ALTON - Opened in 1914 after a drill for fresh water resulted in the discovery of a mineral-rich spring, Alton's Mineral Springs Mall, located at 301 E. Broadway, is a strong contender for "most-haunted" in a town, which is a national contender for the same title.
Mall tenants Dave and Donna Nunnally, the owners of It's Raining Zen and Indigo Moon metaphysical and holistic shops, have claimed to have had several paranormal encounters in the building. Given the nature of their business, one could assume haunted buildings and the paranormal would make the Nunnallies feel right at home - and that person would be correct. The couple loves sharing stories, photos, videos and even electric voice phenomenon (EVPs) of the former hotel's many ghosts.
Before an interview with a reporter from Riverbender.com could commence, Dave Nunnally said Mineral Springs Mall has several historical and folkloric hauntings. The difference between the two is simple. Historic hauntings have a basis in history. Death certificates and newspaper articles exist to prove the stories behind the ghosts. Folkloric hauntings, on the other hand, have no basis in history.
An example of a historic haunting in Mineral Springs Mall is Clarence, a 17-year-old young man who is said to have drowned in the pool. Dave Nunnally said several people who have gone into the building for paranormal investigations have claimed to have seen an apparition of a young man - sometimes donning a brown suit - who appears around the pool area. Clarence's certificate of death is showcased in the lobby of the mall now.
A folkloric haunting also exists around the pool area. The popular ghost of Cassandra, who is said to have drowned during a birthday party, is based on a girl and event, which cannot be proven. Many people leave toys - especially marbles - around the former pool's drain. Some groups even claim to see the marbles move as if they were directed by an unseen hand.
When the Nunnallies brought their shop into the building, complete with crystals and other semi-precious stones, including pink agate.
"We started finding little pink agates everywhere," Donna Nunnally said. "They were all over in the shop, behind Dave's toolbox, they were everywhere, and we had no idea where they came from or how they got there."
Pink is actually associated with the alleged haunting of Cassandra, the little girl. Sometimes, during investigations, a pink orb can be seen in photos and videos of people seeking her spirit.
"Pink orbs are associated with childlike energy," Donna Nunnally said. "The colors of orbs have meanings. Blues are associated with angelic."
Orbs in general are questionable bits of evidence for the paranormal. Even the most ardent believers in ghosts do not believe in orbs. Dave Nunnally, while a believer, is also extremely skeptical of orbs as evidence.
"A lot of times - most of the time - orbs are just glares, dust or insects," he said. "There are some, however that cannot be explained."
Dave Nunnally then showed a reporter a video of a white orb moving from off camera to the stairwell and seeming to move like a foot up the stairs, while maintaining an egg-like shape. Dust was also seen in the video, but it was all moving in the same direction.
That orb was attributed to either the ghost of Pearl or Mary. Both women met unfortunate ends in the history of the hotel. Pearl perished in a room just above the Nunnallies' shop. Sometimes, Donna Nunnally says she hears a voice squeak a high-pitched "hi" when attempting to communicate with the ghost of Pearl. Both the Nunnallies say Pearl prefers the company of women.
Mary, on the other hand, mostly communicates with men. Also called "The Jasmine Lady," due to the spell people associate with her presence, Mary was killed in a violent manner in the hotel. The complete details of her death are not certain, but the cause of it was falling down the stairs.
"The legend is she and her husband were staying here when it was a hotel," Dave Nunnally said. "When her husband was at work, she may have had an affair with a worker at the hotel. One day, the story goes, the husband comes home and finds them together. He and Mary have an argument on the stairwell, and she falls down the stairs. Some people say he pushed her, but I think she just fell."
Earlier in the year, a paranormal investigator from Boston had an EVP from the mall. Dave Nunnally assured the investigator did not have any prior knowledge of the building's history.
In the EVP, the words, "Mary," "misunderstanding" and "seven seconds" could be heard - albeit a bit muffled. To Dave Nunnally, that recording is part of a growing amount of evidence proving the haunted nature of the building.
Another ghost people seek in paranormal tours is the ghost of "Charlie" near the former bar of the hotel. Charlie was rumored to be a drunk who accumulated such a high bar tab, he was required to paint a mural. During the mural's creation, however, Charlie is said to have committed suicide.
Following Charlie's death, it is rumored the mural's ultimate finishers had a horrible time completing the tragic man's work. It was also rumored those muralists also painted the roses further down the hall, but Donna Nunnally met those artists.
"The woman who painted those was an art teacher," she said. "She said she and her friends were able to paint those roses in three hours without a problem."
The romantic character of Charlie could also not be proven by history - yet that area definitely seemed to be haunted.
Old newspaper articles proving a death occurred in the building are considered proof of historical hauntings. While Charlie the drunken suicidal artist may never existed, another person took his life in that same space.
While the folkloric hauntings may have no historical backing, they do have evidence, the Nunallies said. The pink orbs around Cassandra as well as an EVP in which a small girl can clearly be heard yelling "grandma!" are only parts of a huge cache of evidence from the building regarding ghosts without death certificates and newspaper articles in areas without documented tragedies.
One example of such an occurrence happened when Donna Nunnally said she saw a small boy who said his name was Mason run through the lobby as a spiritual apparition. While no evidence exists of a small boy named Mason dying at the hotel, Donna Nunnally said spirits do not necessarily have to have died where they currently haunt.
"Mason may have just had the best time of his life here," Donna Nunnally said. "He may have left the place and grew up and had a very fulfilling life. After he died, though, he may have wanted to come back and live in that experience forever."
These stories are only a handful of many shared with Riverbender.com by the Nunallies during that interview. Even more tales exist within paranormal research groups who go there for investigations, former tenants of the building and even people who formerly broke into it using its previous abandonment as cover.
If someone wanted to make original memories and tales of their own, several different haunted tours, gatherings and investigations can be booked through several agencies.
For more information on Halloween happenings in the Riverbend, check out our Halloween Guide at www.riverbender.com/halloween.