Paranormal Events in Madison and Other Counties
A STRANGE CASE OF WITCHCRAFT IN PERRY COUNTY, ILLINOIS
Source: Alton Telegraph, June 30, 1871
A recent dispatch says, “the town of Frankford, Perry County, Illinois, is greatly excited over what the citizens regard as a clear case of witchcraft, recently developed in the vicinity of that town. Two young ladies, daughters of James Williams, are the victims. It has been thought by neighbors for some time that something was wrong with the girls, and a few days since a physician was called to visit them. He failed to discover the difficulty. Since that time, immense crowds have visited the girls, averaging from fifty to one hundred each night.
The girls are perfectly sane during the day, but at the approach of night, they become frenzied and uncontrollable, performing feats that would put first-class acrobats to shame. Scaling the house, they will dance and “gyrate” on the comb of the roof with perfect ease and impunity, uttering at the same time the most hideous and frenzied screams. Very frequently, while performing such feats, they fall perfectly rigid with spasms, but never fall off, however near the eaves they may be. During the day, at which time they are perfectly sane, they seem modest and reserved. The spell comes on both at nearly the same time, generally during the twilight, when they both break into a run. They always run north in the direction of the house of an old lady, who they say has bewitched them. These spells are put upon them, they say, on account of their telling something that she forbade them, and that she and a cat are with them on their house-top dances. Their conversation, when laboring under these spells, is in an unknown tongue. They catch and eat all the flies they can get hold of, until nausea is produced, when they both vomit at the same time. What one does, the other does at the same time, and they seem to be moved by one controlling power.
A VINDICTIVE SPIRIT - MURDER COMMITTED BY ONE OF THE
Source: Utica, New York Daily Observer, December 9, 1874
The St. Louis Democrat publishes the following, commenting upon which another paper says: "if this story is true it puts Spiritualism in a new aspect and makes it a very practical matter of serious import to all." At Mendota, Ill., lives a medium of extraordinary force named Betty Milton. Although it's but a short time since her powers in this line have been developed, she has succeeded in producing manifestations, according to the testimony of respectable, intelligent, and credible witnesses, which are fully equal to any of the phenomena which have been observed among the most advanced Spiritualists. Lately she has been troubled by the presence of a Spirit whom she feared and dreaded, but who, in spite of all her efforts, persistently strove to gain control of her organization. It was evident that this spirit desired to manifest through her some strange and dark statement, and its nature could be guessed at by her occasional wild mutterings concerning hatred and murder, revenge and remorse. She gradually yielded to the influence of this troublesome spirit, and finally, near the close of last month, to be exact, on the 23rd of October--he stood beside her in the shape of a slender, tall young man, with long hair and German features! There was a dozen or more persons present, all of whom saw him and saw that the medium was in a state of trance, while the materialized spirit made his ghostly confession in these words, which were heard by all in the room:
"I come to make a confession, to express my remorse, to atone as far as I may for a wrong doing. My name, when in life, was Carl Reystadt. On the night of May 8, 1872, I murdered Andrew Garrity. It was my crime for which Martin Fynes died in Alton prison. I was at the time in spirit form, but assumed the likeness of Martin Fynes when the deed was done, in order that he might be suspected of the crime and hanged for it. I stole his knife; I purposely encountered two men who knew him, that they might honestly swear to have seen him near the scene of the murder. |I hid the bludgeon where it was found at his house. I did all this that I might be revenged upon him for a great wrong he had done me. I was the instrument in the hands of an all-wise justice in taking the life of Andrew Garrity, for he deserved his fate; but my purpose |was evil. In my later spirit-life, in higher stages of progression I have learned forgiveness. I have been taught to repent the deeds of my wicked heart. For this reason I have come back to attest the innocence of Martin Fynes."
Having finished this confession, the form began to fade, and shortly disappeared and was never seen again! The circumstance was so singular that inquiries were set on foot by two gentlemen, Mr. N. Moulton, of Mendota, and Mr. B. Longley of Centralia. They discovered that there had been such a person as Andrew Garrity, that he had been murdered as stated in the spirit confession, that Martin Fynes had been arrested for murder, and that he had died at Alton. They also discovered that Carl Reystadt been ill-treated by Martin Fynes, and that he was dead when Garrity was murdered. In the trial the evidence was conflicting. Two men swore they had seen Fynes, on the night of the murder, near the place where the body was found, with a bludgeon in his hand, and that they had spoken to him but he did not answer them. Four other persons testified that he was at a distance from the spot where the murder occurred and accounted for all his movements during the night. It was proved, however, beyond a doubt, that the knife which was found near the murdered man was his property. Several other circumstances were put in evidence for and against the prisoner and the entire testimony was so puzzling that the jury could not agree and were finally discharged. Fynes was sent to the State prison for a third trial, but died before it could take place. In these proceedings, there was nothing unusual or supernatural, but there were some circumstances connected with Fynes' prison life, in jail, and in State prison, which are entirely unexplainable except in view of the revelation which purports to have been lately make by the spirit of Carl Reystadt, through the mediumship of Miss Betty Milton.
While in prison, Fynes professed to have been visited and persecuted by the ghost of the young German who appeared to him when his cell was dimly lighted, even in the presence of other persons, telling him that he (Fynes) was going to be hanged, and frightening him to such an extent that it was thought best never to leave him alone at night. The only person besides Fynes who claimed to have ever seen this spiritual persecutor was one of the keepers, who declared that he caught a glimpse of him at a time when Fynes' cellmate was removed for a few minutes. He described the ghostly intruder as being the exact counterpart of Martin Fynes, standing by his side, and differing from him in no particular of dress, or in feature. The keeper was so astonished at this vision that he hastily closed the door and called for help. In a few minutes it was opened, but the counterpart had disappeared, and Fynes was lying on his pallet in a fainting condition, or in a state of trance. Thereafter Fynes declared that the murder of Garrity had been committed by a demon that had taken his form and had possessed itself of his knife, and that this demon had frequently visited him in the jail at Carlinville, and in the State prison, terrifying him almost to death. Of course he was regarded as insane and the keeper who declared he had seen the vision above referred to was considered as being in no better mental condition. Fynes died without making any confession, but stoutly adhering to his statements concerning his supernatural visitant, and both he and his supposed crime were forgotten until the time of the remarkable revelation that purported to be made through the mediumship of Miss Betty Milton. It is a strange story as it stands, and we leave the credulous and the incredulous to puzzle their brains over it as they please, only adding that it is published here just as we received it.
VISIT AT PUBLIC INSTITUTION
Source: Alton Weekly Telegraph, October 4, 1877
We hear rumors that a public institution [possibly an early hotel] in Alton has been greatly troubled lately by strange sights and sounds. Noises have been heard as of stones thrown against the house, ghostly hands clasping stones have been seen waving in the air, and other circumstances occur that cannot be accounted for in any ordinary way. All attempts thus far to exorcise the spirit, or whatever it may be, have been in vain.
ALTON GHOSTS VISITS EAST NEWBERN
Source: Alton Telegraph, March 6, 1879
East Newbern has been visited by a ghost. Last Sunday evening, when a resident of that place, with his family, returned home from church, they saw a gentleman, a resident of Alton, seated at the organ with a lady sitting in a rocking chair at his side. The lady of the house put her hand on the shoulder of the gentleman and spoke to him, when he and his companion melted into air, to the great consternation of the beholders.
HUSBAND HAUNTS HOME
Source: Alton Democrat, July 16, 1880
From Jerseyville: It is unwise for the press to encourage superstitious minds by giving prominence to such theories very often, but the particulars of this instance are of interest and deserve investigation. Richard Downs, a colored barber, died recently in this city [Jerseyville], and since then his wife says he appears every night, walks the floor for a while, then vanishes. Mr. Downs, by the way, is nearly white, possessing one sixth African blood in a woman of education and refinement, and is well respected among both white and black for her noble traits of character. She could not be persuaded to remain, and has left the house. Other colored people say they witnessed the strange phenomenon and vouch for the statement of Mrs. Downs.
THE MILTON CEMETERY GHOST (ALSO
CALLED THE ALTON JUNCTION, AND THE WOOD RIVER GHOST):
A FIRST CLASS GHOST SENSATION AT MILTON CEMETERY
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, December 15, 1881
A first class ghost sensation is now exciting the people, it being currently reported that one of the mysterious fraternity has lately been seen in an adjoining graveyard. His ghostship only appears to single individuals, seeming to be troubled with a diffidence that impels him to avoid a crowd. A party of three or four went on a ghost hunting expedition a few nights since, but owing to the bad weather or some other hindrance, there was no supernatural appearance. Some individuals, however, have been "scared out of a year's growth," and state that the spook is no humbug. A party of eight Altonians visited the Milton cemetery last night, saw the ghost, but did not venture to interview it.
THE WOOD RIVER GHOST
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, December 16, 1881
We gave an account yesterday of the supernatural visitor that is said to haunt the Milton cemetery, and has been terrifying the citizens of Alton Junction lately, and also of the trip of eight Altonians to interview the mysterious apparition. The Altonians, with unheard of valor, went within sight of the haunted spot, and at about 10 o'clock, were rewarded with a view of the mysterious being. It appeared to them as a man clothed in a black mantle, with long, flowing hair, the height of the ghost ranging from six to nine feet, according to the magnifying power of the "bulging" eyes that stared at it, the company being speechless through amazement. It is reported that they had the temerity to stand within a hundred yards of the vision for 15 minutes, and then withdrew without disturbing the ghost in the least, it walking back and forth a distance of 40 or 50 feet with a military and preoccupied air that was quite startling. Whether material or supernatural, the apparition was enough to demoralize the Altonians and send them back to town in disorder. One of the railroad employees at the Junction visited the haunted spot a few nights ago, saw the apparition and bravely approaching it thrust his arm directly through its body. This completely unnerved him, and he retreated to the Junction pale as the traditional ghost, and firmly convinced of the supernatural character of the visitant. The old residents assert that the apparition is that of a man buried on the knoll in 1839. How they know that is a matter not yet explained. Meanwhile, Alton Junction has a sensation and is happy, though trembling.
