St. Louis, Missouri

There is no place in the city of St. Louis with a reputation that is quite as ghostly as the Lemp Mansion. It has served as many things over the years from stately home to boarding house to restaurant...but it has never lost the fame of being the most haunted place in the city. In fact, in 1980, Life Magazine called the Lemp Mansion "one of the ten most haunted places in America".

The Haunted History of the Lemp Family

The story of the Lemp brewing empire began with the arrival of Johann Adam Lemp in 1838 in St. Louis. He opened a small mercantile store at what is now Delmar and Sixth Streets and in addition to common household items, he also sold vinegar and beer that he made himself. Apparently, Lemp began to see that he did better business with these items than with anything else and he soon established a small factory to make them at 112 South Second Street, between Walnut and Elm. This would be approximately where the Gateway Arch now stands along the St. Louis riverfront.

The new plant produced both vinegar and beer and for the first few years, Lemp sold his beer in a pub that was attached to the brewery. It is believed that during this period, Lemp introduced St. Louis to the first lager beer. This new beer was a great change from the English-type ales that had previously been popular and the lighter beer soon became a regional favorite. Business prospered and by 1845, the popularity of the beer was enough to allow him to discontinue vinegar production and concentrate on beer alone.

The company expanded rapidly, thanks to a demand for the beer, but Lemp soon found that the brewery was too small to handle the production of the beer and the storage needed for the lagering process as well. He found a solution to his problem in a limestone cave that had been discovered just south of the city limits of the time.


The cave, which was located at the present-day corner of Cherokee and De Menil Place, could be kept cool by chopping ice from the nearby Mississippi River and depositing it inside. This would keep the cavern cool enough for the lagering process to run its course.

The Lemp�s Western Brewing Co. continued to grow during the 1840's and by the 1850's was one of the largest in the city. Demand for the beer continued to increase too, as it was highly regarded by almost everyone. In 1858, the beer even captured first place at the annual St. Louis fair.

Adam Lemp died on August 25, 1862 and his son, William, began a major expansion of the brewery. He purchased a five-block area around the storage house on Cherokee, which was located above the lagering caves.

By the middle 1890's, the Lemp brewery was becoming known all over America. They had already introduced the popular "Falstaff" beer, which is still brewed by another company today although the familiar logo once had the name "Lemp" emblazoned across it. This beer became a favorite across the country, something that had never really been done by a regional brewer before. Lemp was also the first brewery to establish coast-to-coast distribution of its beer.

Construction of new buildings, and renovations of the current ones, continued on a daily basis at the Lemp brewery. The entire complex was designed in an Italian Renaissance style with arched windows, brick cornices and added Lemp shields and eventually grew to cover a five city blocks.

During the time of the Lemp Brewery�s greatest success, William Lemp also purchased a home for his family a short distance away from the brewery complex. The house was built by Jacob Feickert, Julia Lemp's father, in 1868 and was likely financed by William. In 1876, Lemp purchased it outright for use as a residence and as an auxiliary brewery office. Although already an impressive house before, Lemp immediately began renovating and expanding it and turning it into a showplace of the period.

And the mansion was as impressive underground as it was above. A tunnel exited the basement of the house and entered into a portion of the cave that Adam Lemp had discovered for his beer lagering years before. Traveling along a quarried shaft, the Lemp's could journey beneath the street, all the way to the brewery. The advent of mechanical refrigeration also made it possible to use parts of the cave for things other than business. One large chamber was converted into a natural auditorium and a theater with constructed scenery of plaster and wire. Crude floodlights were used to illuminate the scene and the Lemp's were believed to have hired actors on the theater and vaudeville circuits of the day to come into the cave for private performances. This section of the cave was accessible by way of a spiral staircase that once ascended to Cherokee Street. This entrance is sealed today and the spiral stairs were cut away to prevent anyone from entering the cave.

