Is the Lemp Mansion Haunted? My Personal Experience
I Do Believe in Ghosts
Okay, I admit it—I believe in ghosts.
I enjoy shows like Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, and The Dead Files, but stay with me, okay? I don't just get excited over orbs. I am interested in what I think is harder evidence, like EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon), a fancy phrase for paranormal voices. I try to be critical and find reasonable explanations before I agree there is a ghostly presence.
First, let's talk about the Lemps:
Johann Adam Lemp: The Patriarch
During the 1830s and 1840s, St. Louis, Missouri was experiencing an influx of German immigrants. Many of those Germans came with trades, some as brewers.
Johann Adam Lemp was one of those brewers. Born around 1798 in Eschwege, Germany, his father died when he was thirteen years old. His life continued to be tragic: his first wife died suddenly and one of his sons died at only four years old. Johann later brewed beer and owned a restaurant, which were relative failures. In 1836, he decided to leave for America.
Shortly after arriving in St. Louis around 1838, he attempted a grocery store, but his passion for brewing beer returned stronger than ever. He began producing a lager beer—a kind that most had not seen before. The lager was not as bitter as the traditional ales, and was able to last much longer. His brewery near the riverfront (around the modern day arch) was quite successful. In fact, it grew into the largest brewery in St. Louis and one of the largest brewers in the nation.
Johann wanted to expand, so he moved operations to a location in south St. Louis, known for its' underground caves. These caves, coupled with fresh ice from the nearby Mississippi River were used for a natural and cheap means of refrigeration.
The Lemps were also good at selling their beer. They were the first brewers to sell their beer coast-to-coast and had their own refrigerated railcars for the distribution.
When Johann died, his son William took over the family business.
William Lemp, Sr.
William Lemp came to the States in 1848 and started working at his father's brewery. In 1861, he married Julia Feickert and they had nine children (one passed in infancy): Anna, William Jr., Louis, Charles, Frederick, Hilda, Edwin and Elsa. Julia's father Jacob actually built the original house that we now know as the Lemp Mansion in 1868. The Lemps bought the mansion in 1876 and expanded.
When Johann died, William continued growing the brewery and expanded it to a full city block—including offices, a bottling plant, and an ice house. As he now had refrigeration, he converted the caves into a swimming pool, bowling alley, and theater, and ballroom, among other things. The Lemps even had their beer at the Worlds' Fair in 1904. Things were looking pretty good, until...
In 1901, William's son Frederick—said to be his favorite, died suddenly. I've read that he either died of heart issues or under mysterious circumstances.
William was devastated. Friends said that he never quite recovered, and with the death of his close friend, Captain Frederick Pabst, he became more and more depressed.
On February 13, 1904, he shot himself in his bedroom. Two years later, his wife Julia dies of cancer in his same bedroom.
Prohibition started in 1919 and effectively killed the brewing business for several years. The Lemps tried their own non-beer alternative, Cerva, which was unsuccessful and the business sadly folded. (Through my research, I found that most breweries that did make it during this time greatly diversified their product. Pabst, for example, turned to cheese and soft drinks.) The Lemps sold off what they could of their brewery, including their popular brand, Falstaff.
In 1922, William Lemp, Jr., known as "Billy" shot himself in his office.
The Tragedies Continue
William's daughter Elsa shoots herself in 1920. This death was not at the mansion. Billy's son, William III died of a heart attack in 1943.
Another of William's sons, Charles, who still lived in the mansion but led a bitter existence, shot himself and his dog in 1949. His suicide note read: "...blame it on no one but me".
The Lemp Mansion
Fast forward to 2013:
We arrive at the mansion. In tow, was my boyfriend (now-husband), mother, father, Grandma, Grandpa, and aunt.
The mansion was a creepy, imposing structure—typical architecture of the 1860s. Walking around, it was dark and dramatic. The second floor has bright red walls, which would give anyone the shivers.
