Saint Louis, MO

History of the Lemp Mansion in Missouri includes tales of hauntings and suicides

CJ Coombs

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Lemp Mansion in 2012.Photo by Paul Sableman, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Lemp Mansion has been labeled as one of the 10 most haunted places in the country. When you read about the family history, which has been written about many times, it's easy to wonder and speculate whether the hauntings are real. Real or not, the Lemp family history is fascinating.

If you're a fan of paranormal activity, then this might be a place to put on your map of travels. The family history and associated hauntings are one of the most interesting stories I've encountered.

A brief history of the mansion, the Lemp family, and hauntings

The Lemp Mansion was built in the late 1800s in St. Louis, Missouri, and is located in Benton Park. Four members of the Lemp family committed suicide. The mansion has gone from being a home to millionaires to being run-down and finally restored into a dinner theatre, restaurant, and bed and breakfast.

Before prohibition came, the William J. Lemp Brewing Co. had a lead in the beer market in St. Louis with its brand Falstaff.

The Lemp family

In 1838, Johann Adam Lemp ("Adam") came to St. Louis from Germany. He built a grocery store and one of the items sold was homemade beer. The beer or lager was a light golden color and its recipe provided by his father became so popular that he left the grocery store and constructed a small brewery in 1840.

Attached to Lemp's Western Brewing Co. was a pub. In time, the brewery was not large enough to manage the production and the storage. Interestingly, Adam found a limestone cave that gave him the necessary cool conditions for storage.

When Adam died on August 25, 1862, he was a millionaire. His son, William, Sr. took over by expanding the brewery and it would eventually cover five blocks in the city.

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Aerial view of Lemp Brewery.Photo by Mrouse, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

The Lemps had a lot of wealth and power by the 1870s

William's father-in-law had a house built not far from the brewery. In 1876, he purchased it and used it as an office and residence. Renovations were made to expand all 33 rooms into a Victorian showplace. Of interest, there was a tunnel constructed from the mansion that went from the basement into the caves and into the brewery. When modern refrigeration was available, parts of the cave were freed up, and a theatre and auditorium were built in that space. Further, a large swimming pool was added and a bowling alley.

In the midst of this success, the Lemp family experienced the first of many tragedies when Frederick Lemp, William Sr’s favorite son and heir apparent died in 1901 at the age of 28. Frederick, who had never been in extremely good health, died of heart failure. (Source.)
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William J. Lemp, Sr. (b. Feb. 21, 1836, d. Feb. 13, 1904).Find a grave.

After Frederick died, William, Sr. began to withdraw from the public. In January 1904, he also lost a close friend, Frederick Pabst. His mental and physical health began to suffer. In the following month on February 13, 1904, he committed suicide with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. In the fall of that year, his son, William Lemp Jr. took over the business. Spending money wasn't a problem for him and his wife, Lillian Handlan (railroad supply heiress) referred to as the “Lavender Lady” because of her affinity with the color lavender.

Will enjoyed showing off his 'trophy wife' but Will was a 'player.' Born with a 'silver spoon in his mouth,' he was used to doing and acting as he pleased. (Source.)

William, Jr. was apparently a partier and brought in friends in the entertainment area of the caves including prostitutes. He had a son with another woman and there were rumors that for the life of the boy, he was hidden in the attic of the mansion. A former nanny and chauffeur were interviewed by a historian in St. Louis who confirmed the existence of the boy. Allegedly the boy had Down's Syndrome and was labeled as the Monkey Face Boy.

In 1983, Steve and DC, two radio disc jockeys from KWK, held a Halloween broadcast from the Lemp Mansion. During that broadcast, they asked the most basic question of any paranormal investigation “Is anyone with us?” After asking the question, their microphones picked up the EVP “I am Zeke.” ... According to myth, his mother was a prostitute; Zeke was mentally disabled and physically deformed, and they kept him chained up on the third floor of the Lemp Mansion...but one fact cannot be disputed, during the 1950’s people had seen a young physically deformed boy looking out of the third story rectangular windows and waving to pedestrians on the sidewalk below. (Source.)

In 1906, William, Jr.'s mother died of cancer. Also in that year, some of the large breweries combined forming the Independent Breweries Company that created competition for Lemp Brewery. In 1908, William, Jr. divorced his wife. Lillian probably should have divorced him sooner. She had custody of their son, William Lemp, III, and she left the public eye.

By the time World War I was happening, the brewery lost money and equipment was going bad. William Jr. began to retreat more to a country home he had built. In 1915, he married Ellie Limberg.