About 22 feet east of the theater was another innovation of the Lemp family. Just below the intersection of Cherokee and De Menil was a large, concrete-lined pool that had been a reservoir back in the days of underground lagering. In the years that followed, the Lemp's converted it into a swimming pool by using hot water that was piped in from the brewery's boiler house, which was located only a short distance away. After Prohibition, the caves were abandoned and the entrances sealed shut. In the 1940's, portions of the caves would be re-opened and turned into Cherokee Cave for several years.

Ironically, in the midst of all of this happiness and success, the Lemp family's troubles truly began. The first death in the family was that of Frederick Lemp, William Sr.'s favorite son and the heir apparent to the Lemp empire. He had been groomed for years to take over the family business and was known as the most ambitious and hard working of the Lemp children. It is possible that he may have literally worked himself to death. In 1901, Frederick's health began to fail and he died at the age of only 28. His death was brought about by heart failure, due to a complication of other diseases. Frederick's death was devastating to his parents, especially to his father.

Lemp�s friends and co-workers said that he was never the same again after Frederick�s death. It was obvious to all of them that he was not coping well and he began to slowly withdraw from the world. He was rarely seen in public and chose to walk to the brewery each day by using the cave system beneath the house.

On January 1, 1904, William Lemp suffered another crushing blow with the death of his closest friend, Frederick Pabst. This tragedy changed Lemp even more and soon he became indifferent to the details of running the brewery. Although he still came to the office each day, he paid little attention to the work and those who knew him said that he now seemed nervous and unsettled and his physical and mental health were both beginning to decline. On February 13, 1904, his suffering became unbearable.

William Lemp

When Lemp awoke that morning, he ate breakfast and mentioned to one of the servants that he was not feeling well. He finished eating, excused himself and went back upstairs to his bedroom. Around 9:30, he took a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and shot himself in the head with it.

In November 1904, William Lemp Jr. took over as the new president of the William J. Lemp Brewing Company. He inherited the family business and with it, a great fortune. He filled the house with servants, built country houses and spent huge sums on carriages, clothing and art.

In 1899, Will had married Lillian Handlan, the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer. Together, the two of them had one child, William J. Lemp III. Lillian was nicknamed the "Lavender Lady" because of her fondness for dressing in that color. She was soon spending the Lemp fortune as quickly as her husband was. While Will enjoyed showing off his trophy wife, he eventually grew tired of her and decided to divorce her. Their divorce, and the court proceedings around it, created a scandal that all of St. Louis talked about. When it was all over, the "Lavender Lady" went into seclusion and retired from the public eye.

William Lemp, Jr.

But Will's troubles were just beginning that year. The Lemp brewery was also facing a much-altered St. Louis beer market in 1906 when nine of the large area breweries combined to form the Independent Breweries Company. The year 1906 also marked the death of Will's mother. It was discovered that she had cancer in 1905 and by March 1906, her condition had deteriorated to the point that she was in constant pain and suffering. She died in her home a short time later.

In 1911, the last major improvements were made to the Lemp brewery when giant grain elevators were erected on the south side of the complex.

It was also in 1911 that the Lemp mansion was converted and remodeled into the new offices of the brewing company. A number of changes were made to the structure, including the addition of the immense bay window directly atop the atrium on the south side of the house. Inside, the front part of the house was converted into private offices, lobbies and rooms for clerks. Even with these changes though, the park-like settings of the grounds and the carriage houses were retained.

Like most of its competitors, the Lemp brewery limped along through the years of World War I. According to numerous accounts though, Lemp was in far worse shape that many of the other companies. Will had allowed the company's equipment to deteriorate and by not keeping abreast of industry innovations, much of the brewing facilities had become outmoded. And to make matters worse, Prohibition was coming.

This seemed to signal the real death of the company. As the individual family members were quite wealthy aside from the profits from the company, there was little incentive to keep the brewery afloat. Will gave up on the idea that Congress would suddenly repeal Prohibition and he 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.

