Welcome to the second edition of the Tell-Tale Traveler. For this edition, I decided to highlight another one of my favorite river cities. You’ll probably begin to notice a trend but I seem to be drawn to rivers. It could be from growing up on the Wabash River, and you can take that positively or negatively because it might be a bit of both but river cities are usually filled with interesting and unique history, and sometimes even a few ghosts. Alton, Illinois is the little sister to St. Louis and its rich history dates back to the Native Americans that inhabited the land for thousands of years before white Europeans arrived in the city. Alton is also known as “America’s Most Haunted Small Town” and I can tell you, Alton is not short on haunted locations to visit.
Upon arriving in Alton, you must take a drive by the McPike Mansion. If you’ve planned your trip in advance, you might even be able to attend on event on the grounds of the mansion. They hold tours, along with campouts and the occasional paranormal investigation. The mansion was surely a sight to behold in its day but after being abandoned in the mid 1900’s the mansion fell into utter disrepair. Ghost stories soon spread about the abandoned mansion but it wasn’t until Sharyn and George Luedke purchased the property in 1994, that they began to fully understand the ghost stories. The mansion is the eternal home of several members of the McPike family, who called the mansion home from 1869 to 1936. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the McPike Mansion on two occasions to attend a séance/paranormal investigation and I can tell you that I have experienced things I cannot explain. The seances were held in the basement, as visitors cannot enter the rest of the house due to safety concerns. Shaman Sherri Landlizard conducted the seances and I experienced cold spots, strange behavior from my dowsing rods and shadows that shouldn’t have been where they were. The interior of the house should be ready by 2021 and I cannot wait to see how the ghosts behave once visitors can enter the rest of their house.
After you take a peek at the McPike Mansion, head to the Bluff City Grill for a super yummy lunch. This cute little restaurant and bar is a gem in the town of Alton. And they may just be geniuses! They have taken guacamole and put it in a wonton and fried it! I cannot describe how tasty it is. The fried banana peppers are pretty spectacular too and they have a Cajun ranch to dip all of that fried goodness. I also highly recommend the Candy Martini…it’s exactly what you think…Liquid Candy! These geniuses take red berry vodka, peach schnapps and triple sec with a splash of cranberry juice followed by lemonade. Like, I said, Liquid Candy.
So, now that you’ve had lunch and a cocktail, you must visit the Curiosity Museum located at the haunted Mineral Springs Hotel. Items on display include a Vampire Killing kit, strange art pieces and Medieval Torture Technology. The Mineral Springs also houses a small metaphysical shop called It’s Raining Zen. For those interested in the ghost tales of the Mineral Springs, you can purchase a tour or an overnight ghost hunt and get up close and personal with the spirits that call the Mineral Springs home. It is said that at least three ghosts have made themselves known to visitors. The Mineral Springs is located right on the Mississippi River so you can also take in the beautiful views that Alton’s location affords visitors.
Following your visit to the Mineral Springs, you should venture out of town to view the Piasa. The legend of the Piasa bird dates back to 1673 and has been recounted by travelers who traveled the Mississippi River at that time. They all reported a birdlike monster painted high on the bluffs, near where the town of Alton is located today. The Illini Indians christened the creature the Piasa, meaning bird that devours man. The legend continues that the Piasa waged war on the Native America tribes, killing many men until one day, one of the Chief’s had a dream. He would use 20 braves with poisoned arrows to kill the dreaded Piasa. The Chief enacted his plan and the Piasa was fatally wounded, falling into the Mississippi River, swallowed by its current. The Piasa painting that you see today is a recreation of the original Piasa painting from 1673.
You must book your next activity in advance and I highly recommend that you do. Take a haunted history walking tour of Downtown Alton with American Hauntings Ink. These guys wrote the book on how to do an amazing Haunted History Walking Tour. They will take you to all of the locations that help make Alton “America’s Most Haunted Small Town.” They do regular walking tours, a Ghost Hunter’s Tour and even a bus tour in the fall! This tour will take you to the previously mentioned Mineral Springs Hotel but also to the Unitarian Universalist Church. Quite possibly the creepiest church ever! You’ll learn about the poor pastor that took his life in the church. American Hauntings Ink also does the occasional overnight event in Alton as well as two special tour events, Late Night Hauntings (tour starts at a later time than the traditional walking tour) or Dinner and Spirits (dinner at the Bluff City Grill followed by two guides ghost hunts.) And while I’m raving about American Hauntings Ink, for those of you who are Paranormal Investigators, American Hauntings Ink, hosts the Haunted America Conference every year in June in Alton. I love the Haunted America Conference! There are ghostly presentations, overnight ghost hunts, a ton of great information to take in like a sponge and a vendor room with paranormal paraphernalia.
Before you finish your Alton adventure, be sure to make your last stop at the Ragin Cajun Piano Bar. It’s a little piece of New Orleans in small-town Illinois. The food and cocktails are fabulous--especially if you like traditional New Orleans dishes. I recommend the hot cakes and seasoned taters with a Louisiana Lemonade. The food actually reminded me of my trip to New Orleans and made me miss the South. The coolest part about the Ragin Cajun isn’t the feeling of being at Mardi Gras but instead the dueling piano players that the bar hosts on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s like dueling banjos but so much better and the piano players even take requests so use your imagination.
That will do it for the Alton, Illinois edition of the Tell-Tale Traveler. I hope it inspires you to take a trip to “America’s Most Haunted Small Town.”
Tell-Tale Traveler Strange Alton, Illinois Itinerary
1) McPike Mansion - 2018 Alby St, Alton, IL 62002 - http://www.mcpikemansion.com/
2) Bluff City Grill – 424 E Broadway, Alton, IL 62002 - (618) 433-8288 – Hours: 11:00am to 12:00am - https://www.bluffcitygrillalton.com/
3) Mineral Springs Hotel – 301 E Broadway, Alton, IL 62002 - (618) 465-3200
Curiosity Museum – Hours: Saturday 12:00pm to 6:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm to 4:00pm – Admission: $6.00 – 18 and Over Only - https://www.curiositymuseumalton.com/
4) It’s Raining Zen - (618) 717-0546 – Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11:00am to 6:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm to 5pm - http://www.itsrainingzen.com/
5) Piasa Bird Mural - Mc Adams Pkwy. Alton, IL 62002 - http://www.altonweb.com/history/piasabird/
6) Alton Tours from American Hauntings Ink – Available Tours: Alton Haunted Walking Tour, Alton Haunted Bus Tour, Dinner and Spirits Tour, Late Night Hauntings Tour and Ghosts of the River Road Dinner Tour - Cost: Varies but usually $27.00 to $48.00 per ticket depending on the tour - https://www.altonhauntings.com/ or https://www.americanhauntingsink.com/
7) Piano Bar - 210 W 3rd St, Alton, IL 62002 - (618) 433-9119 – Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 5:00pm to 2:00am, Friday 5:00pm to 3:00am, Saturday 12:00pm to 3:00am and Sunday 12:00pm to 2:00pm - https://www.facebook.com/pg/ragincajunpianobar/photos/?ref=page_internal