Lore - Lore 247: Subterranean

Episode Date: February 12, 2024

So much for folklore is hiding just beauty the surface of seemingly normal places. The process of digging, though, isn’t without risk. Written and produced by Aaron Mahnke, with research by Cassandr...a de Alba and music by Chad Lawson. —————— Lore Resources:  Episode Music: lorepodcast.com/music  Episode Sources: lorepodcast.com/sources  All the shows from Grim & Mild: www.grimandmild.com —————— Sponsors: BetterHelp: Lore is sponsored by BetterHelp. Give online therapy a try at BetterHelp.com/LORE, and get on your way to being your best self. SimplliSafe: Secure your home with 24/7 professional monitoring. Sign up today at SimpliSafe.com/Lore to get 20% off any new SimpliSafe system with Fast Protect Monitoring. To advertise on our podcast, please reach out to sales@advertisecast.com, or visit our listing here. ©2024 Aaron Mahnke. All rights reserved.

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Starting point is 00:00:00 Brian is going to take a bite of this Subway 6 inch cold cut combo and describe it for us. Okay. Mmm. Classic. Soft bread, the Canadian cheddar cheese, the layers of cold cuts and the veggies. What Brian doesn't know is that his sub only cost $4.99. What? $4.99? Whoa!
Starting point is 00:00:16 I've gotta tell the people! Hey! Hey! There he goes. Right now, experience a Subway 6 inch Black Forest Ham or cold cold-cut combo sandwich for just $4.99 only at Subway. Price and participation may vary. Extras taxes and delivery additional expires April 8. It started with a pipe.
Starting point is 00:00:44 It had been installed to water the site years before and usually did the job of keeping the grass green. But back in 2010, a drought hit the area and the normal amount of water wasn't cutting it anymore. And this was Stonehenge we're talking about. People have a certain expectation for how it's supposed to look. An open field of green dotted with tall imposing stone monuments arranged in the shape of the letter C. At least, that
Starting point is 00:01:11 was the assumption. But as the drought went on, the grass at the base of those stones turned brown. And so did other patches, patches that seemed to complete the circle that the letter C had suggested. So for the next four years, a whole series of scans were made of the landscape surrounding the ancient monument. And guess what they discovered? Stonehenge was a much bigger site than we could have ever imagined. The trouble was that all the evidence of that was buried beneath the surface. As the old adage says, appearances can be deceiving. And in the case of Stonehenge,
Starting point is 00:01:45 looking beneath the surface has led to new, amazing discoveries. And it's a rule of thumb that clearly fits more than just archaeology. Our personal lives are deeper and more textured than a stranger might guess from just one short conversation. The whole field of investigative journalism basically uses that same idea as a mission statement digging deep into the unknown business of corporations and politicians. Because sometimes what's on the surface isn't the whole story. We see one thing, and it might be fact, but it's just one piece of a larger picture. And the same is true of folklore.
Starting point is 00:02:24 But be warned, because the act of digging isn't without risk. The deeper we go, the darker things become. I'm Aaron Mankey, and this is Lore. Johann was looking for a fresh start. Born in Germany in the 1790s, he spent his youth working as an apprentice to his father, a brewer. As a teenager, he even learned from others in the industry and then set out to make a name for himself. And he failed. So in 1836, he boarded a ship and headed to America, leaving his wife and two sons behind until he was sure that he could support them. Two years later, he rolled into the Midwestern city of St. Louis and set up shop as a grocer.
Starting point is 00:03:20 And along with everything else that he sold there in his shop, he offered something that was second nature for him to create. Beer. Now, St. Louis was a really good place to be if you were a brewer in the early 1800s. You see, a lot of Missouri is built on top of limestone caves, and those dark subterranean cavities were really good at keeping beer at the perfect temperature for long-term storage, essential in the world before refrigeration, and Johann took full advantage of that.
