When just about any native of the Alton area thinks of a haunted house, normally one name comes to mind - the infamous McPike Mansion on Alby Street. As I am NOT a native of Alton, I was allowed to have some doubts about the authenticity of the reported hauntings here. However, even as I began to dismiss the fanciful tales of so-called "psychics" and the breathless stories of vandals and curiosity-seekers, I was overwhelmed with accounts of strange encounters in the house. Many of them came from people with no reason to lie, reliable witnesses and ghost researchers who had gone to the house expecting to find anything but ghosts! What they found is another question altogether, but simply based on the number of stories that swirled about the place, it was soon obvious that I could not refer to the McPike Mansion as anything other than one of the most haunted houses in the city of Alton. As with many other “haunted houses” though, not many people know the history behind this once grand structure.
The house was built in 1869 for Henry Guest McPike.
The McPike family can be traced back to Scotland and Henry McPike's
ancestry includes a number of patriots who fought during the
Revolutionary War, including Captain Mose Guest McPike, of New Jersey,
and Captain James McPike, both of whom were at Valley Forge with George
There is no question that this was one of the most beautiful homes in the area. The McPike family lived on at the estate for some time after the death of Henry McPike, but records are unclear about some of the dates. It has been stated that they stayed in the house until around 1936, while others records say that the home was owned by Paul A. Laichinger, who purchased the house in 1908 and lived there until his death around 1930. Laichinger either lived in the house or rented it out to tenants.
Despite some inaccuracies about dates, the house has
since been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However,
it has also been listed on another, not so prestigious list... the
Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois’ list of the 10 most
endangered historic places in the state!
Sharyn Luedke also believes the house is haunted. Her
unusual encounters at the house carry much more weight, given the time
she has spent there, than the claims of trespassers, so-called psychics
and curiosity-seekers who come to the house simply because it looks
haunted. There have been hundreds of stories which have circulated about
the mansion, from the chilling to the downright silly, but Sharyn’s
claims that the ghost of Paul Laichinger haunts the place seem to be the
most credible. He is one of the few spirits who is alleged to haunt the
place for which a real historical connection exists.
Another spirit in the house is thought to be a domestic servant that Sharyn named Sarah. She was little more than a presence with an assumed name until a man came by the house one day and presented the Luedke’s with some books that he had removed from the house 17 years before. One of the books had the name "Sarah Wells" written inside of it. Since that time, Sharyn has been touched (actually hugged) by this spirit and she and her husband have occasionally caught the scent of lilac on the third floor.
As mentioned, there have been hundreds of stories told about this house and there are those who claim that a legion of spirits still haunt the place. The main problem with taking these stories too seriously involves the fact that his house was locally regarded as the “neighborhood haunted house” for years and was a place where teenagers would come to hang out and party. In more recent times, the claims of mediums and attention-seekers has further muddied the waters.
And while I am not convinced that all of the local stories are true... there is more here than meets the eye. I have been lucky enough to take part in some paranormal investigations at the mansion that have left many of us scratching our heads and have also seen some video footage that was filmed in the basement that remains unexplained. One investigation managed to pick up a curious event that is worthy of mention.
For now, I will leave you with that and allow the reader to be the judge of the authenticity of the events here for themselves. Don't be as quick to judge as I originally was though - a visit to the house just might reveal that there is more here than first meets the eye!
© Copyright 2007 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.