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Ghost Hunters and the Ghosts of St. Charles: Over My Dead Body – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #41

Goellner Printing, St. Charles, MO - Ghost Hunters and the Ghosts of St. Charles: Over My Dead Body - The Big Séance Podcast #41, BigSeance.comIn an upcoming episode of Syfy’s 10th season of Ghost Hunters, T.A.P.S. visits a city I love and know well — St. Charles, Missouri. I’ve been waiting patiently for this special episode, and I’ll give you a heads up on the locations and stories you’re likely to see. Also, check out “Ghosts of St. Charles“, a great book by Michael Henry!

 

Psst… Are you looking for the SpeakPipe link?

Get to this episode in iTunes!
Direct Download Link

 

The Big Séance Podcast with Patrick Keller - Paranormal, paranerd

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Photography from Saint Peter’s Cemetery, Saint Charles, Missouri

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cemeteries, cemetery photography, lichen, st Charles, Missouri

 

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For the full set of photos, visit the Saint Peter’s Cemetery album on my Flikr page.

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Other recent cemetery photography posts:

Return to the Old Catholic Cemetery in Lexington, Missouri

The Iron Fence and the Family Plot

Cemetery of Immaculate Conception of Dardenne, Missouri

Francis Howell Cemetery, St. Charles, Missouri

Perfectly Lonely and Snowy City of Souls – Return to Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis

 

 


Mad Madame Lalaurie: An Interview with Author, Victoria Cosner Love, Part 1

Kathy Bates playing Delphine Lalaurie in American Horror Story: Coven. Kathy used Victoria's book to research the role. (Photo via Entertainment Weekly.

Kathy Bates playing Delphine Lalaurie in American Horror Story: Coven. Bates used Victoria Cosner Love’s book to research the role. (Photo via Entertainment Weekly.)

If you’ve ever visited New Orleans, you’ve almost certainly been introduced to the story and the legend. But even if you didn’t know who Delphine Lalaurie was prior to October 9, 2013, chances are the premier of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Coven (the third season of the hit FX horror anthology), or at least the water cooler discussions the next day, introduced you to this hauntingly fascinating woman.  

On a beautiful and sunny Thursday in June, I met my new friend, Victoria Cosner Love, at Picasso’s Coffee House  on historic Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri. We’ve met before, but this time I was honored to have the opportunity to interview her about her fascinating book, Mad Madame Lalaurie: New Orleans’ Most Famous Murderess Revealed, which as you’ll learn below, was used by the brilliant Kathy Bates to research her role. As you’ll also see, Victoria is so very passionate about history and how we view it. Her and I could hang out and talk all day. 

 

Part One of My Interview with Author, Victoria Cosner Love

For Part Two, click HERE

Patrick Keller: So for those readers who may be new to Madame Lalaurie or this story, is it possible to give us a quick glimpse into the life of this strangely fascinating woman?

Victoria Cosner Love: Delphine Lalaurie was a Creole socialite, and the incidents take place in 1834. That’s when it culminated. And she had been married to extremely influential men. She was from a very influential, early New Orleans family. And in 1834 the house caught on fire and everyone kept asking where the slaves were and one of the judges that was a neighbor, broke into where they said the slaves were, and they found seven people who had obviously been, you know, malnourished, tortured, and kept there for a very, very long time. And so they start clearing everybody out. The mob starts growing. Madame Lalaurie and her slimy husband—not that I have any opinions—go on the road and disappear from history, leaving the people there of New Orleans to be angry, and burn down the house. And when you go on the ghost tours, they tell a very, very vivid story of medical experiments, of… I mean just really nasty, pealing skin back type of medical experiments. And for a woman to do that, it was fascinating, because women generally just don’t do that. They have their own ways of torturing men, and it intrigued me, and so that’s where the chase of the story started.

PK: Cool! So obviously I have a lot of questions about the book, but how do you go about researching for a project like this? This was your first, right?

VCL: No.

