Haunted history: 16 places where you might find some real spirits of St. Louis (2024)

By Sarah Bryan Miller and Hanna Holthaus St. Louis Post-Dispatch

As Halloween nears, haunted houses promise manufactured fright with devilish costumes and all-too-realistic makeup. For those in the pursuit of the paranormal, however, there are a few famous must-visit sites in the St. Louis area. From historic homes to theaters to roads, many spots claim fame in the form of visitors from the beyond. Here’s a sampling of some spots rumored to be haunted that are open for your visit — and some you can view from a safe distance.

Alton Military Prison Site

Where214 William Street, Alton

The first Illinois State Penitentiary, once a formidable building overflowing with inmates, closed in 1857 because of what Troy Taylor calls “inhumane conditions.” In 1830, “The conditions were horrible, as you can probably imagine ... along the river, locked in a cell with no heat, no air conditioning, bad food, no medicine,” he says. “People died on a regular basis.”

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It reopened in 1862 because the St. Louis prisons were overflowing with Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Renamed the Alton Military Prison, the building once again became overcrowded. Smallpox and rubella plagued the prisoners, causing more than a thousand more deaths. The prison closed again in 1865.

“It left a mark behind,” Taylor says.

Taylor, who has researched the prison for his books on haunted Alton spots, says the building fell into disrepair. The land became a public park, granting people the opportunity to explore.

“People wandered into the building,” he says. Theirs “were some of the first ghost stories that were publicized, and all people claiming that they weren't alone, that they were hearing sounds and footsteps and voices.”

The state demolished all but one wall of the building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. A parking lot now occupies the rest of the land, but Taylor says unexplained happenings still occur, even without the presence of the actual building.

He says he has never had a supernatural experience at the site but says homeowners nearby claim the prison affects them. Some can hear voices and unexplained sounds in the parking lot itself, he says.

Bissell Mansion

Where 4426 Randall Place

More info 314-533-9830; bissellmansiontheatre.com

Barbara Schepker’s assistant believes in the ghosts of the Bissell Mansion. One day while planning a retirement party, she told Schepker about a dream she had the night before involving the house. Two women, she said, stood in the window, one blonde dressed in white and the other a brunette dressed in a mauve dress with a brooch.

Schepker thought the interaction was strange but chose not to concentrate on it. Later, the man retiring came to her office and asked if she believed in ghosts. Schepker said no but told him about the dream her assistant had the night before.

“He said, ‘Well, those two ladies are in the room right now,’ and I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Schepker says. “Still, when I talk about it, the hair on my arm stands up. He said, ‘If you turn around and look over your right shoulder, you'll see them. They're back by the window.’ Of course, I turned around. I didn't see anything, and he said, ‘They're watching us.’”

Working at the Bissell since 1982, Schepker has experienced many phenomena she can't explain. Objects will be moved from where she left them. Radios will suddenly turn on.

Capt. Lewis Bissell had the mansion built in the 1820s to overlook the Mississippi River; he lived there with his wife until she died, when he then remarried. The house now operates as a restaurant and dinner theater, but some people in the house suspect the Bissells still linger.

Schepker says the ghosts don't appear when big groups are present, but members of the staff have had interactions with women they believe to be the captain’s wives.

Schepker says she has never seen a ghost. If she were to accept their existence, though, she fears more strange things could happen.

Campbell House Museum

Where 1508 Locust Street

More info 314-421-0325; campbellhousemuseum.org

“Anyone who has spent much time here over the years has heard something — or, in a few cases, seen something — that isn’t easily explained,” Andy Hahn, executive director of the Campbell House Museum, told the Post-Dispatch in 2015. “The floors and stairs are creaky. Sometimes, footsteps go up and down the stairs, or there are footsteps from the floor above, when nobody else is in the house.”

And then there’s the woman in the window.

The Campbell house has seen a lot of history since its construction in 1851. Robert and Virginia Campbell bought it in 1854. Their three sons didn't change anything about the house until the last of them died in 1938.

In 1943, the house opened as a museum of history and decorative arts in mid-Victorian America. Years ago, Hahn says, the then-director went to check on a worker and reminded him that no one else was in the house.

"What about that lady in the window, with her hair up?" the worker asked.

People have felt things, Hahn said. "People find furniture moved, shades opened. It’s nothing menacing, but there are certainly things that are unexplained.”

