Tag Archives: st. louis missouri

Missouri’s Mad Doctor McDowell – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #48

Missouri's Mad Doctor McDowell: Confederates, Cadavers and Macabre Medicine by authors Victoria Cosner and Lorelei Shannon - Interview on The Big Séance Podcast - BigSeance.com

Body snatcher. Grave robber. Mad scientist. Brilliant surgeon. And did he really hang the corpse of his daughter in Mark Twain Cave? Plus the ghosts of the Gratiot Street Prison. Delve into the macabre world of St. Louis’s Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell with Victoria Cosner and Lorelei Shannon, authors of Missouri’s Mad Doctor McDowell.

 

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The Big Séance Podcast with Patrick Keller - Paranormal, paranerd

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Death and Mourning in the 19th Century and the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion

This past weekend, friend and past guest of the Big Séance Podcast, Victoria Cosner Love, invited me (ahem… strongly encouraged me to leave my crypt) to a fascinating event, which appropriately fit the season, in my opinion anyway. It was my first visit to the absolutely beautiful Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis. “A Death in the Family: Death and Mourning in the 19th Century” is an annual mourning event there. 

An interesting fact is that the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is right next door to the famous Lemp Mansion and the Lemp Brewery Complex, and so the neighborhood is always an interesting place to find yourself this time of year. (Incidentally, the boys from Ghost Adventures just featured the Lemp Mansion and Brewery in their most recent episode, and the Ghost Hunters spent some time there a few years ago as well.) 

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is reported to be haunted as well, and I did talk to a few people in the know, but this event didn’t focus on the paranormal aspects of the place.

 

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As you may know, I’m obsessed with staircases, especially grand ones in a historical location like this mansion. So I had to lead with the photo above, with one of the volunteers appropriately mourning in character at the front entrance. 

I was very surprised to also run into several friends, some of whom I’ve never met in person, like my new friend Ginger of Missouri History and Hauntings. I got to meet a few other fascinating and knowledgable people, as well. I’m so very glad I went!

So back to the event itself. Here’s a description of the event, taken directly from their site:

This is an open house style event, during which guests are free to visit exhibits throughout the Mansion and learn not only about mourning customs of the 19th century but illness, medical treatments, wakes, funerary practices and more from costumed volunteers and museum staff.

As well as visiting with our informative volunteers, guests get a chance to see a amazing collection of original objects related to death, mourning and medical practices, from private collections, that are on display just this one day every year.

 

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I loved the event, but I look forward to going back again soon, perhaps to get a general tour of the place, plus they have plenty of activities. I encourage anyone in the area to visit if you haven’t been. 

I would have loved to have been able to get more shots of the home, but this event was well-attended, which is a good thing, but it made it difficult to get really good photos. But I hope you enjoy the shots that I did capture.

 

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I loved the feel and the color of this beautiful, yet oddly shaped corner. I need to find more information about this room. 

 

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Mad Madame Lalaurie: Part 2 of My Interview with Author, Victoria Cosner Love

Buckner Mansion, used as the exterior of Miss Robichaux's Academy in American Horror Story: Coven. Photo courtesy of Victoria Cosner Love

Buckner Mansion, used as the exterior of Miss Robichaux’s Academy in American Horror Story: Coven. Photo courtesy of Victoria Cosner Love.

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Today I bring you Part Two of my fascinating interview with Victoria Cosner Love, author of Mad Madame Lalaurie: New Orleans’ Most Famous Murderess Revealed. Thank you again, Victoria, for the opportunity.

 

Part Two of My Interview with Author, Victoria Cosner Love

If you missed it, check out Part One

 

Patrick Keller: The book has an amazing chapter called “What If It’s All True?”, which I really liked and thought was awesome! It seems like it would have been really fun to let go of all the careful fact-finding and let all the rumors and stories come out to play. Was it?   

