Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mineral Springs Hotel

On April 12, 2008, my friends Shelly and Dan and I took a trip to Alton, IL for the Mineral Springs Haunted Tour. This was the last tour of the season that included a tour of torture devices on loan from the Museum of Historic Torture Devices in Wisconsin Dells.

The Mineral Springs Hotel is currently an antique mall at street level and apartments in various stages of renovation on the upper levels. I'll be mentioning bits and pieces of the history of the building here, but for a more extensive and interesting history, check out Troy Taylor's website.

Upon arrival at the Mineral Springs, we were directed to the ballroom. Wayne the Barber gave a short introduction to the history of the building, including the story of the Jasmine Lady, the ghost of a woman who died in the building when she took a nasty tumble down a marble staircase after her husband caught her having an affair. We were encouraged to take a whiff of a bag of what appeared to be jasmine bath salts, so we would recognize her when she arrived. The gents were also encouraged to dab on a bit of Bay Rum cologne, as the Jasmine Lady has an affinity for men who wear this scent.

The fatal staircase. I believe Wayne said she came running around the corner at the top of the stairs, tripped, sailed down headfirst, and busted her noggin on the 4th step from the bottom.

We also learned about Charlie, a drunken sot of a ghost that has been known to follow the prettiest lady on the tour home. One is alerted to his presence by the odor of alcohol. According to the Haunted Alton Illinois brochure, Charlie the "drunken ghost" hangs out in the area that used to be the hotel bar, and "It's thought that he painted the mural of Alton on the wall in exchange for the right to imbibe while he worked." Some versions of the story go on to say that the mural was mysteriously finished after the man died, which is neither true, nor mentioned on the Mineral Springs Haunted Tour.

Finally, there is Cassandra, a 10 year old girl who drowned at her birthday party in the pool on the lower level. Cassandra is quite spirited (har har,) and along with playing some EVPs of her talking to people on the tour, Wayne also told a story about some marbles that showed up during a seance, which they believe to be industrial marbles pulled from spray paint cans in a storage room near the old pool.

Dan is ready to hunt ghosts.

There are believed to be 7 ghosts that live at the Mineral Springs, but those are the three main ghosts that are discussed on the tour. We were also warned that if we were scared, negative, or disbelieving, that we should not do the seance at the end of the night because ghosts can read our minds and will take advantage of weakness. We are also warned later in the evening that some people get terrible headaches in the pool, which could be because several people fell and busted their heads in the pool areas and that we should prepare ourselves for this possibility.

After the introduction, the tour was split into two groups. We were in the first group, off to explore the old hotel area of the building. It is currently undergoing renovation, so between no electricity and tight quarters of an old hotel room, I didn't get many pictures up there.

To the right of the short staircase is another hall, at the end of which was the room where the Jasmine Lady was found with her lover. The Jasmine Lady came around that corner, running straight for where I am standing at the top of the fatal staircase.

Before we head to the basement and the women's pool, a lesson on orbs. According to some, orbs are dust and moisture caught by the flash of a camera. According to others, orbs are ghosts. According to Wayne the tour guide, orbs are dust if they have a dot precisely at the center and moisture if they are completely transparent, but are also readily identifiable as ghosts on your 2" digital camera screen. On the picture above, you can see an orb on the stair. If you were to blow it up, there is a dot precisely in the center, so we will assume that is dust and not the Jasmine Lady reenacting her fateful flight.

Our next stop, the women's pool in the basement. I have since lost my notes, but I recall Wayne telling us about how the orbs in this area are known to line up in military precision. When I was taking pictures I was told I had some soldier orbs lining up, but I don't see them now. Those 2" screens are tricky.


Views of the women's pool taken consecutively.

Also on the lower level is the old meatpacking floor. Dan and I learned a lesson about the reflectivity of dust in the dark while trying to photograph this room.

It's hard to see if you don't know what you're looking for, but there's a HUGE boiling vat at the very far end of this picture.

After the tour of the lower levels, we returned to the ballroom to switch groups. It was time to eat cookies while we waited for our turn to have our fortunes told. When I saw that this tour included a Tarot card reading, I was dubious, as a reading alone costs as much as this tour. Turns out the psychic was just doing this in the manner of "Pick a card, any card," which isn't entirely worthless, but not what I felt was implied by "tarot card reading."

Look, a ghost! Oh no, wait, that's Shelly.

Onward to the torture devices! We were not allowed to take pictures in this room, but I will do my best to improvise. Devices include: The Heretic's Fork, The Saw, The Garrotte, The Thumbscrew, The Breaking Wheel, The Pillory, The Branks, and Waterboarding. No wait, scratch that last one, it wasn't on this tour.

All in all, the whole exhibit may have traveled here in a minivan. I was expecting more of a spectacle and was rather disappointed.

Back to the ballroom to regroup and watch a video from the History Channel about the torture devices, and then it was on to the Men's Pool for the seance. Pre-seance, we had a chance to take some investigative pictures.

The first picture I took in the men's pool. ORBS GALORE! I was standing on a mound of loose dirt. That's Wayne the Barber down there in the pool.

Shelly and Dan in the pool

Look, Ma, I'm dowsing! Actually, absolutely nothing is happening in this picture.

It's a shame these pool areas are in such disrepair. I can hardly imagine what they looked like when they were in use by hotel guests.

The seance, to be quite honest, was 30 minutes of standing in a circle in the dark with no light other than candles, while Wayne said things like, "Do you think you might be smelling anything? Seeing any weird shadows? Hearing anything? Cassandra, can you give us a sign? Does anyone smell anything? Anyone getting a bad headache? Robert, are you here?" Absolutely nothing happened other than someone getting cold and someone else getting dizzy.

Nonetheless, it was a good night of entertainment. We had fun and came away with great stories and a little bit of history. This tour is also the only tour in town that will get you access to the majority of the building, as the tour is run by the owner of the building and others who own businesses in the antique mall.

1 comment:

  1. ZOMG Zee Orbz... dere is so many! Da spiritz, dey luvs uuuu! haha oh man. orbs. priceless!