The McPike Mansion
The McPike Mansion, both a historic and haunted Alton property, sits on the once 15-acre estate of Henry Guest McPike. The grand Italianate Victorian home was built in 1869 by the prolific Alton architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger and is composed of 16 rooms, a basement, and a vaulted wine cellar. The mansion and grounds are considered to be one of the most haunted places in the United States and possibly the most haunted location in Illinois. The mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been investigated by many historians and paranormal investigators over the years. The property and home have long been an important landmark for the City of Alton and a sincerely spooky place for visitors seeking paranormal thrills.
Henry McPike once served as the Mayor of Alton and was a successful fire insurance investor, industrialist, and landowner- owning more than 700 local properties. Henry was an avid horticulturist, founding the oldest horticultural society in Illinois. The mansion's grounds were planted with rare trees, shrubs, flowers, and had extensive vineyards from which Henry developed the McPike Grape- a variation that came to be known nationally.
Henry was a strong abolitionist supporter and friend of Abraham Lincoln and even helped arrange the famed “A House Divided” debate with Senator Stephen Douglas along Alton’s riverfront. His involvement in the abolitionist movement has made some speculate that his hilltop mansion might’ve been used as a stop along the Underground Railroad.
The mansion was lived in by the McPike family until Henry's death in 1910, but the history gets a bit hazy between that year and 1936- at some point in that span the mansion served as home to Brown's Business College and later was purchased and used as a boarding house by Paul Laichinger- who supposedly lingers as a ghost on the property.
After Laichinger’s death in 1945, the property began to struggle and by 1950 it was abandoned altogether. Weather, vandalism, and lack of upkeep ravaged the building and grounds. Once being an immaculate home complete with 11 marble fireplaces, elegant crown molding, and intricately carved bannisters, thieves stole much of the home’s finer details- including every single bannister, light fixture, and even the toilets. Only a fraction of the regal crown molding is still intact in one of the front rooms.
Besides theft and defacement, the home’s structural integrity dwindled, leading it to become a condemned building, the floors no longer safe to walk upon and the roof beginning to cave in. Plans to demolish the aging structure and build a shopping center were proposed in the 80’s, but the plans fell through due to zoning issues. The home has been on the Top 10 Most Endangered Historical Places list for some time.
In 1994, Sharyn and George Leudke decided to buy the property “on impulse” at an auction. Ever since, the couple has been trying to repair, stabilize, and restore the historic home to its former grandeur, but the journey hasn’t been an easy one. The expense to repair the roof alone was estimated at a whopping $50,000- and foundational issues, window repair, and the water-damaged floor and woodwork of the home quickly added to that overhead.
To help raise funds to restore the McPike, the Leudke’s started holding historic and paranormal tours. Group visits include a guided tour of the grounds and the McPike crypt reviewing the history and hauntings of the home. Guests will then descend into the McPike wine cellar- supposedly the most haunted room of the house- and participate in a dark room session with McPike’s medium, Sandy Little Lizard. The tour lasts approximately 1 ½ hours.
The McPike Mansion is known nationally and internationally as one of the most haunted locations in the country. Visitors and owners alike have witnessed paranormal activity in the form of orbs, balls of light, shadow figures, strange mists, and even full-bodied apparitions peering from the mansion’s windows, in photos, or in person.
Several of the spirits purportedly haunting the McPike have been identified from old photographs and documents, including sightings of McPike’s wife, Eleanor, and Henry McPike himself. Strong cigarette smoke- attributed to Paul Laichinger who smoked heavily- has been smelled and even seen in the building- which has been smoke-free for decades and Sharyn Leudke had an encounter while gardening of a man watching her from the mansion windows; a photo found later identified the man as Laichinger- wearing the same suit and tie!
Other spirits said to reside in the home include a young girl named Sarah who smells of lilac perfume, a woman in a green dress with long hair on the stairwell, and the McPike children. Scraping doors, children’s disembodied laughter, unexplained footsteps, and objects disappearing and appearing in different locations are also common at the residence.
The McPike has appeared on multiple television programs and is featured in books, urban exploration videos, and paranormal sites. Take a tour or, if you’re brave enough, stay the night on one of the haunted mansion’s overnight camping adventures! Tours and camping dates are listed on the McPike Mansion’s website and Rivers and Route's event page- the tours peak during autumn. It is recommended to buy tickets in advance as they sell out quickly! The McPike is not open to the public outside of scheduled events. Check out the Mineral Springs Mall for more paranormal thrills or schedule one of Alton's ghost walking tours by visiting altonhauntings.com!
Not interested in the paranormal? Take the Historic Alton Driving Tour to see more of Alton's landmark homes!