Will decided to simply liquidate the assets of the plant and auction off the buildings. He sold the famous Lemp "Falstaff" logo to brewer Joseph Griesedieck for the sum of $25,000 and in 1922, he saw the brewery sold off to the International Shoe Co. for just $588,000, a small fraction of its estimated worth of $7 million in the years before Prohibition.

With Prohibition finally destroying the brewery, the 1920�s looked to be a dismal decade for the Lemp family. As bad as it first seemed though, things almost immediately became worse with the suicide of Elsa Lemp Wright in 1920. She and her husband had gone through a rocky marriage but had reconciled in 1920, just a short time before her death.

Her husband was on his way to take a bath on the morning of March 20 when he heard a loud cracking sound in the bedroom. Like her father, she had shot herself.

The servants quickly summoned Dr. M.B. Clopton and Samuel Fordyce, a family friend. Strangely, the police were not notified of Elsa's death for more than two hours and even then, the news came indirectly through Samuel Fordyce. Wright became "highly agitated" under the scrutiny of the police investigation that followed and his only excuse for not contacting the authorities was that he was bewildered and did not know what to do.

And while the mysterious circumstances around Elsa�s death have had some suggesting there was more to the story than was told, her brothers seemed to find little out of the ordinary about her demise. Will and Edwin rushed to the house as soon as they heard about the shooting. When Will arrived and was told what had happened, he only had one comment to make.

"That's the Lemp family for you", he said.

Will was soon to face depression and death himself. He had already slipped into a dark state of mind following the end of the Lemp's brewing dynasty, but he took an even sharper turn for the worse after the sale of the plant to the International Shoe Co. He was downcast and bitter and Will soon began to follow in the footsteps of his father and he became increasingly nervous and erratic. He shunned public life and kept to himself, complaining often of ill health and headaches. By December 29, 1922, he had reached the limit of his madness.

After speaking to his wife on the phone from his office, Lemp had shot himself in the heart with a .38 caliber revolver. He had unbuttoned his vest and then fired the gun through his shirt. He left no note behind and although his son told detectives that he feared something like this was coming, Lemp seemed to have no intention of suicide, even a short time before. After the sale of the brewery, he had discussed selling off the rest of the assets, like land parcels and saloon locations, and planned to then just "take it easy". Not long after that announcement, he had even put his estate in Webster Groves up for sale, stating that he planned to travel to Europe for awhile.

The funeral of William Lemp Jr. was held on December 31 at the Lemp mansion. The offices were used as the setting for the services for sentimental reasons, staff members said. He was interred in the family mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery, in the crypt just above his sister Elsa.

With William Jr. gone and his brothers involved with their own endeavors, it seemed that the days of the Lemp empire had come to an end at last. The two brothers still in St. Louis had left the family enterprise long before it had closed down. Charles worked in banking and finance and Edwin had entered a life in seclusion at his estate in Kirkwood in 1911. The great fortune they had amassed was more than enough to keep the surviving members of the family comfortable through the Great Depression and beyond.

But the days of Lemp tragedy were not yet over.

By the late 1920's, only Charles and Edwin Lemp remained from the immediate family. Throughout his life, Charles was never much involved with the Lemp Brewery, and instead worked in the banking and real estate fields.

Despite his very visible business and political life though, Charles remained a mysterious figure who became even odder and more reclusive with age. He eventually remodeled the Lemp Mansion back into a residences and lived alone in his old rambling house with only his two servants. Legend has it that he was deathly afraid of germs and wore gloves to avoid any contact with bacteria. He had grown quite bitter and eccentric and had developed a morbid attachment to the Lemp family home. Thanks to the history of the place, his brother Edwin often encouraged him to move out, but Charles refused. Finally, when he could stand no more of life, he became the fourth member of the Lemp family to commit suicide.

