Lemp Mansion. Its history has it all. From wealth to suicide, beer barons to eccentrics, this stone mansion was built in 1868 and reigned over the social elite of St. Louis, Missouri for nearly a decade. Frequent visitors included horror great Vincent Price, visiting dignitaries and the upper crust of St. Louis. Built above a cavern of twisting underground cave systems, its secret passages, darkened hallways, and history of suicides play host to paranormal occurrences that occur daily at the renowned Bed and Breakfast.
During my initial research of Lemp Mansion I was struck by the heavy atmosphere of the interior. A pristine white facade does not prepare you for the dark oak paneling, imposing staircase and stained glass windows within. There is a sense of leaving the 21st century at the doorstep as you enter a world that was created by the insanely wealthy denizens of the Golden Age of Beer. You get the sense you are walking into someone’s else’s environment; a voyeuristic sensation that hangs over the entryway, as though the mansion’s owners have merely stepped out and will return shortly to find a stranger walking their antiquated floorboards. This sense remains as you glimpse the first floor parlors, dining rooms and ancient bathrooms that still house original marble bathtubs, beveled glass windows and 19th century tiles.
So what happened in this home where money was no object and a beer dynasty was created? It all began with the sudden death of William Jacob Lemp’s youngest son, Frederick. William never recovered from the shock and later shot himself in the upstairs’ bedroom.
The family curse continued as Elsa Lemp Wright, William’s only daughter, and the wealthiest woman in St. Louis at the time, shot herself in the heart one morning as her husband showered in their master bath at a luxury mansion not far from the Lemp home. Her suicide occurred only 12 days after she had remarried her ex-husband, causing suspension to hang over the exact movements of that morning. The fact that her husband waited several hours to report the death only whetted an insatiable public’s appetite for information concerning the strange death of another of the city’s wealthy.
After William Lemp committed suicide, the dynasty’s torch was passed to William’s second son, Billy Lemp, who was reticent about navigating the heavy burden of running a gigantic brewery business with the popularity of their biggest competitor, Anheuser Busch breathing down his neck. As prohibition, declining sales and depression overtook him, Billy also shot himself in what is now the dining room to the left of the front door of the mansion.
Three suicides by gunshot in one family. You would think the pall hanging over this home would be satisfied. Yet there would be a fourth and final death in the home in 1949 when Charles Lemp, the third son, shot himself in his bedroom. He had become a notorious hermit and germaphobe in the days leading up to his suicide. Due to his fear of contamination money was laundered, shoes left outside the door (and washed), and visitors were not encouraged. One of the few people allowed into the dark sanctuary was horror film star Vincent Price who had been a friend to Charles.
On the morning of Charles’s death, two shots rang out in the quiet home. Only two servants were in residence. Mr. Lemp shot his faithful dog and then himself. He did not want to leave the dog alone without him. And here the ghastly tragedies of Lemp Mansion end… or do they?
During my two-night stay in the mansion I was shocked at the sheer number of paranormal occurrences. For a lady who has slept in the beds of some of the most-haunted places in the world, this is quite a confession.
My first night there I was given the room in the attic where a great deal of activity has been reported. I was not disappointed. A little before one in the morning something began kicking the side of my bed. My impression at the time was that it felt like a petulant child kicking the wall. At 5:30 the same morning, I was awakened by pressure on both sides of my feet through the blanket. The room was still dark and it took all my courage to reach for my cell phone and shine its light toward my feet, not knowing what the small glow would illuminate. There, on each side of my feet, were two small impressions in the blanket that looked like a child’s small shoes. The imprints remained long after the sensation of weight disappeared. I was later told a small boy had died in that attic room; a deformed child belonging to the Lemp family.
The next night I was given the Lavender Lady’s room on the 2nd floor. It is a spacious suite with a claw tub bathroom and sitting area. A ghost tour was going on in the hallways as I came into my room. My sister and nephew who live in St. Louis had come to spend the night with me. Just as I plopped onto the bed the antique chandelier above me went into a frenzy of flickering lights. It went on for several minutes, as my sister whimpered next to me. I finally thought of my phone and grabbed it, clicking on the camera and turning it to video. I filmed the erratic flickering and then began asking it questions. I asked it to stop flickering if it was due to someone in the room who had passed away causing it. It immediately stopped. I then asked it to blink once if the person causing the interference died in that room. It blinked once. By now my sister is begging me to “stop talking to it!” This went on for another 5 minutes and finally the “verbal” volleyball ended. The light’s glow remained steady and it didn’t respond to my questions.
The next morning, at 5:15, as I lay in bed preparing to rise and pack for a plane flight, I heard two loud gun shots from outside the bedroom door. I felt as if ice water had been poured into my veins. My heart was pounding. Coming shortly on top of the gun reports came the bark of what sounded like a large dog. There are no pets at Lemp Mansion and the staff doesn’t report until 10 a.m. My nephew wakened and said he just heard a big dog. He did not hear the gun shots.
Charles Lemp shot his dog and then himself early that fateful morning in 1949. I firmly believe I heard what is called a residual haunting: a loop played back from the past.
To date, Lemp Mansion is the most haunted place I have encountered. I encourage you to visit this famous B & B in St. Louis. One word of advice… take a flashlight!