THE MILTON CEMETERY GHOST
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, December 19, 1881
The nightly pilgrimages to the Mecca of wonder lovers, Milton Cemetery, still continue, but with but little success for the past two nights, although some peculiarly gifted individuals still claim to see the mysterious nocturnal visitor. The Upper Alton students say that no one sees the ghost now, for the simple reason that one of their crowd shot it a few nights ago, and in proof of this assertion, they have an ungainly form suspended to a wire in Pie Town, in such a position that all desiring to do so can communicate with the "remnants" by telephone. One man who visited the ghost's walk last night states that the only "appearance" that he saw was a paper image hung to a tree, although a spirituous influence was quite manifest on the crowd he went with. This man is now the "guest" of the city, and can be interviewed by any curious inquirer. It is said that the grave reputed to be the apparition's resting place is somewhat stirred up near the head, at the place where the spirit would naturally make its exit and entrance, looking something like a mole had been at work.
PARTY OF MEN SEARCH FOR MILTON CEMETERY GHOST
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, December 19, 1881
A party of men in a wagon went to Milton cemetery last night in search of the celebrated ghost. They had a supply of liquid refreshments along, and although they failed to see the spook, some of the number were so overcome by the influence of the "spirit" of the kind that appears from a bottle, that they became excited and unruly, and finally created such a disturbance at a house in "Glass Avenue," on their return, firing pistols and kicking at the door, that Policeman Schielle arrested one of the rear guard and locked him up. He was fined $10 and costs this morning, by Justice Noonan.
THE GHOST REDIVIVUS - MILTON CEMETERY
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, December 21, 1881
From the reports received from the haunted Milton cemetery a few days ago, we labored under the pleasing illusion that the ghost was laid and its "manes" pacified, but it seems that this was a flagrant error. The trouble heretofore has been that the investigators have been of timid and "retiring" dispositions, fearful of offending the apparition, and hence have not displayed the proper courage. Monday night, however, a valiant little party, men who did not know what fear was, the "bravest of the brave" went to the place, resolved to do or die. As an evidence of their valor, not to say rashness, they sat down cooly, lighted their pipes, and patiently awaited the mysterious appearance. Luckily they did not have long to tarry. About 10 o'clock one of the number looked over the ground and beheld a sight that caused each individual bristle to stand erect on his head, like the "quills of a frightened forkentine." About twenty paces off stood a form, eight feet high, with a long, white beard and tremendous eyes, big as a couple of holes burned in a blanket. It glared upon the intruders with optics having no speculation in them. The discoverer of this horrid sight exclaimed in an awe-struck whisper, "Boys, there it is," and immediately there was a stir; the "veterans" rose to their feet, a few ineffectual shots from revolvers were fired, and as the apparition glided toward them, its footsteps silent as the grave, the "bravest of the brave" took to flight. They hurried slightly, in fact it would be no exaggeration to say that they ran so wildly and aimlessly that they missed the entryway and lit into a hedge, tearing their garments and scratching themselves terribly. But they escaped the ghost, and say that they have had enough of the search after the supernatural.
THE WOOD RIVER GHOST
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 22, 1881
We gave an account last week of the supernatural visitor that is said to haunt the Milton cemetery, and has been terrifying the citizens of Alton Junction lately, and also of the trip of eight Altonians to interview the mysterious apparition. The Altonians, with unheard of valor, went within sight of the haunted spot, and at about 10 o'clock, were rewarded with a view of the mysterious being. It appeared to them as a man, clothed in a black mantle with long, flowing hair, the height of the ghost ranging from six to nine feet, according to the magnifying power of the "bulging" eyes that stared at it, the company being speechless through amazement. It is reported that they had the temerity to stand within a hundred yards of the vision for 15 minutes, and then withdrew without disturbing the ghost in the least, it walked back and forth a distance of 40 or 50 feet with a military and preoccupied air that was quite startling. Whether material or supernatural, the apparition was enough to demoralize the Altonians and send them back to town in disorder. One of the railroad employees at the Junction visited the haunted spot a few nights ago, saw the apparition and bravely approaching it thrust his arm directly through its body. This completely unnerved him, and he retreated to the Junction pale as the traditional ghost, and firmly convinced of the supernatural character of the visitant. The old residents assert that the apparition is that of a man buried on the knoll in 1839. How they know that is a matter not yet explained. Meanwhile, Alton Junction has a sensation, and is happy though trembling.
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 22, 1881
This city and surrounding country are so thoroughly aroused by the thrilling stories of the appearance of the ghost at the Milton cemetery, that the subject is the general theme of conversation among all classes. A strange circumstance in connection with the matter is that the bravest individuals are those farthest from the scene of action. A crowd, estimated at over 300, went to the haunted graveyard last week, resolved to fully investigate the matter; they were like an army with banners, except that they had numerous torches and lanterns instead. The company made a great deal of noise, some even using unseemly, disrespectful language in respect to the ghost, consequently that individual did not appear, although the "hunters" crowded the place until after 12 o'clock, the witching hour when graves are supposed to "yawn and give up their sheeted dead." A gentleman, who is well posted in ghost lore, states that apparitions will only appear to particular favored individuals, and that when the right person comes the visitant from the other world will speak, relieve its perturbed mind, and then rest in peace. It is no use to try to shoot one, for the fool-hardy individual who would attempt it would, undoubtedly, receive the bullet, even though he used a silver one, in his own person. In the meantime, the excitement increases and many authentic, blood-curdling ghost stories are related to admiring listeners, around the kitchen stove, while the harrowing suspense of the desperate men, who go out at night with their lives in their hands, as it were, and their "pocket pistols" duly charged, can be better imagined than described.
The latest report is that some of the more sedate ones, who remained after the noisier part of the crowd left, were rewarded by a view of the supernatural visitant, much such an appearance as we have already described. The ghost has been interviewed, as we learn, by a gentleman who wishes to remain strictly incognito, to whom it stated that it was the spirit of a man murdered on the railroad near Alton Junction a few years ago, but having been carelessly prepared for the grave, unbecomingly arrayed, laid in the coffin in an uneasy position, with a nail reaching through the casket and penetrating the body, it was impossible to rest under the circumstances, and this was the cause of the restless spirit's materialization in the cemetery.
GHOST OF ALTON SIX TO NINE FEET HIGH
Weekly Graphic, Kirksville, Missouri, Friday, December 23, 1881
Alton, Illinois has a ghost which has placed that little city and vicinity in a fever of excitement. Unlike ghosts in general, this one dresses in black and has long flowing hair, and is said to be from six to nine feet high.
A REMARKABLE GHOST STORY - EXPERIENCE OF A PHYSICIAN YEARS AGO
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, December 9, 1890 and the Alton Telegraph, December 11, 1890
Editor Telegraph: One ghost story is nearly always productive of another. There is something peculiarly mysterious about ghost stories, although no one yet has been found who has felt that he could say positively that the apparition he saw was someone, who had at some time inhabited a tenement of flesh and blood and walked among men. A number of years ago, the writer was sitting in the office of - at that time - a well-known physician. The subject of apparitions happening to come up by the report that a ghost had been seen in the eastern end of the city, the Doctor said: "If you have no objection, I will tell you my experience with ghosts." The Doctor was a good storyteller, and could always have an audience when professional duties permitted. Settling myself in a chair comfortably, I said to the Doctor: "go ahead; I am fixed for ghosts tonight." After pondering a second or two, and casting a glance around him as if looking for someone, he began:
"Some ten or twelve years ago, I had a very large practice in the American Bottom, east of Alton. I would frequently be called out at night in that neighborhood, and spend a large portion of it in making calls and in returning to my home. On these occasions I always took my driver along. He was a tall, muscular Irishman, strong as an ox, and apparently without fear. We both had weapons with us in case of need, although we never had occasion to use them. The night in question I was called to attend a family living about six or eight miles below the city, on the St. Louis road. It was one of the handsomest nights I ever saw. The moon was full and cast such a glorious light that the trees and houses seemed illumined. The air was keen and crusty with frost - a typical December night. We reached the homestead of the family where the call came from about 9:30, and found two cases of diphtheria - in almost the last stages. I stayed with the family for a couple of hours, affording such relief as I could. Between eleven and twelve we started on our return. I felt somewhat blue over the prospects for the recovery of my two patients, and with foreboding fears that more of the family might be taken down with the dread disease. I said nothing to my driver, meditating upon how little a physician could do, with all his much-vaunted skill, when death put in a claim.
We had reached, shortly after 12 o'clock, that part of the road lying near the old cemetery at Milton. As is well known, Milton cemetery is on the top of the hill, overlooking the road. Noticing the hill, my thoughts ran to the many ghost stories that had been told of that famous spot. My attention was suddenly called by an exclamation from Patrick, my driver: "By all the saints, Doctor, what's that ahead of us?" Quickly glancing in the direction, I saw a figure, some two hundred yards in advance of us, standing in the middle of the road and apparently facing us. It seemed to be of the height of an ordinary person, and appeared to be covered with a sheet. I thought it was someone trying to frighten us. I told Patrick so, and we drove on until the horse caught sight of the object and would go no farther. Fearing that the animal might break the vehicle, I said to Patrick to hold the horse and I would go and investigate the apparition.
