Alton Hauntings Tours

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!


YOU KNOW WHAT MOM REALLY WANTS FOR MOTHER'S DAY? A chilling night on the Alton Hauntings Tours! Join us this Saturday night, May 11, for a trip back in time to reveal the history and mystery and "one of the most haunted small towns in America!"

Use the link to book now! "One of the Most Haunted Small Towns in America!"


On May 4, 1774, Rufus Easton was born in Litchfield, Connecticut. He came from a family of American Revolution patriots, received a good education, and began law school in 1791. He practiced law in New York and then moved to Washington, D.C. in 1803. He became friends with Aaron Burr, who helped Easton get an appointment as a judge in Louisiana. After Burr became involved in political turmoil, Easton hastily ended their relationship and moved to St. Louis. He became the first postmaster of St. Louis in 1808.

In 1814, Easton came east to Illinois and began a ferry boat service across the Mississippi on land that would soon become the town of Alton. He liked the area so much that he decided to turn it into a settlement. He hired Reverend Thomas Lippincott to plat a town for him. Lippincott had some serious misgivings about the idea and wrote that the planned town site was "about as primitive and unsightly as I had seen anywhere."

Easton was convinced that the community would become a major river port and he selected choice building plots for his family and friends. He named the town in honor of his son, Alton, and streets were named for other children, like daughter Alby, and sons, George, Langdon, and Henry.

Easton advertised the new town in Illinois and Missouri newspapers, hoping to attract buyers. People moved to the area. Homes were built, businesses started, and boats began to appear on the riverfront, which had a natural landing. Alton began to thrive and, within a few years, would become known as one of the most important towns on the Mississippi.

But things didn't work out so well for Rufus Easton in Alton.

Apparently, he had failed to secure titles to all of the land that he had been selling -- in other words, he was making real estate deals on land that he didn't actually own. He was bankrupted in 1819 and lost most of his investments in the city. Local politicians and land speculators swooped in and filed claims on the land and it took nearly 10 years for it all to be sorted out.

Rufus Easton returned to St. Louis and started over again. He served as the Missouri Attorney General in 1821 and then became the postmaster of St. Charles, Missouri. He died in St. Charles in 1834, but not before his family left its mark on that city as well.

His daughter, Mary, married Major George Sibley and together, they founded Lindenwood College, which remains in existence today.

A SONG OF DANCE AND DEATH — American Hauntings


A strange array of frightening tales from the annals of American music, from the tragic deaths of rock icons to curses, murders, and brushes with the supernatural!

Wildly enjoyable and often terrifying, A SONG OF DANCE AND DEATH takes the reader along for a mysterious ride through the history of rock-n-roll!

Follow the link to order your autographed copy! Magic, Murder, Mayhem and the Diabolical Notes of the Devil’s Music


Ready for some cold chills during the warm weather months? Come visit "one of the most haunted small towns in America" and join us for Alton's best ghost tour! Follow the link for spring and summer reservations!

Alton is on The Travel Channel’s ‘50 of the Most Charming Small Towns in the US’ list

Alton has so much to offer and, as noted by the Travel Channel, our haunted history is a great part of it. We’re glad to help bring thousands of people to town every year. Our spring and summer tours start in April! ALTON - The Travel Channel has chosen Alton as Illinois' representative on its latest list, "50 of the Most Charming Small Towns in America." The listing says: "Alton, Illinois, the hometown of jazz musician Miles Davis, is located where Route 66 meets the Great River Road. This quaint river town is...

The Story of Robert Wadlow, Tallest Man in the World

The tallest man who ever lived was born on February 22, 1918 in the small Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois. During his short, often sad, life, he gained international and lasting fame as the tallest man in history. Robert died tragically in 1940 at the age of only 22 but during those few years, he remained vigilant about being cast in the role of a "freak." He only wanted acceptance and a normal life, but even when he was very young, he and his family realized that this would be nearly impossible.

When Robert was born, he weighed in at just over eight pounds, an average weight for a baby boy, but his height and weight would not stay average for long. He was the first child of a Alton engineer and very soon, his parents began to realize that something out of the ordinary was happening with their son. By the time that he reached his first birthday, Robert weighed over 44 pounds, which was large, but not alarming. Fear came later, when he was five years old, weighed 105 pounds and was five feet, four inches tall. Needless to say, the Wadlows took the boy to the doctor but he was pronounced to be in good health. By the time he turned eight, he was over six feet tall and weighed 195 pounds. His parents, brothers and sisters were all of normal size.

When he entered school, Robert gained the attention of the entire world. His parents were already well aware of the fact that he was going to be an unusually tall man but they vowed not to accept the many offers made to them by showmen who wanted to put their son on display. They understood that for him to have a career as a human oddity would make it so that he was incapable of a normal life. The Wadlows saw that Robert's friends and relatives, through regular contact with him, were able to forget about his size and to treat him as a regular person. This is what they wanted for him and eventually, what he wanted for himself. For the Wadlows, subjecting the boy to a life in which his height would be his livelihood seemed detrimental to his happiness.