Victoria Cosner Love: Yes. My co-writer, Lorelei Shannon, is a horror writer. She does primarily Southern Gothic… The first chapter is the ghost tour, and how the ghost tours are given every single night in New Orleans. And I called Lorelei and said, I need you to Goth this up. I need you to add these things, and I gave her the information and let her go to town. And so she came back and said, you know, here’s where my fiction is; it’s the “What If It’s All True?” And we had the best time with it, because you know, as horrifying as the history is, on the Gothic fiction level, this story can’t be beat. You can’t write fiction this good. And Lorelei did a really good job of meshing everything in, and including our beloved devil baby.

PK: That’s very cool.

VCL: Yeah. She is.

PK: Another chapter of the book that I appreciated was “Myths v. Facts”. It helped to clear some things up for me. Was there anything that led you to deciding to include it?

VCL: When we came to the conclusion that perhaps Delphine wasn’t the perpetrator, we decided that this was the time to go back and put her into a little bit more of a historical context, and pull the ghost tours. Because almost everybody who is introduced to her is either introduced to her through a ghost tour or a book like you were, with the chapters. And so we have this real person, we have this mythology, and you have to look at them. At the Holocaust Museum, at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which is a body part museum, you always had to pull out the myth and the legend, because people would always come in, like to the Holocaust museum and say, Where’s Anne Frank? And it’s like, Yeah, you know there were more women and more people involved in the Holocaust then just Anne Frank, but that’s what they know. People glom onto one piece of history when they go to anywhere, [or a] a civil war site. And so they glommed on to the medical experiments with Delphine Lalaurie. And so we had to go in and break down, because if she did it, how was she doing it? How was she peeling somebody? In her corset? You know with her… did she have a peeling costume that was more of a man’s costume? [I was laughing very hard at this point. “Peeling costume.” Ha!] …these taffeta gowns that she wore, that we know that she wore, would she get blood on them? I mean think about it. Put it into thinking about what a woman would be doing. So like the wax museum has her standing there with the whip, and has her, how did they put it, well-fed personal driver doing the damage. So, you know, then we looked at Bastien, which is his name, we think, and talked about that type of thing, and what that relationship might have been. And, you know there’s a lot of guessing at this point. So yeah, we had a good time!   

PK: It sounds like it. You’ve gone into this a bit, but can you talk a little bit about Missouri’s connection to Madame Lalaurie?

VCL: That’s the Missouri Historical Society, there on Skinker Road, it has the collection. It’s called the Saint Vrain Delassus collection, and like I said, if you want to see handwritten documents… and I hate to tell the general public about it, because you know, that’s when sometimes things start going missing—not that any of your readers would do that—but it’s there, and it’s spectacular!

PK: I was disappointed to learn the mansion doesn’t look like it did when Madame Lalaurie lived there. I wonder how many people know about the changes since the events. Did you know before you began your research?

VCL: No. They kept referring to [the fact] that the mansion had burned to the ground. But for some reason all these ghost tours and stuff kept referring to it like it was this Federal style building from 1850, and it didn’t make sense to me. And when I was going through the blueprints and found the original blueprint, it did burn to the ground. And even Harriet Martineau, which was the first reference to Madame Lalaurie as a serial killer, or a horrifying woman in slave history, she said that the building was still smoldering. Now she wasn’t there until 1848, so that’s [sixteen] years later and that building is still smoldering. It didn’t get rebuilt until 1850, so there was actually nothing there for that… sixteen years until it was rebuilt. And when they say that you can reenact the girl falling off the roof every night, well the roof was one story shorter. And so no one has ever said anything about her… I’m not as much paranormal as I am Goth, but it seems to me if you’re reenacting something, that you would be on the second floor where you did it from. And so everybody would always be looking at the roof… and there was one bricked in window that was a bathroom, you know architecturally 1850, it was a bathroom and everybody would be like, That must be the window that she fell out of. But nobody was falling out of windows. There’s nothing in the story about anyone, except one person supposedly jumped out of a window during the fire, and that was proven wrong by the newspaper and police reports. So the embellishment, I don’t think people wanted to acknowledge that it was right. And as a matter of fact, I made people angry when I came out with this. I don’t know if I mention it in the book or not, but there was this Voodoo woman who cursed me because I had just discovered that it wasn’t the same building and I was all, you know, geeky and, Oh, guess what I found!, you know I’m all from out of town and everything. And she became very angry with me and she cursed me. And when I found out that she was from New Jersey herself, I wasn’t too concerned with the curse anymore, but they were angry. A lot of people still say that I’m wrong, but it was very clear I was looking at the blueprints, because the architect was a very famous architect, and the collection was at the Historic New Orleans Collection, and it was like, Wow. So everybody’s looking at the wrong building. You know, but here we all are. I sat there for hours waiting to see that reenactment. I didn’t get nothing.

