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Photo by Fred Pollard
Among the many tools in the Historic Museum of Torture Devices is the "rat cage," where a live rat was placed on a prisoner's body, trapped by a cage. A fire was then lit nearby, panicking the rat to the point that it would often burrow into the unlucky prisoner's stomach.
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Photo by Fred Pollard
A witch faces the burning judgment of morality at the Historic Museum of Torture Devices in the Mineral Springs Mall. In addition to the museum, Alton boasts three haunted tours, visits inside the area’s most famous haunted house, and a horror attraction.
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Photo by Fred Pollard
A skeleton peers from his prison at the Historic Museum of Torture Devices in the Mineral Springs Mall.
ALTON – Alton has never been a town forced to rely on manufactured “haunted houses,” as many consider it to be one of the most authentically haunted towns in America.
Among the rumored hauntings, a pastor who committed suicide in the First Unitarian Church still walks among the pews, Confederate soldiers have been seen in the basement of the Piasa Masonic Lodge, and there are countless tales of orbs, mists and apparitions at the old McPike Mansion and former local stops on the Underground Railroad.
Over the years, this small river town has been the home of an unusual number of ghostly reports and unexplained events, along with the more down-to-earth history of violence, murder, and tragedy that may have invited the otherworldly attention.
As a result, trolley and walking tours have thrived in the area, bringing countless tourists and visitors — and their pocketbooks — to Alton for more than 20 years.
ALTON HAUNTED ODYSSEY
Rising from the coffin of the longest-running ghost tour in the area, Alton Haunted Odyssey takes tour-goers this year on an excursion to Jacoby Arts Center, Alton City Cemetery, and McPike Mansion, along with ghostly riverboat cruises.
“We are really excited about the tours,” co-founder Marlene Lewis said. “We hope the spirits are really active this year.”
Antoinette’s Haunted History Tour, the first of its kind in the area, was formed in 1992 by Right Brain Activities partners Antoinette Eason and Marlene Lewis. Among its investigation experiences, the group was featured in 2010 on the television series “Ghost Hunters” for its research on the old Milton School in Alton.
Eason retired in 2011, and Lewis, along with longtime group member Gary Hawkins, formed Alton Haunted Odyssey in 2012.
Hawkins has a bit of a “trademark,” popular among local believers, for his ability to allegedly “catch” a spirit.
“I can sense them,” he has said of his ability. “The senses get stronger when they are within reach and I found I am just able to control them at that point.”
The tour offers a variety of walking tours, trolley tours, and dinner options. The group also began offering haunted riverboat cruises last year, and has expanded the cruise schedule this year.
Beginning Nov. 15, overnight stays at the Alton Eagles Club also will be available.
For more information, visit the website at www.altonhauntedtours.com.
Troy Taylor’s Alton Hauntings tours have been conjuring up business since 1999, combining tales of Alton’s rich history with documented supernatural occurrences.
The tour is based on Taylor’s book, “Haunted Alton.” It has been featured on several television shows and channels including PBS, “Show Me St. Louis,” The Travel Channel, The History Channel, and “The Scariest Places on Earth.”
Both walking and bus tours are available and are running now and into November. Private tours also are available by reservation only.
For more information, visit the website at www.altonhauntings.com.
MINERAL SPRINGS/TORTURE MUSEUM
In 2006, Janet Kolar began holding tours at the Mineral Springs Hotel on Broadway, rumored to be filled with spectral tourists who checked in and may have never left.
“This building is very haunted, more so than we even realized when I first started the tours,” Kolar said. “I started out renting a case here to sell crafts, and eventually started doing ghost tours here. I started studying the paranormal back in the 1950s, and I grew up in haunted houses.”
In 2007, Kolar opened the Night at the Museum methods of torture display, followed by the Historic Museum of Torture Devices in 2011. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m.
“We are also working on opening an ‘odd-itorium,’ with human anomalies, voodoo items, antique embalming tools, and more,” Kolar said.
Mineral Springs is the only year-round haunted tour in the area. Walking tours are available on the weekends, Oct. 4 offers a cemetery tour, and ghost investigation overnight stays at the hotel are available with reservation (hotel rooms are not available; guests bring their own sleeping gear). Tours also offer tarot card readings.
For more information, visit the website at www.mineralspringshauntedtours.com.
NEW INTERACTIVE HAUNTED APP
This season, ghost seekers can download an interactive haunted app for the first time. Through the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, visitors can enjoy one of the area’s tours, post their own photographs showing unexplained orbs or figures, and view submitted photos by other people, as well.
“This app will allow anyone to share their haunted experience through a photo-sharing system that you can link to your own Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profile,” CVB President and CEO Brett Stawar said. “You can also add a caption to the photos and run one of six filters, including original, on the photo before sharing.”
The app also features a schedule of haunted events and a listing of haunted tour providers. To get started on the haunted app journey, go to www.VisitAlton.com/HauntedApp.
APOCALYPSE HAUNTED ATTRACTION
Authentic ghost hunting admittedly can be a slow process, requiring patience and dedication. For those who just want to go to a ghostly destination and be assured of some good scares, the Apocalypse attraction is a popular choice.
Located at the reportedly haunted YWCA on East Third Street, Apocalypse offers a journey into the darker side of the human soul, with a maze of unnerving scenes and live interaction … without having to travel across the river.
For the younger kids who may not be up to the more intense scenes, Apocalypse offers “Fear-Less,” a toned-down version of the haunted house with more lights, less scares, and candy offered to children by the actors. “Fear-Less” is held on Saturdays in October from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m.
Apocalypse is open every Friday and Saturday in October from 7:30 p.m. until midnight. For more information, visit the website at www.apocalypsehaunt.com.
Other local ghostly events this season include a paranormal investigation on Halloween night at Pere Marquette Lodge, a Halloween at the Tower event at Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower in Hartford on Oct. 24, and murder mystery dinners at Grafton Winery and Brewhaus on Nov. 7 and 8 and at Pere Marquette Lodge on Nov. 14.
Both Wood River and Hartford will have their annual Halloween parades on Oct. 25 (Wood River’s begins at 10 a.m.; Hartford’s begins at 1 p.m.).
Alton’s annual Halloween Parade will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Halloween evening.
On Saturday, Sept. 20, a free Autumn Solstice Haunted Extravaganza will be held at Mineral Springs Hotel with ghost hunters from different tours participating from 1 until 5 p.m. For more information, call (618) 465-3200.
All of the tours encourage the use of cameras, recorders and any ghost hunting equipment guests may have.