PK: Like this? No? [referring to Mad Madame Lalaurie]

VCL: Well like this, yes. This is my first true crime. I wrote a bio-bibliography on women under both sides of the Third Reich [Women under the Third Reich: A Biographical Dictionary]. It’s a library book. But we found all these incredible women, and when you go to like the holocaust museum in D.C., which is where I worked for a long time, there’s nothing in there about the women. And so this whole women’s history piece of forgotten history is what fascinates me. In my job I’m a historian. So in my geek world I’m a historian and in my job I’m a historian, and the women generally are left out, along with, you know, the homosexual/transsexual community, along with the people of different colors, along with… they’re all left out. White man wins, white man gets to do it. And you know, this is not mocking you, sir [referring to yours truly]… and your white manness. [We both have a laugh.] But we’ll let that go. But, you know, so why is a woman doing this, in 1830, when she’s filthy rich, she’s rich in her own right, she has a young husband who is a doctor, who happened to specialize in alternative medicine, e.g. straightening spines, among other things. He also had a dental background, which I found fascinating… [I interrupt] …because that was just creepy.

PK: I needed to get to know him probably. (Referring to my scoliosis, while giggling.)

VCL: I don’t know. You should see the… did you see the picture of the… [An illustration of a torture victim in the book.] I don’t think so. I think that you’d want to just live the way you are. So when I started researching it, there were two issues. One is that a lot of it was in French, and luckily my husband is fluent in French. So I felt like the dog in the [Beggin’ Strips] commercial. What does it say? What does it say? But all the court documents were in English, because at that point we are in the United States in New Orleans, even though many people didn’t believe that, nor would stand by it, so you have everything in French and English going on. Lucky for me, I had the internet. I only had to go down to New Orleans a couple times. When I found out there was no book on her, I was… like I said, how can you have tours that go by there every single day, six and seven times a day, and nobody’s ever written on her? And I got asked by a lot of New Orleans people… [as I] I live here in St. Louis. And they’d say why did you write this?, and my answer was always why didn’t you? You know? Why didn’t a New Orleans person write this book? So I started looking at the internet and met some fascinating people, including a guy whose job is making floats for the Mardi Gras parade, which goes into that whole Scooby Doo thing. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s an old floats museum. My co-author and I always wanted to go, because that’s like the Scooby Doo setting… So it led from one thing to another and one thing to another, and then I found out that there is a collection here in St. Louis, and the collection broke the story of where she went, what she thought about it. There were handwritten documents in there from her to her lawyer, who was her son-in-law, who is from the Delassus family. But Delassus, Missouri… her son-in-law found that. He was her lawyer after they fled. And there was a very clear message in her letters that she didn’t know how bad it was. And that led me to start thinking about who was really perpetrating the crimes, or what her mental illness was. If she was doing it and she didn’t get it, then you have this whole mental illness thing, which is another part of history that is always dropped out. And if she did not do it, who was? And why didn’t she know about the true extent of it? And that’s where a lot of conjecture had to come in.

PK: So you found, probably, that not many people knew that those documents were here, because people wouldn’t have probably jumped to think that they were here, would they?

VCL: You know, it’s kind of one of those mixed bags, because if you read the documents, you kind of are disappointed about the story, because it led us to believe that maybe she didn’t do it. And nobody wanted to hear that. But the one guy did an article on it and put it out in the Missouri history museum news, and nobody knew who Madame Lalaurie was. Nobody cared. So it was like this little gem. And I mean, I was standing there, like I said, drooling—they almost kicked me out—on these handwritten documents from Delphine Lalaurie, talking about going back to New Orleans and that she wanted her affairs put in [order]. And then letters from her children saying Mom is crazy. She cannot go back. She cannot go back. The catastrophe of 1834 and the family dynamics… it’s an incredible collection. And it was here in St. Louis, so I didn’t have to travel. So when I did travel down, I went to the historic New Orleans Collection, and they had the blueprints that showed the original Lalaurie Mansion. They had all kinds of stuff. It was just incredible. I found people who were related to her and the McCartys… Yeah. It was an incredible journey.  

PK: In the book there is a lot of discussion about what Madame Lalaurie looked like and the artists who have painted her since her death. What do you think about Kathy Bates’ character and how she was portrayed in Season 3 of American Horror Story? And what are the chances that they used your book as a resource?

