Haunted Illinois: Alton & The Mineral Springs Hotel
Legend has it that Mark Twain once called Alton, Illinois a “dismal little river town”. By the time that Mark Twain was traveling up and down the Mississippi River as a riverboat pilot, Alton had already seen a pretty grim history over the years, so he may have been right.
Author and historian Troy Taylor is an expert on ghost stories in the state of Illinois. If it’s weird and creepy, and rooted in our history, Troy could probably tell you about it.
“Alton is a town that has a long background of murder, death, disasters, floods, the Civil War epidemics. You name it, it's probably happened here. And it was probably bad.” Troy tells us as we catch up with him in Alton, his current hometown, during a visit last month. He claims the events of the past have created all these hauntings that we talk about today, and that the description of Alton changed from a dismal little river town to one of the most haunted small towns in America.
As we visit Troy in his shop in the old Mineral Springs Hotel (more on that later), he tells us story after story about various hauntings in Illinois. Some of the stories are steeped in myth, while others have the type of torrid details that even the most hardcore true-crime fan would find fascinating. Whatever the story, one familiar thread seems to resonate through Taylor’s work–its basis in history. Whether he’s searching for the real facts behind the myths, or finding out new information about long known stories, it’s all about finding the “truth” behind these legends.
The Mineral Springs Hotel
One of Troy Taylor’s many jobs (if you can call it that!) is giving tours of various haunted locations throughout Illinois. One such place is the old Mineral Springs Hotel building in Alton, a place that Troy knows all too well. He has a shop there which serves as the starting point for most of those tours. The building and the grounds it was built on has long been considered one of the most haunted places in the country.
One of the reasons for that is because of Clarence Blair, a sheet metal worker from Granite City who drowned in the hotel swimming pool while taking swimming lessons. According to Taylor, that was one of the only recorded deaths in the hotel’s many years of operation.
“But you know the song goes into you can check out anytime you like, but you can ever leave. Well, I think that's what's happened with Clarence.”, Taylor tells us. He thinks maybe Clarence sticks around because he likes hearing his story told to others that come down to see the pool each year as part of Taylor’s tours.
“Here was a guy who spent the first 21 years of his life living in Granite City, Illinois, probably didn't do a whole lot. And then came here and drowned while trying to learn how to swim. Maybe that's why he shows up here. Maybe he just wants to listen to somebody talk about him after all these years.”
Another one of the Mineral Springs most infamous former guests has come to be known as “The Jasmine Lady”. Many people over the years have claimed to have seen, or smelled, a woman walking the halls late at night. The scent of “jasmine” wafting through the hallways has been reported by patrons over the years. A woman has even been spotted repeatedly in the one particular stairwell, giving rise to a rumor that it may have been a guest who was murdered there years ago. While no murder has ever been proven to have taken place in the stairwell, it’s possible that Troy Taylor actually did solve the mystery of the “Jasmine Lady” after all.
Check out Troy Taylor's website AMERICANHAUNTINGSINK.COM for more great tales of murder, mayhem, and haunted history! Or, sign up for one of his many Ghost Hunts & Tours!