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.

« Previous Page
 |
 
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
Loading...