My husband and I were on your Haunted Tour Sat, Oct. 18, 2008. We had a great time and we took all kinds of pictures and video footage. There were a few things that I found weird when I got home and I looked at them. I put them together on a video and put it on youtube. I was in awe at the things I had seen and heard and thought you might like to see them as well. Please check it out.
If you would like the originals I would be more than happy to send them to you. I still have all the pictures and videos on my cameras so I have proof that I didn’t tamper with any of the footage we had taken. I hope you find these as exciting as I did when I found them.
Here’s the link to the video…
Hayner Library (Alton)
It was with much anticipation that I waited outside the Mineral Springs Mall on a beautiful spring day. I was meeting with Wayne Hensley, the owner and operator of the In Zone Barbershop in the mall since 1981. Wayne is also known as the Mall historian due to vast knowledge of the history of the building and its previous inhabitants. Wayne had agreed to take me on a tour of the facility that, he suggests, could be one of the most haunted buildings in Alton (one of the most haunted, per capita, towns in America).
I have to admit to a fair set of Goosebumps as we entered the building. Wayne recounted that when he started working in the mall, he was not aware of its haunted reputation and on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest belief in spectral beings) he was probably a 2. That started to change during Thanksgiving week. The mall was going through bankruptcy proceedings that year and many of the tenants had left. Wayne was the only tenant on the street level. Wayne started his day every morning tuning on the furnace in a back closet by flipping it’ toggle switch to on. As he was working through the day, his shop got colder and colder. Checking on the furnace he saw that the toggle switch had been flipped to off. There was no one else in the building that knew where the furnace was. This occurred four different times that day. Consequently, in following years Wayne noted that during the months of October and November, unexplained events and ‘sightings’ increase dramatically. Back in the area by the furnace closet was an art studio, Vicky’s’ Painting Parlor. Vicky found things being moved around in her shop frequently and the lights and radio were turned on and off, seemingly by themselves. One night, a young woman who was helping Vicky stayed late to work in the shop. The shop butts up to the old swimming pool used by hotel guests. The worker heard someone calling her name from the pool area. She unbolted the lock on the door to the pool and upon entering saw a man standing at the bottom of the long drained pool. As she stood there, he vanished. Understandably, the young woman left the job. Some months later, another woman was hired by Vicky and she had the exact same experience, hearing her name called and seeing a man in the pool. This woman related the story directly to Wayne though she had never heard of the previous worker’s experience.
Wayne has researched the history of the Mineral Springs building extensively. Shortly after the Civil war, before the building was erected, two local business men became convinced there was oil under the current site location. They drilled down over 1450 feet only to hit water. They discounted any value to the underground well and sold the site to the astute business man, August Luhr in 1888. Luhr had identified that the water was artesian spring water and knew that the high salt content was perfect for curing meat. He built the first level of the mall (now the third sublevel) as a meet curing and packing facility. The wooden hooks to hang meat are still intact in this cavernous area. Luhr, however, was a man of vision and realized the growing popularity of salt water baths for their curative powers and decided to build an opulent hotel with pools for people to restore themselves in. The hotel had a bar, a ballroom, dining room, guest rooms on the first floor and guest rooms on the second floor. The first sublevel was the men’s pool (open to women during “open swims”.) The second sublevel was the women’s pool and the third sublevel (previously the meat packing plant) housed a large tank which was the holding tank for the waters that filled the pools. The tank is still in tact in the building. The pools and hotel flourished from 1914 until the stock market crash of 1929.
Of the ghosts that inhabit the mall today, there are four distinct apparitions. One is the aforementioned man in the pool known as George (though one psychic identified him by the name of William Freeman.) He has been seen by many people in the pool area and several psychics have born witness to seeing George being pushed into the pool, in full dress, hitting his head which caused his death. Wayne has never seen this apparition but has felt his presence on several occasions. One time while working by the pool, Wayne felt his forearm grabbed quite tightly with a distinctly human grasp. Several times he has had keys knocked out of his hand by a force he attributes to George. George will not leave the pool sublevel. There is also a little girl who appears in the pool area (she has been sighted on other floors of the hotel) It is identified that she died either running at the pool and falling, hitting her head or during a swimming lesson.
Another active ghost is the Jasmine Lady. Many people have seen her and many more have smelled her perfume, thus the nick name Jasmine Lady. She was a well- to- do young women from St. Louis who was married, not very happily, to a wealthy business man. Unfortunately, she fell in love with another but did not want to give up a marriage that provided for her very comfortably. She and her lover would escape from St. Louis to Alton to meet at the Mineral Springs Hotel. Unfortunately, her husband followed her one day and burst into their hotel room. She ran off to the landing of the stairs to the lobby with the husband in pursuit. He reportedly pushed her so hard down the stairs, she broke her jaw, back and fractured her skull. The husband then went back to the hotel room and hung himself. This sad lady is often seen by the stairs where she fell, though occasionally she has been seen in the sub levels. Wayne has never seen her but has smelled her perfume on many occasions.
A forth active ghost on the main level has been sighted in the area that is now an active café. This used to be the hotel bar. This ghost is known as the drunken ghost. In order to pay his bar bill, he painted a mural on the wall between the bar and then dining room. You can still see this mural today (it is a river scene of Alton)He died while he was painting the mural of unexplained causes (some think he, too, hung himself) He has appeared to women only and has been know to flick the back of their hair or pull on their purses.
Wayne had so many fascinating anecdotes about the hotel and its history. It was a natural fit that, for two years, he has worked with Mineral Springs Haunted Tours, run by Janet. He is currently conducting tours of the city.
Where do you go to do your own ghostly research? Come to the Hayner Main Library and browse around our historic Illinois Room. Whether researching folk law or fact, many fascinating facets of Alton’s colorful history are preserved in the Illinois room as well as in our Vertical file collections. Also, you might want to stop by the Mineral Springs Mall (open to the public Tuesday – Saturday) at 301 E. Broadway in Alton and see if you sense anything “out of this world.”