St. Louis Mythbusters
Urban Legend Number One: The Devil Comes to Town
Legend has it that in 1949, the devil came to St. Louis. For the past 60 years, the story of the famous St. Louis exorcism has been told. It has been written about in several books and even made into movies, transforming the story into the most famous exorcism in American history. The story is so bizarre that it is hard to separate fact from fiction, although St. Louis mythbusters have been attempting to do so for many years.
During January of 1949, the parents of a 13-year-old boy heard what sounded like mice scratching on the inside walls of the boy's bedroom. Calling in an exterminator only added to the problem. More unusual activities began happening -- plates moved, the boy's bed shook and bed sheets were thrown on the floor -- and that was just the beginning. The urban legend says that the boy inherited an entity while playing with a Ouija board. The story would never have been known had it not been for the diary kept by the Jesuit priests who performed the exorcism. To this day, however, the original diary cannot be found, leaving mythbusters in St. Louis unable to prove or disprove this story with any degree of certainty.
Urban Legend Number Two: The Lemp Mansion
William Lemp, Jr. was left to carry on the family brewing business, along with his wife Lillian. Soon after William Lemp III was born, William Lemp, Jr. sired a son through a different woman, but the illegitimate boy was born disfigured. He was known as the "Monkey Face Boy" and was hidden in the attic to avoid embarrassment for 30 years, until his death. The boy, whose grave marker simply says "Lemp," is said to be one of the spirits who continues to show his presence at the Lemp Mansion.
In 1909, William and his wife Lillian divorced, and in the following years, the Lemp brewing dynasty began to crumble. In 1919, when Prohibition was enacted, William slipped into a deep depression, which was worsened by his sister's suicide in 1920. In 1922, William followed in the footsteps of his father by shooting himself. In 1943, the "Monkey Face Boy" passed away, and William's brother Charles became the fourth member of the family to commit suicide. The mansion was sold after Charles' death.
In 1976, workers remodeling the building for its current use as a restaurant and inn heard strange noises while working. Many of them left the job, claiming to see faces in the attic windows. The workers even began calling the basement the "Gateway to Hell," due to its long hallways which led to caves underneath the house and the attached brewery. Ghost investigators would leave toys in the center of a circle in the attic. When they returned, the toys had been moved. The paranormal events, although not proven, have been documented. Today, the mansion is the main attraction on the St. Louis haunted house tour.
The Lemp Mansion
3322 Demenil Place,
St. Louis, MO 63118, 314-664-8024
Urban Legend Number Three: The Zombie Road
Zombie Road is located west of the city of St. Louis. It is a forgotten stretch of road that some call one of the weirdest places in America. Maps from the 1950s list the road as Lawler Ford Road. The urban myth says that the road never looks the same or seems the same length when it is traveled, despite the dead end at one end of the road. In the 1950s, the road gained a reputation as a teenage hangout and lover's lane. As the road fell into disuse, tales of haunting and murders arose. Amidst reports of murdered boyfriends, Native American spirits and a killer with a hook for his hand, a more specific story of the serial killer known as the Zombie arose. Zombie Road gets its name from the tale of this man, who reportedly lived in a rundown shack at the end of the road and who attacked and killed young lovers who visited the road looking for a quiet place to escape. One thing is certain -- the road does exist. There have been at least two deaths reported along the road; however, neither was a murder. Mythbusters continue to believe that the Zombie Road stories are strictly St. Louis urban legends.
Urban Legend Number Four: The Piasa Bird
A short distance east of St. Louis is the scenic Great River Road, which runs along the Mississippi River. Along this road is an image of the gigantic Piasa Bird, painted on the walls of the river bluff. The image was first discovered in 1673 by Father Jacques Marquette. Legend has it that the gigantic, bird-like creature would catch Native American braves and take them to his lair as food. Chief Ouatoga decided to kill the creature by offering himself as bait. Twenty warriors armed with poison-tipped arrows killed the monster, and Ouatoga's plan succeeded. After the bird was killed, its image was painted on the bluffs in honor of Ouatoga. The painted image lasted for years and could be viewed by all that traveled along the river from St. Louis. Mythbusters agree that the legend of the bird is most likely an urban myth, but the picture of the creature still exists today.
Urban Legend Number Five: The Ghost on the Tracks
One of the more recent urban legends in the St. Louis area is that of the ghost on the train tracks in the small town of Dowell, Illinois. On July 21, 2007, two train engineers claim that they saw a man lying on the tracks in front of their train. Despite their efforts to alert the man and to stop, the train hit him. After stopping the train, the two engineers contacted the local authorities. A search of the area turned up empty -- no body, blood or clothing was found. Dennis Cole, the editor of the Steeleville Ledger newspaper did some research into the history of the area. In old newspaper accounts, he found a 1941 article that stated a man had died in the same place on the tracks. The incident report noted that the man was lying on the tracks and sat up just as the train hit and killed him. Was this report a coincidence or did the man's ghost appear on the tracks? Although this occurrence was documented, for the time being it remains a legend.
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