Across town, in a decidedly poorer neighborhood, sits a home even more impressive than the Olin mansion — at least in Huber's opinion. "See that house over there?" he says, pointing to a weathered green home with its curtains drawn. "That's where Miles Davis was born — not that anyone seems to give a damn anymore."

Perhaps there'd be more interest in the jazz master's birth home if Miles Davis' ghost were to suddenly materialize in Alton. In the past decade reports of hauntings and supernatural phenomena have earned Alton the distinction of being "one of the most haunted small towns in America." The city has a haunted theater, haunted hotel, haunted cracker factory, haunted dessert shop, haunted bookstore, several haunted houses and even a haunted Masonic lodge — the latter of which is said to be inhabited by "Mr. Butt Print," a phantom who leaves cheek marks as his calling card.

In recent years, the ghost tales have sprouted a cottage industry with several different companies offering tours of Alton homes and buildings that are reportedly haunted. Competition is so fierce the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau reports that it's common for tour operators to call the tourism board and complain that other guides are invading their turf.

Monument to murdered abolitionist, Elijah Lovejoy.
Jennifer Silverberg
Monument to murdered abolitionist, Elijah Lovejoy.
Who you gonna call?: Barber by day, ghost hunter by night, Wayne Hensley.
Jennifer Silverberg
Who you gonna call?: Barber by day, ghost hunter by night, Wayne Hensley.

Details

RFT Photos

Slide Show

"This ghost business does bring people to Alton, I'll give them that," agrees Huber. "But personally, I think all this haunting stuff is a bunch of hocus-pocus bullshit."

But don't tell that to Wayne Hensley, a barber at the Mineral Springs Mall, located in the heart of downtown Alton. At the age of 66, Hensley says he's the oldest living human being to work in the building that opened as a hotel in 1914. The first thing Hensley wants to know when we stop by his small barbershop inside the building is: "Are you a believer?"

"It's all right if you're not," says Hensley as he finishes giving a client a flattop. "On a scale of one to ten, I'd say I used to be a two. I didn't put much stock in ghosts. Now I'd say I'm definitely a ten. There's just no way to explain some of this stuff."

Since moving his business into the building in the early 1980s, Hensley says he's heard voices when no one is around, had his hands slapped by invisible specters, and smelled the perfume and pipe tobacco of the ghosts who haunt the building.

"Back when this hotel opened, Alton was a very violent place," recounts Hensley. "It's incredible the number of murders that happened here. It stands to reason that one or more people were killed in this hotel. Others probably died of suicides or drowned in the mineral pool. Their spirits still haunt this place."

A few years ago, Hensley and a business partner began offering ghost hunts inside the old hotel. Customers pay $30 for the tour and $50 if they elect to eat dinner in the old hotel. For $100, Hensley will even let you sleep on the floor of the swimming pool located in the building's dank basement.

"Business has been good," he boasts, "even through the recession."

Theories differ as to why Alton is haunted. Some say the Mississippi River serves as a channel of sorts to the spiritual world. Others argue that the mystery lies in the Indian legend of the Piasa bird, a winged monster that used to terrify Native American villagers. Others, like 72-year-old Antoinette Eason, believe the answer can be found in the local limestone rock used to build Alton.

"Limestone is a great receptor for psychic residue," explains Eason, who moved to Alton from St. Louis in 1975 and soon set up shop as the city's first licensed psychic. "When something catastrophic happens, it creates an energy that hangs in the air."

Eason believes the assassination of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy still resonates in the spiritual world that haunts Alton. "I don't think the city ever recovered from his murder," she says. "It changed our history. We could have been the state capital instead of Springfield. Now we're not as prosperous as we might have been."

In her 30-plus years in Alton, Eason says she's watched as the town has grown "dirtier," and seen many of the town's treasured buildings disappear due to decay. In 1992, Eason started "Antoinette's Haunted History Tours" which showcases many of Alton's remaining landmarks and their supposed connection to the supernatural.

While her tour initially raised eyebrows, Eason says it continues to sell out month after month. "I'll say this about Alton," she says. "People are more open-minded than they used to be, and not just about metaphysics, either."


Breast Struck
It is safe to say that Alton officials are not likely to ever fully embrace topless bartending.

