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The Restless Rebels of Hop Hollow Road

PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:35 pm
by Spirit Bear
From 1833, when it was first opened to 1859 when it was closed down due to the efforts of social reformer Dorothea Dix, the penitentiary at Alton, Illinois was a hell-hole. It was plagued by rats and other vermin, diseases, food that would not be fit for a dog, and the brutal treatment meted out to helpless prisoners by sadistic guards. Due to Dix's efforts, the remaining prisoners were transferred to the prison at Joliet, and Alton was closed down-but not for long.

In 1862, Alton was re-opened as a prison for Confederate soldiers. Within 3 days of the arrival of the first prisoners, the jail was quickly over-crowded well over its maximum capacity of 800, usually holding twice that many men. As expected, the place was again overrun by vermin, lice, and diseases. The worst was a smallpox epidemic that claimed many lives.

When a prisoner died, there was a standard procedure for disposal of the bodies. The dead were loaded on a raft that was floated up the Missouri River to a ferry landing not far from the prison. There they were loaded onto a wagon and transported along a wooded trail called Hop Hollow Road to a cemetery in North Alton. Here the bodies were interred in a shallow grave, and a numbered stake placed over it. An undertaker recorded whatever information existed about the man, and this was recorded in a ledger. At least that is what was supposed to happen.

Stories have long circulated that the soldiers assigned to the burial detail would many times never make the long trip to the burial ground. Instead, they would stop the wagon somewhere along the road, dump the bodies in the thick woods, and spend their time drinking and playing cards for the amount of time it would have taken to transport and bury the bodies.

Today, much of what had been Hop Hollow Road no longer exists, but that makes no difference to the spirits of the angry Southern dead whose bodies were treated with such disrespect. As the years passed, numerous reports of seeing the spirits along the roadway were reported. Eventually, the tale was expanded to the point where these ghosts not only walked, but that they would often try to flag down passing vehicles in the hopes of getting a ride! A ride to where? To the cemetery where their bodies should have been laid to rest, of course. The few drivers who picked up one of these passengers were always shocked when the hitchhiker simply vanished without a trace from the seat besides them(shades of Resurrection Mary!)

So, if you are ever driving along Hop Hollow Road one night, and see someone trying to flag you on, and don't look back.