Mike Wolfe and the crew of American Pickers traveled the Two Lane back roads to Hannibal Missouri 100 miles north of St. Louis. As the crew grabbed a bite after a long day of picking, they learned that there was a strong paranormal presence to this seemingly quaint river town.
What Mike and the crew discovered, is that people here are exceptional storytellers. Lean in close to hear the lore that has been passed down through the community for generations about the spirits who love Hannibal so much, they never left.
Hannibal is unique for many reasons, and like most towns, it has a light and dark side to its history. On one hand, as the boyhood home of author Mark Twain, as well as the setting for timeless novels like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, it evokes a sweet nostalgia for visitors. On the other hand, its history of blood-stained war and tragic deaths still linger in the air.
When you roll into town, the first thing you’ll have to do is secure your seat on the Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour. This nighttime trolley ride is a history-based/guided ride around the secrets of many of Hannibal’s most notoriously haunted sites. You’ll hear stories of murder and mischief during Mark Twain’s boyhood days in Hannibal, meet the present-day ghosts of the mansions on Millionaires’ Row, and the incredible people who lived in Hannibal and are buried at the Old Baptist Cemetery est. 1844. The haunted tour includes an investigation of that same cemetery where some people have rested for more than 170 years.
Word of advice — When you’re in the graveyard, watch out for the following spirits: the 5-year-old-girl playing peek-a-boo, the tall, dark man in the long coat watching you from the fence line, the Civil War soldier, and a man named Edward who isn’t fond of the living. You’ll even get to try your hand at communicating with them via dowsing rods. Yes– Full body apparitions, EMF readings, and intelligent responses have all been reported and recorded on these tours.
If you’re brave enough to go ghost hunting solo, head to Main Street for a coffee at Java Jive. Both it and the building next door, built-in 1868, have reported strange paranormal activity.
The story goes that back then, that Maine Street was at one time Hannibal’s “Red Light” district. It was a place of gambling, taverns, and brothels. Both employees and customers alike will tell you it still feels and sounds like the party never ended. Java Jive employees often hear ragtime-type piano music playing inside the empty building and often have an eerie feeling of being “watched” during closing time. White orbs have been captured on camera!
But what we find more spine-tingling is that attempts at using copper dowsing rods to detect electromagnetic fields in the space have resulted in the rods spinning in people’s hands! If you’re a sensitive person, maybe just get your coffee to go this time…
If you have a goal in life to sleep with a ghost, check in to the Garden House Bed and Breakfast. (The Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour makes a stop here, too.) There is a sad string of deaths tied to this Queen Anne Victorian home first beginning with its builder Albert Pettibone who completed it in 1896.
A well-known man about town, Albert’s family owned the Hannibal Saw Mill and Sash Company. Shortly after getting married Albert died just a few years later in 1899. The house was sold to a new family only to lose their young son at the age of three.
Guests often report depressions left on the bed, as if someone is sitting looking out the window watching people. The owners even say the breakfast silverware and place settings prepared the night before for guests will be moved by morning. When the Today Show traveled to the bed and breakfast to film a segment, their cameras would always die in the same particular place.
If ghosts aren’t your game, that’s OK— Hannibal has enough history, breweries, and activities to entertain you. You’ll notice how Hannibal has paid homage to its previous and most famous resident, Mark Tawin in many ways. Here are our recommendations for exploring the town without encountering a spooky spirit. First up. You’ve earned yourself a drink.
FOOD + DRINK
Mark Twain Brewing Company is a microbrewery in the heart of historic downtown offers views of the Mississippi River from its second-floor seating. Enjoy a tasting flight, and be sure to come back for seasonal offerings! The brewery is also a restaurant with something for the whole family. Live music and entertainment can often be found. This is the perfect place to grab a meal and a pint with friends! Craft beer growlers are available, as are cans you can purchase to take home and enjoy.
If you’re looking for a homemade pour the whole family can enjoy, head to the Mark Twain Dinette; a family tradition for over 75 years. Enjoy an ice-cold mug of homemade root beer! You can also purchase bottles to go. Also, check out Cave Hallow West Winery while you’re on a roll!
If you want to eat at the same place Mike enjoyed, head to Hannibal’s LaBinnah Bistro on Millionaires’ Row located inside an 1870 Victorian home. The food features unique, memorable European, Mediterranean, and American selections.
ART + HISTORY
As part of Hannibal’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2019, (Happy 200th Birthday, Hannibal!) ghost signs of businessess that at one time operated in town have been hand-painted in the historic downtown area on brick walls. These signs emulate the era advertisements the way they would have appeared on the sides of buildings years ago.
Many of the historic buildings on Main Street are on the National Historic Register. You’ll notice on the sides of the structures read each one you pass for a walking history lesson as you explore this historic river town! Take your time and read them all for a unqiue, solo guided tour of the local history. For even more stories about all things Hannibal, visit The Hannibal History Museum!
You can’t come to Hannibal and miss the Mark Twain Museum! Not only does your ticket get you into the boyhood home of Mark Twain (a National Historic Landmark), but also Becky Thatcher’s house, Huckleberry Finn house as well as two interactive museums. Thanks to their incredible interactive exhibits, folks of all ages can wander through some of Tom Sawyer’s most famous novels, ride a raft, explore a cave, pilot a steamboat, and paint Tom Sawyer’s famous whitewashed fence! You also can get an up-close view of Mark Twain’s Oxford gown, his white jacket, two of his inventions and other personal artifacts!
For more hands-on things to do in Hannibal, explore the world-famous Mark Twain Cave or take a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat down the mighty Mississippi.
The Annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival has been a Hannibal tradition for more than 40 years! Every October the locals celebrate the annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival. Downtown returns to the mid-1850s as vendors and artisans demonstrate the crafts of times gone by. All food vendors are local non-profits, so eating at the festival is always for a good cause!
Hannibal’s Halloween Festival is a month’s worth of ‘spooktacular’ events including two Halloween parades (one for people and the other a “Howl”oween pet parade!). Afterwards, the downtown windows transform into spooky LIVE scenes! Real people will dress up in the windows; from silly to scary, you never know what you’ll see!
If you’ve got the guts, every Friday and Saturday in October, the local Junior Chamber (Jaycees) organization puts on a haunted house called Warehouse of Nightmares guaranteed to make you shake! Each year they add something new from zombie paintball to escape rooms, this experience is not for the faint of heart so don’t be a hero.
It’s historic Two Lane towns like Hannibal that remind us that charm is charm, and history is intriguing whether it’s spooky or not. With a plethora of things to do in Hannibal, this river town is the perfect destination for a unique weekend getaway or if you’d dare…a full week of history and adventure — Just mind the ghosts!
…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people — Mark Twain