Starting point is 00:03:49 His homemade beer took off too. Maybe folks were tired of the typical English ales they had been stuck with for centuries. Perhaps the recipe rumored to have been carried with him from Germany in 1836 was exceptionally tasty. They was probably a mix of both. Either way, pretty soon the grocery store was a lot less important than brewing enough beer to meet demand. By 1845, he had to move operations to a new location with more space, which included a
Starting point is 00:04:16 massive cave. It was over 300 feet long and it is estimated that he was able to store over 3,000 wooden kegs down there, each one able to fill about 165 glasses. Even my rough math skills tell me that that is a lot of beer. And look, I won't drag this out. Johann Lemps' business went from micro-brewery to mega-brewery almost overnight. Three years after the move, his son William made the trip from Germany to join the family business, and together they made a lot of money.
Starting point is 00:04:46 When Johann Adam Lemp passed away in 1862, he died a very wealthy man. He was a millionaire many times over, but more than that, he left behind a business that was only just getting started. Even bigger growth was on the horizon for the company as well as the family. William and his wife Julia would go on to have eight children together, including William Jr., officially called Billy and the family, in 1867. In 1876, William bought his father-in-law's mansion and moved the family in, turning it into a veritable American palace. And boy, did they make some improvements.
Starting point is 00:05:21 Remember those caves? Well, the 33-room Lemp mansion had them as well. Sure, it was already an opulent expression of wealth, but the visible structure was just the tip of an even more indulgent iceberg. Down below, the family installed both a theater and an auditorium, and as if that weren't enough, they also added a bowling alley and a heated swimming pool, although that last one is sometimes disputed. Along the way, the Lemp brewery moved to a heated swimming pool, although that last one is sometimes disputed. Along the way, the Lemp Brewery moved to a more modern facility, giving them the ability to produce more and more of their popular beers. Artificial refrigeration was installed at the brewery in 1878.
Starting point is 00:05:55 In the 1890s, they went national, becoming the first beer in America to be available all across the country thanks to refrigerated train cars. The popularity of their beer radiated outward from St. Louis, especially their fall staff lager named after the Shakespearean character who gave us the phrase, eat, drink, and be merry. As a result, the company ended up with distribution centers all over the place, like Canada, Mexico, Japan, England, multiple European countries, and even more locations in South America.
Starting point is 00:06:26 All that professional expansion was mirrored in his personal life, too. In 1897, William's daughter Hilda married a guy named Gustav Pabst. Yeah, that Pabst. And then two years later, Billy had his own wedding, marrying Lillian Handelin, the daughter of a wealthy railroad magnate. And Lillian was quite a unique individual. You see, she liked the color lavender, and she wore it often. Sorry, strike that, she wore it every single day.
Starting point is 00:06:51 Hats, gloves, dress, shoes, all of it was lavender, all the time. It didn't matter what the weather was like, or what mood she was in. She just wanted to stay in that lavender haze. So there you go. That's the Lemp family as of the year 1900. A massively successful brewing empire led by its founder's son William. And orbiting William's business and personal supernova were his eight children and their spouses.
Starting point is 00:07:18 But the highest of highs are always relative, often defined by just how low the lows can get. And for the Lemp family, those golden years were about to come to a devastating end. The lights of that supernova was fading, and the shadows were about to move in. Different people handle life in different ways. Billy handled his explosive success by living like a king, a household full of staff, expensive carriages and clothing, and a never-ending stream of massive parties. All of this was totally normal in the eyes of Billy and Lillian. And what the extravagance came whispers of darker things.
Starting point is 00:08:07 There was for instance the rumor that Billy fathered a son with one of the servants, or possibly even one of the sex workers from his many parties. A son by the way, that everyone horribly referred to as the monkey face boy because they said he was born with Down syndrome. But money can't shield you from misfortune. In 1901, Billy's brother Frederick died of heart failure. Then in 1904, apparently unable to cope with Frederick's death, William Sr. took his own life in his bedroom inside Lemp Mansion with a.38 caliber revolver.
