Ghosts of the Prairie


The Ghosts of St. Charles

The South Main Street antique district in St. Charles, Missouri is a quaint, historic area with a number of old, original buildings and a distinguished past. This small town, alongside the Missouri River, dates back more than two centuries and the footsteps of history have certainly left their mark on the brick streets and cobblestone walks. This may be one of the reasons why the town is considered so haunted and why South Main Street has so many ghosts. But it�s not only the passage of time that has left spirits behind here... some believe an old cemetery may have something to do with it as well!

The first settlers came to St. Charles in 1769 when a French Canadian trapper named Louis Blanchette arrived in the area. He started a small settlement and called the region �Les Petites Cote� or �The Little Hills�. Blanchette became the first commander of St. Charles, under Spanish rule, but the area was soon filled with French settlers. In 1800, Spain gave the Louisiana Territory to France and then in 1804, it was sold to the United States under Thomas Jefferson. The president then established an expedition to explore the new region and to chart the course of the Missouri River. Jefferson put the command of the expedition into the hands of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In May 1804, the two men outfitted their journey in St. Charles and then departed for the western frontier. 
Another famous explorer was Daniel Boone, who came to St. Charles from Kentucky in 1795. He joined his sons, who had a homestead south of town. Boone continued to explore the region and a trail that he created here, Boone�s Lick Road, became the starting point for both the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails. Boone's home is located near St. Charles and it has been said that the ghost of his wife, Rebecca, can still be found lingering near her gravesite. 

As St. Charles began to grow, it saw an influx of German settlers, thanks to reports that the area resembled the Rhine Valley back in Germany. German businesses began to spring up all over town, including a tobacco factory and a brewery. In 1821, when Missouri became a state, the first capitol was located in St. Charles. It was located here for five years while a permanent building was constructed in Jefferson City.

The history of the town seems to lend itself to ghosts and nowhere is this as evident as along the historic Main Street, which lies along the river. This brick paved roadway is unrivaled by any in the area for it's collection of craft and antique shops... and perhaps for its ghosts! One large of this historic area, which includes a quaint former inn called the FARMER'S HOME, is built directly on top of an old cemetery. In his book BEYOND THE GRAVE, author Troy Taylor takes a closer look at this chilling spot and here in the Haunted Missouri section, we offer an exclusive excerpt from the book called GHOSTS UNDER MAIN STREET!

Perhaps because of this old graveyard (mentioned in the excerpt) South Main Street is a very haunted place. One site is a delightful restaurant called THE MOTHER-IN-LAW HOUSE. The house was built in 1866 by Francis Kremer, the owner of a flourishing mill in the city. It is believed to be the first double house built in St. Charles. Around the time of its construction, the house earned a rather peculiar nickname, which it still enjoys today. It seems that Mrs. Kremer was very homesick for her mother, so her husband built the house with both sides exactly alike. Once side was for the family and the other side was for Kremer's mother-in-law.
The building today is a restaurant that plays host to hungry customers.. and to an unearthly spirit as well!
Owner Donna Hafer has long spoke of the fact that nothing ever seems to go right on the northern side of the restaurant. Over the years, many customers have spoken of the strange events, including glasses, drinks and utensils that disappear with no explanation; water glasses that mysteriously spill; coffee cups that upend and dump in the laps of guests; food that unexplainably changes temperature; and more!
Eventually, she decided to re-decorate that end of the building and while the ghost remains, she does not seem to be as unhappy about being around anymore!

According to reports, the BOONE'S LICK TRAIL INN is also said to have a resident ghost. The owners state that this spirit is actually very helpful though, assisting them as they climb a certain flight of stairs, which are narrow and uneven. The previous owner of the place had warned them about other activity, but so far, only a well-placed hand to steady them on the staircase has been the only sign of a presence. Some have suggested that this ghost may be the spirit of a former occupant who met their own death on these stairs!

THE DAVID MCNAIR HOUSE at 724 South Main is home to a "cooking ghost". Occupants have reported over the years that at the oddest times, the house suddenly fills with the smell of home-cooked soup, even though nothing is cooking there at all.

