Alton Hauntings is the Award-Winning tour that offers the Real Story behind the History & Hauntings of "One of the Most Haunted Small Towns in America!"
According to legend, author Mark Twain once called Alton a "dismal little river town," largely thanks to the dark history that the city had already endured prior to its heyday as a thriving river port. From those days, through the early 1900s, Alton saw more than its share of death, disease, disaster, violence, murder and even the scars of the Civil War. Now, come see how the events of the past have created the hauntings of what is now being called "one of the most haunted small towns in America." The Alton Hauntings Tour is an entertaining, often spine-tingling trip back into the history and hauntings of the city. Called the "most authentic" in the region, the tour was personally created by author Troy Taylor and based on his book, Haunted Alton!
The Alton Hauntings Tours were listed as one of the Offbeat Things to do in Illinois! Have you made your reservations for this Fall yet?
enjoyillinois.com Offbeat Illinois Trip Itinerary. Quirky collections, roadside attractions, scary stories and mythical man-eating monsters.
ALTON HAUNTINGS THIS FALL SEASON!
Tickets are now on sale for the best tour of "one of the most haunted small towns in America" for the Fall season! Now available -- Haunted History Walking Tours, Ghost Hunter's Tours, Bus Tours, and dinner events with author Troy Taylor!
We have limited tours with fewer guests this year -- so book NOW if you want to be sure you don't miss out on the spooky season in Alton!
Book now at http://altonhauntings.com
altonhauntings.com "One of the Most Haunted Small Towns in America!"
Off on the Ghosts of the River Road dinner tour on Saturday night! Nice group of people to kick off the season with! Thanks and hope to see you on a tour soon! - Troy Taylor
As of this morning, we literally have 2 SEATS left on the November 13 (Friday the 13th) Ghosts of the River Road Dinner Tour! This is the last dinner tour of the season -- get those last seats while they last!
americanhauntingsbooks.com NOVEMBER 13, 2020 -- FRIDAY THE 13TH!GHOSTS OF THE RIVER ROAD DINNER TOURJoin HAUNTED ALTON author Troy Taylor for a special event tour from Alton Hauntings! The GHOSTS OF THE RIVER ROAD DINNER TOUR departs from Bluff City Grill in Alton and after dinner will travel to Grafton on a haunted bus tour....
Things are getting spooky! The new fall travel guide from Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau offers a great feature on the Alton Hauntings Tours for this Fall! Things are filling up fast — make your plans now!
ALTON FALL TOURS NOW ON SALE!
Tickets are now on sale for the best tour of "one of the most haunted small towns in America" for the Fall season! Now available -- Haunted History Walking Tours, Ghost Hunter's Tours, Bus Tours, Dinner and Spirits Events, Ghosts of the River Road Dinner tours, and other events!
Limited number of tours this year with fewer guests -- so book NOW if you want to be sure you don't miss out on the spooky season in Alton!
Book now at http://altonhauntings.com
altonhauntings.com "One of the Most Haunted Small Towns in America!"
THE DEATH OF “BUSTER” WORTMAN
On August 3, 1968, Frank “Buster” Wortman died at the age of 63. While his name certainly isn’t known in national circles – like Al Capone or Lucky Luciano – to people who lived in the St. Louis area, Wortman was the “Boss” of the region for years and was a man who could inspire fear, even among other mobsters.
Frank was born on December 4, 1904, and after his parents separated, he was raised by his grandparents in North St. Louis, near the old McKinley Bridge. His father, Edward, had moved to East St. Louis, where he achieved the position of Captain in the East St. Louis Fire Department, and Wortman followed him there when he was a young man.
He soon became immersed in the local criminal element, fascinated with the Shelton gang. He worked hard to earn respect within their ranks, and while he never rose much higher than a lowly soldier, he acquired a knack for running his own organization. He was often used by the Sheltons whenever they needed some muscle since he was quick with his fists and could handle a revolver. His only legal convictions resulted from his hot temper and his tendency to throw a punch. In 1933, he was arrested for assaulting federal officers during a raid on an illegal still near Collinsville. He was sentenced to 10 years in Leavenworth and then sent to Alcatraz for the beatings. Two decades later, he slugged an Internal Revenue Service agent who came into a restaurant that he owned. The agent was on routine business --checking to make sure the place had paid their Cabaret Tax -- and Wortman punched him out after calling him a "stool pigeon" and a "meddler". For six years afterward, the IRS dogged Buster, and eventually, he and several of his associates were convicted in U.S. District Court for conspiracy to evade Federal income tax laws.
