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Lemp Mansion’s Cursed Family of St. Louis

Ghost Guide Daniel – – If a family curse were possible, the Lemp Mansion legend is the story!  Tragedies throughout generations of the same family, surrounding the now infamous haunted house in the City of St. Louis.

Warning: The following article contains accounts of suicide and tragic death

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In this article expect tragic death, a family’s curse and Vincent Price! Reader discretion is advised…

Family Fortune through Beer

Built in the 1860’s by the head of the local Western Brewery, Lemp Mansion served as the family’s home and remote office.

Lemp Mansion - Western Brewery advertisement
Western Brewery AD

The German descended William J. Lemp, son of brewery founder Adam Lemp, became legend with unique ideas for refrigeration. 

Happened before artificial machinery was available.  Included use of deep caves, and later on large ice-houses setup on a Mississippi River levee in south St. Louis. 

Even though it wasn’t of crucial importance to always refrigerate said beer.  The focus on refrigeration gave the Lemp’s business an advantage in the market.  As shown in the above advertisement… they leaned into it!

The family business boomed until the early 1900’s when the tragedies began.  From this point forward, this’ll be known as the Lemp Family Curse.

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The Family Curse Begins with Frederick

The favorite son of William Sr was set to take over the family business.  Big plans just as Frederick got sick.

They tried everything to save him, like an extended trip to California for the warm climate.

Nothing worked.  And Frederick died in California in 1901 at only 28 years old. 

His death listed by some as “mysterious circumstances”.  This created over-the-top legends.  From my limited research they all seem false.  Frederick’s death was no mystery, just heart failure. 

Didn’t help to have mystery surround the guy’s funeral, as shown in the newspaper…

Lemp Mansion - Frederick Lemp Funeral Notice
Frederick Funeral Newspaper Post

Death of William Sr

What is true is how hard William Sr took his son’s death.  For years he went through the motions.   Coming to work, sitting at his desk, lost in thought.

This leads to Saturday February 13, 1904, at 9:30am.  At 68 years of age, he took a revolver and headed into the master bedroom. 

Lemp Mansion – Currently a Restaurant & Inn

His Death

It happened after William complained of feeling sick that morning and refused to eat his breakfast. 

His wife had gone out.  The servants busying themselves around the house.  All before a gunshot rang out from the second floor.

Servants found William on the floor.  Gun clutched in his right hand.  He had put the gun to his right temple and pulled the trigger.

The reported reason… increasing depression over the death of his “favorite son”, Frederick.  And also the death of his life-long friend, Fred Pabst, a Milwaukee brewer (and namesake of today’s Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Wife Soon Follows

The tragedy continued.  Only 2 years later, in 1906, William’s widow Julia got cancer.  She lasted only a few months, dying in the same bedroom where her husband took his life. 

Her end was peaceful, with her four sons and three daughters at her side.

Rise of William Lemp Jr

In every curse, there must be a focus.  Where the energy gathers inside of a tragic story.  The climax of the violence, and for the Lemp family, this is William Jr.

William Lemp Jr

William Jr pushed on after his parent’s deaths.  Running the family business as best he could. 

But being an alcoholic made it difficult.  He put more energy in to parties than the brewery.  The business suffered.

Along with personal issues.  While constantly cheated on his wife, Lillian.  And she found out.  Eventually filing for divorce.

Public Divorce

This started a media circus.  Stories of William’s cheating and the young women he entertained. 

What was William’s defense?  A real show of the times… telling reporters, Lillian broke her “values” as a woman!  First, by using foul language around others.  

And second, by wearing the color lavender in public, to garner attention… maybe from men, I don’t know. 

More stories came out in the trial.  An account where William came home drunk and struck Lillian multiple times.  Disagreements on religion, and use of a gun for intimidation. 

Needless to say, Lillian was awarded a record high settlement in 1913.  Along with sole custody of their son, William the 3rd.

More Trouble for William Jr

Then in 1920, Prohibition happened.  Profits dropped for the poorly led Western Brewery.

I say “poorly led”, as Prohibition wasn’t a death sentence for many breweries.  The reason… they worked with the bootleggers (like Al Capone).  Secretly providing materials and booze on the downlow.

Personal thought…. I’m okay with this.  Since the government failed them.  Taking away the only business many of the breweries had.  It was a financial death sentence.

Taking on supplying the (popular) criminals, providing a much-wanted vice to the populace.  Well, that’s not the worst crime, to survive.

William Jr didn’t see this possibility.  And therefore, gets the Ghost Walks rating of “poor”!

Elsa Lemp

Soon after, William’s sister Elsa moved into the mansion when her marriage broke down.  Her relationship was over, and then back on again.  Confusing times led up to March 1920. 

Elsa Lemp Wright - Sister of William Lemp Jr
Elsa Lemp – William Jr’s Sister

Just 11 days after her “re-marriage” again, she had a night of insomnia while at the marriage home.  Not inside the Lemp Mansion.