Starting point is 00:08:39 It's said that Billy heard his father's gunshot and rushed upstairs to check on him, only to find the bedroom door locked from the inside, forcing him to kick it open. It had to have been a terrifying experience for him and everyone else in the family. In 1906, Billy's mother died after a battle with cancer, also inside the family mansion. And then in 1909, like a bridge collapsing under the stress of too much weight, Billy and Lillian headed to divorce court. It was a breakup that went straight to the headlines and turned a private struggle into
Starting point is 00:09:10 a public event. Lillian claimed that she had been forced to endure years of physical and emotional abuse. From a deceptive pre-nup that gave Billy total control over their children's religious education, to the evening Lillian had to keep her husband from shooting a Black staff member because Billy thought that he looked, and I quote, insolent. In court, Billy attacked his wife's choice of wearing lavender every single day. But on the final day of the trial, Lillian showed up in all Black, the only day that she was ever seen wearing anything other than lavender in public. Maybe she wore it to mourn her lost marriage. Perhaps she was simply dressing for revenge. It's impossible to say. bearing anything other than lavender in public, maybe she wore it to mourn her lost marriage.
Starting point is 00:09:45 Perhaps she was simply dressing for revenge. It's impossible to say. Billy broke down after that. He handed over portions of the mansion to the brewing company to use for office space, but also stopped updating their infrastructure. According to most accounts, by the time World War I began in 1914, the brewery was a shadow of its former self, and maybe Billy was too. Then prohibition hit, and all of a sudden it was illegal to produce, transport, and
Starting point is 00:10:11 sell alcohol, which, well, that was kind of all the Lent brewery actually did, so yeah, not good. And the employees found out that the company had closed down for good when they showed up to work one morning and found the doors locked shut. In March of 1920, Billy's youngest sister Elsa took her own life, another self-inflicted gunshot wound, inside her own house across town. There was a bit of speculation that her death was actually the result of murder, committed by her husband Thomas Wright, but those accusations never seem to have gone anywhere.
Starting point is 00:10:42 The Empire officially collapsed in June of 1922 when Lent Brewery was broken up and sold at auction. Instead of the estimated $7 million in value that everyone expected, the sale brought in less than $600,000. It was devastating to everyone involved, but especially Billy, who never seems to have gotten over it. Later that year, Billy took his own life, again with a.38 caliber revolver inside the family mansion.
Starting point is 00:11:09 He managed to shoot himself in the heart not once, but twice. His only child, William III, was just 21 years old at the time. And in 1943, he too would pass away tragically young, dying from a cerebral hemorrhage while walking down a sidewalk. The blows kept coming, too. Another of Billy's brothers, Charles, died in 1949, by suicide with a 38, inside the same room that Billy died in. There's a rumor that Charles shot his own dog before he took his own life, but there's absolutely no evidence to back up that story.
Starting point is 00:11:40 Billy's last surviving sibling was his brother Edwin, who finally passed away in 1970 at the age of 90. When asked how he seemed to escape what many considered to be a family curse, he claimed that it was by getting away from his family and their business as soon as he was able. Sure, he got to enjoy a bit of their wealth, but compared to all the rest, his life seemed to be the most normal, whatever that word means. Fame and Fortune, Tra and loss, these are all key elements of the Lemp story over the years and I think you can see how attractive that was to outside observers.
Starting point is 00:12:14 An elite dynasty plagued by darkness, honestly it's the stuff of grand novels. But the house they left behind didn't brighten up after they were gone. Instead, it became a home to the echoes of all that pain. Our homes are always places of transition. Most of us just sort of take that for granted. We're typically not the first people to live inside our houses, and it's safe to say that we won't be the last either. And the same is true of even the most opulent mansions. The Lent mansion served its family well for decades.
Starting point is 00:13:00 With the death of Billy's brother Charles, though, it no longer had an owner. In 1950, the building became a boarding house, something that was common for old mansions at the time. After that, a local pediatric hospital began using it as living space for children in need. Almost immediately, the house picked up a reputation as being haunted. Footsteps were heard coming down empty hallways, and strange knocking sounds were reported by more than a few people working and living inside. In fact, these rumors made it tough to find tenants willing to rent rooms there.