Ghost hunters have made rounds at the house, setting up equipment at night to make recordings. "Most of the time the responses they get are very hard to understand,” Hahn said.

One, though, “was very audible and pretty chilling. We were actually hearing someone whimpering or crying, and it was obvious that they were right by the microphone. What was more startling was that it was on the third floor, in the hallway right outside the children’s rooms.”

Chase Park Plaza

Where212 South Kingshighway

More info 314-633-3000;thechaseparkplaza.com

A red-haired woman in a white dress standing in a window.

A dapper gentleman wearing a tuxedo.

Robbi Courtaway wrote two books about hauntings in St. Louis. In her second, “Spirits of St. Louis II: The Return of the Gateway City Ghosts,” she wrote about the two well-dressed ghosts of the Chase Park Plaza. The woman supposedly jumped from a window on her wedding night in the 1930s. The man may be the original owner himself, Chase Ulman, who died in nearby apartments.

While conducting research, Courtaway spoke to employees who claimed to have seen Ulman. One man said he saw him walk among the pillars of the lobby. Another saw him walking on air. Regardless of destination, the ghosts, especially Ulman, are more often seen at night, after traffic slows in the hotel. From the street, he peeks out windows at lingering passersby.

The building, constructed in 1922, has gone through many renovations, possibly displacing any ghostly presences, accounting for the lack of recent visits from the woman in white.

'Exorcist' House

Where Roanoke Drive, Bel-Nor

Troy Taylor has investigated the famous "Exorcist" house for years, but he doesn't know whether the boy from the Bel-Nor home was actually possessed. He never spoke a foreign language— one of the requirements for an exorcism at the time— but the exorcism still occurred despite any inconsistencies.

The bed "was bouncing up and down." The boy went into trances at night, screaming and shouting, and had to be restrained. He spat and attacked the priests who came to conduct the exorcism. One of them "told me point blank, ‘I saw the bed levitate 8 inches off the floor.’”

Taylor wrote “The Devil Came to St. Louis” in 2006. The book is now in its third edition because Taylor keeps learning new aspects of the exorcism that inspired the 1979 novel, “The Exorcist,” and the movie that followed.

In his research, Taylor spoke to the seminarian who assisted the exorcism and a monk who saw the boy when they moved him to a wing of the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

According to the story, Taylor says, the boy moved with his family from Maryland to St. Louis. As strange things began happening, the family moved back and forth, eventually beginning the exorcism in the St. Louis home and finishing in the hospital.

The wing of the hospital has since been demolished, but the house where the exorcism began still stands and remains a private residence. In 2015, Destination America attempted a live, televised exorcism of the home.

Taylor has spoken to many of its inhabitants. “I wouldn't say that house is haunted at all,” Taylor says. “To me, it's a historic site because it is where a paranormal event occurred or at least an unexplained event, because, to this day, we don't know for sure whether or not he was truly possessed.

"This is one of those things where if you truly believe in it, that means (possession) can happen to anyone. I mean, this kid never asked for this and never did anything to deserve it. It just happened. So why couldn't it just happen to anybody?”

First Unitarian Church of Alton

Where110 East Third Street, Alton

More info618-462-2462; firstuualton.org

When standing in the First Unitarian Church of Alton one night, Troy Taylor assumed one of the members of his group had wandered into the building auditorium. He stood on one side of the doors, each with big panes of glass, leading into the room. He saw a small light and shadow walk up the other side.

“We checked, and the auditorium was empty,” Taylor says. “There was nobody in there.”

The Unitarian Church first built on the property in the 1850s. The original building burned in 1901, and the building now standing dates to 1905.

The church still uses the building, and Taylor’s group, American Hauntings, offers tours of it at night.

In 1934, the church’s minister, the Rev. Phillip Mercer, was found dead in the church. He supposedly had committed suicide, though some wonder whether he was actually murdered.

Fox Theatre

Where527 North Grand Boulevard

More info 314-534-1678; fabulousfox.com

Grand Center’s many theaters seem to be awash with ghosts. In 2014, the Fox Theatre invited the St. Louis Paranormal Research Society to conduct an overnight investigation; Halloween ghost tours at the theater have sold out quickly. (The theater isn't offering them this year.)

Sightings have included a woman dancing on the stage and a “presence” that pushed past a man and hissed at him in a room under the stage; when the man looked, he saw a woman’s legless torso moving away.