I took the buggy whip in one hand and my pistol in the other, prepared, as I supposed for the would-be ghost. As I drew near it, I saw that holes appeared to be cut in the sheet about where the eyes and nose ought to be, but there was no movement in any part of it. It was as cold and as stiff looking as a marble monument. A little closer I observed that feet, clad in white stockings, protruded beneath the sheet. I shouted, when within a rod, "who are you and why do you stand there trying to frighten my horse?" There was no sound uttered, or movement made by the figure. I was astonished beyond measure. My heart thumped and beat so loudly that I was sure Patrick could hear it, and the ghost too if it had ears. At last, mustering up courage, I made a rush for the figure. I raised my whip and brought the heavy end down with all my strength on the figure's head. But imagine my surprise, instead of striking the creature, my whip cleaved through it and struck the place where its feet stood. The next instant the most unearthly, the most horrible yell that ever pierced the ears of any mortal, came from the spot where the blow from my whip was aimed. The shriek of a dozen catamounts [wild animal of the cat family] could not have equaled it. I was paralyzed for a few seconds. When I came to myself, there was nothing to be seen. The echo had died away.
Turning towards my buggy, the horse was prancing and jumping. When I reached it the animal was covered with sweat, trembling like an aspen, and Patrick was speechless. After having spoken to him several times, he stammered, "What was it Doctor?" I didn't tell him. I didn't say anything. We drove off in silence, and as we passed the spot where the figure stood, the horse shied and plunged, and a peculiar odor seemed to pervade the atmosphere. In the course of ten or fifteen minutes, Patrick told me that just after the screech the figure seemed to flit through the air, its white stockinged feet protruding beneath the drapery, towards the cemetery on the hillside, and disappeared in the ground. That was all I ever saw. Patrick could not be hired to pass that way again. He soon after left my employ and went from the city. I did not speak of the apparition to anyone, because I must have a driver, and I was confident that it would be almost impossible to secure one that would pass along that road, if it was told.
I made the same trip the next night, and many nights since, and never again saw the strange visitant. No one else, that I ever heard of, saw it afterwards. I have often thought of it and tried to reason it out. Had not Patrick and his horse seen and heard it I should have persuaded myself that it was an illusion. You are the first person to whom I have told it. Never speak of it until I am gone. Then you may publish it if you want to." The old physician relapsed into silence. He never mentioned the story again. A few years afterward he passed away, having served his generation well.
HORSE BOLTS WHEN NEAR MILTON CEMETERY - WAS IT THE GHOST OF
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 7, 1902
Two young men hired a horse and sleigh from C. Seibold last night, and started off towards East Alton. When near Milton cemetery the horse started to run away and upset the sleigh. The young men were thrown out, but not much damaged. The sleigh was badly used up and the horse becoming detached from it was caught by Bill Henry at East Alton. The horse dragged Mr. Henry about forty feet before he was stopped.
HEADLESS GHOST ON CHOUTEAU SLOUGH
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, March 1889
A headless ghost in Nameoki has been parading the banks of Chouteau Slough recently, and several young ladies have become nervously agitated by the ogre. It is supposed to be a deserter from one of the numerous tombs in the Ebenezer Ridge Cemetery.
The Ebenezer Ridge Baptist Church was established on Chouteau Slough in 1842. It was destroyed by flood in about 1904. The Ebenezer Ridge Cemetery is in very poor condition, and only a handful of stones remain. It is located off of Rock Road, west of Rt 3 in Granite City.
What did the young ladies see? Was it a headless ghost from the Ebenezer Ridge Cemetery? Chouteau Island, just west of Granite City, is home to an old French settler graveyard. Was the ghost one of the French settlers? You decide!
SHOWER OF ROCKS FALLS ON ALTON HOME NIGHTLY
Source: Jersey County Democrat, October 10, 1889
(From the Alton Sentinel Democrat)
Mystery of the supernatural shower of rocks that has been nightly falling on the residence of Mr. Gottleib Kaeser at Third and Cherry Streets for the past two weeks still remains unsolved. The excitement concerning the mystery, however, continues to increase, and Second Street [Broadway] was lined with people last night enroute to the scene of the strange unearthly happening. A preconcerted effort was made last night to discover, if possible, from what direction the missiles came. A crowd of several hundred completely surrounded the house at eight o’clock, and awaited with anxious eyes and bated breath. A superstitious stillness pervaded the crowd, and the force of numbers is all that prevented many of the spectators from taking flight. The careful vigil was without avail, however, and the concourse of curious watchers were doomed to disappointment, as the shower failed to come. Though much disappointed at not getting to see the mysterious sight, the crowd was not sorry to leave, as the atmosphere in that vicinity was very disagreeable on account of the chilly sensations imparted. The residents of Hunterstown are loath to believe in omens, prognostics or spirits, and they are determined to ferret out the mystery. That the shower of rocks comes there can be no denying, and who and where it comes from is what they intend to find out, if it is in any way possible.
Rock showers are a paranormal event that is common throughout history. It is usually unexplainable. Was it caused by a ghostly poltergeist in the home? Or was the rock shower caused by a “human agent” who unconsciously caused it? The Gottleib home, at 302 Cherry Street, where the rock shower occurred, is not far from the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy home. Was there a connection? Gottleib was a local carpenter, who died in November 1907. An explanation of the rock shower was never discovered.
GHOSTS IN UPPER ALTON
Source: Alton Telegraph, January 15, 1885
The family living in a certain house in the east edge of town have been very much exercised of late, over some supernatural proceedings about their premises, which they attribute to ghostly visitations. The spirit is given to unlocking and unbolting doors, even removing bars and braces. It also terrifies the inmates of the house by “long-drawn groans and sounds of woe.”
GHOST OF THE ALTON PRISON
Source: Auburn, New York Daily Bulletin, July 5, 1889
A ghost with the lockstep is one of the rarities of spiritualism, but that is what they say has been heard near the old prison at Alton, Ill. [Note: a lockstep is a way of marching in very close file, in which the leg of each person moves with and closely behind the corresponding leg of the person ahead.
PETER REYLAND AND THOMAS CONVARY MEET A GHOST
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, May 31, 1892
Last Friday evening, Messrs. Peter Reyland and Thomas Convary had quite an experience with a spirit from the other world. The gentlemen left the residence of Mr. Reyland in a wagon about 5 o'clock to cut a few bean poles. They drove along slowly, being in no hurry, to a thickly wooded patch of scrub oak, back of Upper Alton, to a place known as the John Smith farm near the cut off, arriving there about sundown. With an ax, both began to cut small shoots and trees such as could be used for their purpose. Each had cut several poles and were proceeding to another spot, when Mr. Reyland beheld a ghost. Both men were spellbound and stood for several seconds as the spectre with fiery eyes came toward them. The weird scene in the lonely place was too much for the pole cutters, and they ran with might and main towards where their horse was tied. A barbed wire fence was scaled in one leap and both men, much exhausted, reaching their wagon, put whip to the horse and left the spectre in possession of the lonely woods.
Messrs. Reyland and Convary cannot describe in words what they saw, but will never go to the spot again by night. The place where the ghost was seen is a lonely place. On both sides of the woods are deep ravines, thickly covered with underbrush. Probably the gentlemen cut a small tree under which slumbered some one of our ancestors, who aroused from his rest, resented the intrusion. The little experience will be remembered.
The John H. Smith farm was located north of Upper Alton, between Humbert Road and Seminary Street. The woods and ravines are located behind the Farm & Home Store. Peter Reyland was the son of a respectable Alton businessman, who conducted a store at Ninth and Henry Streets. Both he and Convary were well known and well liked in the community. Whatever frightened them that evening in 1892, I’m sure they did not venture there alone again. Perhaps the spectre with fiery eyes was an old settler or Native American who was buried there. Would you dare to walk there in the night?
GHOST OF FOURTH OF
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 21, 1895
According to Mr. Harry Johnson, the ghost of Fourth of July Hill has broken out again, and is once more preventing sleep from embracing some of the colored citizens of the vicinity. It must be a very discourteous, sour old ghost that would disturb the peace and dissolve joy, at this, the merriest time of all the year, and he should "be laid."
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, February 7, 1896
A real ghost is reported to be making its appearance in Dutchtown nightly at about 11 o’clock. Quite a crowd witnessed its perambulations in Jim Bailey’s vineyard the other night.
SPOOKS AND SPIRITS HAUNT ALTON NAVAL MILITIA HALL
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 23, 1897
"Didy" Woods had an experience yesterday at Naval Militia Hall which he will not soon forget. He had been given the keys and sent over to clean out the hall, but it was only a short time till Didy returned with the keys, declaring he had seen and heard strange things, and under no circumstances would he complete the job. Didy had not been at work long, he says, before a shadow crossed his path. Turning around quickly, a man's head was seen, which gradually dwindled into the shape of a rat. Then it disappeared, and strange sounds took its place. There were weird shrieks and laughing under the stage, then rappings; then a stove pipe in the same place began to roll around. To cap the climax, Didy swears the shovel, which was standing in the corner, began jumping up and down just like it was dancing a jig. The ghost may have cut up other antics, but if it did, Dionysius did not see it, for the very good reason that he left the hall as fast as his feet could carry him.
Didy was almost a pure white when he came to deliver up the keys. The boys will organize a search party at the drill meeting tonight and explore under the stage. If they should happen on Mr. Ghost, they will no doubt endeavor to explode the theory that a ghost is impenetrable. At any rate, if he has several bayonets thrust through him, it will only partly repay him for the fright Didy received.
