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In 1905, after 2 devastating fires destroyed the previous buildings, the First Unitarian Church was built on top of the old foundation, that first began as St. Matthew's Catholic Church in the 1830's.
First Unitarian Society started in 1836. They believed in the freedom of belief, and all were welcome to their church. You would not find any crosses in the Unitarian Church.
It was very clear what the people in Alton thought about the Unitarians, as the location for the Unitarian Church was called, "The Heathen Hill," while the Catholic Church sat on "The Christian Hill".
Many ministers served at the First Unitarian Church, but pastor Phillip Mercer, originally from England, apparently never left the building.
He came to the U.S. at the age of 18, and to Alton in 1928.
He was a kind and well liked man, and a great speaker who made occasional trips to St.Louis to watch the shows.
He was also a very private man and kept his personal life to himself. He seemed to move often, always living with some family, yet never dining with them. He seemed to be very concerned about his health.
In 1934, something was off with him, as he started acting strangely.
Soon after, he was found hanging from the transom by his then office. To this day, it is unclear if it was a suicide or a murder.
He was buried in the Grandview Mausoleum.
After he passed, many unexplainable things started to happen.
Disembodied footsteps were heard, people talking when no one was around, shadows, black masses, strange odors, doors opening and closing on their own, lights turning on and off on their own, and many have seen an apparition of a man in the sanctuary.
In the basement, there is a crawl space that leads to a room with an unknown purpose, as it wasn't in the original floor plan.
Could it have been part of the Underground Railroad for the slaves? Some have heard voices coming from that area.
During our group investigation with the Alton Haunted Tours, which was part of the Haunted America Conference, we weren't able to capture any EVPs, nor any photo evidence. However, the K2 meter went off in the Library room a few times, which may have been caused by natural occurrences, and there was some activity by the stairs in the basement that seem to lead nowhere.
Some people had K2 action in room number 5. Mostly those who are sensitive felt a presence of someone, or just felt off in some areas. I guess Pastor Mercer wasn't in the mood to talk, but hey, there is always the next time.