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A ghost scares the pee out of Unreal. But then we meet an extraordinary parrot, and stick it to the Webster Groves PD. 

Week of October 5, 2006

Corporate trainer Steven LaChance's life hasn't been the same since he founded Missouri Paranormal Research four years ago. The group devotes its free time to all-night ghost hunts, using digital technology to help humankind rid bogeymen from its basements and attics. According to MPR's Web site (, "One way to get [LaChance] to an investigation quickly is to tell him that there is a child involved."

LaChance has appeared on radio and is slated to appear on an episode of the Discovery Channel's A Haunting tonight (Thursday, October 5). With any luck he'll find an audience in the Missouri General Assembly before long. Read on:

Unreal: Do ghosts only appear around Halloween?

Steven LaChance: No. Ghosts come around all year long, any time of the day or night.

You were a nonbeliever until you moved into a St. Louis home?

Union, Missouri. It was in early summer of 2001. I moved in with my three children, and within a matter of a month we were chased out. My children were locked in a room and I wasn't let in to get them. I'm a big guy — about six-foot-seven, 310 pounds — I threw myself against the door and it wouldn't come open.

Does your group get paid for its work?

No. If your readers ever do go out to look for a ghost group, tell them that if someone comes and asks for payment to run the other way. That's most likely a scam.

How many clients do you have?

I don't think a week goes by that we don't get four or five e-mails from people who need help. Sometimes businesses, too. The restaurant we just worked on, over on Route 66 in Villa Ridge, at one time it was considered the largest roadside rest stop in America. Marilyn Monroe had a dinner there; so did Elvis. The employees were being frightened, being pushed; the women, they would feel hands on 'em. [Laughs.] One time the owner's son went into the restroom and had an apparition come in. The man was at the urinal. He heard a noise outside the door. It opened, a gentleman walked in, stood right next to him and stared at him...

...And the owner's son started peeing on the floor?

He did.

Have you found any legislators interested in supporting your proposed haunted-house real estate disclosure laws?

We're just getting into that, so not at this point. We're aligning with people in other states to help us.

Sadie Want an Unreal?

We had a most pleasant conversation recently with Jim Eggers, who was eager to tout the virtues of the Congo African Gray parrot as service animal.

Before he met Sadie, the 40-year-old Maplewood resident says, he mostly associated the concept of "service animals" with dogs. But in fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act contains an intentionally broad definition of the term: "any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability."

Eggers hasn't heard of any other parrots used as service animals. (Neither has Unreal.) Still, like many other disabled Americans, he experienced hassles in venues where pets are typically unwelcome — on public transportation, for instance (he doesn't own a car), or while apartment-hunting. But he says an ID card he recently purchased from a Texas-based outfit called the Service Animal Registry of America tends to smooth any ruffled feathers.

"I can get her aboard the transit system," Eggers says. "She comes with me to my psychiatrist appointments and any medical appointments.

Eggers is bipolar and gets by on disability payments from the Social Security Administration. The government, he says, deems him severely depressed, with psychotic tendencies. "I hate to say that, but it's true," Eggers admits. "Anxiety attacks can cause me to get psychotic, and I can wind up getting into a lot of trouble with the law. I've been abused pretty bad since I was a kid, and I have had nothing but negative interactions with people for many years. Her being with me — she goes in a backpack — attracts a lot of people. And we interact in a very positive fashion."

Eggers says Sadie was neglected when he acquired her secondhand a little over a year ago from a pet shop. "She was a feather-picker and looked horrible," he says. "I started giving her baths, lots of love and attention. I started saying things like, 'I love you,' 'Give me a kiss,' and she started asking questions like, 'Are you OK?' It was lots of repetition in trying to talk me through anger periods."

He believes the parrot can sense when his mood is souring. "She says, 'Calm down, it's OK'; 'You'll be OK'; 'I love you.'"

He says Sadie does a pretty good imitation of him.

"It's almost like looking into a mirror — in other words she's helping keep me in check and keeping me well behaved. I'm really thankful for her. You know?"


On a mid-September Friday afternoon, Riverfront Times classified sales coordinator Jason Dunker got an urgent call from his wife: Their two-year-old daughter, Marilyn, was apparently vomiting blood at her Overland daycare center. Dunker hied himself to his Ford Freestyle "daddy wagon" (as he calls it), picked up Marilyn and headed toward the pediatrician's office in Crestwood.

"I resisted the parental instinct to speed," he says. At the corner of Lockwood and Elm avenues in Webster Groves, however, he found that the right lane, in which he'd been traveling, became right-turn-only. He needed to proceed straight ahead, and did. A motorcycle cop promptly pulled him over.

"'What you did was very dangerous. We have a lot of accidents here,'" Dunker says the officer told him. "'You could have just turned right, gone up a few blocks, turned left and avoided this whole thing.'"

When Dunker explained his medical emergency, he says, the officer seemed unimpressed — even after the baby expelled another blood-flecked bellyful into her lap.

"I'm disrobing her and scooping handfuls of vomit out of her lap and car seat and she's crying, and I see him out of the corner of my eye with his clipboard and pen ready," says Dunker. "I turn around — hands covered in vomit — and say, 'Where do I sign?'"

The officer took the liberty of signing for him. The damage: a $124.50 fine for "improper lane use."

Lieutenant Stephen Spear, the Webster Groves PD's public-relations officer, declined to divulge the officer's name and tells Unreal the department does not comment on pending cases.

Dunker says his daughter will be fine — the doctor diagnosed the probable cause as a nosebleed. "Instead of the blood coming out of her nose, she just kept swallowing it, which can make you sick," Dunker explains.

"I thought it was strange that he didn't just let me off with a warning," he concludes. "My daughter said I was put in a 'time-out.'"

Ever get the urge to jump up and ____ this damn town? Tell Unreal about it!
[email protected].

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