PK: Well plus, in those days, I mean, you know a fire truck wouldn’t have just rolled up and put out the fire. It would have burned down.

VCL: Yeah they were doing buckets. And then on top of that, they were angry at her, so they weren’t going to fight the fire. You know, they were throwing stuff into the bonfire. It was, you know, It’s a portrait of her, which is why we don’t know what she looks like. So…

PK: I didn’t think about that. (Moving onto the next question.) Well on several occasions, I’ve shared my opinion and mixed feelings about what I see as side effects from what I call “the great paranormal craze”. And you speak quite a bit in the book about the myths and embellished stories that have been passed on by tour guides and ghost tours to New Orleans visitors for over a century now. The Lalaurie Mansion is certainly one of the more dramatic examples, but I think it’s fair to say that this happens all over. Do you have an opinion about the craze and hype and how it affects our historical “haunted” locations, and maybe even history itself?

VCL: This is one of those… ying and yang answers. Because as a historian, yes it bothers me, that people don’t really look into the history, but not everybody likes history. As a tourism professional, this stuff is hot! I go to them everywhere I go. I go on ghost tours. And that mix of fun and history and paranormal research really, really appeals to me, and so when we wrote this book, we were basically writing to my demographic, you know because that’s who is taking a lot of these tours, except for the drunk kids. And you can always straighten out history. You know history is what it is. And you can always interpret and you can always bring it back. And that’s why I have a job, because history changes, and history changes because of stuff like this. One of the things I found most fascinating was that the extremely gruesome, graphic medical experiments weren’t added until 1947. And so they were saying that it came out in the New Orleans Bee in 1834. It didn’t. They were still very factual about these seven people who were [found in] horrifying [conditions]… but they weren’t being peeled, and they weren’t in a crab, and they weren’t, you know, broken. And they weren’t—oh they were a little broken—but so that’s a fifty year morph from what was being said to when [Jeanne] DeLavigne—and they just re-put her book out, by the way, if you haven’t got it. It’s Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans. She is fantastic, but she wrote it in 1947 and she wrote it as a ghost story. There was no… She says straight up, these are all ghost stories. I didn’t do any research. And everybody’s like quoting her, you know, as fact and as part of the story of history, rather than the story of ghost history. So, I don’t know. Folklore is everywhere.

PK: Well now I have a question from a BigSéamce.com reader. Joe asks, “In American Horror Story, by the end they tried to make Madame Lalaurie look like a sympathetic character.” …which I would agree with.

VCL: I think so too, yeah.

PK: (Joe’s question continued) “Do you think she ever had a chance at being rehabilitated?”

VCL: The character… or the historical figure?

PK: (Blank stare from her interviewer) Ah man… um… let’s…

VCL: I’ll do both. [Whew!] The historical figure… I think she was a narcissist. I think she was a sociopath. I do not think that she was torturing people. I think that she either knew that they… I think that she was the type that would come in and say, Fix him. He’s being uppity. And then Dr. Lalaurie would go and do whatever Dr. Lalauries do up there, and I truthfully think that the husband was the perpetrator. I don’t believe in coincidences. I have two Peter Falk Columbo quotes—I love Columbo—that helps with my historical insights and research. One is, “there are no coincidences”, and the other one is, “people don’t often forget to do what it is that they always do.” So when you have someone that is an anomaly, you have to look at the anomaly and see where they fit into those two things, and is it a coincidence that he was into back straightening, that he was a dentist, that he wanted to do pioneering medical… and these people were being held for no reason. Also, why is Madame Lalaurie manumitting slaves? And then torturing slaves. That’s one of those that doesn’t fit. And why did a woman that would manumit a slave, why did she get beaten by her husband on the courtyard steps… on the exact day that she manumitted a slave? Is that a coincidence? No, I think that [Louis] Lalaurie was the perp… I don’t think she knew what was going on all the way. I think that… whether through mental illness or not, I don’t think she had a good handle [of] how bad it was.

