“The Enduring Mysteries Of The McPike Mansion”
“Nearly two years ago, Jennifer H., a FOTH (a Friend Of The Haunted Studio) told me about this place, reputed to be the most haunted house in Alton, Illinois. She accompanied her eMail with about a half dozen of the spookiest photos I’ve seen: A great hulking wreck of a red brick mansion, its windows long shattered and its woodwork rotted away, it looms in the grey autumn light, as if glowering at me out of sightless eyes. I was fascinated. A Google search turned up the usual thousands of links, topped by a website for the mansion itself, which obviously has quite a reputation!
Briefly, the house was built in the town of Alton in 1869 for Henry Guest McPike, an important personage in local history, and whose ancestry can be traced back to the American Revolution, before that to Scotland. Two of his ancestors were at Valley Forge with Washington. After his death, records become murky, but the house stayed in the family for several decades, then passed to a second owner who kept it until his death around 1930.
Sometime around mid-century, the place was abandoned, and gradually became the town’s “haunted house,” a place where teenagers would come to hang out and party. Thus the house gradually fell victim to neglect, vandalism, and the effects of time and weather.
There have been countless accounts of strange encounters in the house, many from reliable witnesses and ghost researchers who have arrived as skeptics, and left, shall we say, convinced? (Read about some of them at the McPike website and make your own judgment.)
Prominent among believers are Sharyn and George Luedke, who purchased the McPike Mansion at auction in 1994, and who have been slowly restoring it ever since, with the intention of making it a Bed and Breakfast Inn.
I sent the Luedkes a letter expressing my interest in creating a painting of the house, and soon received an enthusiastic reply from (and a subsequent visit to The Haunted Studio by) the Luedke family.
Sharyn Luedke provided a wealth of historical information, pictures, and more than a few hair-raising stories about her experiences at the Mansion. For example, take the photo you see below, sent to me by Ms Luedke.
It was accompanied by this account:
The story behind this picture is this: Rick D., ready to get on the trolley on one of the tours, probably 1995 or 96, took the picture.
There was nothing in the doorway when he took it. The dark figure of a man showed up when the picture was developed. I personally think it is Mr. McPike or his father, but that is just a guess. It was taken in black and white and was one of the first pictures that showed something unusual.
My portrayal of the Mansion has been in the works for nearly a year. Research accounted for much of that time, as I wanted to pay particular attention to authenticity, and I had a wealth of old photos, sketches, and news clippings from differing periods to work with.
In my painting, I have completed the “restoration” of the McPike Mansion, portraying it as it might have looked to its original owner. It’s an autumn evening, and you will find secreted in and around the mansion, a host of spirit manifestations, many based upon personal experiences related to me by Sharyn Luedke herself.” – Lewis Barrett Lehrman