Whether he was exhibited or not (and readers must remember that "freak shows" featuring giants, little people and more were common at this time), Robert often found himself in the limelight. He was often followed by doctors, promoters and fans. He became a regular visitor at the Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, where his case was studied and frequent measurements taken. After diagnosing his size to be caused by pituitary gigantism, doctors explained to his parents about a dangerous operation that could be attempted on his pituitary gland. They could do it, they explained, but didn't recommend it. It was simply too dangerous and because of this, it was never attempted.

Despite Robert's new celebrity, he attempted to live a normal life. He joined the Boy Scouts, ran a soft drink stand in front of his home and enjoyed most anything that average boys liked. He attended the local elementary schools and graduated from Alton High School. Throughout his short life, he was known for his very quiet, sedate manner and was called the "Gentle Giant".

Although Robert was a good student and from all accounts, a likable and remarkably well-adjusted young man, he began to realize that his dreams of a normal career were impractical. The idea of becoming an attorney appealed to him when he entered college, but on campus, he began to run into problems with his size. In 1936, he was 18 years old and stood eight feet, three-and-a-half inches tall. He found it hard to keep up with the other students when taking notes as even the biggest fountain pen was dwarfed by his massive hand. He also ran into trouble in the biology lab, where the delicate instruments were impossible for him to handle and use. His monumental size dominated his relationships with other students and new people that he met. A chair, an automobile and every object around him that was made for someone of average height posed a barrier to him. He was also plagued by the weather. When the ground was covered with ice, he had to gingerly work his way along, flanked by his friends, holding onto their shoulders as he walked. His weight was enormous and his bones fragile. If he fell, it could mean a long stay in the hospital, or worse.

Realizing that earning a living in a normal career was impossible to him, he turned to the only avenue that was offered, promotion and entertainment. For years, Robert's shoes had been specially made for him by the International Shoe Co. and the company agreed to not only supply Robert with shoes (which cost more than $150 per pair to make), but also to pay him to make appearances that promoted the company. He soon began traveling and appearing in the company's print and film advertising. Obviously, Robert's height was being exploited to draw large crowds, but he refused to think of it that way. He preferred to see the exhibitions as advertising work instead. He also began to think of this "advertising business" as a way into a new career for him.

By his next birthday, Robert had shot up another two inches in height and he found himself making quite a bit of money from his shoe promotion work. The idea struck him that he would open a shoe store of his own, or even a whole chain of them, which would serve as a career that did not involve exhibitions and freak shows. To do this however, he would need some seed money.

In 1937, Robert began making appearances for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Boston and New York. Many circus and carnival showman had approached Robert and his parents in the past about appearing in shows but the answer to them had always been an emphatic "no". The salary offer was very enticing, though, and as Robert had recently suffered some problems with his health, he decided to join the circus. One of his conditions was that the Ringling organization would provide a hotel suite for Robert and his father and take care of all of their expenses. He also maintained that he would not be a part of the circus sideshow, but would appear in the center ring of the show, three times each day.

In all of the appearances that Robert made, whether for the circus or promoting shoes, he always dressed in an ordinary business suit. He refused to wear tall shoes, a high hat or any of the other devices used by showmen to exaggerate his already tremendous height. He even objected to attempts by photographers to create the illusion of greater height by shooting at low angles to make him look taller. He attacked overblown press accounts - one widely circulated story stated that he ate four times the amount of a normal person - as "deliberate falsehoods". He turned his back on this but still managed to become a popular icon.

He continued to make more and more appearances, always accompanied by his father. He operated concessions at fairs, to the delight of the general public, where great crowds of people turned out to see him. He also developed an entertaining routine that he and his father used during their public appearances. Dr. Frederic Fadner, a professor at Shurtleff College in Alton, wrote the book The Gentleman Giant in 1944 and reproduced a joke that Robert's father often told at their appearances.

"The greatest trouble that I ever have with Robert," said Mr. Wadlow, "is trying to keep him from walking down the hallways in hotels and peeking over the transoms above the doors".

"Yeah, maybe, I did," Robert would admit, "but the only thing wrong with Dad was he got mad when I quit lifting him up for a peek."

Robert's refusal to cooperate with showmen often extended to doctors, many of which hounded the young man continuously. His father even stated that Robert was usually more concerned with how physicians would present him than how circus showmen would. In June 1936, Dr. Charles D. Humberd made an unannounced visit to the Wadlow home, requesting to see Robert. The young man, disheveled by a rainstorm, was surprised to find Humberd sitting in his living room when he got home. The doctor became disgruntled when the family refused to cooperate fully with his requests for perform a physical examination and stormed out of the house.

