Five St. Louis Ghost Stories That Just Won't Die

Five St. Louis Ghost Stories That Just Won't Die
Tim Lane
The Bubblehead Family of North County,Zombie Road and Molly Crenshaw.

"Ghost stories exist because most people want some kind of tangible connection to the past."

So says Christopher Gordon, director of the Missouri History Museum's Library and Collections, whose job title requires that he devote some time looking into local tales of the occult and paranormal.

Yet there's another reason why we love our lore and gore. "Most everyone appreciates a good scare," admits Gordon.

Mark Twain's Ghost's Ghostwriter
Tim Lane
Mark Twain's Ghost's Ghostwriter
Monkey Business in the Lemp Family
Tim Lane
Monkey Business in the Lemp Family

That's especially true this time of year as interest in St. Louis' urban legends grows. Some of these tales, handed down from generation to generation, date back nearly 200 years to the city's founding. Others were born around campfires within the past half-century. And while it's easy to dismiss most of these yarns as an out-and-out fallacy or exaggeration, some fables refuse to be laid to rest — no matter how outlandish their claims. Here are five of those tales.

Believe them...or not.


The Bubblehead Family of North County
On a windswept October evening, Carrico Road seems like the sort of place plucked right out of a Grimms' fairy tale. The winding stretch of asphalt disappears from one bend to the next. Fallen leaves swirl across the pavement, and at least eight signs along the shoulder of the roadway carry the same ominous message: No trespassing.

Somewhere in the thick woods beyond those signs, according to local lore, live the Bubbleheads. Some say they are a family who took experimental drugs that caused their heads to swell to the size of large pumpkins. The government — or the pharmaceutical company — bought them off and hid them away on this isolated road just south of the Missouri River in unincorporated Florissant. Others say that the Bubbleheads are an old St. Louis family with physical deformities from years of inbreeding. They keep to themselves, or they attack trespassers in a flurry of rage. Some stories about the area reference "hook men" who stalk the night, mysterious hitchhikers from the great beyond or simply ghosts with big, swollen heads.

Yes, Carrico Road is the kind of place where urban legends are born, though ask local thrill seekers for directions there, and you will likely get blank stares. People know it better as Bubblehead Road, and they've been coming here for at least 40 years — much to the dismay of residents.

A homeowner along Carrico Road who declined to give his name says interest in the myth seems to ebb and flow. Still, a couple times a year, he says, he'll wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a car stereo blasting at full volume or maybe the squealing of tires.

"I know those are kids out there messing around, looking for the Bubbleheads," he says.

Dr. John L. Oldani, a retired professor from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville who has studied regional folklore for decades, says the Bubblehead tale follows a common pattern.

"It's one of those stories that relies on an FOF — a friend of a friend," Oldani says. "People will keep telling these stories, but it's always going to be a friend of a friend, maybe someone they know but can't name, who saw the Bubbleheads themselves or who picked up the ghostly hitchhiker."

Still, might the myth contain a kernel of truth?

John Goessmann, who inherited an old farmhouse on Carrico from his aunt and uncle six years ago, suggests there could be. He remembers a boy who lived at the far end of the street a long time ago. The boy had hydrocephalus, a medical condition that leads to swelling of the brain. Supposedly he would play outside wearing a helmet to protect his sensitive skull. Goessmann and others say the family moved away a long time ago — probably to seek privacy.

Yet the search continues for the Bubbleheads.

Randy Vaughn, a media-relations officer for the St. Louis County Police Department, remembers how trespassing and noise complaints kept him busy throughout the 1990s when he patrolled the area near Bubblehead Road.

"We've issued so many tickets and violations out of there over the years," Vaughn says. "Kids won't leave it alone, especially in summertime and around Halloween."


Molly Crenshaw: It's Hard To Keep a Good Woman Down
Molly Crenshaw may be the most well-known woman in the history of St. Charles county. At Francis Howell High School generations of students pass along the myth of Crenshaw — a bitter Haitian (sometimes Jamaican) woman who was allegedly lynched as a witch in the mid-1800s after villagers blamed her for a devastating crop failure.

