The Lemp Mansion
I am not a trained researcher or writer. I research these topics in my spare time so I can share what I am passionate about with others. I like to add my own thoughts throughout each piece and I like to keep things "light and fun", even when discussing dark subjects like true crime. I do not claim any of these writings as "official articles" and instead call them "stories". They should not be used for official purposes. And Yes - sometimes I use Wikipedia as a resource but never by itself.
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Welcome! I have a haunted tale to tell today. It has been called “one of the ten most haunted places in America.” Since you already know that it’s The Lemp Mansion by the title of this piece and the picture that went along with it - then let’s just dig right in.
The Lemp Mansion has had a varied and busy past. It has been home to stately business men, been the working office of a major brewery, then it went quickly into decline by becoming a boarding house (aka flop house), it did eventually return to grandeur and is now a bed and breakfast as well as a restaurant.
The Family that gave the mansion its namesake was a family that was haunted by great tragedy.
It began when Johann Adam Lemp (called Adam by friends and family) arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1838. He wanted that all-American dream that so many immigrants envisioned. Pretty standard stuff actually. Blah, blah, blah nothing especially exciting at this point in the story. He promptly opened a small mercantile store (like a corner store with various everyday items) that sold things like small household items along with vinegar and beer that he brewed himself. The vinegar and beer sales were so tremendously popular that he eventually stopped selling the small stuff and bought a factory where he could brew at a larger scale. As opposed to a bathtub brewing system I’m guessing.
This is when The Lemp’s Western Brewing Co. was thrust onto the world. In addition to the brewery, Lemp opened a pub in the same building and introduced the area to lager beer. This was a great change from the traditional English ale that had been flooding the area in recent times. He was a booming success! His business was growing so fast that he could barely manage to keep up with demand. He did stop making vinegar by 1845 and focused solely on beer - I think that was a terrific call. Make what the people really go crazy for man. The only downside to the lager being such a smashing success was that it took longer to make. It needed to sit in a cool, dim place for the lager process to flourish. Lemp’s factory was running out of space - and fast.
Forever the man to encounter a problem and know exactly how to fix it, (I wish my brain worked like that) Lemp adopted a nearby limestone cave. He utilized the cave’s nature dark, damp, and cool environment to allow his lager to mature. They would even break up ice from the nearby Mississippi river and place it in the cave to keep the temperature extra chill.
Adam Lemp had conquered the American dream. Yep, he busted into St. Louis and made the beer scene his bitch. Of course, no matter how successful you are, you will die like everyone else. Adam Lemp passed away on August 25, 1862. His son William inherited the business and immediately began to expand. He bought a five block area near the lager caves and erected new buildings, made additions, and was constantly renovating. The new factory had an Italian Renaissance style with arched windows, brick cornices, and Lemp family crests encrusted throughout the space.
As the brewery began to prosper and reach further, ultimately with sales reaching from coast-to-coast, William Lemp decided to buy a grand house for his family. The home had originally been built in 1868, and now Lemp was purchasing it (with cash in hand!) in 1876. Can you guess what he did? Yep, he renovated. He had the house expanded, added onto, and just made more opulent than ever. It had become his masterpiece.
The thing that made Lemp mansion such an interesting place was that Lemp could access the limestone caves from a tunnel in the basement. He also had tunnels dug so that he could walk between his home and the brewery.
The caves became a masterpiece in their own right. He had them transformed! One area became a swimming pool that had a hot/warm water pumped in from the boilers in the factory (can you imagine the steamy relaxation in a place like that? I would just melt, it sounds so nice. Though, it’s rather creepy today). He had a theater constructed with a stage and lights and all the little doohickeys needed to put on a proper show. It was like his, and his family’s, own little escape from the real world. Just what every millionaire needs, huh?
William Lemp and his wife had four sons and one daughter. Frederick was the favorite son and he was being groomed to take over the business in the future. And that’s when shit hits the fan. Tragedy struck when he died of heart failure which had been complicated by other medical conditions. Most people believed that he had worked himself to death - quite literally. He was only 28 years old in 1901.
The light had left William’s life when Frederick passed. He soon began to withdraw from society and was rarely seen outside of his mansion. Needless to say, he was not coping well. Who could blame him? I can only imagine the pain of losing a child - even a grown child. No parent should ever outlive their children. Poor man. The few people who would occasionally see William outside his home described him as “different” - he was never the same after Frederick’s passing. When he did need to visit his factory he would use the underground tunnel system to go back and forth. He REALLY wanted to hide from the world.
