As of October 2021, the basement (where the famed wine cellar is housed) is used to run tours, seances and occasional events. The first and second floors are currently out of bounds to the public as renovation works are being done. The first floor will be used as a communal space for events and while rooms on the second floor will be used as a Bed & Breakfast (B&B).
The haunted McPike Mansion was vacant for over 50 years before being occupied by Sharyn and George Luedke, who purchased the property during an auction in 1994 for a sum of $42,000 in 1994
The couple had planned to restore the mansion and convert it into a local attraction and Bed & Breakfast (B&B). However, restoration efforts have been repeatedly delayed as they were unable to secure restoration grants from the local and federal agencies. This prompted the couple to run historical tours of the McPike Mansion with hopes of raising sufficient funds to renovate the property. Coupled with donations from the local community, Sharyn and George was able to refurbish the historic property.
In 2017, the Alton Historical Commission presented the Luedke couple with an award in preservation for their efforts in restoring McPike Mansion.
History of McPike Mansion
The history of McPike Mansion dates back to 1869 when it was commissioned by Henry Guest McPike, a local real estate developer and mayor of Alton from 1887 to 1891. Designed in an Italianate-Victorian style by famous architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger, the imposing three-story structure stood on a 15 acre land (known as Mount Lookout) owned by the McPike family on Alby Street and was one of the largest building in the vicinity. The property boasted 16 rooms, 11 marble fireplaces, a vaulted wine cellar, and acres of garden filled with orchards, rare trees, and other vegetation. McPike was an accomplished horticulturist and and had perfected the famous McPike grape on the very same land.
McPike lived in the mansion till 1910 when he passed away. The McPike family continued to own the mansion till 1925 when it was purchased by Paul A. Laichinger. Laichinger lived on the estate by himself and rented out the remaining rooms to tenants. There were reports that the McPike family remained on the property until 1936, presumably rented from Laichinger. After Laichinger death in 1945, McPike Mansion was left abandoned. It wasn’t long before the property was ransacked by thieves and stripped of any valuables. The interior were also heavily vandalised by locals and vagrants who took up residence in the dilapidated building.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, attempts were made to demolish the mansion and convert the land into an entertainment center. However, the plans failed to materialize due to zoning issues. In spite of its state of disrepair, the historic mansion was nominated and successfully listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 17, 1980.
Hauntings in the Mansion
Weeks after moving in, the couple began experiencing paranormal activities. Both reported seeing the apparition of Laichinger wandering around the mansion’s living room. The ghost of a girl named Sarah Wells—believed to be a servant of the McPike family—can also be seen lingering around the common areas. Sarah is said to be particularly affectionate towards visitors and would often approach and hug them.
The mansion is said to be haunted by as many as 12 apparitions, including members of the McPike family—McPike’s wife Eleanor, mother Lydia, son James, and daughter-in-law Jenny—Laichinger, and former tenants of the building.
One of the more notable paranormal sighting happened in 1999 when Sharyn was leading a tour in the basement. Upon entering the vaulted wine cellar, an eerie white mist manifested and ‘danced’ in the air before charging towards the group and enveloping them. The mist swirled around the visitors before disappearing into thin air. The whole incident was captured on tape by Renee Kruse, a researcher who happened to be on the tour. Till this day, there is still no explanation as to how the white mist materialized and moved around in an air tight environment where no wind is present.
Renee Kruse, during an interview about her encounter with the white mist.
“I could feel it. Even through my clothing I could feel it. Felt like feathers were brushing against my body.”
Separately in 2001, a team of paranormal investigator was conducting an electronic voice phenomena (EVP) session in the wine cellar. While in the closed vault, the team heard footsteps descending into the basement and approaching the cellar. The large metal doors of the cellar soon creaked open, scrapping across the stone floor as it did so. To their amazement, no one was there.
Over the years, many visitors have similarly experienced inexplicable events such as orbs zooming across the rooms, ghastly figures, and whispers of a young girl or lady. Some have also claimed to have caught a whiff of a faint scent of cigar; Laichinger was said to be a heavy smoker.
McPike Mansion has now become a popular stop for ghost hunters and local ghost tours. In 2019, the mansion was featured in a two part special titled “Curse of the Riverbend” by Travel Channel Ghost Adventures where host Zak Bagans and his team of paranormal investigators explored the haunted property and attempt to identify its inhabitants who have never left. During the investigations, the team concluded that a handful of spirits exists, many of which were vengeful spirits whose grave can be found in the property fell into disrepair