Former residence of a famous brewing magnate, whose tragic multiple family suicides have made it one of America's most haunted houses.
The Lemp Mansion, in St. Louis, Missouri, stands four stories tall and has 34 rooms. It was built in the 1860s for William Lemp, president of Lemp's Brewery, as a wedding gift from his father-in-law. Lemp was the son of John Adam Lemp, a German brewmeister who immigrated to the United States in 1838. The elder Lemp opened a small brewery and made German lager, which was an instant success. Lemp died in 1862, and son William inherited the business. A shrewd businessman, he turned Lemp's Brewery into the largest brewery in the world, producing 900,000 barrels a year for an international market. The plant covered 11 city blocks. The mansion overlooked the brewery.
William Lemp and his wife had seven children and lived a glamorous lifestyle among the cream of St. Louis society. Eldest son Frederick was the favorite and was groomed to take over the family business. He was shrewd like his father and learned the brewing business well. But tragedy struck in 1901; on a trip to Pasadena, California, Frederick, who was only 28, had a heart attack and died.
William never recovered from his grief. One day in 1904, he walked into the marble office of the mansion and shot himself to death in the heart with a small caliber pistol.
The family business went to William Lemp Jr., who was not as astute in the business as was his brother. He and his wife, Lillian, daughter of the wealthy Handlan family, lived an extravagant life, spending freely on clothes, expensive furnishings and art. William Jr. built three vaults in the mansion to house his vast collection. Lillian, who favored lilac-colored clothing, was called "The Lavender Lady."
When the Prohibition law was passed in 1919, the brewery was forced to close. Other breweries switched to making ice cream and low-alcohol "near bear," but Lemp's Brewery never adapted, and the family fortunes declined drastically. In 1920, William Jr.'s older sister, Elsa, one of the wealthiest women in St. Louis, committed suicide by shooting herself with a small caliber gun. She did not do it at the mansion, however.
William Jr. sold the business in 1922 for a fraction of its worth: 8¢ on the dollar. Six months later, on December 29, the despondent William committed suicide by shooting himself in the heart with a small-caliber gun---just like his father. He was found seated in the marble office where his father had died.
In 1949, another sibling, Charles, went into the mansion's basement one morning with his dog. With a small-caliber gun, he shot the dog in the head and then shot himself to death. He was 77. A strange man, he had been very attached to the mansion. He had an extreme fear of germs and wore gloves most of the time.
Brother Edwin sold the family mansion. He had moved out of it in 1917 to escape its oppressive atmosphere of gloom. He never married and had no heirs. Perhaps out of fear that he, too, might commit suicide, he kept a companion with him at all times. He died of natural causes in 1970 at age 90.
The mansion became a boardinghouse and deteriorated over time. In the mid-1970s, it was purchased by Dick Pointer Jr., and his father, who planned to renovate it into a restaurant and inn.
Strange things happened during the renovation, which was completed in 1977. Pointer Jr. and various workmen lived in the house while the work was being done. One night while lying in bed, Pointer heard a door slam, even though no one else was in the house at the time. Another time a workman heard the sounds of horse's hooves on cobblestones outside his window---though no cobblestones were there. Months later, Pointer dug up grass beneath the window and discovered cobblestones, where horses surely traveled during the Lemps' glory days. Tools disappeared, and workers felt watched by invisible eyes. Some became so spooked that they left without completing their jobs.
Haunting phenomena continued after the restaurant opened. Glasses lifted off bars and flew through the air, mysterious voices and noises were heard, filmy apparitions were glimpsed, doors locked and unlocked on their own, and a ghostly piano played. Some witnesses say they have seen the ghost of Lillian, the Lavender Lady. An oppressive and sad atmosphere clings to the marble office where William Lemp Sr. and Jr. ended their lives. It became a front dining room in the renovation.
Most of the activity is attributed to the ghost of strange Charles. A neighbor of the Lemps said she sometimes saw a face staring out the mansion's attic window and speculated that the Lemps had an eighth child who may have been mentally unstable and thus hidden away, and who also might be responsible for the hauntings. No records of an eighth child exist, however.
From the Encyclopedia of Ghosts & Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley