Abandoned Sky Ride Riddled with Bones of Ancient People
A trip along the Great River Road follows the shores of the Mighty Mississippi River and meanders through ten states on the journey from North to South or South to North. Along the shores of the Mississippi, Indigenous people made their homes and lived their lives for thousands of years before European's explored and settled the region. History has blessed us with many tales of the advances and lore of these overlooked people while more often than not many stories are lost to time or otherwise eliminated. The following is yet another example of short-sightedness or greed.
Author's Note: Speaking on behalf of Haint.Blue and all associated parties included, we do not encourage, trespassing, removal of human remains, or disturbing of a grave for any purpose. All places are considered private property unless otherwise posted. In other words, use common sense and we are not responsible for your actions.
Clarksville, MO, located 70 miles up stream from St. Louis is a tiny hamlet of only 400+ people, settled in 1819 and named after the territorial Governor William Clark (as in Lewis and Clark). Clarksville is home to large concentration of bald eagles every winter, Lock and Dam 24, and Lookout Point - the highest point along the Mississippi River. Lookout Point also doubled as a tourist attraction. Built in the 1961 and opened in 1962, Lookout Point was a bluff top destination. Lookout Point was serviced by the Skylift - a ski lift ride bringing patrons up the slopes of the mountain. Once atop the mountain, visitors were greeted by a large four-story concrete tower with various viewing platforms, a Wild West Ghost Town, a Mystery Mansion (Gravity house ride), Country Store and Cafeteria, reindeer petting zoo, nature trails, and the Indian Museum and Graves. Our focus will be on the Indian Museum and Graves.
Lookout Point was home to multiple burial mounds of indigenous peoples of the region. As with other tourist attractions, the graves of Lookout Point were not only in the way of progress, but would become an attraction of their own. Having been "discovered" in the 1950s, the mounds - numbering between six and eight - were documented and explored. The mounds were initially disturbed to install the boarding station of the Skylift, steel pillars were plunged into the largest mound while the other mounds were rumored to be bulldozed over the end of the hill, remains and all. Culver-Stockton College did archaeological work on the remaining mound and built a museum where visitors could see the skeletons in place. This was a common occurrence in the past. Grave Creek Mound in WV had a similar set up around 1860 and displays of exposed skeletons were displayed at the Fountain of Youth in Florida and Ancient Buried City in Kentucky. The museum would eventually be transferred to the Lookout Mountain Park from the college and serve as a museum in the Ghost Town attraction. The attraction would prominently feature the Indian Museum and graves in literature and souvenirs through the early 1980s. A 1960s souvenir china plate from Lookout Mountain prominently features the image of a skeleton laying on its right side with legs tucked up to it's chest among illustrations of the other attractions.
Many sites of this nature were forced to transfer custody of all remains to local tribal councils for proper burial by the late 1980s/early 1990s. The Indian Museum closed in 1991 and the remains that were exposed were removed and buried at an undisclosed location.
The Skylift closed in 1996 and sat abandoned for at least a decade. As repairs were being made in the early 2000s a shock came to all when a local dog came home with the arm bone of a human. Erosion on the site of the Skylift had exposed more bones and pieces stuck out of the ground. A team removed a dozen more skeletons for reburial while estimates of potentially 25 more burials lie beneath the SkyLift. The mound has had a retaining wall constructed and has been capped in concrete to prevent further erosion. While the future of this once mighty attraction is bleak, would you be willing to venture up the shaky ride to stand on someone's grave?
Voltron and the Skylift: the author's brief encounter as a 6 year old with the fabled Lookout Mountain.
The summer of 1985. I was living in coal and corn fields of Central Illinois in the small town of Carlinville. My parents took a day trip to Louisiana, Missouri, home of the Bigfoot like Momo (Missouri Monster), and Stark Bros. Nursery. On our return ride home, we passed beneath the Skylift and it's full operating glory. I begged to go on the ride up the mountain, unbeknownst to me about the skeletons or the other attractions up top. We pulled over to discuss the trip up, and I was ultimately pressed with a decision - we could go up the mountain or I could get the mini metal Voltron Lion Force figure I had been coveting for weeks. A tough call for a 6 year old, I relented on the trip up the mountain and rested with the promise that we would go get a Voltron next weekend. My small town had a Wal-Mart, but I needed to go to a toy store to get Voltron. So I patiently waited to get my own metal Voltron. The days couldn't come fast enough. Thursday night on the news a report of a lead paint scare dashed my dreams like Voltron to a Robeast - the Volton's were being recalled due to lead paint. I was devastated, I gave up the SkyLift and now I wasn't getting a Voltron either.