Kim DeVer, manager of the old cracker factory building, had a lot on her mind after the third floor of the building collapsed - and paranormal activity wasn't far from her thoughts.
On two occasions in the past year, Brian Lavigne of Alton and the Paranormal Researchers of Southern Illinois team conducted paranormal investigations in the old factory.
The determination that DeVer observed and the preliminary conclusion by the research group is that the building displays strong paranormal activity.
"In early December, my son, Ross DeVer, spent the night in the building," Kim DeVer said. "He definitely thought there was some paranormal activity going on. When we were hunting, we spent most of our time in the basement and the two top floors. There are still spirits there when there was a Baptist Church present, which was before the cracker factory."
The Kendall Cracker Factory was built in 1864 with deep arched vault-like recesses, once used as ovens. The factory was built on the site of Alton's First Baptist Church in 1836 and utilized at least part of the basement foundation of the early church, which burned in 1860.
Ross DeVer, a 16-year-old Marquette Catholic student, spent the night in the building with friends. He was walking around filming when a friend heard a creak and a towel was yanked off the rack near them.
"We also walked by doors that were open and five minutes later they would be closed," he said. "We went to bed about 4 in the morning and woke up at 8 in the morning. I had a hard time getting to sleep. I was afraid I would miss something. I definitely think there are spirits inside the building. On the PRoSI visit, all the walkie-talkies started making noise and we went into the room and they were all still off. That was weird. I went on both hunts."
Lavigne works with a partner, Rob Simmons, in PRoSI. He said his team believes Broadway in Alton is unusually active in the paranormal realm because of the area's limestone and springs.
"These materials can act as a recording device for the events, whether traumatic or festive," he said. "These types of hauntings are residual and appear when the conditions are just right."
The paranormal chaser said even if the old Kendall Cracker Factory is torn down, the spirits could still be there because of a theory called grounding.
He said one of the spirits he encountered when he was visiting the old factory was a young girl.
"They are suspected spirits because we have not concluded our investigation," he said. Lavigne said his crew is proficient in using paranormal equipment such as EMF (electromagnetic field) meters, digital recorders and a variety of cameras and accompanying systems. The Alton company uses dowsing rods but does not solely rely on them because all equipment has to be backed up by evidence.
The spirit chaser said he has been working in Alton and the surrounding area for four years, probing the lore of Southern Illinois.
"We would like to go back into Kendall and try to wrap up an interesting investigation," he said.