You might be surprised to learn that I had never been on a tour at the Lemp Mansion until Wednesday. I had only gotten in there once during a storm when lightning was too close. Their famous chicken lunch was served to me one Sunday afternoon. I also had dinner there once, many years ago. However, I had never experienced the Lemp Ghost Experience hosted by Betsy Belanger, a famous psychic and Lemp expert, so it seemed that Halloween was coming.
The Lemp Mansion, located on DeMenil Place, is just a stone’s throw from the Brewery at Cherokee Street. We settled in a bedroom on the second level with about 20 chairs. The original owners of the house were Jacob and Elizabeth Feickert (in-laws William J. Lemp Sr.), who lived across the street from Lemp Cave. Jacob Feickert, a successful saloon proprietor, paid for the construction of the house. Julia Feickert, William’s new wife, lived there with their children and parents.
It was packed the night I was there. There was a corporate event taking place on the first floor and basement. We were, therefore, unable to tour these areas of the house. Belanger’s ghost tour includes one complimentary drink at the bar. I grabbed a Budweiser to go and settled down. On Wednesday, the tour was full and the space was cozy when everyone filled their chairs. The complimentary toasted ravioli bars were a nice touch.
Belanger introduced us to the Lemp Family and I must say that I was impressed by her knowledge about the brewery and the family. She correctly mentioned several facts about the brewery and family history that were not widely known. Belanger, for example, explained that the International Shoe Company didn’t purchase the Lemp Brewery in one piece; instead, contemporary newspaper accounts from the time show that the property was sold in pieces.
Belanger then demonstrated dowsing rods. After seeing Belanger demonstrate dowsing rods, I did some research on the science behind them. They function almost exactly like an Ouija Board. If you’re interested in my thoughts on dowsing rods, search “Ideomotor phenomenon”. The dowsing rods were moved by Billy Lemp Jr. According to Belanger, he is a gentleman who likes to flirt. He did not meet any of the young ladies in the group.
After a bit of laughter, we all got up to go to William Lemp Sr.’s bedroom. It was connected to Julia’s bedroom via large pocket doors. As a sign of their social status, wealthy couples like William and Julia might have separate bedrooms. Belanger explained that William committed suicide in his bedroom, but that the beer baron has now passed on to the Other Side.
William Lemp Sr. does not even haunt the house. He was the one I wanted to speak to most. I want to know the burial place of his mother Justina Baum in Germany. It was a complete letdown. Belanger then stopped and said that she felt someone trying to contact her.
I wonder if Justina Baum is trying to get in touch with me. I wondered. Unfortunately, the spirit did not follow up. After passing through another bedroom, Belanger divided us into two groups to finish our tour. This was when Charles Lemp’s ghost and Cerva, his dog, would contact us in the attic. I waited for the 2nd group to climb up to the attic.
Belanger was leading the second group up the stairs towards the attic when we met two drunken partygoers who had wandered upstairs.
“You are not supposed to be up. Sorry. Belanger told the woman and man, “We have toured up there.” As I passed them, I stared at them and, possibly due to a Lemp ghost’s premonition, I knew that they would ruin everything in 15 minutes. We were treated to the story about Zeke, the Lemp son who lived in the attic.
“This is Zeke’s place and history. They would keep Zeke up here for his protection,” Belanger explained. Then, turning to me, Belanger said, “You remind me of my brother.”
Belanger continued her story of Zeke by telling: “He hides up on the stairs to the roof. Listen for little taps. Relaxation is the best reward.
This is great advice for life, I thought.
Our group turned off all lights and sat in darkness as Belanger tried to bring back the ghost of Charles, the last Lemp occupant of our house.
“Charles, will she let her in?” “Come here, baby, that’s good.”
Belanger said, “See her?” as they stood there. She’s like a little gray ball,” Charles described Cerva’s dog Cerva. “She’s moving towards me.” She is standing in front of me. You can see my fingers …”
The drunken people then walked in together with two of their friends.
Belanger warned that you cannot go up there. “We are taking a private tour. Please return to the basement.
I groaned. I groaned.
Belanger exhaled, “That was just ignorant.”
“Well, Cerva isn’t going to be returning tonight. Which probably means Charles is gone,” Belanger stated. “And the people coming has made him mad.”
I can’t fault him. Drunk people are always the worst. Belanger allowed us to explore the remainder of the attic. She also revealed that a drunk woman had left the water running in her bathtub a month ago, and the water had leaked through the ceiling, causing damage to the historic plasterwork below. The murder mystery men had left by this time, so we were able to explore the first floor. It’s a lovely house with a very friendly staff. I then stepped outside in the dark of South St. Louis to see the steam coming out of the smokestacks from the Lemps’ old rivals, Anheuser-Busch.
Jason Gray, a photographer, and myself were granted complete access to the Lemp Brewery’s Lagering Cellars. Two years ago, I thought, If ever there was a time when ghosts could contact us, this was it. We spent hours in the pitch dark of the subcellars of the malt house. I thought to myself, Okay, guys. If you want to reach me, now is the time.
Unfortunately, I was the only one of the Lemps to venture out from the Other Side as I explored their old brewery. Through old newspaper articles, I learned that many workers were killed during the expansion of malt kilns. A crane fell on a group below, dropping a steel beam. Jason and I would surely be contacted by their spirits, possibly still mad at the Lemps’ inhumane negligence. We were again disappointed. The only thing that disturbed our subterranean work, other than the rushing water from the sump pumps being turned on, was the rushing sound of water. Is there anything hidden in the caves and tunnels beneath Cherokee Street that is still to be discovered? Only ghosts can tell.