The historic WINERY OF THE LITTLE HILLS has allegedly been the location of two ghosts. Witnesses say that they are those of a man and a woman in period clothing who vanish whenever they are approached. They may not be the only ghosts haunting the place either. Apparently, there are also mischievous spirits who steal silverware, only to return it later in unusual places. They are also said to mess up the bar area, spill wine, rearrange glasses and move things around.

The ghost of a little girl has been reported in a number of different buildings along South Main Street, including in 523 and 519 South Main. The stories say that she is the ghost of a child who died after being badly burned around a stove in the 1940's, but no one really knows for sure. A former employee of a shop at 523 used to talk to seeing the little girl quite often. While working, she would sometimes see racks sway and spin by themselves. Whenever the staff member spoke up and asked them to stop, they always did. There was also a miniature sewing machine in the store that the little ghost girl liked to play with. The employees would always put it away at night and when they came in the next day, they would find it out on the counter or in another part of the store. 

While the little girl has also been seen at 519, she is not the only ghost to haunt this location. Across the street from here is a building called THE CROW'S NEST. This building is said to be responsible for the ghost who haunts 519. Many years ago, it was a house that was owned by an old riverboat captain. He became quite upset when the Crow's Nest was constructed because it blocked his view of the Missouri River. Since his death, he has been observed sitting in a rocking chair and looking out the window at 519. He is also said to gently tap people on the shoulder as they come up to the second floor of the building and occasionally move things about. A former occupant of the place once told me that sometimes, on quiet evenings, she would hear the creak of the captain's chair on the upper floor... even though no rocking chair was present at the time! 

 Another haunted site (although long since destroyed) was the old POINDEXTER HOUSE on Jefferson Street. It was built in 1855 and famous for it's ghosts, including a slave girl who had committed suicide in the attic and a Civil War soldier. The house was vacant most of the time and although it was often rented, no one ever stayed for long. it was torn down in 1963 to make way for a new post office.

Also in St. Charles is LINDENWOOD COLLEGE, which has long been said to be haunted by the ghost of it's founder, Mary Easton Sibley. The college was founded in 1853 and was the first university for women west of the Mississippi River. Mary's ghost is said to be responsible for the good luck that has come to the school because before her death, she reportedly promised the students that she would always watch over them. Her body also remains behind as well. She is buried with her family in a small cemetery on the campus.

The most famous haunted spot on campus is SIBLEY HALL. This was the former Sibley family home and it later became the school's first residence hall. Back in the days when it was being used as a dormitory, many of the residents claimed to hear loud noises in the vacant rooms and could find no cause for the sounds. They also heard footsteps going up and down the stairs... the sounds of a piano being played in the empty hall where Mary Sibley's piano was stored... they would find furniture rearranged and would often report lights turning on and off in parts of the building that were always closed up and locked.

One summer when the school was empty, Sibley Hall was being renovated. There was no one in the building but workmen and all of the doors were kept locked. The men were busy one day on the lower floor when they heard the sound of girl�s voices upstairs, loud sounds like drawers being opened and closed and sounds like trunks being dragged across the floor. At quitting time, several of the men went upstairs to make sure the ladies could get out and to make sure they locked the doors on their way out. They had no idea what they were going to find, assuming that several young ladies were upstairs doing some work of their own. They found no one there. The upper floors were completely vacant.

Years ago, campus legend stated that Mary Sibley always returned to the school every Halloween night. It was said that she would ride across the campus on her horse. Others claimed that she rose from the grave and walked through Sibley Hall. One year, a student decided to dress up in old-fashioned clothes like Mary Sibley and frighten the other girls. As she made her way into the hall where the piano was kept, she realized that she was not in the room alone. She looked up and saw a woman in a period dress and when she turned... the student saw the face of Mary Sibley! The girl screamed and fainted dead away. Her Halloween prank had apparently been interrupted by the real thing! 

St. Charles, Missouri is located west of St. Louis, just across the Mississippi River. It can be found by taking Interstate 70 west from St. Louis.

Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.