Sadness and pain, mixed with lack of sleep and months of trouble.  Elsa only took so much.

On that night, in a fit, she grabbed a gun and shot herself in the head.

When asked about his sister’s death, William Jr was quoted,

“That’s the Lemp family for you!”

William Lemp Jr

Gallows’ humor, no doubt.  After that much tragedy, it’s no wonder William said such a thing.

The End of William Lemp Jr

2 years later in 1922, William Jr also gave up.

He sold the Brewery for next to nothing.  The failed leader didn’t see the illegal solution.  Better to check out of the business.

Then, completely check out.

Quick recap, just to understand his mindset…

  1. His older brother, Frederick dies.  The heir to the business.  Favorite of William Sr, and Junior’s ticket to an easy life.
  2. Then William Sr takes his own life.
  3. His mother dies soon after.
  4. He gains a habit for booze and falls into being an alcoholic.
  5. His marriage breaks down.  Along with losing his son, and a big portion of a dwindling fortune.  Mixed with guilt from causing it all.
  6. His sister moves in.  Feeling she could be an ally in this terrible life… then losing her in the same way he lost his father.
  7. The beloved family business is gone!  Partly thanks to his mismanagement.

Can you imagine the guilt, sadness, pain, fear?  I can’t fathom it. I’m sure the people closest to him saw this coming.  Only months after his sister’s death.  William walked into his office inside the mansion and shot himself through the heart.

Trying to Stop the Curse… and failed

Prohibition is over.  Seeing an opportunity, William Jr and Lillian’s son, also named William (the 3rd), tried to bring back the family brewery. 

Starting his own business utilizing the family name.  But it failed.  He died of a heart attack at only 42 years old.

The Strange Death of Charles Lemp

Enter Charles Lemp.  Brother of William Jr and uncle to William the 3rd

Charles Lemp - last to live in the mansion
Charles Lemp

Even with the discouragement of the other brother, Edwin.   He tried to talk Charles out of moving into the house.  Saying, “…it’s better to sell it.  It’s not healthy for you to live there…”

Charles wouldn’t hear it and became the final member of the St. Louis family to live inside Lemp Mansion. 

An unmarried bachelor.  Charles moved in with his German Shepard,Cerva.  Just the two of them, with a couple of servants, inside the house. 

A recluse, he rarely entertained and went out.  Had a reputation of being an angry man. 

And over time, became terrified of germs and illnesses.  Visitors barred from wearing shoes in the house.  He refused to shake anyone’s hand.  Along with showering six times a day and washing money before touching it.

Horror Actor Vincent Price
Actor Vincent Price a Lemp Guest

Friends with Vincent Price

In a way it makes sense.  A character like Charles Lemp being friends with Horror actor Vincent Price.  Price was a frequent visitor to the Lemp Mansion.  Wanting to stay with his friend.  It’s said the pair went out to St. Louis art galleries together.

Being famous didn’t excuse Vincent from the eccentricities of Charles.  One habit was to awake the entire house every morning at 5am.  Waking himself, then walking the hallways, pounding on the doors until the two servants, and guests were all up.

Hey Kids… not sure who he is? You might know Vincent as the creepy voice from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Performing the Monologue for host Joan Rivers

The Death Letter

Then, in 1941, Charles did something strange.  He wrote a letter to a local funeral home.

It’s said this was the start of his fight with severe arthritis.  The letter was clear on how he wanted things handled after his death.  I’m sure it gave the Funeral Home’s employees pause.  Afraid the man was a danger to himself. 

Then nothing.  8 years later passed with little word from Charles.  Until the word passed along in 1949, and the final act in this story of a cursed family.

At 8am on the morning of May 10th, 1949, servant Alfred Bittner returned to clear the breakfast tray from Charles’ bedroom.  Found it untouched.  Opened the door to see Charles Lemp on the floor, holding an Army Colt in his right hand (shades of William Sr). 

A note on the floor beside him.  Making Charles the only Lemp to have left a suicide note.  It simply said, “In case I am found dead, blame it on no one but me.”

They also found his dog, Cerva.  Charles had shot her first.  Was said, he didn’t want her to be alone after he was gone.

It’s Finally Over!

Note, I’ve purposely left out the name of William Jr’s final son.  Partly superstition.  Part fear over the curse.

Thankfully, the final son of William Jr lived a normal life.  Smartly staying far away from the family’s mansion. 

And if there’s any doubt of his reasoning… this was cleared after his death (of natural causes).  Upon reading the son’s final will-and-testament. 

He made it known, upon his death, all heirlooms, antiques, and even precious art works inside the Lemp Mansion are to be destroyed. 

Not sold, or repurposed.  Destroyed!

It’s not confirmed, but many believe it’s his way of ending the curse.


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