Bob and I traveled to St. Louis last Monday night to stay at The Lemp Mansion and attend Betsy Belanger’s Haunted History Tour. Betsy is the director of the St. Louis Spirit Search paranormal group, and she has been conducting tours at The Lemp Mansion for the last nineteen years.
Before we traveled, I sent many inquiries to different paranormal teams in the Missouri area in an attempt to get the scoop on the famous haunt. No other location that I have ever inquired about has ever inspired such controversy! I won’t name names, because I haven’t secured personal interview releases yet, but suffice it to say that I received many responses back cautioning me about the alleged haunted happenings over at The Lemp Mansion.
A sampling of responses included:
“Tread lightly and don’t believe everything you hear when researching Lemp because about 65% is bullshit.”
“Every time I see this place called haunted, I laugh!”
“We decided to stay away from the pay to play places.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of these emails. I’m still not sure what to think. Bob and I checked into the so-called most haunted room up in the attic (the Louis Suite), and relaxed a bit before Betsy’s tour. She gave us a grand presentation downstairs in the front parlor, complete with news articles and photos of the Lemp family. The legends about the suicides of the four family members are all absolutely true, and backed up with historical records. Betsy even made sure to tell us that the daughter, Elsa, committed suicide in her own home, and did not pass at the mansion.
We sat for about an hour and a half while Betsy schooled us – not only about the family and the history of the home, but about spirit guides and dowsing rods too. She seemed to be in contact with someone using a set of dowsing rods. I am by no means an expert, but her hands were not moving the rods. Her body was completely still, yet the rods would cross, and seemingly in response to her questions. We were also reminded that we were sitting in the room where the funerals were held after the suicides of William and later, William Lemp, Jr. (“Billy”).
We finally moved to the Lavendar Lady room. The painting you are seeing is a modern creation of Lillian, the first wife of Billy, and not an original antique. Betsy told us this was the room where Billy shot himself, and then asked us if we saw the lady in white dash upstairs. We did not see anything, as we were all facing her.
The house was kept fairly dark throughout the tour, and we made our way upstairs to the second floor to William Lemp’s former bedroom and supposed suicide site.
Once we were all gathered in the room, Betsy asked us if we smelled a faint perfume smell. No one did. Several EVPs were played for us, but I usually find other people’s EVPs to be about as interesting as watching paint dry. Some of my fellow tourists were eating it up, though.
The servant’s staircase led us to our final destination, our attic bedroom for the night. Betsy unlocked the access door and let us wonder around the eaves, which was a fun thing to do. We were told that William and Julia Lemp’s tenth child was thought to be named Zeke and was kept a secret upstairs in the attic because he was physically disabled or had Down’s Syndrome. It was also disclosed that the house does not have any evidence on file of such a person existing (this means we are having story time, Ladies and Gentlemen). You can read what surviving family member, Andrew Lemp Paulsen, has to say about the Zeke rumor here.
After we all had our fill of running around the attic, Betsy gathered us inside the Louis Suite for the “Dark Room Experience.” The hallway lights were left on and dimmed, and we all stood around in a semi-circle while Betsy called to the spirit of Serva, Charles Lemp’s prized pet dog. Betsy then asked me if I felt oppressed when I first entered the room earlier in the day. I answered: “No.” We sat there for several minutes, and Betsy called and called – even pleading with Charles to let Serva come visit. But the clock ticked forward, and Serva did not come when called.
Over all, I thought it was a superior tour for what it was, which was entertainment for the night in a beautiful mansion with some very macabre verifiable history. I don’t know if Betsy really was communicating with someone downstairs in the parlor using dowsing rods, whether or not she really saw a ghostly figure dash up the stairs, whether or not she smelled a phantom perfume smell, or whether or not she truly believed that a ghostly dog was going to visit us upstairs in the Louis Suite. All of that is on Betsy.
She gave her customers a good experience and a night out in St. Louis on a dreary Monday. Everything she presented as truth was backed up with documents downstairs in the home, and she was very clear to those who were listening when she was reciting facts versus telling a scary story in the dark.
I can see why serious, experienced paranormal investigators might call this place a paranormal tourist trap. Full disclosure, the place felt like a dead battery to me, and Bob and I did not have any indication of paranormal activity whatsoever throughout our stay (always read this with a caveat of “for whatever that’s worth. How can someone flying in the for night staying at a hotel with other guests honestly enter a serious opinion about whether or not a place is haunted?!). However, I can enjoy myself and the beauty and history of my surroundings without having a combination of a pebble thrown at my head, an EVP growling “We want Jamie,” and flashlights going on and off on cue.
The great secret is to enjoy your journeys. And we did. Until next time, safe travels.
Jamie Davis is the author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums, and the owner of IJD Paralegal Services, LLC. Her second book with Llewellyn Worldwide will be about haunted hotels and is slated to be released in October 2016. In the meantime, you can keep up with her through her website: http://jamiedaviswrites.com/