The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, MO, is an astounding structure. It is filled with beautiful Victorian furniture and antiques and oozes affluence and grandeur, but beneath the surface lies a tragic tale, one of infidelity, and death that still affects the location today. It is home to many spirits who still haunt the halls of the mansion.
Johann Adam Lemp arrived in St. Louis from Eschwege, Germany in 1838. He built a small grocery store on the corner of (now) Delmar and 6th Streets and sold various household wares, grocery items, and homemade beer, made from a recipe created by his father. In a time when beer was dark, Lemp’s light beer (lager) was a welcome arrival and an instant hit. Just two years later, Lemp abandoned his store and opened a brewery with a small pub attached, manufacturing his beer in large quantities to satisfy the growing demand. The brewery was located close to where the Gateway Arch stands today. He began storing the beer in a limestone cave not far from the brewery in order to stockpile and brew his product and found the conditions promoted the lager process. Ice was chipped from the nearby Mississippi River to keep the cave cool. Lemp’s Western Brewing Company was the largest in the city in the 1850’s and the beer took first prize at the annual St. Louis Fair in 1858.
In 1862, Johann Lemp died and the business was taken over by his son William J. Lemp Sr. By the 1870’s the Lemp family was a symbol of wealth and power and the brewery controlled the beer market in St. Louis. In 1876, he purchased a home a short distance from the brewery that had been built by his wife’s father, Jacob Feickert, and began renovating the expanding the house and the brewery. By the time he was finished, Lemp Mansion, and the surrounding land, spanned 5 city blocks. A tunnel was built in the basement that led from the house to the brewery.
William Sr. had hoped to pass the business on to his son Frederick, but he passed away in 1901 from heart failure. Frederick was never the picture of good health, so his passing was not a surprise, but nonetheless his passing hit William hard. A few years after Frederick’s death, William Sr. committed suicide by shooting himself.
Upon his father’s passing, William Jr. inherited the business and the Lemp fortune. William was a womanizer and threw lavish parties in the tunnels beneath the mansion which had a large concrete swimming pool and bowling alley. It is said that he gave his wife, Lillian, called The Lavender Lady due to her propensity to always wear the color, $1,000 per day for shopping expenses to keep her preoccupied and threatened to lessen the amount if she did not spend it all. The purpose was to keep her mind elsewhere, allowing William to continue his adulterous lifestyle.
William’s lifestyle eventually caught up with him and he fathered a son outside of his marriage. The boy was born with down syndrome and was forced to live with the servants in the attic, never allowed to live in the main house, and was hidden from public view. A nanny to the boy and the family chauffeur verified the child’s existence though no documents exist to support his birth.
In 1908, William filed for divorce and the brewery was barely limping along. Nine of the large breweries in St. Louis had merged to form the Independent Breweries Company, creating huge competition that Lemp Brewery had never faced. When prohibition reared its head in 1919, William decided to close the brewery for good and without notice to anyone. Workers arrived to begin the day and were met with closed doors and locked gates. In 1922, William sold the logo and the building for a pittance compared to what the company was worth before prohibition.
William Jr. became reclusive and began complaining of ill health and, in 1922, committed suicide. Much like his father, he chose to shoot himself in the dining room of the house. Elsa, William Sr’s daughter also shot herself in 1920 after a long period of emotional distress due to her rocky marriage.
In 1943, William III died of heart failure at the age of 42. Around this time, William Jr’s illegitimate child, now in his 30’s, passed away. He is buried on the property under a simple marker that simply reads, “Lemp,” but in life he was simply known as “The Monkey Faced Boy.”
William’s brother, Charles, took ownership of the mansion after William Jr’s passing and remodeled the house back into a residence, removing the offices. Charles developed an odd fear of germs and wore gloves constantly, constantly washing his hands. In 1949, Charles climbed the stairs to the second floor, after shooting his beloved doberman pincer in the basement, and shot himself.
The Lemp family line eventually died out, the remaining members passing of natural causes, and the family plot can be found in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
There is a long list of paranormal experiences at Lemp Mansion including footsteps, the sounds of someone knocking on and slamming doors, and the feeling of being watched. Various apparitions have been seen including that of a small boy with a facial deformity. It is said he asks people to play with him and many investigators have left toys for the spirit. They place the toys in the center of the attic room where the boy was said to stay, and draw a chalk circle around them. When they return to the space, the toys have moved outside the circle. His face can sometimes be seen in the attic windows from the street.
At the bar, drinks often stir themselves and some visitors report glasses being flung across the room. The piano is also said to play itself. Tools disappear and are never found.
In the main floor bathroom, guests state they have seen a man peek over the partition while they are taking a shower. It is believed that this is the ghost of William Jr. given his womanizing ways.
In William Sr’s room, guests report hearing someone running up the stairs and kicking at the door. It is said that when William Sr. shot himself, William Jr. ran up the stairs and began trying to kick the door down.
Visit the Mansion
The mansion has been featured in many magazines and has had many ghost hunting groups stay the night. Today, the mansion features a bed and breakfast, dinner theater, and restaurant and offers tours to those souls who are brave enough.
Have you taken the Lemp Mansion tour? Did you have any experiences there? Let us know in the comments below.
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