William Lemp Sr. was dealt another heartbreaking blow when his best friend, Frederick Pabst suddenly died. After this death, William lost all interest in tending to his business. He may physically sit down to work or visit the factory but his attention was never focused on the work itself. His physical and mental state were rapidly declining. He seemed constantly nervous and was always anxious. Definitely sounds like the throws of depression - to me anyway. Try to keep going, doing your normal routine, but you just can’t. It’s like you’re enveloped in a thick, black, heavy fog that makes your world bleak but everyone around you just keeps going. The hug of depression and anxiety is one of the worst feelings. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies.
William reached his breaking point on February 13, 1904. After beginning his day as usual he told his staff that he was not feeling well and returned to his upstairs bedroom. At 9":30 AM he shot himself in the head with a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver.
William Lemp Jr. became his successor and took over the presidency of the brewery in November 1904. Why it took so long, I have no idea. Maybe no one really wanted the job at first. William Lemp did enjoy being president of the company, mainly the money aspect of it. He promptly moved himself and his family into the mansion and began to fill it with art, bought copious amounts of new clothes, and spent a large sum on carriages. He added onto the mansion as well and built country estates. With a bigger house he needed more servants so he filled up the servants. He was pretty much bleeding money. Kinda like a lottery winner. He got his hands on that money and then went crazy!
William Lemp Jr. had married “The Lavender Lady”, Lillian Handlan in 1899. She was the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer. So, she was used to being taken care of. They had one son together, William Lemp III. Lillian was nicknamed “The Lavender Lady” because she would almost solely dress in that color. She was also spending her husband’s money as breakneck speed. This may have lead to their eventual divorce (which was a huge scandal in the day!). Though, some say that William just grew tired of her and didn’t want to be with or around her anymore. So, the once social butterfly of the city quickly fell into sullen loneliness. She was rarely seen afterwards.
The Lemp mansion was converted into offices spaces in 1911. There was a large bay window put in on the south side of the home, offices, lobbies, and rooms for clerks added to the ground floor while the upper levels remained as a residency area. The exterior remained very park-like with carriage houses and walking paths. Sounds pretty nice actually.
As World War I surfaced on the horizon, the brewery began to fall into disrepair. The equipment became outmoded and old. The factory barely survived this time in its history. Just when they thought they were getting over the hump - prohibition struck.
Lemp remained optimistic that congress would swoop in and put an end to this bull-cocky prohibition. As time passed and there was no end of prohibition, Lemp made the radical decision to sell the factory at a fraction of its worth. He still got about $7 million on today’s money though. He told no one of the sale and the employees did not know they were out of job until they showed up at the factory and found it dark and locked up tight. If the manufacturing and distribution of alcohol was illegal at this time, what were these employees doing?
The family is beginning their downward spiral now.
In 1920, Elsa Lemp-Wright, daughter of William Sr. (obviously sister to William Jr.), killed herself in her bedroom at the Lemp mansion. She and her husband had been going through a rough patch and were working on reconciling their marriage. There is an odd twist to Elsa’s death. No one called the police for 2-hours! When her husband was questioned by the authorities he acted agitated and said he felt “bewildered” and “didn’t know what to do” (how about call the fucking cops you suspected murderer). Despite their brother-in-law’s weird behavior William and Edwin (another Lemp) said they “found nothing unusual about her death”.
William began to follow very closely in his father’s footsteps. He fell into a deep depression after the death of his only sister. His nerves and anxiety were constantly on the surface and he withdrew from society. Feeling like a failure for ultimately selling the family business.
On December 29, 1922 - he met his end. William called his wife from his office phone in the mansion, then proceeded to shoot himself with a .38 revolver. Just like his father with the exception that he fired through his shirt and into his chest. Like the other Lemp’s - he left no note.
His only son said later, that he suspected something like this might happen. He had hoped that his father was trying “to take it easy” and possibly retire. He had other plans unfortunately. William Lemp Jr was interred in the family mausoleum at Bellefontaine cemetery in a crypt just above his beloved sister.
Let’s introduce the next Lemp family member.