The most serious feature of the business is that Didy has been the grand "Mascot" of the Navy boys since the organization of the company, and now that he has begun to see "ha'nts," they will have to look up someone else. They do not want "uncanny" people around, and if Didy has the faculty of calling spirits from beneath the stage, from the stove, from the chimney, and even from arc lights, he will have to go. Didy persists "dat dis house am 'ha'nted,' suah."
The Alton Naval Reserves was mustered in February 1, 1896, by Captain D. C. Daggett of Moline, then Commander of the Second Battalion. Prior to the mustering, a group of forty young men banded together under the name of the "Morrell Guards," and were fully officered. They held regular drill meetings in the McPike building, which was formerly the Root Opera House on Belle Street (now where Mac’s Time Out Lounge is located). While this was going on, several prominent citizens, headed by Senator C. A. Herb, were doing all in their power to obtain a position for the "Morrell Guards" in the Second Battalion, Naval Militia. About January 24, 1896, word was received that Captain Daggett would muster the organization into the Naval Militia, and this was done February 1, 1896. The Alton Naval Militia served during the Spanish-American War (1898).
Dionysius “Didy” Woods, a youth, was a popular "mascot" of the Alton Naval Militia, and accompanied the men on their outings. He was also given the task of cleaning the hall. Whatever happened that November night in 1897 was never explained. He would not return to the hall alone. The men later found a black cat in the hall, but that would not explain all that Didy experienced. Whispers of a ghost at the Root Opera House were often heard previously. Does the ghost still walk Belle Street?
PHANTOM BUGGY IN UPPER ALTON
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 23, 1901
Upper Alton has a mystery which bids fair to rival State street's woman in black. It has been named by one worthy citizen, the Phantom Buggy. For several weeks this noiseless vehicle, drawn by a shadowy steed whose movements are so slow and quiet that they are scarcely perceptible, has appeared in the gloom of the evening on different streets of the village, and has excited no little curiosity and speculation. The buggy is rigged with a closed top and appears to contain two muffled forms which neither speak nor move. It was last seen by a college professor, whose veracity has never been questioned, as he was returning from a faculty meeting. On the loneliest part of the way he saw this mysterious equipage and immediately recognized it and thought to challenge it, but the awful stillness appalled him and he fled in terror, thinking he was followed by a ghostly cavalcade [procession] of horsemen and carriages. College professors are all given to more or less theorizing, and he now believes they are the phantom of men and horses whose lives were lost in the mud on College avenue during the past two winters, and that only the paving of that street will soothe these unhappy spirits.
WOMAN WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE CAUSES FAMILY TO FLEE HOME
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 11, 1902
The family of Fred Nichols on Bluff street was driven from its home Wednesday night by what they supposed to be the specter of Mrs. Minnie Nichols, who committed suicide in the house a few weeks ago. Late in the night the neighbors were aroused by the members of the family who said they could not stay in the house, and left the place in alarm. Their imagination had led them to believe that the place was haunted, and they were so frightened that the father, mother and five children left the place. The frightened members of the family said that they were sure the disturbance in the house was caused by something ghostly, until after a careful investigation of the place had failed to reveal anything uncanny or otherwise.
THE GHOST OF McPIKE ISLAND
HAUNTS "DEAF BILL" LEE SHACK
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 19, 1904
According to some Missouri Pointers, a ghost makes nightly visits to McPike island, but why it is "ghosting" around such a lonely place is not exactly clear to them. "Deaf Bill" Lee, a fisherman who formerly lived on the island, reported to the police of Alton a few years ago that a man and his wife came to his cabin one day and asked to be allowed to stay until the man, who gave his name as John Snow, could earn money enough to take them to Tennessee. Bill allowed them to remain, but Snow, according to Bill, became intensely jealous of Lee and very angry at the woman because she seemed to like the host better than the husband. Snow started across the river to Alton with the woman in a skiff, Bill told the police, and lost the woman on the way over, and he alleged that Snow knocked her in the head with an oar and tumbled her overboard. The skiff was found tied on this side of the river [Alton] but nothing was ever heard of Snow or his wife, although the police investigated Lee's story at the time. Now fishermen and others who happen to be on McPike's island at night say a ghost with clanking chains and hollow eyes as becomes a ghost cavorts around the vicinity of the old Lee shack and moans and makes noises as if something ailed it, and John Kenney is of the opinion that the wraith is that of Snow's wife, but he cannot understand what she is doing around Lee's former abode instead of being where Snow is. "Bill never did nawthin' to her," says Kenney, "only love her little, mebbe, and treat her a blamed sight better than her husband did, and besides there is no call for her to be making all these here unearthly noises from no point of view."
BLUFF STREET GHOST STRIKES AGAIN
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 1904
William Redmond, the well-known East Second Street [Broadway] harness dealer, is "dead game." He proved that last night when shortly after midnight, he and his wife were awakened from their sleep at their home on Bluff Street in Alton by noises made by someone evidently going down stairs in a hurry.
"Wake up Will," said Mrs. Redmond, "there is someone in the house."
"I know it," said Will, "I've waked up. You get up and see who it is."
Both got up and Mr. Redmond said to his wife, "Now you go downstairs first and carry the lamp. I will follow after you with a revolver, and if the burglar attempts to do anything to you, I will kill him."
Mrs. Redmond followed instructions, and a thorough search of the house was made by both, but without discovering anybody, and the door was securely locked. The couple believes it was the once notorious Bluff Street ghost that formerly irritated and agitated Bluff Street residents, and which desiring to return, got into the wrong house. Whatever it was, it badly scared Mr. Redmond - and the scare was worse after nobody could be seen.
The newspaper article did not give the address of the home on Bluff Street, so that remains a mystery. Mr. Redmond is certainly not the bravest man – sending his wife down the stairs before him! Even worse – she followed his instructions! I wonder if the Bluff Street ghost is still searching for his home?
ALTON'S REV. ROBERT WEST SPEAKS
FROM THE GRAVE?
Source: Science and a Future Life, by James H. Hyslop, Ph.D., LL.D, 1905
Mr. W. H. Savage had a sitting with Mrs. Piper, and after several remarkable incidents she (Phinuit) said, "Ah! Here is somebody from the outside - he says his name is Robert West. He wants to send a message to your brother. Apparently, this Robert West took control, for there immediately followed: "I wrote an article against his work in The Advance. I thought he was wrong but he was right." When asked to describe him, he was described in language which Mr. W. H. Savage says was "photographic in its truth." Phinuit said, "He died of hemorrhage of the kidneys." A little more than two weeks later Dr. Minot J. Savage, the brother, had a sitting, and this Robert West purported to communicate with him. He said that he had been buried in Alton, Illinois and gave the epitaph or text on his tombstone saying that it was "Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." On inquiry of an editor of a newspaper in Alton, it was found that the Rev. Robert West was buried there, and that the text on his tombstone was exactly as said. Mr. W. H. Savage had personally known this Robert West in Jacksonville, Illinois and he had been editor of The Advance in Chicago, and had written a severe criticism of Dr. Minot J. Savage's doctrines and work. Dr. Savage, being a Unitarian, and Mr. West a Congregationalist. Mr. W. H. Savage had not seen the criticism, and Dr. Minot J. Savage did not know that Mr. West was dead. Both Mr. W. H. Savage and Dr. Minot J. Savage did not know the cause of Mr. West's death, and on inquiry of The Advance, his death was ascertained, and in the Congregational Year Book it is stated that he died of Bright's disease on October 25th, 1886, a little more than two years before the sitting. At the same sitting of Dr. Minot J, Savage, the death of a Rev. C. L. Goodell was correctly announced, but was not known by Dr. Savage until verified afterwards.
[Editor's note: *Phinuit was purported to be a French doctor and first spirit guide of Leonora Piper, a spiritual medium. Robert West was a former pastor of the Congregational Church in Alton, and died October 24, 1886 at the age of 41. West is buried in the Alton City Cemetery beside the grave of his father.]
OLD PLANK ROAD HOUSE IN ALTON
SAID TO BE VISITED BY SPOOKS
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 29, 1905
There is always something doing to attract the attention of the skeptic and cause him to wonder, if after all his doubts which he calls convictions, there is not more to life than what we see of it on earth. Mysterious manifestations, many of which have never been explained, have been of frequent occurrence throughout the country, and Alton has not been entirely neglected in this particular either. According to residents of Upper Belle street, or "the old plank road" as it is yet called by many, there is something uncanny going on in a house above the Dixon stone quarry, and the ghosts, or whatever they are, do not wait until night, as most regulated ghosts have done from time immemorial, to begin their pranks either. Often in the middle of the day occupants of the house hear the flapping of wings as if some great bird was in the room and close to descent upon the listeners. Nothing can be seen, however, and the sound continues sometimes for five minutes, while the bewildered occupants listen and tremble and wonder. Queer noises are heard in the cellar of the house at all hours or any hour, and sometimes the sounds are said to issue from the walls of the house apparently. "Things disappear very mysteriously sometimes," the lady of the house says. "Oftentimes they disappear almost before your very eyes, but no trace of them is ever found again, and where they go or by what influence they are controlled cannot be learned."
THE GHOST THAT DISTURBED THE WESLEYS
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 16, 1905
[Note: This article, while not pertaining to Madison County, was an interesting paranormal story. I thought you might enjoy it.]