It was the 1933 conviction, and subsequent stretch in Alcatraz, that led to a falling out between Wortman and the Shelton gang. He expected that the Sheltons would use their influence to make his life in prison easy, but to his surprise and bitter disappointment, they forgot about him. Seeing an opportunity, the Chicago syndicate took advantage of the situation by doing favors for Wortman while he was incarcerated. When he was released in 1941, he immediately threw in with the Chicago mob, which was still being run by men from Capone's old outfit. Wortman became a vital downstate connection, and soon small-time bookies and criminals could not operate in the region without Wortman's consent.
Within three years, Wortman was firmly in control of East St. Louis and the surrounding region. He had muscled his way into the Hyde Park casino in Venice and had gotten control of the Pioneer News Service, which carried horse racing information, in St. Louis. When the authorities clamped down on racing wire services, he moved the company across the river to Fairmount City. Wortman also controlled other gambling establishments, night clubs, taverns and restaurants, and distributed slot machines, jukeboxes, and pinball machines.
It seemed that every time he tried to expand his business in the Metro East, though, he ran into Shelton control and Shelton loyalty. For this reason, he made a trip to Chicago in 1944 for a strategy session with the Chicago mob about how to deal with the Sheltons. Soon, word began to spread that there was a $10,000 bounty out on the heads of Carl and Bernie Shelton.
It would be the death of Ray Daughtery that would really foreshadow the end of the Shelton opposition against Wortman. Daughtery was one of Wortman's men, and he was shot to death, and his body dumped in Crab Orchard Lake near Carbondale. The rumor spread that his death was a signal that the Sheltons planned to reclaim territory taken by Wortman. Around this same time, some of the Sheltons’ prized Angus cattle were stolen, and Carl was enraged. Searching for the culprit, he administered a beating to a relative of Charles "Blackie" Harris, an associate of Wortman. Harris was infuriated, and a short time later, on October 23, 1947, Carl was shot while driving a jeep on his farm. The coroner removed 17 bullets from his body, fired from three different weapons. Blackie Harris skipped town to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the killing of Carl Shelton was never solved. Buster Wortman now had a free hand to expand his empire throughout Madison and St. Clair counties - and beyond.
Wortman's criminal enterprise flourished for years, and he expanded his territory in Illinois as far south as the Ohio River. He began running into trouble with his gambling establishments in the middle 1950s, butting heads with the Internal Revenue Service and new state's attorney Dick Mudge, Jr., who had been elected on an anti-gambling platform.
Wortman was clever, though, and to keep his favorite casino, the Red Rooster Inn, operating, he hired teenagers from St. Louis to come over after school so that he could offer his customers special “valet parking.” The teenagers would drive the cars into nearby cornfields and hide them, and the authorities didn’t realize the extent of the club’s operations.
His restaurant and night club, the Paddock Lounge, became his base of operations, and stories from the place became part of Buster's larger-than-life legend. One story told of four young men who came in one night and started giving one of the waitresses some trouble. She told Buster, and he put on a waiter's apron and walked out to their table. When he approached them, he pulled aside the apron and exposed a handgun that he had in his belt. "Who wants to be served first?" he reportedly asked them, and the young men fled from the club.
Thanks to the business that he was in, Buster had every reason to fear for his safety. For many years, he lived well in an expensive ranch-style home in the Morris Hills subdivision west of Collinsville. When he and his wife divorced, he moved into the Broadway Hotel in East St. Louis and began planning a fortress that he would call "The Moat," east of Collinsville. The Moat was actually a horseshoe-shaped lake that protected his mansion. The house had a number of elaborate additions made to it, including a steel-plated roof --in case it was ever attacked by helicopter -- and a luxurious steam bath, made possible thanks to Buster's connections to the Steamfitter's Union. He moved into The Moat with his second wife and lived there until his death. The mansion still exists near Collinsville today.
