Not only is nearby Alton, Illinois, one of the most haunted cities in America (according to the experts), but our very own Mississippi River is one of the most "ghost-infested waterways." Says who? Says Troy Taylor, author, ghosthunter and president of the American Ghost Society, that's who. Mr. Taylor discusses and illustrates the Big Drink's haunted history in a 4 p.m. slideshow-enhanced lecture entitled "Mississippi River Ghosts" at the Lewis & Clark branch of the St. Louis County Library (9909 Lewis-Clark Boulevard; 314-868-0331; free). Find out about more about our town's Lemp family; the haunted church of Hannibal, Missouri; the gangster ghosts farther up the river; and the decadent horror of New Orleans. Scary, scary stuff, straight from the president.
Thursday, October 14
After the recent African art exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louisans are more enlightened about what's going on artistically in Africa now. But what about long ago, in Africa then? What about the continent's architecture? Drop by the Sheldon's Bernoudy Gallery of Architecture (3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900) today from noon to 8 p.m. There, the Architecture of the Imagination: Adobe Structures of West Africa photography exhibit is temporarily housed until January 15. Not to knock the amazing adobe structures in America's southwest (and they are pretty cool, built in the sides of plateaus like that), but the adobe mosques and palaces in Africa really take that muddy building material to a new level of intricacy and monumental significance. Visit www.sheldonconcerthall.org for more info about the exhibit and Paul L. Taylor, James Morris and Michael Roth, the contributing photogs.
Friday, October 15
Pity the poor medieval man, who couldn't afford to buy a book, even if he could read. It wasn't until the late fifteenth century that books were affordable, but Stephen King wouldn't be around for another 500 years. Despite the absence of the King, there were bestsellers, in the form of the Books of Hours. These lavishly illustrated prayer books contained prayers (obviously), the calendar of saints' days, psalms and other devotional writings. Painted Prayers: Books of Hours from the Morgan Library, a travelling exhibit of 58 of these remarkable books currently on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072), is an exceptionally rare chance to see these books in person. At 7 p.m. in the auditorium, William M. Voelkle of the Morgan Library discusses the seven deadly sins in relation to the display. Saints, sinners, ancient books, religious art and free admission? Mr. Night is in bibliophile heaven.
Saturday, October 16
The award-winning Magic House, for the St. Louis newbies, is not a place where magicians wander the rooms pulling rabbits out of hats, escaping sticky situations and performing card tricks. The magic that happens at 516 South Kirkwood Road (314-822-8900 or www.magichouse.org) is of the scientific and educational variety, the kind that the House has been providing St. Louisans for the past 25 years. Help the Magic House celebrate its anniversary at its Birthday Bash from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today. All of your (or your kids') favorite oversize creatures participate in the day, including Clifford the Big Red Dog, Fred Bird (busy week!) and Norton the North Star Penguin. And consider this your warning: Clowns will be present. But because admission price is reduced to $2.50 for those younger than twelve ($6.50 for everyone else), don't let those painted faces and big shoes keep you and yours away.
Sunday, October 17
If you are of the somewhat controversial and primarily cool-weather-time Football Sunday Church, you know that the first day of the week is the day for relaxing. But watching all those games, all day long, has to get boring at some point. (Fine, we know it doesn't get old to the F.S. Church members -- please just play along.) When it's time to stretch those couch-huggin' legs and walk off that bowl of potato chips, head over to the Eliot Unitarian Chapel at 216 East Argonne Drive in Kirkwood for a jazz concert. This 4 p.m. show includes performances by the seventeen members of the Jazz Edge Orchestra and vocalist Anita Jackson. Your $15 not only fills your ears with something other than boring announcers and cheering, but your money also goes to help restore Quinette Cemetery, a slave burial ground in Kirkwood -- something that's obviously much more important that touchdowns. Call 314-997-7393 for more info.
Monday, October 18
Monday Night Football comes to the Edward Jones Dome (Broadway and Washington Avenue; 314-241-1888), bringing with it all the hoopla, hype and the Hank Williams Jr. theme song. Oh, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are kinda miserable right now. Even if the game is sold out (it's an 8 p.m. kick-off, with tickets still available at press time for $42 and $51), you should have no trouble finding a sports bar or a friend's house with a television tuned to the game. Or maybe you should just man up and be one of those "extreme sports fans" who roams around the outside of the Ed, screaming and exhorting the team onward to victory. Who knows? Perhaps the ABC cameras will pick you out of the crowd, and John Madden himself will "telestrate" you as a "true football fan." It's like receiving a benediction from the Pope of Football when that happens.
Tuesday, October 19
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 may be more famous than St. Louis' Great Fire of 1849, but that's probably because Chicago's fire was more destructive and a greater human tragedy. In the St. Louis fire, the all-volunteer fire department devised a radical plan to save the city: a firebreak, created by blowing up five buildings along Second Street. Firefighter Thomas Targee bravely threw a keg of gunpowder into a burning building, and, as you might imagine, the resulting explosion instantly killed him and two of his crew, but it did create the necessary gap along the crowded street that saved the city. Eating Smoke: Fire in Urban America 1800-1950, a 7 p.m. free presentation by author Mark Tebeau and storyteller Barnes M. Bradshaw at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599; free), commemorates the memory of these early firefighters and provides insight into other deadly conflagrations in America's early days.