Haunting of Lemp Mansion: A long story of family tragedy that created a terrifying legend
In St. Louis, Missouri, sits the Lemp Mansion, a building that is said to be one of the most haunted places in America. Once a stately home of multi millionaires, transformed into offices and then rotting run-down boarding house host some truly terrifying stories of death and misery.
Going back to 1838, Johann Adam Lemp arrived in St Louis from Eschwege, Germany. He built a small grocery store on what is now Delmar and 6th Streets, he sold everyday household goods as well as homemade beer.
He brewed a light lager that was loved by the locals as it was a much needed change from the darker beers that were sold commonly at the time. His secret lager recipe was handed down to him from his father and it became so popular that within a short two year period he closed down the grocery store and created a small purpose built brewery at the site of where the Gateway Arch stands today.
Lemp sold his beer through a small pub that was attached to his brewery, bringing St. Louis it's first lager. Very quickly he outgrew his small set up and ran out of storage capabilities, before finding a limestone cave that was sat just south of the city limits.
He learned that by using the ice from the nearby Mississippi River and putting it inside the cave he could create ideal conditions for brewing his lager. By 1850, Lemp's Western Brewing Co. was one of the largest in the city. 1858 came and his secret recipe lager won first place at the annual St. Louis fair.
Johann Adam Lemp died on the 25th August, 1862, where his son, William Lemp, took over the company and started his process of mass expansion. The business was growing that quickly that William purchased a five-block area around the area of the caves. In 1864, a full new brewing plant was built at Cherokee Street and Carodolet Avenue, the expansion was to keep up with the rise in product demand and the brewery eventually ended up covering the full five city blocks that he had previously purchased.
By the 1870s the Lemp family held huge power and wealth as they controlled the whole St. Louis beer market, they held this position until prohibition came into play.
1868, Jacob Feickert, William's father-in-law, built a house within close proximity of the Lemp Brewery. In 1876 William bought the house for his family, he used to both a close-by office as well as a primary residence.
William showed off his impressive wealth by immediately renovating what was already an fantastic building and expanding the already thirty-three room home in a Victorian showplace.
He built a tunnel that led from the basement of the house, through the caves and straight into the brewery. When mechanical refrigeration became available, parts of the cave were converted for other purposes, including a natural auditorium and a theatre. This underground oasis would later spawn a large concrete swimming pool, with hot water piped in from the brewery boiling house, and a bowling alley. At one time, the theatre was accessible by way of a spiral staircase from Cherokee Street.
By the middle 1890s, the Lemp Brewery gained a national presence after introducing the popular “Falstaff” beer, which is still brewed today by another company. The Lemp Western Brewery was the first brewer to establish coast-to-coast distribution of its beer. At the same time he was building his own business empire, William, Sr. also helped Pabst, Anheuser and Busche get started.
In the midst of this success, the Lemp family was struct down with what was to be the first of many tragedies that would fall on them over the coming years.
In 1901, at the young age of 28, Frederick Lamp, William's favourite son and heir, died of heart failure. Following on from his sons death, it is said that William was never the same and that this was the start of his withdrawal, he was rarely seen out in public after the death of Frederick.
A few years later on 1st January, 1904, Frederick Pabst, who was William's best friend also died. William still went to work every day but he was said to be nervous and unsettled and his mental and physical health started to decline rapidly.
February 13th, 1904, William Lemp committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .38 calibre Smith & Wesson.
William Lemp Jr, the next in line for the inheritance took over as the new owner of the William J. Lemp Brewing Company, not only did he inherit the family business but he also received the vast fortune his father had built up.
William Lemp Jr and his wife, Lillian began splashing cash on servants, clothing and works of art. Lillian was known as a beautiful woman who had also come from a wealthy family, Lillian and William Lemp Jr had married in 1899 and their son, William J. Lemp, lll was both in September 1900.
His wife Lillian became known as the "Lavender Lady" because of her love for the colour, she decorated her house, her attire and even the horses harnesses in lavender. Will enjoyed showing off Lillian as his "trophy wife" but he was known for being a player, being born with a silver spoon in his mouth he was used to doing exactly as he pleased.
As everyone predicted, William soon became bored with his wife, he told her that she needed to stay out of his way and spend her time shopping, he started giving her $1,000 a day to spend, he also told her if she didn't spend all of it each day that he would give her no more.
