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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lemp Mansion

I kick myself for not taking the chance to visit the wonderful place when I had the chance. My dad lived in St. Louis, MO and I often visited him during the summers. If only I had developed my taste for the paranormal as a teenager, I could have seen this structure up close. Lemp Mansion is certainly a Victorian showplace displaying the rise and tragic fall of a brewery dynasty.

Johanne Adam Lemp traveled to St. Louis from Eschwege, Germany. He sought his fortune as a grocer, providing one unique item no other store contained - lager beer. Lemp used his father's recipe and the natural cave system under St. Louis to accommodate his customers demands until abandoning the grocery business two years later and building a modest brewery. His dreams of fortune came true. John Adam Lemp died a millionaire on August 25, 1862.

William J. Lemp succeeded his father, taking the family business and building it in to an industrial giant. Lemp Mansion was built in 1868 by William's father-in-law Jacob Feickert, a short distance from the brewery. William purchased it as a residency and auxiliary brewery office. He used his massive fortune to transform his new home with radiator system, thirty-three rooms, open-air lift, and Italian marble mantle piece. The parlor contains hand-painted ceiling and intricately carved mantles of African mahogany. Behind the parlor is an atrium where they kept exotic plants and birds. At the rear of the house are three massive vaults that the Lemps built to store great quantities of art objects. Each vault is fifteen feet wide, twenty-five feet deep, and thirteen feet high. The bedrooms were located on the second floor. The servants' quarters were on the third floor featured with cedar walk-in closets, a skylight and an observation deck. The Lemps built an auditorium, ballroom, bowling alley and swimming pool in a natural underground cavern that could be reached from a now-sealed tunnel in the basement. Another tunnel led from the house to the brewery.

This great success came with tragedy. William's favorite son and heir to the brewery presidency, Frederick Lemp died from heart failure in 1901 at the age of 28. William was never the same. He withdrew from the public. His mental and physical health declined until he committed suicide shooting himself in the head in a bedroom at Lemp Mansion on February 13, 1904. William J. Lemp, Jr. succeeded his father as president. He and his wife Lillian (known as the "Lavender Lady" because of her fondness of the color) moved in and began spending vast amounts of money. Will grew tired of his "trophy wife" and occupied his time with other young women. These shenanigans led him to sire a son with a woman other than his wife. No records exist documenting this boy's life but rumors say he did exist and lived in the basement. Supposedly he was born with Down's Syndrome and was seen as a total embarrassment to the family. He was hidden away so no one would uncover Will's "shame". The boy died at the mansion in his 30s.

The brewery's success continued to decline due to competition and Will's lack of keeping up with industry's innovations until Prohibition closed the plant's doors forever in 1919. William Jr.'s sister Elsa committed suicide in 1920 despondent over her rocky marriage. Two years later on June 28th, Lemp Brewery once valued at $7 million was sold at auction for $588,500. Most of the company's assets were liquidated but the Lemp family held a morbid attachment to the mansion. William J. Lemp Jr. shot himself within the same walls as his father eighteen years prior on December 29, 1922. His son, William Lemp III died of a heart attack in 1943 at the age of forty-two.

William Jr.'s brother Charles continued to live in the house developing a morbid fear of germs until he succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound on May 10, 1949 after killing his beloved Doberman Pinscher in the basement. His brother Edwin walked away from his family's tragic life in 1913. As the last living Lemp, he lived a quiet reclusive life until dying of natural causes at the age of ninety in 1970. His last wishes were to burn all of the family's prized artwork, documents and artifacts perhaps as a means to put an end to his family's curse once and for all. The mansion was transformed in to a boarding house. However, it's now reputation as one of the ten most haunted places in America left the boarding house without many tenants. It soon fell in to disrepair until the Pointer family purchased it in 1975 and renovated the mansion in to a restaurant and inn.

Lemp Mansion has seen more than it's share of paranormal activity. Witness reports include ghostly knocks, footsteps, apparitions, voices, lights turning on and off by themselves, doors lock and unlock, and the piano plays when no one is near it. Three areas in the house, the attic, basement and cavern also known as the "Gateway to Hell" by staff members, are believed to be the most active. The attic that once housed the William Jr.'s illegitimate son also known as the "Monkey Face boy" is now haunted by him. Many from the street claimed to have seen him peeking from a window. Investigators who left toys in the room would return to find them moved.

William Jr. is believed to be haunting his beloved downstairs bathroom, now used as a ladies room. Many women have reported a man peeking over the stall when no living man was even in there. In William Sr.'s bedroom, guests have reported hearing running up the stairs and kicking on the door. When he committed suicide, William Jr. ran up the stairs and attempted to kick the door down when he found it locked. The sounds of horses have been heard outside of what use to be William Sr.'s office. Even the "Lavender Lady" and Charles have been seen on occasion. Ghost hunters all over the country have flocked to this location. Extreme Paranormal via Ghost Lab will follow in their footsteps on the TV show's season finale.
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