What should have been a lasting legacy of beer brewing and American success became a tale of horror and loss for the Lemp family of St. Louis. Host to tragic illness, three family suicides, cruelty, and debauchery, and what many say is a cast of ghosts, the Lemp mansion which is now an inn and restaurant located at 3322 DeMenil Place St. Louis, Missouri is known as one of the most haunted properties in America. It has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles as well as on the most popular ghost hunting TV shows, including Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures.. In 1980, Life Magazine called it one of the 9 most haunted places in the country. There have been mediums, historians, guests, and staff who have documented their strange experiences in this grand old showplace.
William Lemp Sr. and his wife Julia purchased the residence in 1876. The already spectacular 33 room residence was further adorned with amenities that would reflect the wealth and influence of the family on St. Louis. There was an “open air elevator” installed. In the natural caverns below the residence there was built an auditorium and swimming pool. Also there was a tunnel system that led to the brewery, as the Lemp family mansion also served as office space for the Western Brewing Company, which William inherited from his father Adam Lemp. Johann Adam Lemp immigrated to the United States in 1836. He had settled in St. Louis by 1838 where he became a grocer. Offering a special item found nowhere else, his father’s German lager. The lager became so popular that Adam closed the grocery store and started the Western Brewing Company. Adam died a millionaire in 1862. William Sr. took his father’s already successful brewery and expanded it. Eventually Lemp beer would be sold around the world thanks to innovations that William brought to the company, such as a railroad which included refrigerated cars. This allowed Lemp to sell his brew from coast to coast. In 1892, Western Brewing Company incorporated into the William J. Lemp Brewing Company. The shareholders installed William Sr. as president, William Lemp Jr. as vice-president, William Sr.’s sons Charles and Louis were also named officers of the company. William had befriended Frederick Pabst (Pabst Blue Ribbon), whose son Gustav wed William’s daughter Hilda. The Lemp’s were on top of the world enjoying much business and personal success. William Sr. was grooming his son Frederick to take over the company. But then this is where fate and tragedy begin to collide.
In 1901 Frederick Lemp, the fourth son of William Lemp died of heart failure. This has been reported as a mysterious illness as it was totally unexpected as Frederick was only 28 at the time of his death. William Sr. carried on for a few more years until just after his best friend Frederick Pabst died in January 1904. This seemed to be more than William Lemp could take. In an upstairs bedroom of the mansion on February 13, 1904, William Lemp Sr. ended his life with a gunshot wound to the head. Just before the Falstaff brand of beer was to debut at the World’s Fair. He was 68.
By November of 1904, William Lemp Jr. took over the brewing business his grandfather started and his father made into an empire. Lemp Jr. and his wife Lilian, who was called the “Lavender Lady” due to her clothing and personal carriage being adorned in purple, lived lavishly. Many accounts say that William Jr. threw parties below the mansion to entertain his guests with beer, prostitutes and debauchery. Lilian had a daily spending limit of $1000.00. Apparently all was not well in the Lemp mansion. Lilian filed for divorce from William, citing cruelty and abuse. She was awarded the divorce, custody of their only child William III, and an alimony sum of $100,000. During the ugly divorce proceeding it was alleged that William Jr. had fathered an illegitimate child. Some stories claim that he kept the boy hidden away in the attic of the Lemp mansion.
William Jr. seemed to lack his father’s business acumen. He had allowed the brewery to fall behind the times and did little to position the business for Prohibition, which outlawed the sale of alcohol in the United States. The Falstaff trademark was sold. The entire brewing complex was sold for a mere $588,000 to International Shoe Company, having been valued at over $7 million previously. William “Billy” Lemp Jr. became the second Lemp to shoot himself in the mansion. On December 22, 1922 Billy dismissed his secretary, and then shot himself in his office at age 55. A few years earlier Elsa Lemp Wright, William Jr’s sister and her husband Thomas divorced in 1918. The couple were remarried in March 1920 after reconciling. However, on the 20th of March 1920, Elsa shot herself in her bed in the residence she and Thomas shared at Hortense Place. Just 12 days after having remarried.
The last Lemp to live in the mansion was William Sr.’s son Charles. The mansion had been restored after the business had failed. Charles Lemp succumbed to the demons plaguing the family. On May 10, 1949 in a room which was adjoined to the office where his brother Billy had died, Charles first shot his dog, then himself. He left a note that read; “In case I am found dead, blame it on no one but me.”
Betsy Burnette-Belanger a medium and historian gives regular tours at the mansion. She says there is a young boy she calls Zeke, who lives in the attic area. This would lend credibility to the fact that Bill Lemp may have hid away a son. Betsy says that the boy would play near the floor level windows and would wave at passersby in his time, and even now. She claims that the people who saw him in the windows would call him names. As he had been born with deformities and was “challenged”. She claims that this still happens to this day. She has a fondness for this boy who is very scared and alone. Zeke has been referred to as “the monkey-face boy” in some of the mansion’s accounts. Betsy says that she once placed a ‘teddy bear’ on the stairs, and that the bear seemingly began swaying in the air…on its own. She attributes this to Zeke. There are guests who have reported hearing a little boy’s voice from the attic Though there is no official record of any other Lemp children.
Visitors to the Lemp Mansion Inn and Restaurant have been terrified over experiences with the ghostly inhabitants. These experiences include sightings of apparitions including Julia Lemp, the matriarch of the Lemp family. There are the usual sounds of voices and slamming doors. Guests as well as staff have reported dishes being tossed apparently by ghosts. Also, there are reports of a foul odor like a “sewer” smell. Others report fine perfume and cigar smoke seemingly appearing from nowhere. The piano is said to pay itself.
Burnett-Belanger has also described a spirit she calls the “Stinky Man” (could also be the source of the sewer odor). This is a name she uses in reference to the fact he doesn’t want her around. She claims he has ordered her to get out of his house and has been infuriated that she doesn’t leave and isn’t scared of him. This may be Charles Lemp, who Betsy stated was ill when he had committed suicide. Guests who stay in this room often report the disappearance of items…that they never find.
Guests have reported seeing Billy Lemp’s ghost peering into bathrooms and bedrooms within the mansion. Given his reputation as a drunken womanizer, who was cruel to his wife and may have hidden away a scared and developmentally challenged child with disabilities, this seems to fit his character.
The Lavender Lady
The ghost of Lilian Lemp has been reported in many parts of the house. Often on the staircase which leads to the second floor. Several guests have reported seeing her figure near the entrance to the bar area. While she and Billy Lemp didn’t get along in life, she seems to wish to remain in the Lemp family home.
The Lady in White
This photo is of an apparition dressed in white. Whether it is one of the Lemp daughter’s, wives or someone else entirely is unknown.
If you find yourself in the St. Louis area, you might drop into the Lemp Mansion to check on these haunted stories for yourself.
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