I love ghost stories..love them. I love the atmosphere in which they are usually told, I love the tense tingly feeling I get and the way the hairs on my neck stand up. I'm not sure whether or not I believe in ghosts, but I do know that I want to believe in them. When Nathan and I moved into the house we live in, I was fairly certain it was going to be haunted and I'm still not entirely convinced it isn't.
The unfortunate part of all this is that even though I love ghost stories, they do horrible things to my dreams. As a child one evening I watched a series of shows called Castle Ghosts of England...Ireland...Scotland. I was enthralled, I was excited, I was terrified. I went to bed that night and had the absolute worst nightmares of my life. I kid you not, I woke up crying at least twice. It was awful. I stayed away from ghost stories after that for the most part until college.
My freshman year, several girls on my floor and I saw an ad for Haunted Macomb Tours and decided that this was the perfect activity for a cold October night. In all honesty, I don't remember much of this tour. I don't remember all the places we went or the stories they told. I just know I didn't spend much of it being frightened. It was a fun way to spend an evening with friends, but that was about it.
Elizabeth's roommate was gone this past weekend and she called me a few weeks ago asking if she got tickets for the Haunted Alton Tour if I would go spend the weekend with her. If you haven't picked up on it recently from all the posts about it: I love Alton. It's a river town with a ridiculously fascinating history and my trips down there are a blast. On top of getting to see Elizabeth, I also get to hang out in Alton. I'm setting my second work of fiction there and whenever I find myself there, I do some research and learn interesting things.
Alton is also supposed to be one of the most haunted cities in the country. And given its history: 9 underground railroad stops, a Confederate Civil War prison, the death of Elijah Lovejoy, and many other incredible happenings, I wouldn't doubt it. Elizabeth is a skeptic and was really doing this for the stories (which were great) and because she knew I would like it.
We started the evening in front of a building which had at times been a private home and a hospital and now serves as apartments. The remarkable thing was that in the basement there was a "tunnel" which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It was freezing cold that night so we were wearing sweaters and jackets and Elizabeth had the foresight to buy mittens, which I loved. Her coat had two zippered pockets in which she put her phone and wallet and kept them zipped up. We went down to the tunnel and came back out and Elizabeth said to me very quietly "My pocket is unzipped." It was the pocket with her wallet and that was the side I stood on. As her fiance pointed out over the phone, she probably just got it caught and it pulled open. I don't care, I thought it was awesome.
This was taken in the tunnel. It was dark, that's why the top of her head is missing.
We roamed all over Alton that night listening to stories, in one case which could easily induce the nightmares I was so sure I was going to have. We ended in a church in Alton which is supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the town. Those of us on the tour were instructed to sit in the pews and then the leader asked for two volunteers and I, of course, jumped up. Elizabeth was less excited, but came along like the good sister she is. We went into a big socializing room behind the sanctuary and the guide told us the reason he needed us there was because that room was usually particularly active and he needed us to vouch for him and so he could vouch for us when we said things were moved or different.
We took note of furniture placements and then he took us down a little hallway and stopped the doors and asked us to take note of which ones were open or closed. One was the door to the nursery, which was locked and the inside of the room was dark (there was a little window in the door.) We went back and sat in the sanctuary and he did his talk about the church history and why it was haunted and then everyone moved to the back room to look around. He asked Elizabeth and I to look around the room and go down the hallway to check things. As we were moving towards the hall way we passed through a spot which was noticeably colder than the rest of the room. I looked at Elizabeth and said "Cold" and she said "Yeah, I felt it too."
So we moved down the hallway and the first door I went to was the nusery door, which was locked when we were there with the guide. As I started to turn the handle it turned completely and the door opened. I turned to Elizabeth with eyes which, I'm sure were the size of dinner plates and she nodded and made note of the fingerprints on the window. Just then, the women's bathroom door opened and an older lady came out. I could tell Elizabeth was about to give her what for. "Are you with this tour group?" Elizabeth asked, a definite edge in her voice. "Yes," the lady responded. "Well then you need to be in that other room listening to him talk and you just scared the hell out of me." I tried not to laugh and we returned to the socializing room where Elizabeth told our guide what happened with the nursery door. "Really?" he responded. "That's never happened before. If anything happens with that door, it's usually just rattling."
We were both quite frightened at this point and Elizabeth bowed out of going into the basement. I wanted to see it, so I went. The guide gave his talk and then said, "If you want to see a floating skull I can show you one. There was a girl who took a picture and sent it to us saying she saw a skull on the wall. I said I'd try to see if I could recreate it and I did. It happens, that stone over there looks like a skull if the flash hits it right." I took a picture of it and looked at my camera. Unintentionally, I said "Oh, holy crap!" really loudly. The guide was right next to me and asked me if I captured the skull. "No, but the stone next to it looks like a face." Seriously, it looks like Abraham Lincoln. I was weirded out. The guide says "Oh, right, I forgot to say that."
Then Elizabeth and I departed, as that was the last stop of the night. As we were leaving, she told me one of the chairs in the socializing room did seem to move while she was there. She said in the beginning they were in a straight line, but when she looked back later, one was moved up a bit. She asked people there if they had sat in them and everyone said they hadn't.
She called her fiance, Eric, King of the Skeptics. She said to him, "I know most of this can probably be explained away, but there is a church in Alton that is seriously haunted." I thought that was pretty cool. And he did try to explain most of it, she said the only thing he couldn't explain was the door.
I know most of this probably seems silly to most people, but please don't deflate my enthusiasm. I love things like this, they make me happy....and terrified.