Arlene Cerbie,managerof the theater’s Fox Club, told the Post-Dispatch in 2015 that her two-story realm is severely haunted, especially the downstairs Marquee Room. There’s an FBI agent who stamps around and rattles doorknobs (“He doesn’t like me,” she said), and she once saw who she believes is Eve Leo, wife of William Fox, who built the theater.

“I was coming up the stairs, and I saw a woman in a powder-blue suit with red hair and blue eyes, staring at me. I ran over, but there was nobody there.”

Leo has also turned up in the underground screening room, saying, “You need to make the call. You need to make the call.” And a spirit in the projection booth gets upset with people who don’t belong there.

Jefferson Barracks

Where345 North Road

On Halloween night, decades ago, two security guards at Jefferson Barracks began chatting about a costume one had seen. A man had entered wearing a seemingly authentic soldier’s uniform from the Civil War.

Confused, the other guard said no such man came to the party, and no one matching his description was on the guest list.

The Civil War soldier is one of many ghosts sightedwithin the grounds of Jefferson Barracks, established in 1826 as a military fort. Bryan Alaspa wrote in his book “Ghosts of St. Louis” about the base and the supposed spectral inhabitants.

Another Civil War soldier story exists, according to Alaspa, taking place during the war itself. A man approached a fellow soldier, only to realize the man appeared “blurry and indistinct and then vanished altogether.”

The barracks have evolved over the years, and so have the stories. Tales of angry soldiers with bullet wounds, footsteps echoing through the halls, and lights turning on and off without visible control still exist.

“Reportedly, one sentry who was confronted (by a ghost) was so terrified, he left the Army and never returned.”

Lemp Mansion

Where3322 DeMenil Place

More info 314-664-8024; lempmansion.com

The home of the beer-baron Lemp family can be found in most modern accounts of American hauntings. It’s No. 3 of 10 on the list of “America’s Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places,” by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen (Berkley; 336 pages; $16).

The house is now a restaurant, dinner theater and bed-and-breakfast, although guests may want to depart in the middle of the night.

Visitors regularly report voices, hair-pullings, screams, spectral dogs climbing into bed with them and self-playing pianos. The ghosts there are thought to be the shadows of the suicide-prone Lemp family.

Johann Adam Lemp arrived in St. Louis from Germany in 1838 and soon introduced the city to lager, with the limestone caves beneath the Mississippi River bluffs providing the perfect place to brew and store beer.

The family constructed the mansion in 1868; William Lemp substantially remodeled it in 1876 with a tunnel leading to the caves and brewery.

The Lemps had financial success but personal unhappiness. William shot himself in 1904. William Jr. and his wife, Lillian, had a miserable marriage and divorced in 1908; he shot himself in 1922. Their son, William III, died of a heart attack in 1943; his brother, Charles, shot both his dog and himself in 1949. All of them, along with an undocumented illegitimate son of William Jr.’s, known to staffers as “Zeke,” are rumored to haunt the mansion.

(A daughter of William Sr., Elsa Lemp Wright, shot herself at her home on Hortense Place in 1920.)

Some ghost-hunters report chilling and dramatic interactions. Others have visited without encountering so much as a goose bump. But plenty of people have had experiences there ranging from the mildly spooky to the downright terrifying.

Loretto Hall

Where470 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves

Bryan Alaspa graduated from Webster University in 1993. While living on campus, he heard rumors about a ghost that haunts Loretto Hall. He tells one firsthand account of his time at Maria Hall next door:

“One time myself, my roommate and our suite mates were all just sitting there when the shower in the bathroom went on by itself, just full blast, nobody in the bathroom. All four of us ended up kind of just walking into the bathroom and looking around going, 'OK, we're all here, and nobody's in the shower. Who turned the shower on?’ I never did get an explanation for that.”

At the time, Loretto Hall was undergoing construction, so Alaspa wondered whether that pushed the ghost to the adjoining building.

He published his first book about hauntings around St. Louis in 2007. The Catholic Sisters of Loretto once ran the school as a religious organization.

Alaspa says the rumor on campus always involved a young novice who jumped from the fourth floor of Loretto Hall after a illicit affair. Students living near Alaspa claimed they heard her walk the halls or cry, and some saw shadows where no one stood.

Loretto-Hilton Center

Where 7130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves

More info 314-968-4925

Theaters are famous for often having as much drama offstage as on, so perhaps it’s no surprise that they’re frequently also famous for having ghosts. Webster University’s Loretto-Hilton Center, home to Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, is supposedly haunted by three specters.