My boyfriend, Kelly, and I put our bags in the Elsa suite on the third floor. The room name is a bit misleading—the whole third floor used to be the servant quarters and seems to be the only place quite redone.
As we continued to walk around our surroundings, I was starting to get used to the building. It's tastefully decorated and quite beautiful. I marveled at the lightly colored "Lavender Lady" suite. Even our bedroom was cool with a brick fireplace.
Alright, I thought. I don't hear any ghosties. I should be good.
Kelly and I walked through the old neighborhood while my other family ate at the mansion. I'm a vegetarian, so a $20 chicken dinner was not conducive to me.
We returned. As we settled in, we all migrated to my grandparents' room on the third floor and sat in a circle on the floor to talk. Mom and I put a tape recorder in their bathroom, as well as theirs. (Mom and Dad had an adjoining room with Grandma and Grandpa) We listened to it, and heard some interesting sounds.
After I heard those sounds, I began getting a little freaked out. I had to use the bathroom, but was obviously not going to go in the bathroom that we recorded the sounds! I begged Kelly to come with me to our bedroom—yes—I am a scaredy cat.
When we returned, everybody was asking us if we heard a voice. We replied no. They all said that it was shortly after we left the circle. Why don't you take a listen?
And Now for the Recordings!
What Did You Hear?
The first part is the voice, which you can hear about the 1:01-1:04 spot. A few seconds after, you can hear my Grandma say: "where are you going?", and then you hear my Aunt repeat what was just said. My family continues to talk about it, stunned by what they heard. Grandma said if it was downstairs, they probably wouldn't have heard it from the third floor. Grandpa thinks it came from the bathroom. By the way, I should mention that Grandpa is very hard-of-hearing. We literally have to yell to speak to him and have had to do so for years. Even with a hearing aid, for him to have heard something is interesting. Note: During this time, you can hear the street noise a bit with cars passing. It's not a very busy street, but the highway is nearby.
When Kelly and I returned back to the room, they played the voice back for us, and we were stunned. We hadn't heard anything when we left the room, nor felt anything weird. Strange.
The second taping starts at about the 1:46 mark. This is one that was in my grandparents' bathroom. You can hear Mom putting the tape recorder down, a car outside, Grandma coughing, and us in the circle talking. Around the 2:12, you hear about five sharp bangs. What in the heck was that? We didn't hear anything like this outside the bathroom. Then, it's quiet for the rest of the audio until you hear one of us open the door and grab the recorder.
I have no idea what those bangs are. To me, the closest thing they sound like are BB shots. You might say, "Well, many of the Lemps shot themselves" to which I would say "but this is the servant quarters. There is no record of anyone shooting themselves in the servant quarters." If you have any ideas as to what this is, please let me know. If you also compare the outside sounds to this, it definitely sounds like it's coming from inside the bathroom. Watch out for the loud door around the 4:20 mark.
The third part starts about 4:24 when my Mom says: "putting down" [the tape recorder]. I don't think she shuts the door completely, so you can hear our voices a quite loudly. At around 4:43, you can hear the weird banging again, and the sounds seem to be similar to the ones in the second recording. Again, we did not hear this outside the bathroom. My Mom has one of the sharpest set of ears and if there was something to hear, she would have heard it.
Around 5:05, and for about the next thirty seconds, it sounds like someone is sniffing, then shuffling quietly. Later, you hear us talking softly, and Mom comes in: "coming in!" and opens the door loudly, so be aware.
Part II: What Did You Hear?
The first one here is a recording that Kelly took in my grandparents bathroom. We surmised that we kept getting sounds in there, so why not continue? He says: "okay. I'm leaving the room, shutting door". If remember correctly, he had to slam it shut until about the :19 mark.
We hear some movement at around the :52 spot, with maybe a footstep and what sounds like a heavy metal object. I hear light footsteps starting at the 1:38 mark. There's still outside traffic at around 2:42. I hear light footsteps again at the 4:01 mark until about 4:20 and then some sort of whining sound. You then hear my husband open the door loudly and say "opening door".
