By Len Dorman
Ever since I have lived in Chicago, I have studied the paranormal history of the entire area. One place that caught my eye for its paranormal, historical and relaxing points of view was the Original Mineral Springs Hotel in Okawville, IL, just this side of St Louis.
I have suffered from a knee injury for many years, a football injury from my high school days playing a wide receiver. I also played semi-pro baseball until I was 37 years old. A few years later I found my knees locking up and the doctors told me they needed cleaning out so they did that using orthoscopic surgery. In my right knee they discovered a very old tear of my meniscus cartilage, so they trimmed that back as well. I underwent a few weeks of painful therapy, but for a few years I was just fine.
That is, until I moved to Chicago, and in a few year, the arthritis hit my thumbs, shoulders, neck and mainly my knees. During this time I was compiling a list of paranormal sites in the area that I wanted to visit, and decided that The Original Mineral Springs Hotel would be not only fun to visit but challenging and therapeutic as well. I worked with two different paranormal teams, first Chicago Paranormal Meetup Group, and then helped form Midnight Paranormal Society.
Neither group had Mineral Springs on their “to go to” lists, as Okawville is in the far southwest part of the state. I began working with Ursula Kalin, who not only is a spirit-medium, she also did tours to places with set charges and minimal numbers of people. This is a great service if there are only 2-3 people interested in going to a location. I noticed that Ursula had a group going to Mineral Springs and was only too glad to help her show her customers just what a true paranormal investigator does and the modern equipment used.
I previously worked with her during a Casa Madrid investigation, where another investigator (Frank Heiburger) saw, then got on full spectrum video, a short shadow figure eclipsing two lights on sensors designed to pick up the electrical charge that spirits are theoretically made up of. I had set up my equipment in an old pool room without thinking of what I was doing or knowing that this was the most active room in the building. Ursula Kalin and I enjoyed working with each other at that event, so when I left Midnight Paranormal Society, we worked together on other tours, including to The Original Mineral Springs.
Our goal was to give her paying customers a great paranormal experience, including the presence of a male child, a boiler explosion victim, mob figures, whiskey runners and the most famous of all, the White Lady, rumored to be either Anna or Alma Schierbaum. Anna Schierbaum died in the hotel, loving the place because it cured her arthritis. Alma however disliked the hotel, leaving her husband Ben Schierbaum there, where he committed suicide via a shotgun, mourning her loss and surrounded by photos of his beloved wife.
So who is the White Lady? She appears throughout the Hotel and bathhouse, sometimes in the halls, at windows or walking from room to room. This was a challenge to me, would the White Lady allow me to see her, even just a glimpse? Would I be entertaining enough to Ursula Kalin’s customers to keep both them and Ursula happy? Of course my last goal was to relax and spend some time in the mineral baths that have made The Original Mineral Springs Hotel famous for one hundred years. This all sounds like a plateful but I took the challenge of it all in stride, confident I could achieve all of my goals while being entertaining to customers and keeping Ursula happy. So we made our plans then went to Okawville on our paranormal quest.
Ursula and her husband Jim rented a mini-van, had a friend come over to their house then swung over to my house to pick up my wife Gail and I, the five of us heading down Interstate 57 then on to Southwest Illinois. Five to six hours later we arrived in Okawville, quickly finding the Hotel, and finding another member of our group, Cindy from Snapit Paranormal. She was there with her son, the youngest investigator of Snapit. We unloaded our baggage, went to our rooms to settle in and get a feel of the place. Simply walking around, I found several spots where the air felt “heavy”, a common feeling in an older building where many people have passed through… and passed away in.
Getting the entire group together for supper in the hotel restaurant, Ursula entertained one of her customers by talking about a dead relative. Suddenly, I saw a figure behind her, either standing or floating inches behind her chair. Is this the person that Ursula was currently talking to the customer about? I stood up, walked to the wall behind her, touched it, and measured the height the person would have had to have been to cause the air movement and the shadow I saw on the wall. The nearest ceiling light was just feet away with nothing between it and the wall. Several people started looking at me, someone finally asking what I was doing.
I answered that the man they were talking about was either six feet six or seven inches tall or was floating in the air between the light and the wall, moving the air and throwing a slight shadow on the wall. I didn’t realize that Ursula had informed her that he was behind her in the room, I just saw the spirit moving then disappearing. I also had to leave the supper with an upset stomach and never ate much at all. Did this friendly male spirit draw energy from me to partially manifest inside a restaurant, making me ill? An interesting start to the night indeed!
Our tour guide for the evening met us at the table after dessert, moving us from the restaurant to the hotel lobby. Another group approached us about walking through the tour with us, so I stayed in the restaurant talking to the other group while Ursula got permission from the guide for the others to join. We were told that it was fine, so they followed me to the lobby, as I seemed to be the only one knowing the twist and turns of the hotel. We started the tour, the guide talking about the history of the hotel, and pointing out the most active paranormal locations.
We climbed a staircase to the third floor (the lobby is actually on the second floor) where the guide didn’t even have to say that this was where a male child has been seen playing, as the air was heavy from multiple presences. Ursula said that there was not just one male child but two female children as well playing in the area. I didn’t open myself up here as I could feel them around me without even trying. We moved on to Room 350 where Tom Rogers hung himself.
The couple staying there had no idea that the suicide had occurred in their room but were happy to allow our, now large, group tour the large suite. Despite the crowd and small quarters for that number of people the air was still heavy and I was very glad I was not staying in that room as I could never sleep there. Of course, as things turned out, I never got any sleep in the entire hotel this night. We slowly moved to the upper floor, walking toward a set of locked doors, which the tour guide soon had unlocked, giving us access to an area usually locked for the night.
The tour moved down the hall and into the Massage Room. Ursula Kalin’s blouse got pulled just as she approached the door, which was actually witnessed by the person behind her. I missed this action, as I was already inside the room feeling crowed with the spirits that I felt. THIS WAS A ROOM I COULD STAY AWAKE IN! I listened to the tour guide without much interest as I could feel what had gone on here in the past. We left this room quickly, as it seems that female employees are afraid to come to the Massage Room late at night by themselves. Our group reassembled in the Lobby, where everyone was turned loose for their own investigations. Several of the “followers” wanted to watch me work, but I had to go get my equipment. They met me close to the Massage Room so they followed me back there.
Continued on Wed. August 15…
Len Dorman was born in Columbus, GA in July 1956. He has lived in Chicago since the summer of 2001 and married a Southside Chicago gal in November 2001. Len has experienced the paranormal since childhood, having seen and felt spirits in many places. He joined a paranormal group in Chicago in 2010 and continues investigating the known and unknown haunted locations in the Midwest.