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Ghostly Apparitions and Impending Structural Collapse

Posted by Failed Success on 04/24/06 at 09:29 AM

McPike MansionOld decrepit buildings always seem to find themselves haunted, as if ghosts prefer buildings that are on the brink of implosion

If you live in the St. Louis region, and conversation turns to the subject of haunted houses; chances are one of the first old and decrepit buildings that comes to mind is the McPike Mansion.

The Mcpike Mansion has been featured in many books and on a host of national television shows. With an active supernatural history of strange encounters and unexplained phenomena, it is believed by many to be the most haunted site in the entire Midwest.

So What is the McPike Mansion?

The McPike Mansion was built for a man named Henry Guest McPike in 1869. Henry McPike was a wealthy and prominent citizen of Alton, IL. McPike came to Alton as a young man in 1847 and quickly became an integral member of the business and political community.

Henry McPikeHenry McPike commissioned the famed architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger to build his illustrious mansion. It was constructed in an Italianate-Victorian style with all kinds of design flourishes that made it one of the more elaborate homes in the region. With 16 rooms and a vaulted wine cellar, it was also one of the largest private residences in the St. Louis area at the time.

McPike was also an avid Horticulturist, so the mansion’s 15 acre estate was endowed with rare trees, shrubs, and a very extensive vineyard. In fact, the “McPike” grape became well known across the country and produced award winning wines.

Henry McPike and his family lived on the estate for many years, his family continued to live there after his death. Existing records are unclear as to all of the exact dates, but it is believed that the McPike family remained living on the estate until 1936. After the family sold the home, it was purchased by a man named Paul Laichinger who lived there as well as rented out the many rooms to tenants.

So What About this Haunting Anyway?

McPike MansionAfter the McPike family sold the home, many residents came and went in the house under Paul Laichinger’s stewardship until his death in 1945. It is throughout these years that the stories of mysterious occurrences began to be documented. Most of the credible stories of disturbances on through to today involve ghosts of these former tenants as well as Mr. Laichinger himself.

There have been hundreds of documented ghost sightings and strange phenomena throughout the years. Unlike many haunted houses, the history of the hauntings doesn’t correlate to traumatic events such as violent murders or suicides. While some people may have died in the home as it was a residence for many different people over the years, there haven’t been any documented deaths involving anything out of the ordinary. The home really did have a very normal and peaceful past.

The supernatural reports from the house paint a picture of what could be called “impressions of yesteryear”. Ordinary, trivial events such as kids laughing and playing in the house, visions of people moving about the halls, and all other sorts of normal activities are seen and heard by visitors to the now empty house. It’s as if the ordinary events of the past have somehow left their impression on the present.

One of the well documented “apparitions” from the McPike mansion is a presence that has been dubbed “Sarah”. Sarah is believed to have been a domestic servant who once lived in the house. Witnesses have reported hearing the sound of this spirit moving about the house, and some have reported being physically touched and even “hugged” by the gentle spirit.

Another well known apparition is none other than the first owner of the home after the McPike family, Paul Laichinger. Witnesses have reported seeing him around the house, basically carrying on his maintenance duties just as he would have in life. Many have also reported seeing him standing in the windows of the house, looking out onto the grounds. It’s as if he is continuing to keep watch over his former property, even after death.

And For Its Next Trick...

McPike MansionIn 1999, one of the strangest and most difficult events to explain occurred at the house. A video that was made during the experience has been aired on several national television shows and is one of the few ghost sighting videos that has yet to be debunked or explained by skeptics and experts in video and special effects.

A professor from California University came to town and decided to take a tour of the home. Tours are currently given by the current owner of the estate. The professor, along with a tour group, was touring the house and the grounds and she had brought her video camera for the experience. When they turned a corner in the basement, a strange white “mist” suddenly moved towards them and began to swirl around them. The mist enveloped them, which they later described as having what seemed like an electrical charge.

The mist then quickly moved away from the group into one of the other rooms of the basement, prompting a few of the group to follow it. Then the mist would suddenly move back towards them again and swirl around them for a few more seconds before again darting off. The whole experience lasted for just a few minutes. There were no noticeable air currents in the basement that could have been moving it. Many of the witnesses described the movements as being made by something “intelligent”. The phenomenon was captured very clearly on the video.

This experience, along with hundreds of others, have created a lot more questions than answers about what strange things are amiss at this old home. These stories have served to build the notoriety of the McPike Mansion and helped it to become the centerpiece of the City of Alton, IL’s well documented haunted atmosphere.

The McPike Mansion Continues to Endure

McPike MansionThe McPike Mansion has not been treated well by time, and since the 1950’s has been abandoned and in a state of severe disrepair, with vandals breaking in and stealing everything valuable that wasn’t nailed down (and even a few things that were). This has led many to wonder if the only thing scary about this old house is the possibility of it collapsing around you while you are inside.

One of the more creepy things for me is not only the ominous look of the decrepit building, but the mysterious plastic lawn chairs that are always out in front. Look at the pictures of the McPike Mansion and you will notice white plastic lawn chairs in almost every shot. Apparently the spirits of yesteryear have an affinity for resin furniture.

Currently, the new owners of the property plan to restore and rebuild the mansion to its former glory. It is a very large project and will require a lot of money to restore this aging beacon of the supernatural. In the meantime, they offer tours of the mansion and the estate. It’s entirely possible that you could have your own ghostly experience on one of these tours, but you are guaranteed a good dose of history as you learn about the home’s rich and mysterious past.

If you are interested in taking a tour of the McPike Grounds to learn more about the history, or more likely to catch a glimpse of a ghost, please call Sharyn Luedke at 618-462-3348 for an appointment. Tours of the grounds are by appointment only.

Further Reading:

- Historic McPike Mansion Official Site
- Haunted Alton by Troy Taylor (link goes to Amazon.com book listing)
- The Enduring Mysteries of the McPike Mansion
- The McPike Mansion on Ghosts of the Prarie

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