me on it.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Wow! I really enjoyed it. Well written and informative. Welcome to Hubpages. You write an intriguing hub. I'm wondering if the girl 'mary' is the character for an old movie called Lady in White. Do you remember that movie? Regardless, that's a creepy part of the Alton history. Ghostly gatherings just in time for Halloween. I voted it 'up' and am sharing it on my FB page.


Kerry 6 years ago

Great piece. I've lived in the area all of my life, but didn't know about the Lewis & Clark College spirits. Thanks for the info!


Sue 6 years ago

Very good Danette. Quite interesting. I didn't know you lived in such a haunted town.


penny schmidt 6 years ago

i'm so glad to learn more of the history of paranormal acitivity in Alton as well as background on the sites. great article Danette. your writing makes living here so much more interesting and fun. thanks!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Welcome to Hubpages. This is a cool hub as I'm one of those who loves a good ghost story and believe in paranormal experiences. I look forward to reading more of your hubs and have voted this one up.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Happyboomernurse for your warm welcome.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest

I love Alton. I have always wanted to tour the McPike mansion - it's such a shame how it has deteriorated. I hope the Luedke family is able to restore it because you know it was just so beautiful once. That has to be an enormous undertaking for them and I applaud them because I couldn't see taking that on! I adore old historic homes and I wish we all came to value our history more. Alton is filled with beautiful old homes - especially on "Christian Hill" and midtown :)


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Christin, I agree there are many beautiful historic homes in Alton. I often wonder what some might look like on the inside and the home & garden tours each spring and fall are great ways to get a peek. Thanks for reading my hub!


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 5 years ago from Minnesota

Danette-Excellent piece of writing and I can't get enough of these ghost stories. I hope you will write more. I loved the pictures you included to bring more mystery and intrigue to the hauntings.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Minnetonka Twin! I hadn't actually thought about doing any more on haunted Alton although Lord knows there are enough places around town that I could write a few more. But good idea, I'll have to do another one.


Bud Gallant profile image

Bud Gallant 5 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Very fascinating. I've had a thing for ghosts for a long time. I really enjoyed the story and all the pictures. Reminded me of times in the past. As a child I used to read a lot of ghost stories and would visit cemeteries at night hoping to see one. Unfortunately I never did.

Great hub. I'm looking forward to your others!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Bud for reading and leaving a comment. I guess I'm too chicken because I wouldn't really want to see a ghost!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Glad to see you've reposted this one--perfect for the Halloween month!


Admiral_Joraxx profile image

Admiral_Joraxx 5 years ago from Philippines

Wow, haunting tours are cool. =), I agree with Denise here. its a perfect idea for holloween. Thanks for sharing this Dannett. I voted up and interesting.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Admiral_Joraxx. My town, Alton, is reputed to be one of the most haunted towns in America. One of the reasons is because of its connection to the Underground Railroad and fleeing slaves from the south.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

This was an interesting hub that did make me feel chilled. How neat to have been able to tour that home.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks homesteadbound - it was very creepy. Unfortunately, the current owners haven't been able to do too much with the house so it's still in a state of disrepair. It would take tons of money to restore but it would be beautiful if it could be.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Danette, I enjoyed this article. I think it's cool that you still have quite old houses near where you live, there are none around my area, though there is an old church (200 years old I think). I think going on a tour would be pretty cool. Have you see the TV show, Britain's Most Haunted? That is pretty creepy but I wonder how much of the ghostly activity is just down to people's natural hysteria of wandering around in a dark ol house...whooooooooo :o)


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

hi Jools99, thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I haven't seen that show but I'll bet there are lots of haunted places in Britain, especially with all those castles around.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

LOL, we still have posh people living in most of them! Maybe they see their ghosts rattling their jewellery!


DearBandit profile image

DearBandit 4 years ago

""LOL, we still have posh people living in most of them! Maybe they see their ghosts rattling their jewellery!""

Funny Funny!

Great Hub, I injoyed the story.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks DearBandit, I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

I returned to pin this on my "Paranormal Favorite Stories" board.

Am also sharing on HP as this is a good read during Halloween season.

I was intrigued by the fact that you lived just down the street from the haunted McPike Mansion.

Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

Hub Hugs,

Gail


NMLady profile image

NMLady 4 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

Interesting.....use to work in Alton. Mostly it was Phyllis Schafly that scared me back then.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi Gail - thanks for coming back to pin this on one of your boards! And for sharing. That was sweet of you. :) Hope all is going well for you. School is back in session and I have many hubs bookmarked to read when I get a chance, several of which are yours. Cheers.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi NMLady - LOL - I can relate to Phyllis Schafly. She seems to still be going strong and hasn't let up on feminists and liberals. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 9 months ago from America

Very ghostly stories. Some ghost hunter shows have been to the McPike Mansion. FI enjoyed your hub.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 9 months ago from Illinois Author

Thanks moonlake! Glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.

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