Charles had taken a different path in life and had pursued a career in banking, finance, and real estate. He was financially comfortable in his own right but slowly became more reclusive and odd in his advancing age. After his brother William’s death, he moved into the Lemp mansion. Bad move there buddy. He had the building remodeled back into just a residence and lived there with two servants. The prevailing theory about Charles was that he was a germiphobe who wore gloves at all times to keep bacteria away. That’s definitely a way to increase your crazy and let your mental state deteriorate. One thing for sure was that he was a very sour and bizarre man. His one remaining brother, Edwin, urged him to move out of the mansion because of the past traumas that had occurred there but Charles flat out refused. He felt connected to the house and didn’t want to “abandon it”.
To put a bow on his bedraggled mental health, Charles shot himself with a .38 revolver on May 9, 1949. He was discovered by his servants, who had come rushing when they heard the sudden noise. In this case, the police were called immediately. To set this suicide apart from those of his father, brother, and sister he had left a note.
“In case I am found dead blame it on no one but me” and he finished it with a flourish of a signature.
He had made funeral arrangements for himself beforehand. Kinda odd but I guess with no other family besides one brother, that’s not all that weird. He did have some “unusual” requests - to put it lightly. He DID NOT want to be interred in the family mausoleum but he wanted to be taken straight to the Missouri Crematory and have his ashes placed in a wicker box and to be buried on his farm. Before that he did not want to be bathed, changed, or spruced up in any manner. He wanted no service and no death announcement published.
The really, really weird thing about Charles’ final wish is that when his brother Edwin picked up his ashes from the crematory on May 11, 1949 he claimed to have gone straight to the farm to bury it. THERE IS NO RECORD OF THIS FARM ANYWHERE! So, where the fuck did he go!?
The lone survivor of the Lemp family was Edwin Lemp.
Edwin was financially comfortable and lived in seclusion in his own country estate. He had no wife or children and had only worked at the brewery for a brief time but left in 1913.
He was the only member of the Lemp family not to fall prey to the curse. He was plagued with the same mental illnesses and drove himself further and further into eccentricity. He hated being alone - thinking he might follow the same path as his family - and thus was constantly inviting friends over to visit.
When his family history was brought up he would quietly refuse to speak of it and never did again.
He passed peacefully at the age of 90 in 1970. His only wishes after his passing was that his paintings be burned along with all Lemp family papers and artifacts. We lost so much insight when that information was burned. What a shame.
I think this story is less about a curse and more about a family history of mental illness. We are doing better at addressing it in modern times but we still have a LONG way to go.
Now that you know the history behind the namesake of this beautiful building, let’s get into it’s haunting present.
After the death of Charles Lemp, the mansion was sold and converted into a boarding house. The residents of this “flop house” claimed to hear a wide range of ghostly noises. Such as knocking and footsteps. It became difficult to keep tenants in the rooms. As the neighborhood around the mansion fell on hard times, so did the mansion itself. It began to deteriorate and was not the stately manor that it had once been.
In 1975, the Lemp mansion earned some new owners. Dick Pointer and his family purchased it and promptly began remodeling it back to it’s former glory. But the workers and the family members quickly discovered that they were not alone. Workers complained constantly about feeling like they were being watched, their tools vanishing, and strange disembodied sounds. Many of the workers would abandon the work area and never return.
The owner Dick received a letter in 1982 from a former tenant of the boarding house. He told him about an experience he had while living in the basement in the 1950’s. He said that he had been walking back from the bathroom when he was confronted by the ghost of a man. He described him as short and slim, with small features and dark hair combed straight back. He was very well dressed and had highly polished shoes that shone even in the dark basement. The tenant panicked and ran. Thinking back he believes that it was Charles Lemp.
After the mansion was converted into a restaurant and bed and breakfast, an employee of the restaurant witness the same ghost when fetching supplies in the basement. At the time, Dick’s son Paul had taken over operations of the mansion and knew for a fact that this employee could have no way in hell known of that letter with the exact same experience detailed on it.
Other reports have been made by the staff, such as; glasses lifting off of the bar and flying through the air, wine bottles exploding, the sounds of someone kicking the bottom of the door can be heard upstairs bedrooms, disembodied noises, full body apparitions, doors lock and unlock by themselves, the piano in the bar plays by itself all the time, disembodied voices, and on a rare occasion the lavender lady has been spotted.
Sounds like we need to plan a trip to St. Louis, Missouri. Who’s up for an adventure?
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