Last month, city attorney Jim Schrempf introduced a change to the Alton ordinance that currently makes it unlawful to expose "any portion of the female breast at or below the areola" in a bar or tavern. The amended ordinance, which might be approved by the Alton City Council on December 17, also makes it unlawful for men to expose their breasts in bars. Violators face fines up to $750.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
Roswell2012
Roswell2012

Nothing wrong with a little T&A as long as the ladies aren't being harassed or forced to reveal anything they don't want to. Sounds like they don't have a problem with it and even enjoy the attention and extra tips they get from flashing. The people with the seriously conservative viewpoints that are bothered by it need to stop trying to force their views on other people. That shit really pissed me off. If you don't want to see it, don't go there, plain and simple.

givemedirections
givemedirections

I totally agree with Number 6. If they dont want to show them, they dont have to. Its a good thing when they do. If people dont like it they should go to a differant night club, go to Tonys with its pretend to be upidity crowd. They all just want to sleep with each other. Praise to all those barmaids.hope they make as much money as they can, as I do to anyone that is willing to work and not take from the system

Steve Evans
Steve Evans

Flashing Boobies for Tips in Alton has been a custom for many years. In the 80's there was a VERY chesty Bar Maid at the Pub Room who would undo buttons on her vest. When the Tips were rollin in, she took the vest off. When the tips slowed down, she put the vest back on. It took a considerable amount of $ in the jar to get the vest off a second time. Quite a racket!

Gump
Gump

This is for Kellee Baker, the girl in the "Alton Confidential" picture. You need to get a job bartending in Alton! You could make some good money and you would raise the quality of barmaid to the next level! HubaHuba!

Alby
Alby

Hehehehe. This article cracks me up! I am a fairly new transplant to Alton, and this hits the nail right on the head. The naked bar tenders should be the last issue the city fathers should worry about. Lack of jobs and industry, an aging housing stock, slumlords, rampant drug and crime problems, and diminishing city revenues are all major problems that need to be tackled first. The casino was merely a crutch for so many years; never really improving Alton; just helping it squeak by. Alton has it's bright spots and some good people, but if something isn't done to change the demographics, it will be a magnet for criminals and bums. Alton is a true case of urban decay. Many of the decent people who want to live a clean life have fled for greener pastures. Free the BOOBIES and fix whats really wrong with Alton!

Bradfordshort
Bradfordshort

I live in Alton and have heard people complaining about this article. Especially some of the politcals and wanna be big shots. When I was done with the article I was in total agreement with it. The people over here can bitch all they want. But they are bitching about the truth. If the people of Alton don't like what the article says then change it. The writer had the town drunk driving him around trying to show how great Alton is.

troy
troy

Yep,thats my old hometown.The police play cops and robbers.Its a joke.Alton has a huge drug problem.Everything is cheap.Including the value or quality of life.The prostitutes,drugs,felons,lingerie shops,payday loans,pawn shops,gambling.I have a son to raise.I moved and never looked back.Even the cops dont have to live there.Wake up somebody!!

Ben There
Ben There

No, Jamie instigated Jamie's nudity. Sweet girl, but she was one of those girls that liked to show off. The only reason she was arrested was because she kept walking outside naked, and someone would call the po-po.

above the law
above the law

I only wish the author of this story would have interviewed Jamie the Alton Barmaid who was fired for nudity. He could have asked her who the main instigator was to her nudity and this story would be as big as the Blago story.

Ben There
Ben There

Sorry MK, but you're wrong about most of what you wrote. Nobody barks at them, especially the owners. Most of the time, nothing gets shown until the owner leaves. If they don't want to show anything, they just say no. Not that bigga deal. And on a good day, they make a LOT more than a few measly bucks. They don't generally stay very long anyway. It's just place to make a few bucks til they find something better. I remember one that worked in one for a couple of years while she finished law school and never showed anybody anything. Didn't have to. Now she's an attorney, a damned fine lookin one. Helluva debater too.OTOH, there are/were those who were quite narcissistic about their exhibitionism, and just loved the attention.Some didn't even care if they didn't get any money. They just like to show off.But don't EVEN come off like it's some kind of sex slave thing. Because it's not.

