Stately Southern manors and gnarled oak branches dripping with Spanish moss seem to lend themselves to creepy tales—particularly at Halloween. Though the hauntings may be legend, these two notorious haunts have histories rooted in true tragedies. Both properties continually appear on lists of the most haunted places and promote their paranormal activity with ghost tours. Hauntingly beautiful, these two spirited places offer accommodations and event space where guests can comingle with stories of past occupants who never left.
The Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn
The spirits that are said to haunt Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Mo., weren’t guests—they lived in the mansion when it was the Lemp family home. German immigrant John Adam Lemp arrived in America in 1838 and started a family empire brewing beer aged in natural caverns below the city. By 1870, the Lemp brewery was the largest in St. Louis. Though the endeavor was enormously successful financially, the beer baron family was beset by tragedy.
Even before Prohibition decimated the family fortune, generations of Lemps died prematurely. Frederick Lemp died under mysterious circumstances in 1901. Three years later, his father, William, shot himself at the mansion. In 1920, William’s daughter Elsa also committed suicide. Two years later, the Lemp brewery, once covering 10 city blocks and valued at $7 million, was sold at auction for a fraction of that worth, following which William Lemp Jr. shot himself, as did his brother Charles years later.
Among the fanciful phantoms reportedly sighted in the mansion is a purple apparition known as “The Lavender Lady.” The ghost is said to be the spirit of Lillian Handlan Lemp, who suffered a nasty custody battle during a very public divorce from her husband William Jr. In life, Lillian dressed almost exclusively in lavender.
The Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn, set in the 33-room house built in the 1860s, now offers The Lemp Experience during which guests are accompanied by a paranormalist to explore three floors of the darkened mansion with an infrared camera.
1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, Ark., is a stately structure with a chilling past. In 1937, Norman Baker bought the building, which was left empty by the Great Depression. He operated the former hotel as the Baker Hospital. Baker claimed to have a cure for cancer, which he advertised to draw desperately ill people to the property.
Problem was, Baker had no medical training; he was a radio broadcaster and former magician, a 20th-century snake oil salesman who preyed on his weak and vulnerable victims. Reportedly, hundreds of people perished on the property as a result of Baker’s fraudulent claims.
Guests and hotel staff report seeing and sometimes interacting with the ghastly Baker’s ghost and a former patient named Theodora, along with a stonemason named Michael who fell to his death while working on the hotel’s construction long before Baker’s sinister scam. Most of the reported paranormal activity is centered in the part of the hotel that was used as a the “hospital” morgue and autopsy room and the meat locker where corpses were stored.
Years ago, the hotel owners hired two mediums who reportedly said the property shows signs of being a portal “to the other side.” The historic hotel has such a reputation for haunted happenings that it offers nightly ghost tours and a séance on Halloween.