The paper reported that she became despondent after losing her hearing with age. Crenshaw was also white, according to her death certificate, and died in 1913 — decades later than local legend has it. Moreover, she was buried not in four parts but in a difficult-to-find private family burial ground.

To this day Crenshaw's remaining descendents, relatives of her maternal uncle George Towers, have no idea how their ancestor became so infamous around St. Charles. It appears, though, that the legend really gained steam in the 1960s — a time when St. Charles was a hotbed for people interested in witchcraft. (Gavin and Yvonne Frost founded the the Church and School of Wicca in St. Charles in 1968 and successfully petitioned the IRS for recognition as an official religion before moving to North Carolina in the early 1970s. )

"The family seems to think that the legend did grow out of the real person.... She had a really unfortunate life, and it was an intolerant time," says Ray Castile, a local horror enthusiast and former journalist who has written several pieces on Crenshaw. "You can see how in schoolyards or something, people would make up stories about someone who was ill or disabled. There was so much stigma about suicide then. I'm sure it caused quite a commotion in St. Charles."

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

In the mid-1970s Crenshaw's myth was so entrenched that the reference librarians at the Kathryn Linnemann branch of the St. Charles City-County Library started keeping a file of genealogical information and newspaper clippings about her. By 1979 Crenshaw's popularity led the family to remove her headstone from their burial grounds.

Not that that has stopped the fun.

For several years in the early 2000s Joe Glenn operated a Molly Crenshaw-themed haunted forest in St. Charles county's Rotary Park in conjunction with the St. Louis Renaissance Faire. Like other Francis Howell alumni, Glenn (class of 1978) remembers scouring forests and old graveyards looking for the plots that held Crenshaw's remains. It was rumored that her severed body parts inched closer to each other with every passing year. In 2006 Glenn and some friends finally found the real Crenshaw's gravesite after consulting librarians.

"The funny thing is, we got there, and a few minutes later this big truck full of teenage guys shows up, and they're also looking for Molly's grave," says Glenn, who now lives in Florida. "It's a big part of local history."


Mark Twain's Ghost's Ghostwriter
In the spring of 1916 a dozen ladies from St. Louis' society set gathered around a Ouija board, hoping to channel lost relatives. Instead they claim to have conjured up the spirit of America's greatest author, Mark Twain.

"Every scribe here wants a pencil on earth," the planchette spelled out as it moved across their board.

Twain had died six years earlier with unfinished business, according to the spirit that identified itself as "Lazy Sam," or Samuel Clemens (the author's legal name). Mark Twain still had a few more books in him, and he had in mind the perfect ghostwriter. That person, participating in the séance that day, was Emily Grant Hutchings, a formerresident of Hannibal, Twain's birthplace.

One of the most celebrated journalists of her time, Hutchings had made a name for herself as a freelance writer for national magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly and Cosmopolitan, and as the anonymous pen behind the St. Louis Globe-Democrat's juicy gossip column.

She was also a budding spiritualist who, with the help of a medium named Lola Hays, dived into the months-long task of transcribing Twain's novel letter by letter through the Ouija board.

In the fall of 1916 Hutchings published Jap Herron, the story of a Missouri farmboy born into poverty who becomes a cutthroat newspaper publisher. The subtitle of the work read: "A novel written from the Ouija board."

An editor for the San Francisco Chronicle marveled at the book's authenticity, adding that two women couldn't possibly invent Twain's trademark profanity and sauciness. A review from the New York Times was less complimentary of the 230-page novel: "If this is the best that 'Mark Twain' can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary."

Meanwhile, Hutchings soon found herself in trouble with Twain's daughter, Clara Clemens, and the author's former publisher, Harper & Brothers (now known as HarperCollins). Both sued on copyright claims, and Hutchings and her publisher agreed to discontinue publication.

Henry Sweets, curator of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, says that despite the embarrassment caused by Jap Herron, Hutchings and her husband, Edwin, remained committed to exploring proof of life after death. The couple never had any children, and Emily Hutchings died in relative obscurity in 1960 in her home in the Central West End. She'd reportedly suffered dementia for many years. In obituaries, few remembered her as anything more than the widow of Edwin Hutchings. No mentions were made of her literary career or love affair with the Ouija board.

Miles Hochstein, the son of Emily's grand-niece, says spiritualism does not run in the family. He recalls his mother referring to Emily dismissively, often mocking her claims to the spirit world.

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