On May 10, 1949, Charles was discovered dead by one of his staff and the police were summoned. When they arrived, they found Lemp still in bed and lightly holding a .38 caliber Army Colt revolver in his right hand. He was the only one of the family who had left a suicide note behind. He had dated the letter May 9 and had written "In case I am found dead blame it on no one but me" and had signed it at the bottom.

Oddly, Charles had made detailed funeral arrangements for himself long before his death. He would be the only member of the family not interred at the mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery and while this might be unusual, it was nearly as strange as the rest of the instructions that he left behind. In a letter that was received at a south St. Louis funeral home in 1941, Lemp ordered that upon his death his body should be immediately taken to the Missouri Crematory. His ashes were then to be placed in a wicker box and buried on his farm.

He also ordered that his body not be bathed, changed or clothed and that no services were to be held for him and no death notice published, no matter what any surviving members of his family might want.

On May 11, 1949, Edwin Lemp picked up his brother's remains at the funeral home and took them to the farm to be buried. And while these instructions were certainly odd, they were not the most enduring mystery to the situation. You see, even after all of these years, there is no indication as to where Charles Lemp's farm was located!

The Lemp family, which had once been so large and prosperous, had now been almost utterly destroyed in a span of less than a century. Only Edwin Lemp remained and he had long avoided the life that had turned so tragic for the rest of his family. He was known as a quiet, reclusive man who had walked away from the Lemp Brewery in 1913 to live a peaceful life on his secluded estate in Kirkwood.

Edwin managed to escape from the family "curse" but as he grew older, he did become more eccentric and developed a terrible fear of being alone. He never spoke about his family or their tragic lives, but it must have preyed on him all the same. His fears caused him to simply entertain more and to keep a companion with him at his estate almost all the time.

Edwin passed away quietly of natural causes at age 90 in 1970. According to Edwin's wishes, he burned all of the paintings that Lemp had collected throughout his life, as well as priceless Lemp family papers and artifacts. These irreplaceable pieces of history vanished in the smoke of a blazing bonfire.

And like the Lemp empire... lost forever.

The Lemp family line died out with him and the family's resting place can now be found in beautiful Bellefontaine Cemetery. But while no one remains in the Lemp family today, it certainly doesn't mean that some of them are not still around.

After the death of Charles Lemp, the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Shortly after that, it fell on hard times and began to deteriorate, along with the nearby neighborhood. In later years, stories began to emerge that residents of the boarding house often complained of ghostly knocks and phantom footsteps in the house. As these tales spread, it became increasingly hard to find tenants to occupy the rooms and because of this, the old Lemp Mansion was rarely filled.

The decline of the house continued until 1975, when Dick Pointer and his family purchased it. The Pointer's began remodeling and renovating the place, working for many years to turn it into a restaurant and an inn. But the Pointer's were soon to find out that they were not alone in the house...

The bulk of the remodeling was done in the 1970s and during this time, workers reported strange things happening in the house, leading many to believe the place was haunted. Reports often varied between feelings of being watched, vanishing tools and strange sounds. Many of the workers actually left the job site and never came back.

Since the restaurant has opened, staff members also have had their own odd experiences. Glasses have been seen to lift off the bar and fly through the air; sounds are often heard that do not have explanation and some have even glimpsed actual apparitions who appear and vanish at will. In addition, many customers and visitors to the house report some pretty weird incidents. It is said that doors lock and unlock on their own; the piano in the bar plays by itself; voices and sounds come from nowhere; and even the spirit of the "Lavender Lady" has been spotted on occasion.

The house has also attracted ghost hunters from around the country, who have come partly due to a November 1980 LIFE magazine article, which named the Lemp Mansion as "one of the most haunted houses in America". It remains a popular place for dinner and spirits today.

The current owner of the house, Paul Pointer, maintains the place as a wonderful eating and lodging establishment and takes the ghosts as just another part of the strange mansion. "People come here expecting to experience weird things," he said, " and fortunately for us, they are rarely disappointed."

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