Phil and I have a special relationship with Hannibal, Missouri that began in June 2011. I’d heard the sleepy river town was a great day-trip location; only 2 hours away, the birth-place of Mark Twain, quaint–our type of place! We arrived, and immediately saw how at-odds with itself Hannibal is. A lot of the town is low-income, and many houses are pretty run-down. At the same time, there are many wealthy families that own (and have restored) the old Victorian mansions that remain downtown from it’s glory days in the 1800s. The town attracts many intelligent people because of it’s history and architecture, so there is a small, but vibrant, art scene. Unfortunately, there is a roughness to some (certainly not all!) of the locals who were simply born in the town, and do not appreciate its background. Main Street is really the only busy, functioning part of the downtown.
On this street, there is the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, the stairs that lead to the memorial lighthouse, pathways along the riverfront, restaurants, antique shops, the town’s incredible one and only coffee shop, Java Jive, the Hannibal History Museum (more about that later), and more.
If you saw just the Main Street, you’d think Hannibal was pretty hoppin’. But here’s Broadway, the large road perpendicular to Main Street.
When Phil and I visited, we spent a lot of time seeing the attractions on Main Street, went to the Mark Twain Cave, and spur of the moment, took the Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour. This is where I get back to that Hannibal History Museum! Ken and Lisa Marks are a couple from St. Louis that visited Hannibal a few years ago, and were taken by its history. They moved to the town, started their own free museum, and have written two books since. Pretty intimidating self-starters if you ask me! Haha. They were never into ghost hunting, but after they moved to Hannibal, they began hearing from just about everyone that the town was haunted. Their tour is a blast! Lisa’s a wonderful story-teller, and we got to see a lot of the town and hear its unique history. The tour ended at Old Baptist Cemetery (which is likely the cemetery mentioned in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), where we were given dousing rods to see if we were attracted to any particular graves. It sounds a little nuts, but I’ve gone on the tour multiple times since, and I’m definitely becoming a believer.
Why have I been on the ghost tour so much, you ask? Well, after the tour was over, Phil and I had a long chat with Ken and Lisa. We really hit it off, and at the time, Phil wanted to start a video project focusing on small towns. He thought Hannibal would be a great start, so we visited a few times since for various events, and Phil did some video work for Ken and Lisa, including filming a couple ghost tours. Now we’re good friends with Ken and Lisa! We certainly didn’t think our little day trip over a year ago would lead to so much. Sometimes places surprise you, and Hannibal was definitely one of those for me and Phil.
Hannibal is DEFINITELY worth a visit (or 4, if you’re us). All in all, the town is just interesting. There is so much history that I’m still learning, even after going there so many times!