In 1919, prohibition started showing its face. Lemp's family members were wealthy enough to lose interest in keeping the brewery alive. Giving up hope that Prohibition would be repealed, William Jr. shut down the Lemp Brewery without giving notice including to the employees.

On March 20, 1920, William jr.'s sister, Elsa Lemp Wright, shot herself as her father did which might have been due to a bad marriage. William, Jr. began to sell the assets of the plant. In 1922, he sold the Falstaff logo to another brewer, Joseph Griesedieck, for $25,000 and it would subsequently become known as The Falstaff Brewing Company. The estimated worth of the brewery buildings was $7 million and this was prior to Prohibition. They ended up being sold to the International Shoe Co. for $588,000. William, Jr. fell into depression. Of note, $588,000 in 1922 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $10,118,815 today.

Like his father and sister, William Jr. shot himself on December 29, 1922. His brother, Charles was never involved with the brewery business. He did remodel the mansion to a residence again and lived there with a couple of servants and the illegitimate child of William, Jr. Apparently, as Charles aged, he developed a fear of germs associated with obsessive-compulsive behavior.

In 1943, at the age of 42, William Lemp III died of a heart attack. And, now older, William, Jr.'s illegitimate son died. It's a little sad to learn that although he's buried in the family plot, he only has a small marker with the word, Lemp. After the son died, Charles committed suicide by a gunshot. His body was discovered on May 10, 1949.

Brother Edwin lived a life of seclusion at an estate in Kirkwood, Missouri. He removed himself from the brewery in 1913. He quietly passed away at the age of 90 from natural causes in 1970. Unfortunately, and pursuant to Edwin's final wishes,

[H]is butler burned all of the paintings that the Lemps had collected throughout his life, as well as priceless Lemp family documents and artifacts. These irreplaceable pieces of history vanished in the smoke of a blazing bonfire. (Source.)

The Lemp family can be found at Bellefontaine Cemetery.

Stories of hauntings

The mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house after Charles died. In time, it began to deteriorate and stories of hauntings became.

In 1975, Dick Pointer and his family bought the mansion. The mansion became an opportunity. Renovations began to revitalize it into an inn and restaurant. As with other stories I've read about other haunted buildings, this, too, had workers making claims of odd things and strange sounds. A lot of them stopped working and left.

Since the restaurant opened, staff members have reported several strange experiences. Again, apparitions appear and then quickly vanish, voices and sounds come from nowhere, and glasses will often lift off the bar flying through the air by themselves. On other occasions, doors are said to lock and unlock by themselves, lights inexplicably turn on and off of their own free will, and the piano bar often plays when no one is near. (Source.)

Supposedly, there are three areas that have the most activity in the mansion. The stairway, the attic where William, Jr.'s illegitimate son was kept, and oddly enough the basement has been referred to as the Gates of Hell. Recall that the basement was also the way you entered the caves of the area under the mansion and brewery.

From the street, the face of the boy kept in the attic has been seen looking out the windows. Also on an eerie note, ghost investigators leave toys in the room with a circle drawn around them. When they come back the next day, the toys are always found somewhere else.

There is a women's bathroom downstairs said to be where William, Jr., the womanizer, would go because it had a shower in it. Allegedly, women have said they've seen a man peeking over the stall.

When William, Sr. killed himself, he had apparently locked the door. Wiliiam Jr. would run up the stairs and kick at the door. Guests have said they can hear someone running up the stairs and kicking at the door.

It's no surprise that ghost hunters come to the mansion to investigate it. The mansion houses a bed and breakfast, a mystery dinner theater, and a fine dining restaurant. They also have available tours. It's called the Lemp Experience where you can search for paranormal activity.

The Lemp Mansion can also host your wedding and is listed on WeddingWire and The Knot.

The media

See The Travel Channel's website for Ghost Adventures' information concerning its episode of Lemp Mansion & Brewery. On this page, you can find video excerpts and showtimes, and photos.

Published in "St. Louis," More Mysteries Uncovered in the Lemp Family History, you learn more about the founder, Adam Lemp, and his three wives.

Below is a short video focusing on the history of the haunted mansion. It was produced in August 2011 by St. Louis Live.

You can see more birth and death information about the Lemp family members at Find-a-Grave.

The Lemp Mansion is located at 3322 De Menil Place, St. Louis, Missouri.

Thank you for reading.

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30 years of legal secretarial experience, and a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, my life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO
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