VCL: On the TV show I was disappointed that they started making her sympathetic. Although I did want a t-shirt that had her severed head that said “What the head said”. [We both laugh.] And then Angela Bassett says “What the head said”. I wanted that really bad, and I still might make that t-shirt, but I also wanted the one that said “What is this, knotty pine?” You know, with Jessica Lange at the very end and the hell… I loved it. But I would have liked for them to have maintained Delphine’s horror, you know and not made her… I mean the cheeseburger stuff was very funny. Their idea of hell for her was ingenious, but… yeah, either you start with her peeling eyeballs or… you should end with her peeling, you know what I mean? There was no reason to take her into the sympathetic thing, and just let Queenie do whatever.

PK: Is there anything that you want to add or talk about? Any future projects?

VCL: You know, there are so many stories. I’m looking for future projects. If any of your readers have anything that has that historical bent to it. There’s a cave up in Hannibal [Hannibal, Missouri] where a guy supposedly was keeping his daughter’s corpse, and then he moves down here and opens up a hospital down here [St. Louis, Missouri]. It was a confederate hospital. He was doing medical experiments, and I’m looking at him, but I’d rather look at women. The axe man, who was in American Horror Story, the only book that is written on him is a graphic novel. And it’s a well-researched graphic novel, but the mafia connection with that might be a little… I’m not sure I want to go there, even in 1921. So I’m looking at the axe man, but I don’t know whether we’re going to go there. But the publisher has asked for one on the Storyville Madams. Storyville was the area of legalized prostitution in New Orleans at the turn of the century, and there were some incredible women that were… making a lot of money down there, and so we’re looking at doing that. As far as like the true crime stuff, I’m looking for something like the axe man, that everyone thinks that they know the story, but it hasn’t been told, so… I’m looking. The guy with the cave is looking good.

PK: I think I remember reading about that one.

VCL: Yeah. And it’s the same thing as with Madame Lalaurie. It comes up here and there, like in a little article, because he was eventually arrested because he was a confederate. But he was trying to regenerate flesh, and keep decomposition from happening. Which is really funny, because I don’t think he had a daughter. I ran his ancestry.com and I don’t think he had a daughter. It doesn’t look like he ever had one. He had three sons. So… was it a daughter-in-law? Was it a cousin? So right there was already a stumbling block in the legend.

 

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 Lovehas 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

 

 

 

 

 


Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition

This is the fifth post in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit:
Adopting Graves: Second Visit with Clara and Johnnie
Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)
Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family
Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family

 

On a Saturday in the middle of August, I decided to begin a new autumn tradition of adopting graves. I chose the graves of two souls, each in a different cemetery. At this point I feel strangely close to Johnnie Michel and Clara I. Gegenbauer. From that day on, I visited these graves every two weeks up to October 30th. I need to go back at least one more time to pick up the pumpkins and things, that way if I decide to visit in the distant future, there won’t be a pumpkin patch to walk through. For more on the inspiration and how I chose these two graves, visit my very first post in this series.

 

Johnnie Michel, son of Henry and Matilda Michel, July 5, 1879 – January 21, 1884

 Johnnie, who died at four and half years old (reason unknown), lived with his family on the upper floor of a general store on Main Street in Wentzville, Missouri. His father was a prominent Wentzville citizen and built and owned the general store. His mother raised the family (Johnnie had an older and a younger sister), and presumably helped tend to several of the clerks and extended family members that lived with them above the store.

Below are some of the shots from different visits to Johnnie’s grave (I tried to bring different flowers/gifts each time.)