VCL: We know that she used our book. She said so in the Rolling Stone magazine, and truthfully, I could have died happy right there. To have Kathy Bates even know that my book, and Lorelei, we both really dorked out big time. It was really, really flattering. Of course we tried to reach out to Kathy Bates. [Her] security guards and stuff were very quick to tell us that… we probably wouldn’t hear from her. But that stalking aside, it was just incredible. That being said, Madame Lalaurie was supposed to be vividly beautiful. There are stories about the Queen of Spain saying, You’re so beautiful that I’ll give you everything that you want, and that they chose Kathy Bates because of her ability to be horrifying, was really cool, that they stepped outside of what could have been or not been a beautiful woman. Kathy Bates is beautiful, but she was not playing a beautiful woman. I mean, nobody plays a sociopath like Kathy Bates. And we were thrilled when they picked them. And everybody asked us, I thought Madame Lalaurie was supposed to be this… and Kathy Bates did that in her flashbacks with the, you know, the demeanor, and the clothes… We loved it. And a lot of people ask the question about, you know, Does it make you mad that somebody does a character and makes, like, her so horrifying, that they went for the legend rather than the fact? And no, because that’s what drew me in. I like the legend, and then when I found out the facts, I was even more fascinated. So as a historian, you want people to question history, whether it’s for good or for bad. It’s the same thing with [when] Pocahontas came out. And…  to the paranormal craze vs. the Disney craze, it’s kind of insulting, but it’s, you know I got the same questions. People would come in at the Holocaust museum and ask about Pocahontas. And then you were able to point them to a true and false story of who she was and what she did, and what’s historical and what’s Disney, and you know, why she was built like a Barbie doll. And you know, but it’s the same as why Madame Lalaurie was glorified as beautiful, you know. So I was thrilled, basically… and geeky.

PK: I would be too.

VCL: Oh man.

PK: Before American Horror Story and before I read your book, I knew about Delphine from reading about her in a few different, you know, just small segments in a few books. I did not, however, realize that Marie Laveau was a real person until reading your book. For some reason I assumed she was made up! Can you tell us a little about the relationship that these ladies were likely to have had?

VCL: As fun as it is, remember Marie Laveau was the Voodoo queen. She was the ultimate Voodoo queen. Her legacy of magic and of Voodoo is incredible. There were three Marie Laveaus, so it always looked like she remained ageless, which is one of the things that American Horror Story really did with Angela Bassett is kept her ageless, and they said through magic, rather than in real life. The three generations very clearly put themselves into power to keep that illusion that the woman was timeless and that it was her power. She’s an incredible woman. She used a lot of her everyday stuff, like she had some beauty shops; she had some other types of businesses, to pull like secrets. And then you can take the secret…  and so she would come to your house and say, you know, I think that your daughter is having an affair with some, you know, slimy man. And here’s a voodoo thing to stop it from happening. So you would purchase that. And then she’d go to the slimy man and say, He’s going to stop you from seeing his daughter, and sell him one. And then she’d go to the daughter and sell her one. And then she’d come back and break the spell for you. And so she just made six transactions on your troubles, basically, that someone spilled while they were getting their hair done in the beauty salon. She was brilliant. She’s an incredible businesswoman. She marketed herself brilliantly. Angela Bassett is probably the best Marie Laveau I’ve ever seen, written or visually. I was in awe of her. So Marie Laveau’s connection to Madame Lalaurie? There’s a story that Marie Laveau got a devil baby. And the devil baby of New Orleans is very intriguing and we make fun of it when we shouldn’t, because it was probably a Harlequin baby, which is a rare disease that makes them scream and screech. But if we’re going to do the paranormal devil baby, he’s really cool, because he growls and grunts. You know, and supposedly she asked Madame Lalaurie to be his godmother. I didn’t find anything that stated that there was any connection between Madame Lalaurie and Marie Laveau. There is a chance that they had a connection, because obviously they had their hair done and Marie Laveau owned almost all of the black-owned businesses. But more likely than not, she had her own girl to do it, which goes to another story of true or false, whether she threw the kid off of the top of the roof, and whether that’s reenacted every night for all to see, which I never got to.

PK: Yeah

VCL: So short answer? I don’t think they had a connection.

PK: [Laughs] Ok. But maybe that’s another book coming or something.

VCL: It might be. There’s a woman that did two books, one on Marie Laveau and one on Delphine Lalaurie. Her name is Carolyn [Morrow] Long. Her research is impeccable. She got incredible grants… She out researched me. They’re very academic. She published after us, because she got the grant to go to Cuba, and I’m jealous… and bitter… I think she debunks the whole… that there was ever a connection documented.

 

Don’t forget to check out Part Two of my interview with Victoria! 

Need more on Madame Lalaurie? Visit mad-madame-lalaurie.com and the Mad Madame Lalaurie Facebook Page!

 

The author at the entrance to the Lalaurie Mansion.

The author at the entrance to the Lalaurie Mansion.