In 1962, the IRS vendetta against Buster Wortman came to a head when he was convicted for income tax evasion. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but the verdict was later reversed on appeal, and he was acquitted in the second trial.
In December of that same year, Wortman's chief lieutenant, Elmer "Dutch" Dowling --along with another soldier named Melvin Beckman -- was found murdered near Swansea, Illinois. Curiously, a napkin was found in Dowling's pocket and scrawled on it were notes about discussions that the jury in Wortman's income tax evasion trial held behind closed doors. An investigation was launched into possible jury tampering, but nothing ever came of it. The murders of the two gangsters remained unsolved. Strangely, two months later, Wortman was brought to St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis with a bullet wound. Rumor had it that it was in his stomach, but most believe that it was in the buttocks instead. Wortman described the shooting as an "accident."
What may have actually happened is unknown, but there is every reason to believe that Wortman avenged the death of Dutch Dowling and Melvin Beckman. Their deaths obviously upset him, and he told reporters at the time that "this really hurts me. Elmer was as close to me as my brother, Ted." The name that kept coming up in connection to the murders was that of Virgil "Doc" Summers, a tough member of the former Shelton gang. Later in the spring, after Buster was treated for the bullet wound, Summers was found shot to death in front of his apartment building in East St. Louis.
Buster Wortman remained the top gang boss in southwestern Illinois until his death on August 3, 1968. He had gone into the Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis for an operation to repair a lesion on his larynx and died while in intensive care. Wortman was only 63 years-old but also suffered from a liver ailment that had been caused by heavy drinking.
His death brought about the slow demise of organized crime in Madison and St. Clair counties, especially in East St. Louis, which was, by this time, crumbling into a city that was unrecognizable to those who had lived there for years. Many say that when the mob was moved out of East St. Louis, even worse elements moved in to take its place.
ALTON HAUNTINGS TOUR -- SATURDAY, AUGUST 1!
How about some cold chills for a summer weekend? Get out of the house and join us in "one of the most haunted small towns in America" on Saturday night! Get reservations now at https://altonhauntings.com/
THE KIDNAPPING OF AUGUST LUER
On July 10, 1933, respected Alton, Illinois, businessman August Luer was kidnapped from his home and held for ransom. The case became one of the most sensational of the time and eventually found infamy as one of the most botched kidnappings in Illinois history.
On that warm summer night, August and his wife, Helena, were relaxing after dinner at their Alton home, located at 759 Washington Avenue. August and his brother, Herman, were the successful founders of the Luer Meat Packing Co., and the Alton Banking & Trust Co. and had been the original owners of the Mineral Springs Hotel. Luer, age 70, was listening to "Amos and Andy" on the radio when a woman knocked on the front door, looking for another residence.
It was a ruse. The woman cut the phone line, and two men pushed their way into the house. August was not injured, but his wife was hurt when she tried to keep them from taking her husband. She was pushed away and then battered to the floor while Luer was shoved into a waiting automobile outside. In the days that followed, Helena would plead with the kidnappers, "Please, if I could just hear from papa."
The automobile sped away the kidnappers and their victim vanished. They drove around for more than an hour, likely waiting until it was dark. Then, August was pulled from the car and forced into a tight underground space. He was unable to see anything in the surrounding area, but the hiding place turned out to be a dugout under a smokehouse near Madison, Illinois. He was kept there for the next five days.
During his captivity, August played on the sympathies of his kidnappers and negotiated with them to try and keep them calm. Aside from being forced into a hole in the ground, Luer was treated fairly well. He was given plenty of food, water, and his heart medicine whenever he needed it.
The kidnappers devised an elaborate – in their opinion, anyway – system to communicate with the Luer family for his return. They left ransom letters for August's son, William, who was the president of the Alton Banking & Trust, at the Fairy Inn on Edwardsville Road. Their demands had started at $100,000, went down to $20,000, and then said they'd settle for $10,000 for August's return. The ransom letters were so badly written, and the directions so confusing, that William Luer would have been unable to deliver the ransom even if he had wanted to.
