America’s Most Haunted: Alton’s Creepy Factor Doesn’t Disappoint

Alton, IL is home to McPike Mansion and other haunted attractions

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Downtown Alton, IL is the gateway to several haunted adventures like McPike Mansion and the Milton Schoolhouse.(Image from Travel Pulse)

For Halloween, I was planning to go trick or treating with my friend. I got my costume, packed for the sleepover and got all ready. But she texted me on Halloween morning saying that her dad had COVID-19 and that she had to quarantine. I just assumed I’d be staying home, eating candy and watching scary movies while feeling sorry for myself.

Instead, my mom and I decided to try to have at least a little bit of fun, and we drove to one of the most haunted towns in the United States…Alton, Illinois. We visited the most haunted attractions. The places and stories really intrigued me. Alton has a history filled to the brim with war, murder, death, and tragedy.  So why wouldn’t there be a ghost or two roaming about? Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, these places and their dark pasts are definitely creepy. Please be advised, some of the situations described in this article may trigger strong emotions in some readers.

McPike Mansion, built in 1869, is Alton’s most haunted house according to mcpikemansion.com. This house has been featured on many different television shows and has been investigated many times by paranormal investigators. The mansion was originally owned by Henry Guest McPike. His family owned 15 acres of land which they called Mount Lookout Park. There were many inhabitants up until the 1950s, but it hasn’t been lived in since. Even though nothing too tragic is known to have happened there, some claim that the haunts were happening even before the mansion was built. There have been detections of Native American ghosts and a residue from what could possibly be an Underground Railroad stop. There are also stories of servants of the mansion, a cook in the kitchen, and the strange death of a woman in the bathtub. Some even believe that Henry McPike and his wife Eleanor still roam the corridors of the mansion. 

Next is the First Unitarian Church, built in 1830 and originally called St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. Twenty years after being built, the church burned to the ground. Afterwards, The Unitarian Society bought the land and rebuilt a church for their religion and beliefs. A second fire burned the church to the ground in 1901.  The church was built again in 1905 and has been standing since. Reverand Phillip Mercer became a respected preacher at the church when he was just 18. People came from everywhere to hear him preach. One November  1934 night, he found himself ill. He was shaking and unable to speak properly. His friend James McKinney decided after a few days of not seeing the preacher that he would go up to the church to check on him. Mercer was found hanging in the doorway of the minister’s study. Nobody knows what compelled Mercer to do this, or if he actually committed suicide…or was murdered. Since his death, there have been reports of shadowy figures and voices coming from the church’s basement, the piano being heard and seen playing by itself and doors opening and closing by themselves.

The place I found to be the creepiest is Milton Schoolhouse, built in 1904 and closed in 1986. After the school closed, it became a factory for Intaglio Design. Since then, other businesses have taken up residence in the building. The story of how this school came to be haunted is a dark one. According to michaelkleen.com, one day after school, a little girl named Mary was finishing up a project, specifically a seasonal bulletin. Everyone else had left for the day, leaving her alone. She noticed the sun was going down and decided she ought to get home before her mother freaked out. As she was skipping down the stairs towards the gym doors, she heard a noise behind her. The next morning, Mary was found dead in the girl’s locker room, battered with blood all over her and torn up clothes. The school janitor was accused of committing the crime, which led him to hang himself. When Intaglio Design took over the building, they would hear footsteps, things would disappear and reappear in the office, and one man claimed to have seen the figure of a young girl, possibly Mary. This building definitely creeped me out when I got there, and I didn’t want to stay for long. 

There’s also Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument, which is in Alton’s City Cemetary. This place was also really spine-chilling, and my camera was acting all weird while there. According to riversandroutes.com, Elijah P. Lovejoy, editor, abolitionist and the man behind the monument, was a Presbyterian minister who read the Bible, memorized hymns and led a life of Christian morality and conviction. After college, he traveled to St. Louis and bought half interest in the St. Louis Times. He became the paper’s editor and was concerned with politics and social justice. He very strongly believed in free speech, free press, and free men. In 1836, following opposition of his anti-slavery views, Lovejoy moved the paper to Alton and called it The Observer. Before dawn on Sunday, July 23, the day Lovejoy received his first printing press, it was destroyed and dumped in the river by a group of Missouri men. After that, several of Lovejoy’s printing presses were destroyed by mobs. On the night of November 7, 1837, his fourth press was thrown in the Mississippi River. That same night, he was murdered as he stood defending his press. It is said that Lovejoy’s spirit can be seen every now and then wandering near his memorial.

Some other haunted places in Alton include the Confederate Prison which imprisoned thousands of Confederate soldiers during the Civil War with over 1,400 dying due to a smallpox outbreak. The Jacoby Arts Center is said to be haunted since the basement was used as a mortuary years ago. Ryder Building reports stories of someone who drags chairs and tables on the first floor of the restaurant while workers are in the basement preparing meals. Mineral Springs Mall, which was once an elegant hotel and spa, now has a history filled with murders, suicides and accidental deaths.

Nothing too scary happened while I was at each place. My mother and I just felt really bad vibes and wanted to leave as soon as we got to some of the places. At one of the exhibits, the old Confederate Prison, my camera went off by itself around three times when I was in the car. It was supposed to be off, but apparently it turned on by itself and decided to snap a few shots of the dashboard and my feet.