 

Since posting my genealogy for Johnnie’s family, I discovered that the family’s general store was located where the “Wentzville Millwork” building is in the picture below. I’m not sure how old the remaining buildings to the left are, but I wanted to make sure and include them in the picture to help your imagination. The structure that housed the general store was demolished in the 1970s. To my knowledge there are no existing photos of the general store, which was operated by the family until at least 1910.  The second picture below is a view of the surrounding downtown area across the street from that lot.

 

 

Clara I. Gegenbauer, March 29, 1884 – March 17, 1889

As you may have noticed, Clara died just short of her fifth birthday as well. She was the fourth out of eight children by parents Eugene Gegenbauer (1847 – 1916) and Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer (1853 – 1930). Like Johnnie, there is no record of how or why Clara died at such a young age. Her father Eugene (whose parents immigrated from Germany) and mother Isabelle (whose parents immigrated from Ireland) were married in 1876. After immigrating, Clara’s paternal grandfather was a physician and teacher in the Ballwin, Missouri area. He died in 1880.

Out of the family’s eight children, Eugene and Isabelle had 7 grandchildren, including my new friend Gayla’s father. Clara’s last remaining sibling, Jane Sophia “Jennie” Gegenbauer, was Gayla’s grandmother. She died in 1976.

For more on Clara, or for photos of her parents and the family’s farmhouse, click HERE

 

On my second visit with Johnny and Clara, I was not prepared for the feelings I would have when seeing the blunt symbolism of the dead flowers in the exact same arrangement that I had placed them in only two weeks earlier. Though this is a completely normal thing to see in a cemetery, it was a beautiful and sad at the same time.

  

 

  

 

 

Other favorite photos from my visits to see Johnny and Clara 

Clara’s grave can be seen on the left (with the bright flowers) near the top of the hill. The graves surrounding her are her parents and siblings.

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Once again, Clara’s grave can be seen off in the distance at the top of the hill. 

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As I mentioned before, I have to make at least one more visit to pick up pumpkins, but I highly doubt that it will be my last. I’ve become so familiar with the path to find them, and I’m sure I’ll never forget. I’m already excited to start the journey over next year with two “new” graves.

 

 


Adopting Graves: Second visit with Clara and Johnnie…

This is the fourth post in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit:
Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)
Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family
Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family

Clara's grave from today's visit.

Clara’s grave from today’s visit.

 

Johnny's grave from today's visit. (The grave of his grandparents in the background.)

Johnny’s grave from today’s visit. (The grave of his grandparents in the background.)

 

Today was my second visit to the gravesites of Clara and Johnnie. Except for the fact that it was like eleventy-hundred degrees today, I was very excited about each of these visits. I know so much more about these souls and their families now, and that made this trip a little more meaningful. After another stop for flowers (different colors this time), I made my way toward Gumbo Cemetery for Clara. In both cemeteries, the remains of my flowers from the last visit were present… aged and frozen in time. I secretly hoped they’d still be there, mainly for the selfish opportunity to snap photos of them. For both Johnnie and Clara, I talked aloud of how I knew they probably weren’t present with me, eternally hanging out next to their head stone, but I wanted to make sure they knew I had been thinking of them and learning about their families over the last few weeks. I even read my previous blog posts and mentioned the fact that many others were learning about their families as well. I sat in silence for a while (a little longer for Clara since I was winded from climbing the hill) and forced myself to be okay with my legs being itchy from the grass.

 

The resting place of Eugene, Clara's father.

The resting place of Eugene, Clara’s father.

 

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara's father.

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara’s father.

 

The resting place of Isabelle, Clara's mother.

The resting place of Isabelle, Clara’s mother.

 

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara's mother.

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara’s mother.

 

On my way out of Linn Cemetery after visiting Johnnie, I took a few photos of the entrance to the older section. I found an older marker for this section with the date of 1867, although I’ve seen some head stones there with a burial date of 1865.

 

Near the entrance to the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

Near the entrance to the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

 

Near the entrance of the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

Near the entrance of the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

 

I suppose I’ll plan the next visit for two weekends from now. Hopefully by then I’ll be able to wear a hoodie. That might be a stretch.

Till next time… 

 


Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family…

This is the third post in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013) and Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family

Clara's headstone from my first visit.