Victoria Cosner Love has spent the better part of thirty years poking around graveyards and digging for lost pieces of history. She is especially fond of delving into missing pieces of women’s history. She coauthored a book, Women Under the Third Reich (Greenwood Publishing), and now has turned her attention to the infamous Madame Lalaurie and her incredible family. A longtime member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, she has worked in public history facilities for more than twenty years and has her master’s degree in American studies, specializing in cultural landscapes of garden cemeteries. Source: Amazon.com

 


Francis Howell Cemetery, St. Charles, Missouri

 

More Recent Cemetery Posts: 

Perfectly Lonely and Snowy City of Souls - Return to Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis (Big Séance)

Perfectly Lonely and Snowy City of Souls – Return to Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis (Big Séance)

Lessons in Photography & Other Nerdly Stuff (Big Séance)

Lessons in Photography & Other Nerdly Stuff (Big Séance)

Another Visit to Gumbo (Big Séance)

Another Visit to Gumbo (Big Séance)

A New Lens and a New Cemetery (Big Séance)

A New Lens and a New Cemetery (Big Séance)

 

 


There’s Just Something Romantic About a Staircase…

 

The famous Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (Norfolk) captured in this photo from 1936.

The famous Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (Norfolk) captured in this photo from 1936.

There’s just something romantic about a staircase. Well… isn’t there? Maybe I should be more specific. Yes, there are many Hollywood-like stories of hauntings involving stairs. You know, that one where the woman in white (why is it always a woman in white?) falls to her death in the home her and her husband built. And, of course, there’s the “Brown Lady” photo that many are instantly familiar with. But for me, it’s a ghostly, historic type of romance that I’m talking about… and I’m sort of obsessed with all forms of these staircases, especially during a paranormal investigation. In many historical buildings, for example, a staircase may have been the one and only entrance to an area or even to an entire building, in some cases. Let’s use one of these fictional buildings as an example. But first, here’s a quick story. (This is where my students will get excited… when I break the boring routine to tell a random story!) When I was a kid and lucky enough to perform on the stage of Starlight Theatre, a regional theatre in Kansas City, I couldn’t help but obsess over the fact that I was walking on the same stage where I had seen Debbie Gibson (no judgment, please) perform just months before. And really, at the time I had no clue of how many major stars had performed there in the theatre’s history. (End of random story.) If you know a famous person was once in this particular building (the one you’re imagining), you can be sure that they came through this very specific and sometimes small space. But this doesn’t have to be about famous people. If this building was a public place, such as a theatre or a school, than hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of souls have passed through.

I very much believe that when we leave the physical world, we leave energy behind. Even if we never return after crossing over, even if when we die we turn to dust and that’s it, a person’s energy may remain in a place that was meaningful to them. But maybe there doesn’t have to be an emotional attachment to a space. I go up and down the stairs in my home ten or more times every day. I could go up and down with my eyes closed due to the fact that I know that part of my house so well. If I was able to somehow track the amount of time I spent, or the energy I left in any part of my home, wouldn’t the stairs be off the charts compared to, let’s say… that weird corner of the living room in between the end table and the front window, or that lovely dining room where no one ever sits? 

Being a paranormal investigator has forced me to come up with theories on a few things. And during investigations I often find myself heading for the staircase with a camera and a tripod, and sometimes a digital audio recorder as well. I’ll stand at the bottom and just imagine people, in whatever time period, coming down the stairs as if it were a normal day in their life. I could be wrong, but sometimes I just feel that if we’re going to capture amazing evidence, there’s a good chance it’s going to be there. Imagine a firehouse, well over a century old, and the only staircase to what would have been the second floor living quarters of the volunteer firemen that stayed there. This was in a time before you slid down a pole. Now imagine the hurried and dramatic moments that must have occurred in that fascinating, yet very practical space! 

Show and tell time!

Here are some of the staircases that have fascinated me in recent years. Some are from investigations and some are not. 

A staircase from MOSS's most recent investigation of a 144 year old building in Lexington, Missouri. This staircase is on a second floor landing and leads to a third floor apartment. Both of these floors are above a pizza place and for the most part have not been touched or occupied since approximately 1982.

A staircase from MOSS’s most recent investigation of a 144 year old building in Lexington, Missouri. These 19 steps begin on a second floor landing and lead to a third floor apartment. Both of these floors are above a pizza place and for the most part have not been touched or occupied since approximately 1982.