The next February, an article by Dr. Humberd appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association that greatly upset and embarrassed the Wadlows and produced a deluge of telephone calls, letters and unwanted attention. The article, entitled "Giantism: Report of a Case", did not mention Robert by name but it did state that the subject was from Alton, Illinois, with the initials "R.W.". He was referred to as a specimen of "preacromegalic giant". The Wadlows understandably felt violated because, as they put it, they had not realized that any person in the name "of science had a right to come into a home, make whatever cursory observations he could, and then broadcast these observations to the world." Robert had always resisted being cast as a "freak" and he was also adamant about not being labeled as "sick" either. He wanted to be seen as a normal person, albeit a larger than ordinary one.

Robert was also extremely embarrassed by the way that he was described in the article, which noted that "his expression is surly and indifferent and he is definitely inattentive, apathetic and disinterested, unfriendly and antagonistic… his defective attention and slow responses hold for all sensory stimuli, both familiar and unexpected but he does manifest a rapid interest in seeing any memoranda made by the questioner. All functions that we attribute to the highest centers in the frontal lobes are languid and blurred."

Not only were these remarks insulting and humiliating, but from the descriptions of Robert's personality and intellectual talents given by his teachers, friends and those who knew him best, they were also grossly inaccurate. The comments were nothing more than a vindictive assault by an egotistical doctor who had been angry over Wadlows’ refusal to cooperate with him.

The Wadlows filed suit against Humberd and the American Medical Association, seeking damages for the article's libelous inaccuracies. Robert did not seek a large financial settlement but rather merely wanted to be vindicated from the published presentation. In the first legal hearing, the case was presented against Humberd in his home state of Missouri. The American Medical Association defended Humberd by providing him with two of their attorneys. Witnesses verified that the description that had been published of Robert was a blatant distortion of his condition but the case was lost on a technicality. The judge ruled that the doctor's observations might have been accurate on the day the young man was examined. The action against the American Medical Association never went to trial. After three years of legal maneuvering, it was dismissed after Robert passed away.

Unfortunately, even though he was never dressed in a giant suit or had to endure the barbs of the crowd who came to the see him at the freak show, the article served as a realization of Robert's worst fear -- he had been exhibited like a sideshow attraction.

Robert and his father continued to make personal appearances and to work with the Ringling operation. They traveled extensively, visiting 41 of the 48 states and the District of Columbia. They logged more than 300,000 miles and visited over 800 cities. Door frames, elevators, awnings and hanging lights still bedeviled the young man and to ride in an automobile, he almost had to fold himself in two. Three beds, turned crossways, provided him the only sleeping arrangements suitable in a hotel room.

In 1940, Robert reached his greatest height at eight feet, eleven-point-one inches. His weight was at a massive 490 pounds and he was forced to walk with a cane. He was traveling and making personal appearances throughout the year and on July 4 was in Manistee, Michigan at a lumbermen's festival. He and his father were scheduled to ride in a parade but at lunch, Mr. Wadlow noticed that Robert was not eating. Later, he complained that he didn't feel well but as their car was trapped in the parade route, it would be several hours before they could get to a doctor.

By the time the parade was over, Robert's condition had worsened and his father rushed him to the hospital. When they arrived, the doctors found that Robert was running a very high fever. He was wearing a new brace on his ankle and it had scraped through the flesh and had become infected. Robert never noticed because one of the consequences of his enormous size was that the sensation in his legs was defective. He would often be unaware of an object in his shoe or a wrinkle in his sock until a blister had formed and began causing him problems. In this case, the ankle had become seriously infected and the doctors insisted that Robert be admitted to the hospital. He refused but a nurse was stationed at his bed side, where he lay in great pain. The fevers and bouts of agony continued for the next several days and his mother was called. Finally, after 10 fever-wracked days, doctors performed an emergency surgery on his foot but it was too late. His temperature continued to rise, hovering near 106 degrees.

In the early morning hours of July 15, 1940, Robert Wadlow passed away in his sleep.

Robert's remains were returned to Alton and huge crowds came to the Streeper Funeral Home and lined the streets in his honor. A special casket was constructed for his body that was 10 feet long and 32 inches wide. The casket was too big to fit through the doors of the church, so the services were held at the funeral home. Robert was a Freemason and he was buried with full honors in a local cemetery. It required 12 pallbearers and an additional eight men to manage his casket.

Strangely, at Robert's request, special measures were taken to protect the coffin. At some point, Robert had read the story of Charles Byrne, the Irish Giant, and John Hunter, the anatomist who coveted his bones and had stolen his body to get them. He was not taking any chances with his own remains and so a thick shell of reinforced concrete was used to encase the coffin for eternity.

Since his death, the city of Alton, Illinois has embraced Robert as a native son and local folk hero. Have a passing thought about this kind young man on his birthday and remember that no matter how much fame he achieved during his lifetime, it was a life that he considered only half-fulfilled. He would gladly have exchanged all of the money and attention for a single day of what he really wanted – an ordinary life.

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