Sunday, October 17, 2021

Dining with the Dead


October is always a great time to ponder the oddities of life, the weird things we notice but then promptly forget.


When asked, we can quickly conjure up haunted houses, insane asylums, and spooky rural roads for common sites of paranormal activity. But haunted restaurants are a thing, too. And there are a lot of them in the U.S. Today, let's whet your appetite for the macabre at the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis.


Johann Adam Lemp

Named one of the “Ten Spookiest Buildings in the World” by CNN Travel, the Lemp Family Mansion has had numerous paranormal groups investigate. But why does this stately home have such a tragic reputation? Maybe it has something to do with the four suicides here – two in the same room.

Johann Adam Lemp arrived in the U.S. from Germany. He operated a grocery for a few years before delving into the brewing industry and starting the Western Brewing Company.


By the 1850s, Lemp’s Extra Pale Ale was a huge success, and the family became part of the reigning beer empire in the city.


William Lemp Sr.

 Adam Lemp died in 1862, and his son William took over the business.

In 1876, William Lemp, Jr. purchased the mansion from his father-in-law to use as a residence and headquarters to the brewing company.



Although the Lemp Western Brewery was the first to have coast-to-coast beer distribution with their “Falstaff” label, obstacles were mounting in the way of their brewing success – mainly the Anheuser-Busch family.


The first family death occurred in 1901 when Lemp Sr.’s heir-apparent son, Fredrick, died of heart failure at 28.

William Lemp Sr. was inconsolable, and three years later shot himself with a .38-caliber revolver in his brewery office.


William Lemp Sr.

His son, William Lemp Jr. moved his family into the mansion and kept it as the company’s headquarters. With Prohibition bearing down, the Lemp family knew their lives would be changing.



The Catacombs
As the spoiled son of a rich man, Lemp took up a decadent lifestyle.
He demanded his wife spend $1,000 a day so others could see how affluent they were. He began entertaining “friends” in the catacombs created under the mansion.  


It was rumored that Lemp Jr. had an illegitimate child with another woman. The boy was said to be born with Down syndrome, so to keep gossip at bay, Lemp hid the child in the attic, forcing him to live there with only servants to tend him.


Known as “Monkey Face Boy,” the unwanted child remained hidden away until he died in his thirties. He is possibly one of the “long-term residents” of the mansion.


Elsa Lemp Wright

Elsa Lemp Wright, Lemp, Sr’s daughter, shot herself in her home on March 20, 1920. She was said to be despondent over her failed marriage.




Lemp Brewery

In 1922, William Lemp, Jr. sold the money-making “Falstaff” logo to another brewer. He then sold the brewery buildings for a pittance of what they had been worth before Prohibition. On December 29, William announced he would sell the mansion. With that, he went into his office and shot himself in the heart - 18 years after his father’s suicide.


The family decided not to sell the property, although they would no longer preside over a brewing empire in St. Louis.

In 1949, Charles Lemp – William Jr’s brother, took his life in the same office, ending the family’s residency in the building.


The mansion was soon sold and turned into a boarding house. It was then when talk of spirits began to fly. Investigators have suggested that up to nine spirits reside in the home, mainly in the attic, on the stairs, and in the basement near the entrance to the catacombs - referred to by restaurant staff as “The Gates of Hell.”



Employees and patrons have reported hearing footsteps when no one was in the vicinity. The sound of rapping has been heard along with the occasional appearance of an apparition. Doors lock and unlock themselves, and the piano will play when no one is nearby.


In 1975, Dick Pointer saw the ghost angle as a business opportunity and turned it into a restaurant and hotel.


Today the Lemp Mansion has been restored to its turn-of-the-century style. It now boasts a fine dining restaurant, dinner theatre, and inn. Tours of the facility are available.


Now is the perfect time for a ghostly get-away to the Lemp Mansion. Haunted history tours are offered, but October events sell out quickly. Regular Monday evening tours are held year-round.


Although I have not spent the night, I have dined here. And it is indeed well worth putting on your bucket list of “must-see” places, especially during the witching month.

~ Joy


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