Vishnu Springs | A Former Resort City in Illinois Sits in Ruins
Vishnu Springs | McDonough County, IL
A former Resort City sits in Ruins in Central Illinois
Hidden in the rolling hills of Western Illinois, about six miles north of the hamlet of Tennessee, is a genuine ghost town known as Vishnu Springs. It was established in the 1880s as a health and vacation spa, then largely abandoned since the early 20th century.
Throughout the 1880s, groups as large as 2,000 people gathered in a western Illinois river valley in what is now Vishnu Springs. According to legend, the natural spring water was said to have had medicinal properties capable of solving a variety of physical and psychological ailments. Some time in the 1880s, the land was named after the Hindu god Vishnu because of the supposed healing power of the water.
Near the start of the 20th century, a man named Darius Hicks took steps to start a town and health resort on the land around Vishnu Springs. He divided the land owned by his family into plots, and sold them for $30 each. The centerpiece of the town was a three-story hotel named the Capitol Hotel, which was built to attract people seeking the health and spiritual effects of the spring. The town featured two stores: a blacksmith shop and a restaurant. Transportation was provided by horse and buggy from the nearby town of Colchester, Illinois. Later, Hicks added parks, a fishing pond, a racetrack, and a schoolhouse.
In the summer of 1903, a supervisor was inspecting the horse that turned the gears of the resort's carousel. The supervisor was to ensure that the horse was walking at a steady pace while children were riding the carousel. Somehow, that supervisor's shirtsleeve was caught in the gears of the carousel, pulling him into them. Screams of terror interrupted the sound of the joyful children riding the carousel as the supervisor was crushed to his death. The carousel was stopped, and was never again ran.
Despite Hicks’ efforts, the town never prospered. Transportation was difficult due to the lack of rail lines or an easily navigable river. Hicks left the resort town in 1903, and indifferent management let the town decay. By the 1920s, most of the businesses had closed, large numbers of guests stopped visiting, and the town could be considered abandoned.
Some claims have been made that the site is now haunted by previous residents.
According to the book Haunted Illinois,, “Vishnu is an old abandoned township located just west of Colchester. There are feelings of being watched, viewed shadow like beings in darkened corners.” Additionally, other sources report sightings of a woman dress in black wandering the former Capitol Hotel, the largest and most intact structure still standing.
The property is now known as the Ira & Reatha T. Post Wildlife Sanctuary, and is operated by the Western Illinois University Foundation as a wildlife sanctuary and study area for the university's students.


Image 1 of 6

Shopping on Amazon through the links below helps support History in the Heartland and our efforts to document History through America's Midwest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.