Paranormal Claims at
- The apparition of a former owner has been seen through windows
- The spirit of a former servant is said to touch people and hug them
- Phantom footsteps are heard in the wine cellar
- A white mist figure has been seen in the cellar
- The wine cellar door is known to open and close by itself
- Smells of fresh lilacs have been reported in odd areas in the home
McPike Mansion’s History
Sometimes, haunting tales come from places you would never expect them to. Other times, a building just looks a little…spooky. The McPike Mansion is a case of the latter. On a wooded roadway just north of Alton, Illinois, McPike Mansion looms large on its sizeable property.
The red brick Italianate manor has sat empty for decades, its dark windows like black eyes leering at drivers and passers-by. It seems only natural that local legends would develop in Alton about this empty, imposing property.
But stories of ghosts around McPike Mansion soon extended far beyond the Alton area, and the mansion is now known as one of the most haunted homes in all of Illinois.
Timeline of McPike Mansion's History
Swipe or use timeline points to see McPike Mansion through the years
Henry Guest McPike was born in 1825, but didn’t arrive in Alton, Illinois until he was a young man. But, McPike quickly became integrated into the community, working as a real estate agent, box manufacturer and an insurance executive.
Alas, none of these jobs fed his true passion: horticulture. So, with his real estate knowledge telling him just where the most fertile growing land was, McPike started buying up land as fast as he could. He soon amassed 15 acres of prime agricultural land.
In the years following the Civil War, Henry reached new heights of horticultural prowess. In that time, Henry had successfully grown a new type of grape that he was immensely proud of, the McPike Grape. McPike’s grape was voted one of the finest quality grapes by the Mississippi Valley Grape Growers’ Association, and soon gained nationwide attention.
With his newfound prosperity, Henry decided to build his dream home.
In 1869, McPike moved into his new home, an elegant Italianate mansion that few in Alton could hope to rival. When building his mansion, Henry made sure to include a sunny indoor conservatory for plant growing, and proceeded to plant numerous rare trees and plants throughout his property to round out the home’s aesthetic beauty.
All told, the home included 16 spacious rooms and a vaulted wine cellar, no doubt used to house wine made from the grapes that now carried his name.
Over the rest of the 19th century, Henry McPike lived a prosperous life with his family in the mansion he had built. He remained a staple in the community, even serving two terms as mayor of Alton. In the early 1900s, the elderly McPike lived quietly until he died at his mansion in 1910.
After McPike’s death, the home was purchased by Paul Laichinger, who both lived in the home and opened it as a boarding house. The mansion remained a boarding house until Laichinger died in either the mid-1940s or early-1950s.
Around the early 1950s, the last tenant of the McPike Mansion moved out, and the house was empty for the first time since its last brick was laid. The home would sit in limbo for decades, left to vandals, vagrants, and trespassers as the years went by.
And, as the home became more dilapidated and more intimidatingly haunting to look at, it soon became the focal point of ghost stories and spooky legends for generations of Alton locals.
McPike Mansion: Revitalizing
a Paranormal Legend
Stories abounded about just what went on in the mansion’s empty husk, and what spirits still went bump in the night throughout its dusty and dark hallways. But by the early 1990s, the house seemed to be barely standing anymore, and several propositions were put forward to demolish it and repurpose the land.
Despite having been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, there seemed to be no hope left for the forgotten grape grower’s mansion. That is, until Sharyn and George Luedke purchased it at auction in 1994.
Since purchasing the mansion, the Luedkes have taken on the immense task of refurbishing the old house and returning it to its former glory. The former indoor conservatory has been renovated, along with the front porch, sections of the first floor, and numerous other aspects of the home.
No longer is it on borrowed time and risking demolition, and though the second floor remains in need of repair before it can be walked on, there is no question that the McPike Mansion has come back from the dead. And, with that resurrection, the ghost stories about the home surged back. Only this time, they didn’t seem to just be stories.
Former Owners Haunt McPike Mansion
One of the most well-known haunting reports is that of Paul Laichinger. The story goes that one day, while Sharyn Luedke was working in the home’s garden, she looked up to see the unmistakable figure of Paul looking at her through one of the windows.
The apparition was said to be so clear that she could see that his outfit matched one of the old photos she had of him. Since then, the spiritual figure of Paul Laichinger has been reported many times by visitors and the owners.
Spirit of Sarah at McPike Mansion
Another spirit said to wander the mansion is that of a former servant. While the servant spirit had spent many years being a nameless entity, recent research has shown a servant named Sarah being recorded as having worked at the home, so many now take to calling this spirit Sarah.
It is said that Sarah will often reach out and touch people, sometimes even wrapping them up in a tight hug. While this might seem startling to those who experience it, it is often said Sarah’s presence is otherwise very kind. Her spirit is sometimes noted as being followed by the scent of fresh lilacs.
The Legendary Haunting
of McPike Mansion
While there isn’t a defined number for the population of spirits within the mansion, psychics and mediums have previously quoted the number 12. So, while only a few have been positively identified, there could be several other spirits lingering around the old house.
The list of paranormal experiences at McPike proved so long that the Luedkes soon opened the house up to paranormal investigators and interested thrill seekers once the home was refurbished enough to let people safely near it. Since then, numerous groups have come and gone from the house, coming away with stories of strange encounters as well as countless potentially anomalous photographs and possible EVP recordings.
In recent years, McPike Mansion has also been featured on several paranormal television programs, including Syfy’s Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab, and an episode of Scariest Places on Earth.
Paranormal tours and investigations are still offered today and have become increasingly common as the old mansion becomes more well-known amongst paranormal enthusiasts. And those who pay to tour or investigate contribute directly to the restoration of this historic home that was nearly erased from history. So, whether you’re a fan of ghosts, or just interested in the history of certain grapes, you’ll surely find a lot to enjoy at the McPike Mansion.