Ghosts of the Prairie


The Ghosts of St. Genevieve 

St. Genevieve, Missouri was, according to history, the first town to be settled west of the Mississippi River. As with many other places that are filled with history, the town seems to have more than its share of ghostly spots! 

One such place if the famous Guibourd-Valle House. It was  built around 1784 by Jacques Dubreuil Guibourd, a French merchant. The region had been under French rule until 1763, when it was assigned to Spain. During this time period, the city of St. Genevieve was the outpost of the Spanish empire and the Guibourd house was the social meeting place for the Spanish officers.

By 1803, the area had become part of the Louisiana Purchase and the territory of the United States. When the rest of the west was nothing but rough frontier, St. Genevieve was already a cultured village that had been in existence for many years.

The first encounter with the ghosts of the house was reported by Jules Valle in 1939, when he saw three phantoms in Spanish clothing. The men materialize only from the waist up and have been reported many times over the years. According to modern reports, strange things still occur in the house like moving objects and unexplained crashing sounds. Staff members have also heard odd footsteps in the rear rooms, once used a slave quarters.

Another ghostly spot is that of Memorial Cemetery in St. Genevieve.

Memorial Cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in St. Genevieve, the first settlement in Missouri. The cemetery is located at the end of Merchant Street and while not large, contains nearly 5,000 souls....many of which do not rest in peace. The cemetery was started in 1787 and became the burial place for many of the city's most prominent leaders and settlers.

By the late 1880's, it had become seriously overcrowded and many complained that new graves were disturbing the graves of those who has been buried previously. The cemetery was declared a public nuisance and a health hazard in 1879 and was finally closed in 1881.

There was one last burial after that date, however. Odile Pratte Valle, wife of city leader Felix Valle, was determined to spend eternity next to her husband. He had died in 1877 and had been interred in Memorial Cemetery. Madame Valle approached the city fathers with an attractive proposal shortly after the cemetery was closed. She would donate a large tract of land for use as a cemetery if she could be buried next to her husband in the closed cemetery whenever she passed away. The proposal was accepted and she died at the age of 90, fifteen years after the cemetery had been closed down. Many of the graves here are unknown and the cemetery has been largely abandoned and neglected since 1882. None of the oid wooden markers remain and most of the iron French crosses have been stolen. Most of the smaller monuments have also disappeared, lost to the ravages of time and the elements. In recent years, a foundation has formed to try and protect the cemetery from further damage.

Needless to say, the years of ruin and abandonment have given birth to a number of legends about the cemetery. The most popular sprang up shortly after the turn-of-the-century as rumors stated that the spirits of the dead people buried in Memorial Cemetery played a deadly game of hide-and-seek every Halloween night. It was said that anyone who ventured into the cemetery and saw this event would join the spirits before the next Halloween!

St. Genevieve is located about two hours south of St. Louis, along the Mississippi River.


Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.