An Illinois reader of "Matters and Things" asks me if it is true that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, actually believed in ghosts and witchcraft. He, like many learned men of France and England and New England, thought that there was such a thing as witchcraft. According to Tyerman and other writers, he was a firm believer in apparitions after his father's adventures with what is called "Old Jeffrey's ghost" at the Wesley rectory. While John was at school in London, there occurred some mysterious noises at home which have not been satisfactorily explained. They were first heard one winter day in 1715 by Mrs. Susanna Wesley, the great preacher's mother. She was in her bedroom when suddenly startled by a clattering of the windows and doors, followed by several distinct knocks, three by three. At the same time, the maid servant, Nancy Marshall, heard in the dining room something that sounded like the groans of a dying man. On these things being told, the young ladies of the family were especially alarmed. John's father was as yet a doubting Thomas. He was a man of scholarly attainments. As poet, writer and preacher he enjoyed the acquaintance of such men as Defoe, Pope, Swift, Richard Baxter and John Bunyan. He was also possessed of great courage. So when Mrs. Wesley gave it as her opinion that the noises were supernatural, he exclaimed: "Sukey, I am ashamed of you. These girls and boys frighten each other, but you are a woman of sense and should know better. Let me hear of it no more." but the following night he was aroused from his slumbers by nine loud and distinct knocks. Raps and knocks indeed were heard throughout the house. The next night the noises were as boisterous as ever - and Mr. Wesley became less doubtful. On the contrary, he drew a pistol to fire in the direction of the sounds, but desisted. A few days later - in the evening - as he opened the door of his study, it was thrown back with such violence that he was almost thrown down. He went into his daughter Amelia's room adjoining, and the noises continuing, he said to her that "as spirits love darkness," she could blow out the candle and "perhaps it would speak." Though he asked questions aloud, there was no reply, of course. He then requested Annie to go downstairs. Imagining that something might have happened to his son Samuel, who was away, he said aloud: "If thou are the spirit of my son, Samuel, I pray thee knock three knocks, and no more." No answer came, and all was quiet for the night. There is something ludicrous in the picture of the stern and accomplished Samuel Wesley here presented - trembling in superstitious fear. But let us remember that he was troubled by a mystery that no one has since been able to explain for all the wisdom of today. Dr. James Buckley tells us that almost a month later, when the family were at prayer, the usual knocks were heard when Wesley prayed for King George, and a thundering thump at the "amen." Noises continued, latches were uplifted, doors flew open, the house shook from top to bottom, the rector's trencher danced upon the table at a Sunday dinner, and beds were uplifted. A number of clergymen advised him to leave the old rectory. "Let the devil flee from me," he said, "I will never flee from him." The attic from whence the noises came was by Emily Wesley called "Old Jeffrey's chamber." The supposed ghost was named "Old Jeffrey after an old woman who died there. Dr. Buckley thinks that the mysterious noises were produced by someone coming through the dormer window of the attic, and that the gypsum floor, which reverberates through the house in a remarkable way, had something to do with them. Dr. Prestly supposes the sounds were a trick of the servants, assisted by neighbors. But does this explain all the happenings aside from the noises? The mystery had a powerful influence on John Wesley. He took the trouble of obtaining minute particulars from his mother, from his four sisters, and from Robin Brown. He likewise transcribed his father's diary containing an account of the disturbances, thereby showing the intense interest he felt in the affair. "In fact," avers Tyerman, "It would seem that from this period John Wesley was a firm believer in ghosts and apparitions." Our forefathers were very superstitious. The elder Wesleys were rather gloomy and austere, and I think this accounts for their readiness to believe the mystery of supernatural origin. There are no ghosts - really and truly?
SLAYER OF DAN WRIGHT TORMENTED BY GHOST
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph,1906
In 1904, Dan Wright – a notorious desperado of Upper Alton – was killed by Lawrence Slaughter in self-defense. Both were African-Americans who lived in the Salu area of Upper Alton.
Dan Wright had been paying attention to Slaughter’s young daughter, Sarah, aged 15. The girl had repeatedly spurned his proposals of marriage, and the father, Lawrence Slaughter, tried to stop Wright from entering their home, but Slaughter was a man of small stature, while Wright was a “physical giant.” One evening, Wright called at the Slaughter home and forced his way in. He soon turned his attentions upon the young girl. When she refused him, he pinned her against the wall with one arm, and struck her a blow in the face that nearly rendered her unconscious. The father, who was weak from “rheumatic troubles,” had no ammunition in the house to use in his firearms to defend his daughter. Wright left the home, vowing to return the next night.
Slaughter bought some powder and buckshot and loaded his two old army muskets and a revolver. He laid in wait for Wright behind locked doors. Wright came back the next night, very drunk and noisy. Slaughter begged him to go away, but Wright insisted upon entering the home, saying he would cut the throat of Lawrence Slaughter. Slaughter then told his daughter to throw open the door, which she did. He brought his gun into position as Wright advanced with a knife in one hand. Slaughter fired, and Wright fell dead outside the home.
Lawrence Slaughter gave himself up to Constable Harry Streeper. The Alton police refused to lock him up, but was allowed to sleep at the police station overnight. They were relieved that Wright, a former criminal, was dead. An inquest was held over the body of Wright, and the jury rendered a verdict of justifiable homicide. Friends and neighbors visited the police station, and donated money, not only for his defense, if he needed it, but as a thanks for his brave deed. Daniel Wright was buried in the Milton Cemetery in Alton.
As time went on, Lawrence Slaughter became wrecked with worry over having killed Dan Wright. He claimed he was being haunted by Dan Wright’s ghost. Each evening after supper, he would sit in his chair as if expecting some terrible event. He would then become wildly excited, as he exclaimed he could hear the footsteps coming through the door. He began to fight an invisible foe with all his might, as if holding back two arms to keep them from reaching his throat. Each evening the scene was repeated, and he never recovered his peace of mind.
After the murder of Dan Wright, the neighbors steered clear of the Slaughter home out of superstition. They feared his ghost would return, and none gave aid to poor Lawrence Slaughter as he relived the event every night. Slaughter died in August 1906, his body thoroughly weak from fear and worry. He was buried in the Upper Alton Oakwood Cemetery.
MRS. JOHN KELLY HAS PREMONITION OF
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 25, 1907
The superstitiously inclined, and those who believe in signs, omens, etc., can point to the experience of Mrs. John Kelly of east Third street antedating the calamity that befell relatives of her yesterday as substantiating their belief somewhat. Mrs. Kelly is a sister of Mrs. Jack Thomas and was greatly attached to her nephew Will, who was killed outright yesterday afternoon at Armstrong's quarry. Mrs. Kelly was uneasy and anxious all day yesterday and told several of her neighbors, it is said, that she knew something awful was about to happen to some one belonging to her. She had no idea what form the calamity would take, nor who the victim would be, but she felt sure someone akin to her was about to suffer severely. Monday night she was aroused from her sleep by a something which she described as "a feeling that there was someone in the room." She arose and examined not only the room but the entire house occupied by her family, but found nobody. The experience was repeated several times Monday night, according to the story and to add to the mysticism of it, every time she turned on the electric light in the kitchen during her investigation tours, it would suddenly go out or be turned off. It was following the above experience that she declared her belief in an approaching calamity.
MAN'S DREAM OF TRAIN WRECK COMES TRUE
SECOND DREAM WARNS HIM OF INJURIES IN WRECK
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 22, 1907
John Greagory, brakeman on the Alton bridge train, will take a layoff. He is not superstitious about dreams, but when they are of a nightmarish kind and then they come true, and he has another one of a worse character, he believes it is time to dodge a hoodoo and let someone else take it. Greagory dreamed last Friday night his train was wrecked, and he saw plainly in his vision the position of the cars as they lay on the embankment. He told it to his fellow trainmen, and they laughed at him, but on Saturday evening the wreck occurred just as he had dreamed and had told the men who worked with him. They were astounded when they recalled what Greagory had told them in the morning. Today he said he had another dream, and this time it was worse, as he saw himself badly hurt in a wreck. As the first dream was realized, he is thinking the second one may be a warning too, so he will take a leave of absence for a short time in the hope of dodging what may be the realization of a warning that fate had something bad in store for him.
GHOST AT THE GLASSWORKS?
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, 1908
The glassworks has a ghost according to one of the night watchmen, who reports having seen his ghost ship flitting around the yards from one house to another frequently of late. The ghost never enters any of the houses or furnace rooms, possibly because it is hot enough for him where he comes from and he is desirous of a change. The report of the ghost presence has caused considerable nervousness, it is said, among the colored helpers at the works, and they stick close to the houses and their work. There is no more roaming around the yards at night by workmen and perhaps that is what the ghost is there for.
DISTURBANCE IN PIANO - DOESN'T
BELIEVE IN SPOOKS
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 25, 1908
Fred Browning, agent for the United States Express Company, is still worrying over a happening at his home last Thursday night. He was sitting alone in his home reading a copy of a St. Louis paper, when suddenly he was startled by a crash coming from the piano in the same room, as though six or eight of the strings had broken at one time, and the sound of their snapping, together with the rattle and the twang of music that was given forth, almost made him fall out of his chair. He made a hurried investigation and could find no strings broken in the piano. Everyone was intact, and the piano has been giving forth just as sweet music since as it did before Mr. Browning was given the sudden start. There was no one in the house with him, and no rats in the house to make the noise in the piano. If any strings had been broken, the mystery would have been explained, but the piano is as good now as it was before. Some student of the occult may explain the mystery.
Fred Browning lived on E. 6th Street in Alton, with his wife, Leila, daughters Blanche and Dorothy, and mother-in-law, Elizabeth Murphy. He was alone at the time of the disturbance, which was never explained. Fred was a reputable man who didn’t believe in ghosts, yet this disturbance left him shaken and wondering if perhaps they did exist. What do you think? Have you ever had an unexplained event in your home?
OVER QUEER SITUATION IN THEIR FRONT PARLOR –
FURNITURE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN, BOOKS STREWN ABOUT THE FLOOR
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 6, 1908
Mr. and Mrs. Hosea B. Sparks of 410 Prospect street, are very much puzzled over something that happened in their home last Monday night, which might require the mind of a Sherlock Holmes to solve. When they went to bed Monday night everything in their front parlor was in an orderly condition, the furniture was in the usual places and the books in the bookcases were where they had been kept for a long time. When Mr. and Mrs. Sparks entered the parlor the next morning, the place had the appearance of having been visited by the miniature tornado which caused considerable damage outside the same night. The parlor furniture was turned upside down and moved out of place, the books had been taken from the bookcases and strewn about the floor of the room. Someone had made an effort to make the place as untidy as possible, as if playing an April fool joke. No one in the house could offer any solution of the mystery. Nothing has been missed, and it is believed that if anyone broke into the house it was not for the purpose of stealing anything. Whoever it was disarranged the parlor furniture and books was satisfied with having caused that much annoyance and left.
EAST ALTON MAN SLEPT ALONG GRAVES
TO SHOW HE DIDN'T BELIEVE IN GHOSTS
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 7, 1909
William Rampenthal of East Alton can reasonably boast of a good amount of nerve, for he slept in the Milton cemetery half the night last night and won a bet of $3 from a friend. Rampenthal and friend were talking with ex-mayor R. E. Douglas in the Douglas saloon at East Alton last night when the conversation turned on ghost stories, and Rampenthal declared that he wasn't afraid of them. The friend offered to make a wager of $3 with him that he wouldn't sleep the rest of the night in Milton cemetery alone. Rampenthal accepted, and the money was placed in Douglas' hands. The friend and several others accompanied Rampenthal in a doctor's buggy to the cemetery, and laid him down far back in the cemetery. Rampenthal had previously provided himself with several large blankets in order to keep warm. Wrapping these around him, he fell asleep between two graves and slept soundly until 5:30 o'clock this morning, when Dr. Pence had to go out and pummel him in order to wake him up for work. Rampenthal was not hurt a bit by his experience, and was today at his usual work in the shell department of the Equitable Powder Plant. He didn't see any ghosts.
KATZENJAMMER HOUSE BADLY
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 24, 1909
There is a house or place at the east end street fair which is called "crazy house," "katzenjammer shack," or "bug house right" by the folks living down that way, and it is said that a party of young men and girls were so badly frightened last night when they visited the place that they bolted from it, jumped over fences and other obstructions and made their get-a-way before their fright left them. Ask Harry Wentz or "Doc" Strubel about it; they were in the party, it is said.
FREE RENT FOR A YEAR IF YOU WILL STAY IN
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 23, 1910
There is a man at O'Fallon, Mo., telephone operator there, who has been taking a lively interest in a supposed haunted house in Alton. Someone went over there and told the O'Fallon man, who seems to be unduly credulous, that William Feldwisch of Alton has a couple of houses here which are haunted. The story went that Mr. Feldwisch could get no one to live in the houses and that, despairing of breaking the hoodoo, he would give a year's rent to anyone who would live in the houses that length of time, and finally would give one of the houses to the person who would brave the "spooks" in the haunted houses for twelve months. The O'Fallon man first wrote a letter and got no response. Then he called up on the telephone and wanted to know about it. Now he is planning a trip to Alton to make an investigation. He is deeply interested in Mr. Feldwisch's alleged "haunts," and is willing to fight it out with the "spooks."
CLIFTON TERRACE RESIDENTS POINT
WITH PRIDE TO STRANGE PHENOMENON
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 26, 1910
Residents of Clifton Terrace are swelling up and pointing with more or less pride to a citizen there who is distinguished in a couple of ways more than other men. The citizen is James Minard, and he lives at Clifton Hollow. He is 56 years old and has lived many years in that vicinity. His nearest neighbor is a Mr. Wilhelm, and the latter was in Alton Wednesday, and was interviewed by a Telegraph reporter concerning a report prevalent about Mr. Minard. Mr. Wilhelm said it is true that Minard, who lost his teeth some time ago, now has a full set of second growth teeth, better than the teeth he had the first forty years of his life. This includes new jaw teeth. Mr. Wilhelm says, "I have worked with and alongside of him for twenty years or more, and I know he lost his teeth and I know too that he now has perfect natural teeth," is the way Mr. W. put it. About six weeks ago Mr. Minard started to raising his residence and remodeling it completely, and since then has been living in a tent nearby. The second distinction comes in here. Constantly, whether the sun is shining or not, the front of that tent is kept moist and dustless by rain it is said. It doesn't rain hard; just sprinkles, but it keeps at it and spreads out no farther than the width of the tent. Mr. Wilhelm said he watched the rain for an hour the other day while sitting in Minard's tent looking out. Other Cliftonites who corroborate this story without attempting any explanation of the phenomenon are William Gradolph and Mr. and Mrs. James Frasier. They told Alton residents the rain falling incident is true and that they visited the Minard tent and witnessed it. The Telegraph gives the story just as the above witnesses gave it.
SKELETON DUG UP BY DOGS - STRANGE HAPPENINGS
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 18, 1912
Captain W. D. Fluent has a skeleton at his docks of a man who was buried sixteen years ago by the Captain and Messrs. Gruse and Ruckmann. The body was buried on the lowlands of Missouri Point, and has gone through eleven high water in sixteen years, but was becoming uncovered in places and was found by the dogs belonging to Fluent. It was decided that the best thing to do was to dig up the bones and re-bury them at some future time. The skeleton brings to mind a number of strange things, and although the Captain is sure it is the same on he buried there sixteen years ago, a jack knife and a whiskey bottle buried with the man cannot be found. The leather in the shoes is still good, but the stitches are gone while the old hob nails hold them together. A belt buckle was found alongside the skeleton, but all other clothing is gone and the flesh has completely disappeared. The death of the man was a strange one. He was supposed to have been a quarry worker and was found drowned in the Alton slough sixteen years ago. On his person was a whisky bottle and a jack knife. There was then no coroner in Missouri, and the body was kept in Alton for over a week while someone who knew him could be found to identify him. No one came, and it was decided to bury him on the point. The body was laid to rest without any services. Whether the man was intoxicated and fell in the slough, as the men were led to believe from the remains, or whether he was drugged and left to drown with the whiskey bottle near him to do away with suspicion was never learned. Two of the men who helped to bury him are dead, namely Ruckman and Gruse, and Fluent is the only one alive. He says that the skeleton was uncovered in the same spot the man he buried was put. The bones at present are lying in an old box in the oil house on the docks, with a little cloth over the box.
SPOOKS TORMENT BURGLAR AT LAKEVIEW CASTLE
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 1913
All the horrors of the Evil Eye, as Edgar Allen Poe depicted them in his hair-raising story, were nothing as compared with the terrible night Mark Podner, about 24 years old, of Mt. Olive, Illinois, spent in the big house of J. J. Bizant at Lakeview last night. Podner had heard there were spooks in the big house at Lakeview, and last night he went there, cut a window pane out, and entered the home. With a bullseye light, he started out to investigate, and perhaps to rob the home.
The Lakeview home is a perfect maze of mirrors in every room, and when Podner shone his searchlight across the room he saw the ghost of a man crouched down with coat collar up, hat slouched down on head, and all in all a terrible looking man. Believing in spirits himself, terror seized the burglar, and he fled up the stairs. There he saw the same figure staring at him, wildly, and he ran from room to room, only to be faced by the figure, as he believed a ghost, who masked and tried to frighten him. After an hour of this terrible experience, he rushed down the stairs and the bullseye showed the same figure rushing up the stairs to meet him. This was too much, and the young burglar collapsed at the bottom of the stairs.
In the morning the keeper of the house, Henry Meyers, found Podner, arrested him, and took him to Edwardsville, where he turned him over to the authorities. A pair of slippers found on the young man caused a charge of larceny to be entered. Podner is mentally unbalanced as a result of his terrible night, and declares that the house is haunted and shrinks back in horror when someone talks to him of his terrible night. He is held to the grand jury, but his mental condition may be inquired into.
Lakeview Castle was a 14-room mansion built in 1897 by Benjamin Biszant, a Frenchman, who purchased 38 acres near the Cahokia Creek Canal (near Hartford) in the 1890s. A moat, stocked with goldfish, was dug with teams of horses. The dirt from the moat formed the rise on which the castle was constructed. A drawbridge and white turrets on the home completed the “castle-like” appearance. Much of the materials for the home were imported from Europe.
After the death of his wife, Biszant took her remains to England for burial, passed Lakeview down to his son, J. J. Biszant, and moved to California. J. J. Biszant, a widower, moved to Los Angeles and was swindled out of his money by spiritualists, who claimed they could help him contact his dead wife, Lily. He fled back to Lakeview, in fear of his life after helping to expose the mediums who had taken his money. He stated that he worried that the mediums would burn down the castle in revenge.
The castle later changed ownership frequently - housing a boys’ military school, a home for unwed mothers, and a speakeasy during Prohibition. It was then sold to a Wood River couple. Whispers of hauntings at the castle were exchanged by local residents. Strange happenings began to occur, and nearby farmers avoided the area at night.
The castle then became a target for vandals, who ripped fireplace mantles from the walls, smashed chandeliers, and gouged holes in the walls. It was condemned by inspectors. The castle was destroyed by fire March 21, 1973. Today, only remnants remain of the once beautiful castle.
What did young Podner see in the mirror? Was it his own reflection? While being held in the Edwardsville jail, Podner swore it was not his face he saw in the mirror. He told the authorities of hidden passageways, a musty dungeon, terrifying moans, and high-pitched shrieks and cries of pain from various parts of the house. He was so tormented from his experience that he tried to commit suicide.
