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Alton City Cemetery

Alton City Cemetery - Alton, Illinois
This location was investigated and documented by Heidi.

The Location

An opened crypt with a pile of
firewood outside. Cozy, isn't it?

While the actual founders and date of establishment for Alton's City Cemetery remains shrouded in mystery, it is believed to possibly be the third oldest ongoing cemetery in the state of Illinois. An old cemetery register states that a burial took place on the property in 1812, but the official records for the cemetery begin in 1835. While the cemetery is well-kept and beautifully landscaped, beyond its high limestone walls towards the shaded depths of the graveyard lies a morbid and mysterious find; several crypts have been broken open, and while the remains of their original occupants are now long gone, traces of the homeless who use them for shelter are now present. Just exactly why these crypts were opened - and where the bodies once entombed within them disappeared to - is unknown.

Perhaps the most notable discovery within the cemetery, however, is the Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial. Centered on a ninety-three foot high granite column, with a seventeen foot high winged statue of Victory atop it and guarded by two granite columns thirty feet high, each with a mounted bronze eagle on their tops, the monument was dedicated in the memory of the murdered abolitionist on November 7, 1897, the sixtieth anniversary of his death. This monument also plays a part in the reported tales of the cemetery's hauntings.

Elijah P. Lovejoy.

A Presbyterian minister and publisher of the religious newspaper, The St. Louis Observer, Reverend Lovejoy enraged some of Alton's citizens by supporting the anti-slavery movement and publishing articles promoting abolitionism. He was killed on the night of November 7, 1837 by a shotgun blast during a pro-slavery mob scene while trying to defend his beloved printing press. It is said that Lovejoy's spirit can be seen from time to time wandering near the site of his memorial, perhaps even in death trying to defend his right to freedom of speech.

Another ghostly happening that is said to take place near the Lovejoy monument is steeped in just as much tragedy. A plot nearby it belonging to the Haskell family is believed to be haunted by the spirit of little Lucy Haskell, who died from diphtheria at the tender age of nine. Mostly seen only by children, Lucy is said to be very playful and curious. There are also claims that a ghostly woman in black can sometimes be glimpsed roaming the hallways of the Grandview Public Mausoleum which is located within the cemetery. As it is no longer open to the public, her presence there is shrouded in mystery. And more mysterious still are the claims of sudden cold spots that form within the cemetery, even in the heat of summer, only to dissipate moments later.

The Investigation

Having made several trips to the Alton City Cemetery, both during the daytime and the evening, I can honestly say that I am never left disappointed with any of my sojourns there. The sheer size of the place is astounding; the gravestones seem both ancient and beautiful, and in some cases, such as the Lovejoy monument, even overwhelming. And most importantly, I have never walked away from any of my investigations there empty handed.

The Civil War graves where I
felt an unexplainable cold spot.

My most memorable experience at this resting place for the dead began on a hot August day. I brought with me my digital camera and audio recorder, as well as a K-II meter, and began scouting out the area to get a feel for the lay of the land, as I had a private nighttime tour arranged later that evening. I spent some time near both the mausoleum and the Lovejoy monument, snapping pictures and pausing to do EVP sessions here and there, and it was when I began approaching the soldier's burial section of the graveyard that I walked right through it - an unexplainable cold spot that chilled me to the bone, despite the midday summer heat.

I cannot explain what caused this drop in temperature, and it remained stationary long enough for me to pass my hand through it and feel the temperature difference before it vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. I hope to return sometime in the future with a temperature gauge to document this phenomena should I ever be lucky enough to encounter it again!

The sun began to dip low in the sky, and as dusk fell, it was time to meet my guide, Gary Hawkins. A longtime Alton resident, Gary was a wealth of information about the history of the cemetery, and also of its reported hauntings. I told him about my experience with the strange cold spot near the Civil War section of the cemetery, and little did I know that while we lingered in this area, we may not have been alone.

After Gary left I spent a little more time taking photographs and doing EVP sessions. I also checked for fluctuations in the magnetic field of my surroundings with my K-II meter near the soldier's graves, the Lovejoy monument, and by the grave of Lucy Haskell; K-II meters pick up on the energy fields that spirits disturb when they are present. I was eager to head back to my hotel and review my material, and the hour was growing late, so shortly after midnight, I finally packed up and headed out. I had no idea that when I would review my findings, I would discover not only unexplainable anomalies in some of my photographs, but the eerie voices of those long gone on my audio files...


An EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomena, is an event in which human-sounding voices from an unknown source are heard on recording tape, in radio station noise, and other electronic media. Most often, EVP's are captured on audiotape. The voices or noises captured are not heard at the time of the recording; it is only when the tape is played back that they are heard, and they are sometimes known to communicate intelligently, at times even answering questions that are being asked.

Upon the review of my audio files, I discovered two EVP's, both of which were picked up near the soldier's graves. The first one was captured as Gary was giving me a tour, right before he pointed out a replica cannon; while the unearthly voice is clearly there, I am unable to decipher the words. The second one was recorded after he left, while I sat in the midst of the soldier's graves asking questions in the hopes that a response would be picked up on my recorder. What I got was the sound of an eerie wail or moan that can be heard over my words as I am speaking.

An undecipherable EVP captured in the Civil War
section of the Alton City Cemetery.

The sound of a man moaning, as if in pain, as I
begin to say "is there anything you'd like to pass
on to us?"

I also captured orbs in three of my photographs. While I am not generally a believer in orbs as paranormal activity due to so many people mistaking insects, dust, lens flare and humidity for orbs, I do sometimes come across some which I believe are genuine. Orbs are circular balls of light and are thought to be either the spirits of the dead captured in photos, or energy the spirit is using to manifest itself. The reasoning for this is that spirits are made of energy and cannot act without it, and a sphere shape, or orb, is the simplest form for energy to take. Orbs can come in many colors, and often have a pattern, or even what looks like a face, within them.

My belief is that a truly paranormal orb will be by itself or with only a few others, as many photos showing "tons of orbs" are in fact showing nothing but a cloud of dust. A bright orb that gives off its own light is also more likely to be real than a faded one, and orbs that have a slight trail are also believed to be legitimate.

Three orbs in a triangular formation
captured near the same area as my
EVP's. Note the trail behind the
one on the top left.
        A single bright orb.         Two orbs; the one on the right
seems to give off its own light source.

Having captured both audio and photographic evidence of paranormal activity in the Alton City Cemetery, as well as my eerie experience with a mysterious cold spot, I honestly believe that there is something supernatural happening within this old limestone-walled burial ground. While it may not be Elijah Lovejoy still trying to fend off a mob bent on destroying his printing press, whatever it is, it has left this Ghosthunter Girl eagerly waiting for another chance to visit Alton.



Alton City Cemetery can be accessed from Vine Street, Fifth Street, or Pearl Street. It is open daily from dawn until dusk.

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