 

I was absolutely fascinated by this staircase! This is the main entrance to the historical and vacant Carthage Opera House in Carthage, Missouri, built in the 1870s.

I was absolutely fascinated by this staircase! This is the main entrance to the historical and vacant Carthage Opera House in Carthage, Missouri, built in the 1870s.

 

A DVR screen shot from our investigation of an undisclosed museum in St. Charles, Missouri.

A DVR screen shot from our investigation of an undisclosed museum in St. Charles, Missouri.

 

The staircase from an old farmhouse, now the Heritage Museum in St. Peters, Missouri.

The staircase from an old farmhouse, now the Heritage Museum in St. Peters, Missouri.

 

Unfortunately, you'll just have to let your mind wonder on this one.

Unfortunately, you’ll just have to let your mind wonder on this one.

 

This has been my favorite location to take pictures lately... The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, built in 1927, was originally a movie theatre. Stay tuned for a post devoted solely to this beautiful space. It'll be coming soon!

This has been my favorite location to take pictures lately… The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, built in 1927, was originally a movie theatre. Stay tuned for a post devoted solely to this beautiful space. It’ll be coming soon!

 

I couldn't possibly publish this post without including the famous staircase from The Stanley Hotel.

I couldn’t possibly publish this post without including the famous staircase from The Stanley Hotel.

 

And just for fun... the glass staircase from our visit to the Apple Store (still under construction at the time... or maybe they were remodeling) in New York City across from Central Park. Are there ghosts here? Who knows?!

And just for fun… the glass staircase from our visit to the Apple Store (still under construction at the time… or maybe they were remodeling) in New York City across from Central Park. Are there ghosts here? Who knows?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


It’s October!

Well even though I celebrated Autumn way too early (because I get so excited), it is definitely here now… and tomorrow is the first day of the spooktacular month of October! October just makes me feel good. There’s just something about the crispness and the electricity in the air. And now is the time to break out your hoodies! 

Here is a pictorial tour of things about October that get me totally excited. 

 

I really kick the candles up a notch in October...

I really kick the candles up a notch in October…

 

Apple Cider… especially for trick-or-treaters…

 

Me as a kid… a clown for Halloween.

 

Another Halloween… this time as a bunny rabbit with my Bampa…

 

This picture is just funny to me. My sister never really got into Halloween. This may be the only year she (as Casper) dressed up. According to what was written on the back of this photo, apparently I dressed as “a Mexican”. 🙂

 

Trips to the Pumpkin Patch…

 

Meril showing off our pumpkins last year…

 

 

My 2011 punkin head….

 

Our annual shot of the punkin heads on the porch from 2011. Joe was feeling very artistic and creative with his pumpkin (on the left)…

 

This is Meril’s first dress up experience a few years ago. He’s a punkin head. He’s much cooler with it all now. He won’t be very happy when he finds out I posted this.

 

The witch my mom surprised me with yesterday…

 

A tree from the front yard of my parents’ house.

 

A walk down historical Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri… It’s where Joe and I first met…

 

More from one of our walks down historical Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri… It’s where Joe and I first met…

 

The movie Hocus Pocus

 

“Welcome to the tunnel of terror… ah ah ah… Please, join us.” From Roseanne’s first Halloween episode from season 2.

 


Top Hot Spots in Missouri for Paranormal Activity…

So what areas in Missouri can claim to have the most haunted activity? Where have you been? Where would you like to visit? Add to my list!

Kansas City?

Armor Home for the Aged, Kansas City

(Donaldson House/Kansas City Art Institute, Elmwood Cemetery, Houston Lake, Hotel Savoy, Strawberry Hill, The Armor Home for the Aged, Christian Church Hospital)

St. Louis?

(Lemp Mansion, Powell Symphony Hall, Old City Hospital, Chase Park Plaza Hotel, Jefferson Barracks, Cupples Mansion – St. Louis University, Brookings Hall – Washington University)

Springfield?

(Gillioz Theatre, Landers Theater, Walnut Street Inn, Pythian Castle, Maple Park Cemetery, Springfield National Cemetery, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield)

Brookings Hall, Washington University

 

 

 

 

Of course there is quite a bit of paranormal activity going on in smaller areas like Independence, St. Joseph, Lexington, Carthage, Joplin, Hannibal, St. Charles, etc. that don’t get as much attention.

Gillioz Theatre, Springfield

 

 

 

 

 


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