The second part starts at about 4:29. Someone, probably my Mom is setting up the recorder and closes the door but doesn't shut it until about 4:57. You can hear us talking in the other room.
At about the 7:07 mark, you can hear some sort of quiet movement. There's a plunk sound at 7:46, and then a cough from my Grandma at 8:00. Shortly after, it sounds like someone is polishing silverware very quietly. (I used to work in banquet serving and have polished a lot of silverware.) 8:09, it's a woman's voice, making a "hm" sound. The polishing sound continues while we hear a sniff. You hear another cough coming from my Dad or Grandpa at 8:33, and hear us talking. I still hear the silverware sound for a second or so more until my Mom quietly comes in and turns off the tape.
What did you think of the recordings?
Analyzing the Sounds
In terms of the recordings, I think this is a decent collection of paranormal sounds. Of course, paranormal is a generic term meaning, "not normal". In this case though, I do believe that a few ghosts are present. My gut feeling of whose voices they were are Billy Lemp, who was known to be a womanizer and was younger when he died, and a female servant polishing silverware. Remember; the bathroom today in the servant quarters was probably not a bathroom then. I believe I remember talking to the owner via email about the attic, and my recollection was that the attic was quite unfinished when the servants lived there and looks nothing now like it did then. Servants could have very well have brought their "work", in this case the silverware, up to polish in between meals, which were taken downstairs in their large kitchen. I know when I worked in banquet serving, we would often polish the silverware in another place beforehand than which we were serving to stay out of the way of the cooks. I believe that the servant woman is continuing to do her job, even after her death. I still have no idea what to make of the BB-gun bullet sounds.
Because I still wanted to remain critical, I asked the most critical person I knew about the sounds: my Dad. His background is in insurance adjusting for over thirty years. He has seen virtually everything. About the voice, he said: "I don't know". He had no reasonable explanation for me.
Kelly, who is my own personal Simon Cowell said that maybe the mansion had a recording somewhere. I told him that if there was, wouldn't a tape recorder up close to where the recording was, wouldn't that make a sound? Some electronics together can make a sound. Also, I told him, that if this was all a recording, how come all of the other accounts that I read have different stories? They have sightings and different voices they heard in other parts of the house. Wouldn't somebody that heard the same recording have the same story? I would think so. Other than that, he said that he didn't know either. Grandpa said something to that effect as well.
With that said, I do believe the mansion is haunted.
How Did We Sleep?
So; I've established that I do believe the mansion is haunted, so how did we sleep?
The answer: We really didn't. Kelly went to bed while the majority of us went to William Lemp Sr.'s room to hang out. It was creepy knowing that two people died in there, but we didn't hear or see anything. I still didn't want to go to bed. We talked until about 1-ish, at which point, I decided that I had to get to bed. We had to drive at 5am back to Central Illinois.
I slept with the light on the whole night and did not get one ounce of sleep. Once again, I did not hear, feel, or see anything, but I was terribly spooked by the sounds we heard with the recorder, and not our own ears. My mind wandered: what else is going on around us that we cannot see? I woke up at least every half hour.
Grandpa later told me that when he went to bed, you know, the bedroom where we had the recordings from their bathroom and their room? As I mentioned, he is very hard-of-hearing and a fairly deep sleeper, yet, he said he heard "things going on all night in the bathroom". He couldn't tell what it sounded like. He said that he also woke up several times during the night and said that it was hot, then really cold, (this man never gets hot!)—and then he would look up at the fan and feel it moving faster, then go back to normal speed. What would be a logical explanation for this?
I'd Love to Return. . .
I'd love to return to spend another night at the Lemp. The rooms are a bit costly, but the adventure was more than worth it. Especially considering what we felt we caught on recording. I just wouldn't recommend it if you actually want to get some sleep.
Until then, bye Ghosties!
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Lauren Sutton