A once-thriving resort community, Vishnu Springs has captured the imagination of Illinoisans as much in its afterlife as it did in its heyday. What remains of its three-story hotel, once majestic and full of exuberance, has become a haven for students from Western Illinois University looking for a thrill. Some of these unwanted visitors have returned with stories of harrowing encounters with the unknown, as well as with law enforcement, who routinely patrol the grounds. Many are unaware of the location’s rich history.
In the 1860s and 70s, a farmer named Ebenezer Hicks began to notice the unusual taste and mineral quality of an artesian well flowing in a forest on his land north of the town of Colchester in McDonough County. Attracted to the natural spring’s healing properties, a Doctor named J.W. Aiken attempted to sell the water as a cure-all to local coal miners, but made a negligible profit. After the landowner passed away, his son, an entrepreneur named Darius Hicks, inherited the land and built a hotel he called the Capital Hotel, which opened in 1890.
Others soon arrived to live and work there, but the isolated nature of the resort impeded its growth. Darius named the place “Vishnu Springs” after the Hindu god Vishnu, who is said to support and sustain the universe. At its height, the resort contained a few dozen houses, a carousel, a pond, sports fields, and even a small race track…
Legends and Lore of Illinois Vol. 4 Digital Edition
Or, order all 11 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois from 2010 in a special digital edition for your favorite e-readers. Places covered in Vol. 4 include Western Illinois University’s Simpkins Hall, the Seventh Avenue Dead End, Willow Creek Farm, Vishnu Springs, the Cambridge Death Curve, Crybaby Bridge, Archer Avenue, Rockford College, and more. Plus, read letters from our readers, the latest adventures of The Fallen, skeptic’s corner, and put your knowledge of these locations to the test with challenging trivia questions. Don’t miss these classic issues from the archives of the Legends and Lore of Illinois.
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