Most famous is David Hitzer, a former master electrician who haunts the catwalks overhead. He’s known for yanking workers by their belts or collars when they lean over too far while adjusting lights. He's also been known to mess with the lights and projectors.

Mineral Springs Hotel

Where301 East Broadway, Alton

More info618-717-0546

Once believed to house pools of healing water, the Mineral Springs Hotel in Alton has transitioned from the days of “seedy” endeavors and questionable medical practices. The building now offers three stores, as well as renovated apartments and the original spaces for pools on the lower levels.

Four deaths have been recorded in the building, manager Laura McKeever says, though paranormal researchers suspect more have occurred. McKeever lives in an older house in uptown Alton and has experienced ghostly presences since early childhood.

“I've always been a little bit more sensitive to (ghosts), but working here has definitely heightened that, of course, because there's more experiences that happen every day,” McKeever says. “I've definitely always, always believed.”

Built in 1914 and owned by two German brothers, the building functioned as a hotel with healing spas until the 1930s, when it fell into disrepair. It continued serving guests until the 1960s before being condemned in 1971.

McKeever says her boss, Donna Nunnally, acts as both a psychic and a medium and can communicate with the ghosts as though she were talking to regular, everyday people. Through Nunnally, McKeever says, they know the names of some of their ethereal inhabitants.

“Mary,” the staff believes, fell— or was pushed— down the “jasmine staircase” after her husband caught her cheating on him. The building always smells like jasmine, McKeever says, but the scent intensifies when “Mary” nears.

“Pearl” committed suicide in one of the hotel rooms around Halloween.

“Clarence” was a young boy taking swimming lessons in the building’s pool. One day when practicing his dives, he hit his head at the bottom and drowned. “There is a certain corner, the corner that he did fall in, when if you stand over there for too long, it's a very strange sensation, sort of like a dizziness,” McKeever says.

The owners host haunted tours of the buildings and hold seances there.

Payne-Gentry House

Where4211 Fee Fee Road, Bridgeton

Built in 1870, the Payne-Gentry house in Bridgeton exists as a reminder of history. Now remodeled, the house is available for tours and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dr. Elbridge Payne worked out of the house, as well as lived in it with his wife, Elizabeth. His practice, according to Robbi Courtaway in her book “Spirits of St. Louis II: The Return of the Gateway City Ghosts,” may have contributed to the number of ghosts spotted in the historic residence.

As many of 22 specters, not including a ghost dog, were spotted at the home by a touring psychic, Courtaway wrote.

Powell Symphony Hall

Where718 North Grand Boulevard

More info314-534-1700; stlsymphony.org

Powell Symphony Hall is known for “George,” a figure in white tails and top hat with a handlebar mustache. It seems that he might have company.

In 2011, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra hosted a team from the St. Louis Ghost Hunters Society who brought their high-tech equipment for a tour of the hall. In the lower-level Whitaker Room, at 3 a.m., according to former publications manager Eddie Silva, the leader of the team asked any spirit that might be present to communicate. The phone rang once.

In the projection room of the former movie palace, the team seemed to make contact with a female spirit. “She doesn’t like to be called George,” Silva said at the time.

Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries

Where3648 Washington Boulevard

More info 314-533-9900;sheldonconcerthall.org

The ghost of the Sheldon, presumed to be its architect, Louis Clemens Spiering, likes to play with anything electrical: the elevator, the lights (a specialty) and, once, according to fiddler Mark O’Connor, he wrecked an all-night recording session by manually resetting all the gear when the crew went out to eat, leaving the building empty and the alarms on.

Zombie Road

Where Lawler Ford Road, Wildwood

Janice Tremeear said in her book “Missouri’s Haunted Route 66” that Lawler Ford Road's nickname — "Zombie Road" — comes from many sources. One explanation is that it's named after a mental patient, nicknamed Zombie, from an institution that was supposed to exist there, Tremeear wrote.

“He wandered away one night and never came back, his bloodied nightgown found by the side of the road.”

Now, Tremeear wrote, “Zombie” supposedly wanders the abandoned road, but he is not alone. The ghosts of children, Native Americans, witches and the people who died on the road may continue to line the path, believers say. “Old-time music is heard, and moving lights float about and follow you,” Tremeear wrote.