MK
MK

As if the majority of these women are doing this on their own volition. If the men weren't there demanding it, they wouldn't do it. If they didn't get barked at, bar owners encouraging it, etc., it wouldn't happen. Even in this article, it states how the women were reluctant to show anything. I'm sure some women are all about it, but the majority..no way. Bar owners and managers know it's why people come to those bars and enjoy the profits. The women are making a few measly dollars. Don't blame the women, blame the bar owners for not just allowing this, but for encouraging it and profiting from it.

Ben There
Ben There

I've been a patron in those Alton bars for years, and yes, I've seen a fair amount of nudity. Sure, as a man, I sometimes enjoy a nice set of boobies with my beer. Most make me smile, some have made me have to force a smile. One line I remember from some drunk dude was, "Damn! Looks like golf balls hanging in a sock"! Of course the bartender didn't appreciate that very much. But what kills me, is the fact that some people actually go to these places, knowing full well what goes on there, just so they can see it, develope their self rightious better than thou attitudes, then go snitching to the authorities. Busybodies with apparently nothing to look forward to all day, so they decide to go ruin someone elses day. And with all of the murderers, crackheads and car thieves running around Alton, the police aren't really interested in fighting the evil threat to society that bare mammory glands cause. Funny how America is so backward that way. You can go to any European or Carribean beach and see the same exact thing, and nobody complains, nobody gets hurt.Personally, I can live without bare boobies. Seen 'em before. Big deal. Bags of fat. Whoopteedoo. But over the years, I've noticed a trend.Used to be, the only girls who worked in these places were former strippers from the east side. Battle hardened drug addicted hooker types that no one else would employ. It was hard to feel sorry for them. But nowadays I'm seeing something different. I'm seeing young single mothers, freshly divorced, who normally wouldn't be caught dead in these types of places. I'm seeing young single women who don't make near as much money on their day jobs, so they have to moonlight just to feed their kids. or some have been laid off from minimum wage jobs.And I do feel kind of sorry for them. I listen to their stories of abuse from their ex-husbands, or being laid off from "regular" jobs, and can easily see that they've been dealt a crappy hand.So next time you look down your naked nose at someone's naked breasts, and decide to rescue the world from the evil society collapsing scourge of bare boobies, ask yourself, "Self, will I make the world a better place by snitching on a woman who's just trying to live a life and feed her kids, who isn't trying to murder you, sell drugs to your kids, or sell you a senate seat?

Travis
Travis

I am an Alton area native. I went to the Pub Room about a week before the shit went down in September. After viewing a horrible excuse for a vagina(I'd like to call it a birth canal) from the skanky bar maid, she got pissed and called me uppity when I requested to not drink from their glasses. This article needed t be written. Alton has many short comings, and many natives (like myself) find humor in them. The city is beautiful in it's own right, and has many great establishments that are trying to better the city (i.e. Spirits Lounge, Gentelins on Broadway, Bossanova, etc., etc.). Also, the Grafton scene is great for wine and dining. Why not mention that? Kudos to Chad for making the venutre out to check out the Dive Bar scene (which is one of a kind). I encourage people to check out the historic the riverfront district (state st., etc.) and the many hidden treasure Alton has to offer. It is photographer's dream. Plus a lot of great music and art has came from the "city" of Alton. i.e. Camp Climax For Girls, Judge Nothing, Yorktown Heroes, uns of Navarone, Back of Dave, etc.

P.S. The Alton Telegraph is horrible!

Aaron Goodrich
Aaron Goodrich

I am a former son of Alton, born and raised. I now live in Portland Oregon, which has at last count 92 full nude bars. Alton could do much worse. I also used to work in the Mineral Springs Hotel and will testify that the place is haunted as f#@$!

John Olson
John Olson

Dennis Grubaugh is the epitome of a yellow journalism, and why you offer him another platform is beyond me! He is glad to tarnish the innocent on page 1 of the Telegraph, while child molesters are relegated to the back of the paper.

I'm not sure why there's an issue about women showing their tits anyway? Besides dive bars, there are plenty of churches you hypocrites can frequent.

While I do live in Alton, I am not a fan of the city. I also realize that cigarette smoking and amusement devices can be found all over the area and not just at the Pub Room. And for Mr. Garrison to hone in on bars in Alton is beyond me. NTM, the poker machines come with the blessings of Springfield.

So I raise my glass to the Marlboro Man. PAULA SIMS, SHOW ME YOUR TITS!

 
Loading...