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The Haunting of Smallpox Island

History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern IllinoisFrom History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.

Alton was the site of a prisoner of war camp that housed Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Conditions at the prison were brutal. During the winter of 1862 and spring of 1863 a smallpox infection broke out that killed over 1500 Confederate prisoners and 300 Union soldiers.

The dead or dying prisoners and guards were taken to an island in the Mississippi River across from Alton. Soon this unnamed island had a name, it was called Smallpox Island. As a dreaded place of death and burial, the island received a reputation for being haunted.

Many years after the close of the prison, some boys who heard that the island was haunted decided to explore it and see for themselves if the ghost stories were true. They were not disappointed.

The boys borrowed an old canoe and paddled out to the lonely and deserted island for an overnight camp out. After telling stories around the campfire the boys finally went to their tent and went to sleep. The campfire embers were glowing orange as sparks flew up in the sky. Shuffling footsteps were heard near the dying fire. Mystery shapes took the form of long dead and emaciated Confederate soldiers.

The specters of the dead Confederates glared at the boys with empty eye sockets. One of the ghostly soldiers pointed a bony finger at the boys and screamed out “WHO DARES TO INTRUDE UPON OUR RESTING PLACE?”

The boys ran out of their tent, jumped into their canoe and paddled back to Alton was fast as they could go. The boys now knew that the ghostly stories about Smallpox Island were true.

Copyright Bruce L. Cline, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this post.

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