In 2007, Spooked Productions released a documentary called “Children of the Grave,” which featured the famous St. Louis site. Though the road attracts teenagers due to its “killer with a hook” variety of fame, Tremeear wrote, authorities have warned against traveling it at night.


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Haunted history: 16 places where you might find some real spirits of St. Louis (2024)


Haunted history: 16 places where you might find some real spirits of St. Louis? ›

The Legends of Zombie Road

Near the Meramec River, on the edges of Wildwood, Missouri, there's a small path tucked away among hills and oak trees. It was originally built in the 1860s, over a hundred years before Wildwood even existed.

Where is Zombie Road in Missouri? ›

The Legends of Zombie Road

Near the Meramec River, on the edges of Wildwood, Missouri, there's a small path tucked away among hills and oak trees. It was originally built in the 1860s, over a hundred years before Wildwood even existed.

What is the haunted hospital in St Louis? ›

Alexian Brothers Hospital (a setting of the real exorcism from the movie The Exorcist.

Where is the St Louis Ghost Train? ›

Louis Ghost Light, or St. Louis Ghost Train is a supposed paranormal phenomenon seen near Saint Louis, Saskatchewan, Canada. It has been described by witnesses as a huge beam of white light, reminiscent of a locomotive headlamp.

Where was the first haunted house located? ›

History. One of the first recorded purpose-built haunted attractions was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, which opened in 1915 in Liphook, England. Closely resembling a carnival fun house, it was powered by steam. It still exists, in the Hollycombe Steam Collection.

Where was the hotel of horrors? ›

The Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are both indoor, walk through Haunted House attractions featuring live actors and paranormal activity housed in the 200 year old “abandoned “ Pocono Mountain resort once called The Lake House Hotel, Saylorsburg, Pa.

Where is the haunted mansion? ›

The Haunted Mansion, also semi-officially known as Gracey Manor, and sometimes given the address of 1313 Esplanade Street, is the fictitious setting of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland's Haunted Mansions are both set in Upstate, New York.

What's in the haunted mansion? ›

Glide past a casket-filled conservatory, Madame Leota's chilling séance room and a ghostly graveyard of singing specters as you attempt to find your way out. Beware of hitchhikers—these phantom pranksters may follow you home. Happy haunting!

Can you ride the Ghost Train? ›

Yes, Ghost Train has a dedicated Ride Access Pass entry. You will need to present your ID card alongside your Timecard – this will be marked.

Why is it called the Ghost Train? ›

In the 1920s, Pretzel rides were becoming a big hit in the United States of America. During the late 1920s, Pleasure Beach Resort decided to buy one of these types of dark rides. It was called the "Ghost Train", based on the name of the popular play at the time, The Ghost Train.

What is a Ghost Train station? ›

The term is also sometimes used for any unused underground station or any unused station, whether or not trains pass through them.

What's the scariest haunted house? ›

People who have experienced McKamey Manor have shared truly horrifying accounts of what has allegedly taken place from near drowning and possibly being buried alive to much worse. While there is a safe word, people have claimed that it's pretty much useless and the experience isn't over until McKamey says it is.

What is the oldest haunted house story? ›

The earliest surviving report of a haunted house comes from a letter written by Pliny the Younger (61 – c. 112 CE) to his patron Lucias Sura, in which he describes a haunted villa in Athens. Nobody would live in the house until the philosopher Athenodorus (c.

Is zombie highway still available? ›

Two sequels have been released: Zombie Highway 2 and Zombie Highway: Driver's Ed. Zombie Highway and the other games of the franchise are currently unavailable as Auxbrain has announced that they will be focusing on other games.

What is the story behind Zombie road? ›

The story goes that a man named Zombie had escaped from a local mental hospital and disappeared along Lawler Ford, leaving only his blood-soaked clothes. The nickname Zombie Road followed soon thereafter. Real-life ghost hunters like Troy Taylor, however, have delved deeper.

Is Rock Hollow Trail haunted? ›

The Rock Hollow Trail is supposedly a haunted trail, although the hidden mysteries make themselves noticed at night. During the day, the trail shows much of the nature along Meramec River.

What are zombie road signs in Fortnite? ›

One new feature is the appearance of zombie road signs. You can find these in various locations across the map, and they're not just a decoration. If you assist in destroying them, you'll be partaking in a certain challenge that'll score you some XP.


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