Tag Archives: staircase

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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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?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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