Whilst Lillian was sent out shopping, Will was spending his time running the brewery by day but at night he was known for holding lavish parties in the caves under his mansion, he would bring multiple prostitutes to entertain his friends. They would enjoy the swimming pool, bowling alley and an endless amount of free-flowing beer.
Eventually Will's wild ways got the better of him when he got a woman who was not his wife pregnant, although there is no official documentation that this baby boy actually existed, it is said that he was held for his entire life in the attic of the mansion.
According to St Louis historian, Joe Gibbons, when he interviewed a former nanny and a chauffeur who worked at the mansion long ago, both of them verified that the boy did exist and was housed in the attic quarters that also housed the servant’s rooms. Spawned from Will’s philandering with either one of the many prostitutes or a mansion servant, the boy was born with Down’s Syndrome. A total embarrassment to the family, the boy was hidden away from the world in order to cloak the Lemp’s “shame.” Known today as the “Monkey Face Boy,” this unfortunate soul continues to show his presence at the Lemp Mansion.
In 1908 William, Jr filed for divorce, a story that turned into a scandal and all the biggest newspapers of St. Louis reported all over their front page. Hundreds of people crowed outside the courthouse each day to witness the drama and stories of violence, drunkenness and cruelty that was said to have taken place within the walls of the mansion.
Lillian almost lost custody of their son, William Lemp lll, for simply being shown on a photography smoking a cigarette. Throughout the trial Lillian appeared in court everyday wearing lavender, apart from the last day where she wore solely black as she stood in front of the judge.
Will's troubles had only just started with the divorce scandal, in 1906 a group of nine of the large other breweries in the St. Louis area had teamed together and formed the Independent Breweries Company, this created a fierce competition that the Lemp Brewer had never previously faced.
In 1906, nine of the large breweries in the St. Louis area had combined to form the Independent Breweries Company, creating fierce competition that the Lemp Brewery had never faced. In the same year, Will's mother also died of cancer on 16th April.
Though the brewery’s fortunes were continually declining, the Lemp Mansion was entirely remodelled in 1911 and partially converted into offices for the brewery. At this same time, William allowed the company’s equipment to deteriorate, without keeping abreast of industry innovations. By World War I, the brewery was just barely limping along.
William soon built a country home on the Meramec River, to which he increasingly retreated and in 1915 he married for a second time to Ellie Limberg, the widowed daughter of the late St. Louis brewer Casper Koehler.
Then Prohibition came along in 1919. The individual family members were already wealthy so there was little incentive to keep the brewery afloat. For a time, Will hoped that Congress would repeal Prohibition but finally gave up and closed the Lemp plant down without notice. The workers learned of the closing when they came to work one day and found the doors shut and the gates locked.
On March 20, 1920, Elsa Lemp Wright, William’s sister, the wealthiest heiress in St Louis, shot herself just like her father had years before. Elsa was said to have been despondent over her rocky marriage.
Liquidating the assets of the plant and auctioning the buildings, William, Jr. sold the famous Lemp “Falstaff” logo to brewer Joseph Griesedieck for $25,000 in 1922. The brewery buildings were sold to the International Shoe Co. for $588,000, a fraction of its estimated worth of $7 million in the years before Prohibition.
After the end of the Lemp’s brewing dynasty, William, Jr. slipped into a depression. Acting much like his father, he became increasingly nervous and erratic, shunning public life and often complaining of ill health. On December 29, 1922, William shot himself, in the heart with a .38 calibre revolver, in the very same building where his father had died eighteen years before. William, II took his life on the main level of the mansion, just inside the entrance to the left. At the time of his death, this room served as his office. He was interred in the family mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery, in the crypt just above his sister Elsa.
William’s brothers, Charles and Edwin had long ago left the family business, so with William Jr. gone, it seemed that the Lemp empire had finally ended. Edwin had entered into a life of seclusion at his estate in Kirkwood, Missouri in 1911. Charles had never been involved in the brewery and had chosen to work in the banking and real estate fields instead.
In 1943, yet another tragedy occurred when William Lemp III died of a heart attack at the age of forty-two.