I could find no further information on Podner. He probably spent a small amount of time in jail and was released. The property of Castle Lakeview (also called the Hartford Castle) sits silent today, where ghosts can freely walk among the ruins.
MYSTERY AT JERSEYVILLE (IN NEIGHBORING JERSEY COUNTY)
Woman in Black Croons Over Graves at Oak Grove Cemetery
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 11, 1913
A third of the population of Jerseyville watched at Oak Grove Cemetery until a late hour Wednesday night, waiting for a glimpse of the mysterious "woman in black" who has appeared there nightly since last Friday. At 11 o'clock, when their vigilance had gone unrewarded, the majority of the crowd departed, although some of the bolder ones remained until long past midnight. The visits of the woman, which have mystified the entire population of Jerseyville, are ghoulish. She walks among the graves, crooning softly to herself. She does not apply her attention to any grave in particular, but strolls aimlessly about for more than a quarter of an hour and departs without speaking to anybody. Her face is always heavily veiled on these occasions, and it has been impossible to learn her identify. Negroes of Jerseyville make a practice of avoiding the cemetery by a margin of at least three blocks.
THE "WOMAN IN BLACK" ... IS THE STORY
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 19, 1914
A mysterious woman in black is causing considerable discussion in Wood River. There are few who really believe that there is a woman in black who takes her stand nightly at 12 o'clock on the corner of the Wood River school, apparently waiting for someone, and then when no one appears, leaves as mysteriously as she came, but the story has gained considerable circulation. Marshal J. T. Phipps is one of those who claims to believe the story. He said he watched her Friday night last, and followed her to a certain house, but he will say nothing further about it. A party of foreigners claim to have lain in wait for the woman in black Saturday night and watched her disappear. Real serious-minded persons, who profess to know the truth of the matter, say that the story was started by anxious parents who wanted to scare their children so that they would get in at nights by the time the curfew bell rang, and if anyone saw a woman in black it was probably some woman going home at a late hour from the interurban car.
THE CURSED BOX
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 1916
In about 1913, Mrs. Charles Silk sailed from her former home in England to America. In her possession was an old metal box that belonged to her mother. How it came into the hands of her mother is unknown, but the box had a grisly history. It once belonged to a young Englishman, who along with a friend, started out in search of adventure. The Englishman used the metal box to hold his clothing. They journeyed to Africa, and were captured by a tribe of cannibals. While the friend escaped with some of their possessions – including the metal box – the young Englishman was killed and eaten by the natives. The friend went back to his home in England, and revealed to his family what had happened to the young man. The box then fell into the hands of Mrs. Silk’s mother, who passed it down to her daughter.
Mrs. Silk, who was preparing to sail to America, decided to paint the box white, which obliterated the name of the poor, unfortunate victim of the cannibals. And here our tale begins to take a dark turn. It seems the former owner of the box didn’t appreciate his name being painted over, and began to exact his revenge. Onboard the ship, Mrs. Silk was injured. At about the same time, Mr. Silk, who was in Alton, had an accident which almost proved to be fatal. Mrs. Silk, after arriving in America, took the train to Illinois. She was put off the train at Springfield by mistake, and while sitting at the train station all night, she was robbed by two men. A few days later after her arrival in Alton, Mr. Silk nearly lost his eyesight when a small explosion at the Sparks Mill, where he was employed as Assistant Engineer, caused metal to enter his eyes. Later, the tip of one of his fingers was pinched off, and he had to endure four operations on the finger. Mrs. Silk had to have surgery for appendicitis, and a few weeks later she fell and sprained her ankle. Mr. Silk stepped on a spike and severely injured his foot. He was later attacked by two firemen and beaten severely. They began to wonder if the box which Mrs. Silk had brought home was the cause of all their troubles. But still, they would not get rid of it.
The friends of the Silks took notice of the terrible incidents that occurred since the arrival of the metal box. They begged them to get rid of the box, but the Silks would not abide by their warnings. One night, after seeing the pair suffer still another accident, they decided to take things into their own hands.
Seven friends of the Silks dressed in costume to hide their identity, and stormed into their home at 1312 State Street in the dead of night. Mr. Silk tried to bar them from entering, but he failed. They presented a written demand for the box, but Mr. Silk refused to give it up. While this was going on, three of the friends climbed to the attic and found the box, carried it outside and hid it in a garden a block away. By the time they had returned, Mr. Silk had relented, and agreed to give them the box. When he went to retrieve it from the attic, he discovered it was gone. The friends then told him what they had done, and he decided to join them and be rid of the box once and for all. The Silks and their friends climbed into the automobile of W. E. Harlow, district manager of the International Correspondence Schools, who had organized the whole affair. Together they drove to the riverfront. They walked out onto the Fluent dock in Alton, and after a short ceremony, tossed the box, weighted with rocks, beneath the waves of the Mississippi River.
After the box was tossed into the depths of the river, the luck of the Silks began to change. They bought a new home, and soon a baby boy was born. And not only that, the stork visited three of the women who attended the sinking of the box. Another individual who attended regained their health and increased their business. Was the curse of the metal box lifted? Or does it lay on the bottom of the Mississippi, waiting for its next victim? If you found the box, would you open it??
THE GHOST OF THE MINERAL SPRINGS HOTEL IN
Stories have been passed down regarding possible ghosts of the Mineral Springs Hotel in Alton. "Legend" has it that there are three ghosts that haunt the corridors and rooms of the old hotel. One is said to be an itinerant artist who was unable to pay his hotel bill, and offered instead to paint a mural of the city of Alton to pay his bill. The mural was never finished. His ghost apparently haunts the former hotel bar, which is now an antique store today.
Another supposed ghost is one who haunts the hotel swimming pool. The story is that one of the couples staying at the hotel had a volatile relationship, and the husband flirted and danced with a number of young women until his wife, in a fit of anger, hit him in the face with her shoe, causing him to collide with one of the columns next to the pool and fall into the water. The husband drowned. His ghost is supposedly seen standing near the side of the pool, angry and brooding over his untimely death.
The most famous reported ghost is the legendary "Jasmine Lady." According to the story, the lady was a guest of the hotel and had become involved romantically with another guest. Her husband caught her in the affair. In the course of the violent encounter with her husband, she ran away, somehow falling down a staircase and breaking her neck. Her pungent Jasmine perfume still scents the air to this day, so some say.
In my research, I have been keeping an eye out for any proof of a death at the Mineral Springs Hotel, to attribute the haunting to. The only one I have found thus far, is the suicide of L. M. Harwood, an implement dealer from Carrollton. In his suicide note, he stated that he had been sick for five years and could not recover, and felt he was about to die anyway. He shot himself with a pistol. This suicide was committed in the hotel bar. Could this be the ghost which haunts the former hotel bar? You decide.
~Beverly Bauser, Madison County Coordinator
CARROLLTON MAN ENDS HIS LIFE IN HOTEL
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 15, 1916
L. M. Harwood, an implement dealer at Carrollton and Kane until a few years ago, and well known in Alton, took his own life in the bar room at the Mineral Springs Hotel Wednesday morning. In two notes he left he stated that he had tried to "come back" and had failed. He also intimated that there were some other reasons for ending his life, but he stated these were no one's business. Very little concerning his family connections are known at Alton. He had visited here from time to time and came to Alton yesterday. He spent Tuesday night at the Mineral Springs Hotel. In the morning before leaving the hotel, he told the clerk, E. M. Reed, that he was not certain whether he would need a room for the night or not. He said, "I might want a room tonight, and if I do I'll be back for it." A little later a shot was fired in the bar. It was heard all over the hotel. There was a moaning sound for a few minutes and Harwood was dead. He had entered the bar room from the street and after seating himself in the first booth, had pulled a gun and some papers from his pocket. He placed the papers on the table and then put the gun to his breast and fired. Robert Spence, the bartender, was the only one who witnessed the shooting. William Banks, who was mopping out the bar room at the time, heard the shot but he did not see the man end his life. Harwood fell forward on his face and by the time people rushed from other parts of the hotel he was almost dead. He never spoke again. One of the notes he left contained the names of a list of friends in Alton. Some of these on the list stated that he was a man about 50 years of age, and that they had known him as being engaged in business in Carrollton and Kane up until a few years ago. He was said to have a wife and two children and some hinted that family troubles might have been part of the cause for his act. The note he left explaining the cause for his act read as follows: "To Patriot and Gazette (Newspapers at Carrollton): Just a Word. I have been sick for the greater part of the time for five years. I have tried to come back but I can't quite do it. Then why should I stick around in the way? You will say, "He was a coward." Just sit around contemplating something of the kind for a month or two at a time and see. If there are any other reasons for the act, it is no one's business. Yours truly, L. M. Harwood." The other piece of paper contained information that would help the Alton authorities get him identified. It read: "L. M. Harwood, Carrollton, Ill. Just to get out of my misery. Notify S. E. Simpson and Co., undertakers, Carrollton, Ill. People in Alton that can readily identify me are Dr. Bowman, Pink Bowman, Bird Ashlock, Jess Staples, barber, H. V. Green with Anheuser-Busch." The body was turned over at once to Deputy Coroner John Berner, and was taken to the C. J. Jacoby undertaking rooms where an inquest was held. An effort was made at once to get in touch with some of his relatives or friends at Carrollton. A telegram was sent to the wife this morning and she answered that she would come at once to take care of the body of the husband.
