‘I run ghost tours in haunted town – spirits push visitors and pull their hair’

The founder and investigator of a ghost tour company that offers spooky dinners, nights with the spirits and insight into one of America’s most haunted towns has spoken up about the frightening happenings in his area. Troy Taylor writes full time about "ghosts, hauntings, true crime, and the unexplained" – and has even seen spirits himself.

Troy, founder of Alton Hauntings, American Hauntings & Prairie Ghosts, works in Alton, Illinois, where residents live in haunted mansions and there’s a ghoulish museum that showcases objects related to the paranormal, old medical devices and serial killers. He combines his ghost tours with the history of the town which he says is also fascinating.

Troy spoke to Daily Star to explain his ghostly experiences – and recommend the top spots to visit, stay and eat which on the hunt for paranormal experiences. He insists he’s not a "psychic or medium" but has noted "sounds, knocks, cold spots" while wandering the town.

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Plus, he added: "I have seen two ghosts. One was the former owner of a movie theatre who had been dead for 40 years when I saw him, and the other was a close encounter with a figure in abandoned hospital. When a friend and I went to tell the man – he looked completely real and solid – he had to leave the building, we found the room he walked into was empty and there was no other exit from the room."

Those who want to head to Alton may have spooky encounters themselves. Troy explained: "We pride ourselves on being a history tour with ghost tours. We try and bring the history of the town to life through the people who lived here and the events that occurred that left hauntings behind. So, we take people to the places where the events occurred and where ghosts are now said to linger and let our guests experience that for themselves."

One such place is the Mineral Spring Hotel. Troy said: "My favorite location in Alton is the former Mineral Springs Hotel. It hasn’t been a hotel in many years but it’s now used for retail shops and event space. It has a lot of hidden history to it. Parts of the hotel still exist – in the rooms, the fixtures, the floors, and in places that are in plain sight – if you know where to look.

"The Mineral Springs is the perfect example of the line from the song that says, ‘you can check out anytime you like, but you can’t ever leave.’ There are many of the guests of yesterday who have remained behind at the Mineral Springs. Visitors have not only witnessed the lingering spirits as apparitions, but have heard footsteps, have been touched, pushed, had their hair pulled, etc. It’s a very active place."

But, there are other places busy with those of times gone by. Troy added: "My second favorite would be the former Enos Sanitorium, which was a tuberculosis sanatorium in the early 1900s. It’s now an apartment building and ghosts from the days of the hospital remain, knocking on doors, going up and down the stairs, making the old elevator run by itself, and hiding small items and moving them to other places.

"The house dates back to the 1850s, though, when it was a large, private mansion. The owner was an important part of the Underground Railroad in town, helping enslaved people to escape from southern states. Today, there is still a chamber in the sub-basement where escapees were hidden before being moved on to safety. For years, there have been reports of ghostly activity in that part of the basement."

Troy noted that you can’t expect ghosts to be well behaved – as it depends on the personality of the person who passed. He explained: "We have plenty of stories of conscious spirits. If we accept the idea that a spirit is the personality of someone who died and that personality remained behind, then the spirit will be just like the person they were when alive – good or bad."

Those keen to visit the town may feel a little lost with where to stay or dine, but Troy knows the area back to front. He noted: "If you want a haunted hotel then guests might check out the old Ruebel Hotel in nearby Grafton. They have a resident ghost – a young girl named Abigail.

"And speaking of resident ghosts, I’d direct anyone looking for great food to Morrison’s Irish Pub. Not only is it the only place in Alton to get a proper Guinness pour, but the food is top-notch.

"Plus, in the 1860s, it was the site of the local First National Bank and an attempted robbery of the place ended in a murder and a lingering ghost. You can’t beat that combination."

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Even if you’re not overly interested in the ghosts around Alton it’s an interesting spot to go to for history lovers. Plus, the Midwest of the US – which includes Illinois – was voted the best value break in the world by Lonely Planet.

Troy noted: "We also have historic homes, great restaurants, small shops, and plenty of places to stay, from bed and breakfasts to hotels. And a short trip along the Great River Road, headed upriver, will offer you some of the most scenic views on the Mississippi River. I think our tours are worth experiencing even if you’re not a believer, if only for the history that we incorporate. But, if there is any small town that you might visit that could turn you into a believer, it would definitely be Alton."

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