Hochstein, a professional genealogical researcher who lives in Oregon, says he tried to read his great-aunt's novel but could never finish it.

"If you pick up Jap Herron, you will see that it is more or less unreadable," he says. "That was my experience, anyway. It is truly an awful piece of writing."

He says the family was never sure if Aunt Emily was a sincere spiritualist or a fraud out for a quick buck. According to family lore, Emily was the "alternative" sister, the one who often struggled to make ends meet.

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 1932, Cyril Clemens published a book of letters that belonged to his famous cousin, Samuel. Included in the trove were at least two fan letters from Emily Hutchings from the summer of 1902, after she'd met Twain at a reading in St. Louis. According to Sweets at the Mark Twain museum, the famous novelist and humorist scrawled the word "Idiot!" on the envelope of Hutchings final letter before filing it away in a box.

Monkey Business in the Lemp Family
The boy was said to occupy the third floor of the Lemp Mansion in south St. Louis, striking fear in passersby who caught glimpses of him through the attic windows. The child seemed to be of a different world — half human, half primate.

Some believed he belonged to beer baron William Sr. and his wife, Julia, who first occupied the 33-room manse in the 1860s. Others thought the boy was the illegitimate child of William's adult son, William Jr., a notorious philanderer who took over the brewery and family home following his father's suicide in 1904.

William Jr. — like his dad — died inside the home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1922. A third Lemp family suicide in the mansion in 1949 secured the legend that the property fostered evil spirits.

But what about the lesser-known story of the monkey-faced boy? Did he exist, and what spawned that legend?

Christopher Gordon of the Missouri History Museum believes the tale may have sprung from the attitudes at the time toward the mentally disabled. In the early 1900s eugenics was all the rage, and families — especially the well-to-do — didn't want to be perceived as having "impure" bloodlines. It was not uncommon for offspring with physical or mental disabilities to be institutionalized or kept out of view in basements or attics.

The monkey-faced boy was probably "someone with what we'd now call Down syndrome," surmises Stephen Walker, the author of the book Lemp: The Haunting History, who has studied the story exhaustively.

Walker says the legend of the boy grew in the 1970s when the Lemp Mansion opened to the public as a restaurant and inn and immediately caught the attention of ghost hunters and clairvoyants. At one point a psychic held a séance in the mansion in which a spirit allegedly confirmed that he was the monkey-faced boy and gave his name as Zeke. The psychic claims he told her that he died falling down the stairs in 1943, when he ventured out of the attic to look for his mother. That story — apocryphal as it may be — stuck.

Adding to the myth was the rumor that the boy's remains now reside in the family's mausoleum, tucked away inside a crypt that carries only the generic label "Lemp."

But Richard Lay, vice president of Bellefontaine Cemetery and a man who has studied the Lemps for 30 years, says that is incorrect. There are only sixteen bodies in the Lemp mausoleum, and each is accounted for.

"I've heard so many different variations of this story over the years," Lay says. "People keep coming back to it, but the stuff about unmarked graves in Bellefontaine is just not true."

Andrew Lemp Paulsen, one of the last living descendents of St. Louis' once mighty beer family, echoes that sentiment. He wishes the story of his ancestors locking up a so-called monkey-faced boy in the attic would go away.

"It's bogus. He never existed," says the 27-year-old Paulsen. "People think the Lemps were just suicides and ghosts, but we weren't. We're a real family, and these were good people. To claim that they would do something like that to a mentally handicapped child is extremely insulting."

Zombie Road: Never a Dead End
Long before the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and Michael Jackson's 1983 "Thriller" ushered in a preoccupation with all things zombie, there existed a wooded trail stretching along the hills and hollows of far west St. Louis county. Kids called it "Zombie Road."

Originally the path served as a crossing point over the Meramec River for members of the Osage tribe. When white settlers arrived in the 1800s, natives didn't hand over the land or the crossing peacefully. In his 1883 history of St. Louis county, John Thomas Scharf reported that Native Americans regularly attacked early pioneers from behind trees and atop cliffs, establishing the area's reputation as a place where danger lurked.

Later, in the 1860s, the path became known as Lawler Ford Road and was used to connect the train station at the Glencoe resort community to the Meramec River. One of the first documented deaths along the path occurred in 1876 when Della Hamilton McCullough, the wealthy widow to a prominent St. Louis judge, was hit and killed by a train. Legend has it that McCullough's ghost continued to walk the railroad tracks near the path following her untimely passing.

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