FIVE DEATHS IN FAMILY AFTER WOMAN HAD
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 5, 1917
Mrs. Carrie Taylor of Edwardsville, who yesterday entered a St. Louis hospital to undergo an operation, declared that the death of her husband last week in a railroad accident was the fifth death in her family to occur after a dream. The dream each time presented to her a scene depicting the narrow escape from drowning of her son, Marion Dickinson, aged 19. Each time the mother in her vision rescued the boy. The first time she dreamed this, another son died shortly afterward. Several years later the vision came to her again and within a month her twins died. A year ago it was followed a telegram announcing the death of Taylor's father at Cuba, Mo. Two weeks ago Mrs. Taylor arose one morning and announced that the dream had come to her once more. The doctors had told her she must go to a hospital for an operation, and she was sure that her death was the one indicated. She ordered a casket and shroud, and had her will written. Last Wednesday her husband died.
GHOSTS AT THE ALTON JAIL
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 1919
Ghosts have been reported at the Alton city jail. Only one man has spent a night in the jail in the past month, and it is feared that on account of its not being used, that ghosts have taken charge of the jail part of the city hall building. According to those who have been in that part of the city hall building, it would be a good place for ghosts as no one else could live there. Many suggestions have been ordered as to what the ghosts might be, but the mystery still remains unsolved.
Deskman Henry Kremer tells of the ghost story. Kremer went into the jail recently, and as he opened the door in the back, he heard a rattling of irons, much the same as when prisoners were kept in the jail. At first, he believed it was the heat that was affecting him that way, but he entered the jail. As he was standing near one of the big old-fashioned iron cell doors, it rattled as if someone from the inside were shaking it and trying to get out. In its sixty years, the Alton jail has held many notorious criminals. Those people who believe in ghosts might think that it was one of these whose soul had cursed the night he spent in the Alton jail and had returned in spirit to haunt the jail of a city that would maintain such a place. The other city officials are not worrying about ghosts in other parts of the building. "It is old enough, and it is falling to pieces fast enough," said one of the city officials. "But no ghosts have been reported in this part of the building."
The Alton city jail was located in the basement of the old city hall, at the corner of Piasa and Broadway. This building was destroyed by fire in 1924. It seems that Henry Kremer disturbed a ghost who decided to take up residence in the jail - perhaps one who had spent time in the jail during its lifetime.
COMFORTS OF HOME, SAYS CONAN DOYLE
(This doesn't pertain to Madison County, but I thought you'd find this interesting.
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 20, 1921
London (AP) - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and one of the leading spiritualists in England, describes heaven as a place with all the comforts of home. In a church address, he said: "In heaven, all old people will become young, and the young will grow to adult age. When I am there, I will have my books, my wife and my children with me. We will have about us the things we love." Discussing spirit communications, Sir Arthur said he had been in direct communication with the dead, voice to voice, on twenty-one occasions. The writer declared he had spoken to his own son, who spoke in his natural voice, a year after the latter's death. He asserted he had also seen his mother, who happened to him in a cloak of red light.
HAUNTING OF McPIKE MANSION
The McPike Mansion, at 2018 Alby Street in Alton, is one of the better-known hauntings in Alton. Visitors claim seeing orbs, mist, and ghostly apparitions. The house is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a piano-playing woman.
The owners of the home – Sharyn and George Luedke, had the home blessed twice when they bought it, but that hasn’t stopped the reports of other-worldly visitors. A reporter, who was allowed to tour the home before it was closed to the public, stated that weird happenings were definitely occurring inside.
The home (known as Mt. Lookout because of its location on the highest point in Alton) was completed in 1871. It was built for Henry Guest McPike - Mayor of Alton from 1887 to 1891, and partner in the Alton City Mills. McPike also established a box factory in Alton. The mansion has 16 rooms and a vaulted wine cellar. McPike was also a noted horticulturist, and grew beautiful flowers, rare shrubs, and grape vines which yielded award-winning wine. He died in 1910, and his property was divided among his children.
There are two known graves in the McPike graveyard, located on the property. One of Katie McPike, and the other of Robert Samuel B. McPike. Both are children of Henry McPike. Samuel died on July 17, 1866, at the age of 6 months and 17 days. He was the son of Henry and Mary (Burns) McPike. Strange phenomenon has been reported near the graveyard.
Today, campouts are held on the property of the mansion, where visitors hear the ghost stories of the mansion. The home is under renovation, and touring the inside is not allowed.
THE HAUNTING ON LOGAN STREET
Strange happenings occur at a home in the 900 block of Logan Street in North Alton, which was built in 1892. The main ghost is a small blond boy, whom the family living there nicknamed “Bernie.” They estimate the boy to be between 4 and 7 years of age. He is usually seen in the yellow room off the kitchen, and often appeared when the children of the owner were home, either during the summer or on weekends. The owners report that often the scent of bayberry or citrus can be detected. The first time the owner saw the little boy was in the Spring of 1977. She and her neighbor saw him at the same time. They were sitting around the oak kitchen table, while two of her own children and three other kids played upstairs. Soon four children came down the stairs, but only three went out the kitchen door. The two women thought the fourth had hidden under the table, but no one was there. The women checked upstairs, and found two children still playing there.
After this, the little boy would appear from time to time. Although the face of the little boy has never been clearly seen, but his clothes are recognizable. A neighbor saw him riding a bicycle in knickers and an old-fashioned cap. When she did a “double-take,” he was gone. Books have fallen off shelves, doors shut, and windows closed. Also seen in the home were a man and women. The youngest of the children told his mother there was a “funny man in a funny hat who was painting.” No one was ever found.
THE HAUNTING OF THE MILE HOUSE IN ALTON
The old brick house at 1800 State Street (at the corner of State & McPherson) was once an inn called “The Mile House.” The inn earned its name from being about one mile from the stagecoach stop at the Franklin House (later called Lincoln Hotel) on State Street. There were two sisters who married Civil War soldiers. One of the sisters met her untimely death at the hands of her husband while staying at The Mile House.
A former owner of the inn stated that when she moved into the home in 1948, an elderly man who was working on her furnace told her of the haunting, which he knew of from the time he was a little boy. The owner heard loud knocks on the front door, but no one was ever there. Guests at the home heard footsteps coming from the top floor rooms, and a lady in black was seen walking mournfully to and fro in the upper story of the home. It was this lady in black who gained fame in the State Street neighborhood. She was seen not only on the upper floor of the home, but walking the streets near the home. When approached, she seemingly disappears.
Was the lady in black the young bride who was murdered at the hands of her husband? Or is it the ghost of her sister, who mourns the loss of a loved one? Does the lady in black still walk in and near the home, mourning her demise? What would you do if you encountered the lady in black?
THE EAST ALTON “LADY IN BLACK”
Another “lady in black” haunting has been associated with early day explosions at the powder mill in East Alton. According to legends, the lonely black figure walks along Powder Mill Road when an explosion is about to occur at the mill.
HAUNTING OF THREE MILE HOUSE
Three Mile House, a former inn and tavern located northeast of Edwardsville, was destroyed by fire in 1985. There are many stories of the hauntings at the inn. Former owners reported seeing sparks of light and darting shadows, and loud banging has been heard – primarily from the attic and basement. Family members reported being waken by the voice of a young girl.
Originally called Gaertner’s Three Mile House, the inn opened its doors to travelers along the St. Louis – Springfield stagecoach road (Rt. 159) in 1860, although construction began in 1858. The tavern and inn were constructed by Frederick Gaertner, a St. Louis barber who used the major part of his savings to purchase 70 acres northwest of Edwardsville from John Deterding to build the establishment. It was constructed with handmade bricks, fired on site. The walls of the inn were 18 inches thick. White pine was shipped up the Mississippi River from the south for the door and window trim. The arched windows were constructed using forms called “arch centers,” on which the bricks were set. The ornamental eave struts, shutters, and roof shingles were made by hand.
Gaertner gained a reputation as a genial and generous host. His Three Mile House (so named because it was three miles from Edwardsville) became a prominent place where local well-to-do residents attended lavish balls and parties. As the business prospered, Gaertner enlarged the north portion of the building to include a dining room, kitchen, tavern, grocery store, and post office on the main floor. There were 10 to 15 sleeping rooms on the second floor, and a large floored attic which could be used for additional sleeping quarters when needed. A blacksmith shop was built next door in 1863. Some say that Abraham Lincoln was a guest at the inn, but this has not been verified. Lincoln was a close friend to both Joseph and Matthew Gillespie, and it is possible he may have stayed at the inn.
The inn flourished until the 1880s, when the growth of the railroad began to have an impact on stagecoach travel. Gaertner closed the inn and returned to his birthplace in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The inn stood vacant for nearly 25 years, when Gaertner’s son, Tony, sold it to Orrie Dunlap, a road contractor. Dunlap had the contract to build and pave Route 112 (now Route 159) in 1927, and used the inn as headquarters for his construction crew. A succession of owners followed. In the 1940s, the inn was operated as a roadside tavern.
In 1976, the inn was purchased by the Elliotts for use as a restaurant. They repaired and renovated the building. In 1982 they sold it to John Henkhaus, who continued the restaurant operations until it was destroyed by fire in 1985.
Stories have been told that the inn was used as part of the Underground Railroad. Tunnels were said to exist under the inn and eastward toward Route 159, but they have not been found. One story was told that a slave died and was buried at the inn, and that it was this slave who haunted the premises, seeking a Christian burial. Clergymen and lay people came to the inn to dig in and around the basement searching for the grave. Occultists held seances at the inn, and parapsychologists attempted to “read” the premises, but no grave has ever been found. Some of the employees of the inn stated that they were tripped before falling, that items disappeared without explanation, and a face was seen in a mirror in the basement. Whatever was haunting the old inn may never be known.