Brother Charles eventually remodelled the mansion back into a residence and lived in the house along with two servants and the illegitimate child of his brother William. Charles, too, became an odd figure, as he grew older. Developing a morbid fear of germs, his obsessive-compulsive behaviour included wearing gloves at all times to avoid bacteria and constantly washing his hands. It was during this time that William’s illegitimate child, now in his 30s, died at the mansion. He was buried on the Lemp Cemetery plot with only a small flat marker, with the word “Lemp.”
Shortly after the “Monkey Face Boy’s” death, Charles became the fourth member of the Lemp family to commit suicide. First, he shot his beloved Doberman Pinscher in the basement of the mansion. Then, climbing the staircase to his room on the second floor, he shot himself. Charles was discovered on May 10, 1949, by one of his staff, still holding a .38 calibre Army Colt revolver in his right hand. Though the dog was shot in the basement, he was found halfway up the stairs.
Of the Lemps, only Edwin Lemp, who had long avoided the life that had turned so tragic for the rest of his family, remained. He was known as a quiet, reclusive man who had walked away from the Lemp Brewery in 1913 to live a peaceful life on a secluded estate in Kirkwood, Missouri. Edwin passed away quietly of natural causes at age 90 in 1970. According to Edwin’s last wishes, his butler burned all of the paintings that the Lemps had collected throughout his life, as well as priceless Lemp family documents and artefacts. These irreplaceable pieces of history vanished in the smoke of a blazing bonfire.
The Lemp family line died out with him and the family’s resting place can now be found in beautiful Bellefontaine Cemetery.
After the death of Charles Lemp, the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Along with the nearby neighbourhood, the building began to deteriorate, and the haunting tales began. Residents complained of ghostly knocks and phantom footsteps being heard throughout the house. As these stories spread, tenants were hard to find for the boarding house and it continued to decline to a near flophouse status.
However, in 1975, the old mansion was saved when Dick Pointer and his family purchased it. Immediately they began to renovate the building, turning it into a restaurant and inn. Workers within the house often told stories of apparitions, strange sounds, vanishing tools, and a feeling of being watched. Frightened by the hauntings, many would leave the job site never to return.
Since the restaurant opened, staff members have reported several strange experiences. Again, apparitions appear and then quickly vanish, voices and sounds come from nowhere, and glasses will often lift off the bar flying through the air by themselves. On other occasions, doors are said to lock and unlock by themselves, lights inexplicably turn on and off of their own free will, and the piano bar often plays when no one is near.
Said to be haunted by several members of the Lemp family, there are three areas of the old mansion that have the most activity — the stairway, the attic, and what the staff refers to as, the “Gates of Hell” in the basement. It is this area of the basement that used to be the entrance to the caves running below the mansion and the brewery.
The attic is said to be haunted by William, Jr’s illegitimate son, referred to only as the “Monkey Face Boy.” This poor soul, born with Down’s Syndrome, spent his entire life locked in the attic of the Lemp Mansion. Strange occurrences are often witnessed on this third floor level of the mansion. The face of the boy has regularly been seen from the street peeking from the small windows of the mansion. Ghost investigators have often left toys in the middle of his room, drawing a circle around them to see if the objects have been moved. Consistently, when they return the next day, the toys are found in another location.
In the downstairs women’s bathroom, which was once William, Jr’s personal domain and held the first free-standing shower in St. Louis, many women have reported a man peeking over the stall. On one such occasion, a woman emerged from the bathroom, returning to the bar and stated to the two men she was there with: “I hope you got an eyeful!” However, the two men quickly denied ever having left the bar, for which the bartender verified. This ghost is said to be that of the womanizing William Jr.
In William Lemp, Sr’s room, guests have often reported hearing someone running up the stairs and kicking at the door. When William killed himself, William Jr was known to have run up the stairs to his father’s room and finding it locked began to kick the door in to get to his father.
Several years ago a part-time tour guide reported hearing the sounds of horses outside the room where William Lemp, Sr had kept his office. However, when the tour guide looked through the window, nothing was there. This area, north of the mansion and now used as a parking lot, was once utilized as a tethering lot for horses.
The mansion has been featured in a number of magazine articles and newspapers and now attracts ghost hunters from around the country. Today it features a bed and breakfast with rooms restored in period style, a restaurant featuring fine dining, and a mystery dinner theatre. Tours are also available at the mansion
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