In other versions of the story Crenshaw is a freed slave and a voodoo practitioner who cast spells on neighbors. Just before being murdered at the hands of the angry mob, Crenshaw warned that anyone who touched her grave would drop dead.

Legend has it that townspeople chopped her body into quarters, burying them across the countryside so that she would never rise again.

But the real Molly Crenshaw (actually Mollie Crenshaw), the one whose tombstone teenagers have been seeking out for half a century, wasn't a witch or a murder victim or an Afro-Caribbean woman. According to the obituary that ran in the now-defunct St. Charles Cosmo-Monitor, Crenshaw was a schoolteacher-turned-spinster who quietly ended her own life one morning with carbolic acid she'd purchased from a drug store.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
12 comments
mortimerhorowitz
mortimerhorowitz

I drove down Bubblehead Road one night and some crazy old naked bastard came running out of the woods with ranch dressing all over his ass. He ran up to my window and started beating off until he shot his load all over my car. He then ran back into the woods screaming "woooooooo" like Ric Flair over and over again. Stay away from Bubblehead Road unless you want some crazy old naked bastard to shoot his load all over your vehicle.

JayAitch
JayAitch

When I was a kid we lived on Broadway and Cherokee, right across from the Lemp Mansion and Cherokee Cave; the brewery was by then the International Shoe Company factory.  We walked past the mansion every day going to Shepard Elementary, where I went to school with two kids whose family lived in the servant's quarters on the Lemp grounds.  We moved in 1961; our house and most of the neighborhood on the east edge of Broadway went under I-55 not long after.  The kids always said there was something creepy about the mansion but never anything specific, just a weird atmosphere.  There were places ON the grounds their parents told them to never, never go near.     

rickeybrock
rickeybrock

Interesting story and lots of fun, regardless true or not!

gregory.echelmeier
gregory.echelmeier

There is rock climbing at Zombie Road! Creepy, freaky and desperately difficult bouldering, plus some scary cliffs too! Great article! -Greg E

DeeBee
DeeBee

I graduated from Francis Howell in 1970,  back when it was way out there by itself in the stix, half abandoned Army barracks and half Busch Wildlife woods, and I have absolutely no recollection, none, of ever hearing anybody say anything about Molly Crenshaw.  I was quite active on campus and knew all sorts of people who were into magic and all sorts of witchy stuff (this was the era of Black Sabbath, Zepplin and Charlie Manson) being a teen-bohemian much into the art, theatre and music programs -- and no one ever mentioned anything about a Molly Crenshaw.  First I heard of it, RFT.      

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

Seems as if some have not noticed the meaning of this article.  Its not praising the harassment to the families but rather it shows some of the urban legends and ghost stories from the St Louis area.  Personally I find some of this fascinating to see where some of these stories came from.  I spent a portion of my life in House Springs and that place is nothing more than a bunch of lost graveyards.

anonymous
anonymous

Loved learning about the past of St. Louis, real and/or imagined. Well done, and lots of fun to read about these legends. Thanks for the holiday treat!

christmas
christmas

I have lived in the Bubblehead house for 8 years.  I didn't know about the legend when we bought the home.  People come by at all hours of the day and night to honk, curse at the "Bubbleheads" and generally be a pain.  I'm sure it is fun for you but what would you think if someone did that to you or your parents home?  It also sickens me to hear that the Crenshaw family has to remove their loved one's grave stone to protect her final resting place.  Try and put yourself in these situations and have some compassion for others. 

mjohns2
mjohns2

The whole Molly Crenshaw story is sad. If I were a Crenshaw descendent, I would be angry and appalled. Your sentence, "None of that stopped the fun" is callous and disrespectful. I speak as a former reporter and journalism major who cares about the reputation and ethics of my profession.

xmas
xmas

 @smdrpepper

 I understand this but it also draws attention to the legends and then more people come down and harrass us.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

 @mjohns2 , it is the new RFT. Mock what is different. Do not confuse journalism and reporting with what the RFT is doing. The RFT is only entertainment catering to a smaller and smaller crowd of adolescents.

 
St. Louis Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...