As it turned out, no ransom was ever paid. August continued to negotiate with his kidnappers, and after explaining his history of heart problems and ill health, he was able to get them to let him go. In return, he promised that he would not press charges and would pay them with $16,000 in cash.
Unbelievably, his captors set him free, and he walked through the darkness along an old side road near the Fairmont Racetrack near Collinsville. Unshaven and dirty, he walked into a roadhouse and told the bartender, "I'm August Luer from Alton, and some fellas took me out of my house and have been keeping me in a cellar. Please call the sheriff."
Luer was in "reasonably good shape" after his safe return, and this prompted the Alton Evening Telegraph to publish the only "extra" edition in its history --which misspelled Collinsville in the headline.
While her husband had been held ransom, Helena Luer had worked with the police to try and identify the kidnappers. Although tired and worn out, Luer was able to help the authorities to identify the cave where he had been kept, which he recalled by memorizing the pattern on the walls.
Searching through the Alton police mugshot albums, Helena identified Percy Fitzgerald, a burglar known as the "Dice Box Kid." Fitzgerald confessed and named his conspirators. Detectives learned the gang originally intended to kidnap another rich man from Alton but settled on Luer because accomplice Lillian Chessen of East Alton said that the layout of the Luer home made him an easier target.
Kidnappings were all the rage among criminals in the 1930s, and there was a rash of them occurring all over the country. Bankers, businessmen, brewers – anyone with money might become a target for a gang that found kidnapping an easier way to make money than bank robbery. August Luer was just one of many victims, and he was lucky – his kidnappers were more clueless than most.
The police arrested Lillian Chessen and her husband, John. They also picked up Randol Norvell, a bail bondsman and former partner in an East St. Louis gambling joint, who had driven the kidnap vehicle, and Mike Musiala, who owned the farm south of Madison where the kidnappers kept Luer for five days.
The ringleader of the gang was Walter Holland, who was known as Irish Mike O'Malley. Holland was a veteran St. Louis-area hoodlum, already having served seven years for the robbery of an armored car. Holland's girlfriend, Vivian Chase, was the woman who knocked on the Luer's front door and cut their telephone line. Holland and Chase vanished when their accomplices were arrested.
At the trial, Helena identified Fitzgerald as one of her attackers. The defendants turned on each other. Lillian Chessen admitted writing ransom notes but denied picking the kidnap victim. On September 30, the jury convicted all six but didn't recommend any executions because some jurors couldn't bear sending a woman to the chair. Lillian Chessen got life.
In May 1935, Walter Holland and Vivian Chase were traced to an apartment in Kansas City. They had been robbing banks while on the lam. Holland was arrested and brought back to Illinois, but Chase slipped away again. On the second day of his trial, Holland took a guilty plea and received a life sentence.
As it turned out, it was Vivian Chase, not Holland, who was the dangerous criminal. At the time of the kidnapping, she was an escapee from the Liberty, Missouri, jail, charged with bank robbery. She had escaped from the police when Holland was arrested but was found shot to death on November 3, 1935, near Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. A pistol and 25 rounds of ammunition were found in her purse.
As for August Luer, he gained a little notoriety after his kidnapping and lived for another 18 years. He died at age 88.
According to legend, author Mark Twain once called Alton a "dismal little river town," largely thanks to the dark history that the city had already endured prior to its heyday as a thriving river port. From those days, through the early 1900s, Alton saw more than its share of death, disease, disaster, violence, murder and even the scars of the Civil War. Now, come see how the events of the past have created the hauntings of what is now being called "one of the most haunted small towns in America." The Alton Hauntings Tour is an entertaining, often spine-tingling trip back into the history and hauntings of the city. Called the "most authentic" in the region, the tour was personally created by author Troy Taylor and based on his book, Haunted Alton! We offer our History and Hauntings Walking Tours in the spring, summer and fall * Autumn season bus tours * Autumn season Dinner and Spirits Walking Tours * and Ghosts of the River Road Dinner Tours with Troy Taylor all year around! Check out the schedule on our home page at http://altonhauntings.com
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Mineral Springs Haunted Tour offers the best paranormal tours in Alton. Come with us and explore the city's rich history and its ghostly inhabitants.
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