Clara’s headstone from my first visit.

Beginning genealogy research through Ancestry.com can be incredibly addictive and time consuming. This new hobby has given me my first opportunity to try it. I’ve filled up nearly ten pages on a legal pad with notes on both Johnnie and Clara, the two souls and graves that I’ve adopted this season. Of course, this is more info than anyone would ever need to know. But even though these families were strangers to me before now, it has been great fun… fun of the nerdly variety. In researching information on Clara, I have had the good fortune of getting in contact with a nice woman named Gayla Liles. Gayla is a great niece of Clara and has supplied me with the information and photos shared in this post. Since Gayla lives in New Mexico and no other family members live near, I have been able to share photos of the unseen Gegenbauer family plot and headstones with her. It feels good… and it makes it seem like there’s a real purpose to this new tradition, rather than just being a strange nerd who blogs about these things. It has been an honor to talk to Gayla and I thank her very much for the hard work and information researched and gathered.

 

Clara I. Gegenbauer, March 29, 1884 – March 17, 1889

Clara was the fourth out of eight children by parents Eugene Gegenbauer (1847 – 1916) and Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer (1853 – 1930). Like Johnnie (see last post), there is no record of how or why Clara died at such a young age. Her father Eugene (whose parents immigrated from Germany) and mother Isabelle (whose parents immigrated from Ireland) were married in 1876. After immigrating, Clara’s paternal grandfather was a physician and teacher in the Ballwin, Missouri area. He died in 1880.

 

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara's father.

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara’s father.

 

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara's mother.

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara’s mother.

 

An older Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer. I love this photo. You can just see wisdom in her eyes.

An older Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer. I love this photo. You can just see wisdom in her eyes.

 

Isabelle and children. I'm not sure if Clara is a part of this photo or what year it is. According to my research and this photo, they lived on a farm.

Isabelle and children. I’m not sure if Clara is a part of this photo or what year it was taken. According to my research and this photo, they lived on a farm in the Meramec/St. Louis area. I just love the house!

 

Out of the family’s eight children, Eugene and Isabelle had 7 grandchildren, including my new friend Gayla’s father. Clara’s last remaining sibling, Jane Sophia “Jennie” Gegenbauer, was Gayla’s grandmother. She died in 1976.

 

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This Labor Day weekend marks two weeks since I adopted Johnnie and Clara’s graves. I hope to make a return visit to both. It will certainly be more meaningful now that I know more about these two families.

 

 

 


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?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri…

It is a cemetery that could keep you busy for days… weeks even. And it’s the largest and possibly the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen. Opening in 1849, Bellefontaine (pronounced “bell fountain” by most St. Louisans) consists of 314 acres of park-like beauty with mausoleums as far as the eye can see. Too many to count. Even with a driving tour map it’s easy to get lost. But trust me, it’s worth it. Among other movers and shakers from the region, you’ll find the resting places of Adolphus Busch (beer giant), William Clark, Sara Teasdale, and the infamous Lemp family. You can find more beautiful photos on Bellefontaine’s Facebook page. There are also several resources on their beautiful website. When Joe and I visited we were greeted by really friendly staff, and they went out of their way to make our visit a nice one.  

Enjoy these photos from our visit…

 

“The Girl In the Glass Box” Herman Luyties 1871-1921

 

 

 

 

The family mausoleum of the infamous Lemps.

 

The family mausoleum of the infamous Lemps.

 

Back window. Family mausoleum of the infamous Lemps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Clark 1770 – 1838

 

Busch Mausoleum
Adolphus Busch 1839 – 1913
Lilly Anheuser Busch 1844 – 1928

 

Busch Mausoleum
Adolphus Busch 1839 – 1913
Lilly Anheuser Busch 1844 – 1928

 

 

 

If you’re hungry for more information on those buried at Bellefontaine, check out Movers and Shakers, Scalawags and suffragettes: Tales from Bellefontaine Cemetery by Carol Ferring Shepley. I picked this book up at the cemetery office. It’s proudly shelved in my personal library. 

 

 

 

 

 


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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