Starting point is 00:13:33 By the early 1960s, things weren't looking good for Lemp Mansion. It was in a rough state of repair, and St. Louis was growing up around it. Heck, when the Ozark Expressway started construction, the plan was to knock the place down so the highway could pass right through the plot of land. A lot of the property was leveled, too, including the carriage house, but somehow the mansion itself escaped destruction. Which is why, in 1975, a guy named Dick Pointer was able to buy the place and convert it into a restaurant.
Starting point is 00:14:03 Above that, there were a few large suites available for overnight guests. It's given the place a new lease on life, although I have to imagine that it wouldn't make Billy too happy to know that his old mansion is now one of the best places in St. Louis to get an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner on Sunday. During the renovations back in the 70s, though, the workers there experienced a never-ending flow of unusual things. Some of the men claimed to hear unusual sounds and reported the sensation that they were always being watched.
Starting point is 00:14:31 Their tools would randomly vanish from where they had left them, and a few of them even spotted clear, full-body apparitions. A number of people working there also reported a very specific sound, that of horse hooves clacking on cobblestone. It was only many months later that they discovered something laid beneath the lawn in front of the old mansion, the original driveway. It was paved in, you guessed it, cobblestones. One worker at the time was Claude Breckwald, a man who had been brought in to restore an
Starting point is 00:15:01 ornately painted fresco on the ceiling of one of the rooms. For the longest time, the artwork had been covered with canvas because, at least according to legend, William Lemp didn't like how it looked. Well, Claude's task was to remove that canvas and bring the fresco back to life so that guests at the house could enjoy it. But according to him, he was working very late one night when he became completely overwhelmed by the feeling that he was being watched. Claude bravely finished that project, but he never worked at night after that, and absolutely
Starting point is 00:15:31 refused to help on any of the other frescoes in the house. Ghosts have also been spotted in what used to be Billy's sister Elsa's room. Now if you remember, she didn't actually die inside that mansion. Still, that hasn't stopped unusual experiences from happening there. Many witnesses assume the spirits in that space are connected to the mansion's time as a part of the local hospital, where terminally ill children were housed, and the experiences match up. Sheets have been tugged at, and sleeping guests have felt a small weight crawling on their
Starting point is 00:16:01 legs and feet. Even today, guests and staff have seen and heard odd things in the old mansion. Sounds of an invisible piano have been reported from time to time. Doors have been known to shut and lock themselves on their own, and there have been multiple sightings of a mysterious man who's always seen at a table by himself in the dining room, only to disappear without a trace. Out of all the rooms, though, it shouldn't surprise you that William Lemp's original bedroom is probably one of the most active in the house.
Starting point is 00:16:30 It's where the man took his life, after all, and guests who know that are always quick to assume that the disembodied voices and groanings that they hear are somehow connected to that tragedy. But one common experience puts all of the others to shame. Guests who have stayed in William's former bedroom have reported a most unsettling sound, and one that suggests that echoes of past events are somehow repeating themselves, even today. What have people heard?
Starting point is 00:16:55 The sound of footsteps, loud and hurried, running up the stairs from far below and stopping just outside the room. And then, something worse, pounding on the door. As if someone, or something, were trying to kick their way inside. There's always more beneath the surface. Sometimes it's a treasure trove of fascinating new discoveries, but every now and then it's something darker, more frightening, something that adds a layer of shadows to the story we thought we knew. If you've read enough American history, you probably know that the Gilded Age was filled with tales of wealth and power, and how all that seemed to unlock the worst in some people.
Starting point is 00:17:52 And while the Lemp family seems like just one more example of that on the surface, there's something harder to digest right beneath it. This idea that no amount of wealth or power could hold back the ocean of misfortune, pain, and grief that ended up washing over that family. And it felt like those tragedies, just like the rumors and legends that followed them, only grew in number as time went on. One big example are the stories of Billy's illegitimate son, the one that cruel rumor mongers refer to as the monkey- face boy, which again, has no concrete
Starting point is 00:18:26 evidence to support it whatsoever. Over the years though, a number of ghost hunters and psychics have worked inside the mansion, capturing stories of odd experiences and even a few bits of curious footage and audio recordings. And a lot of them seem to point to a young man named Zeke, a name that was captured on an EVP during a 1983 radio broadcast from within the house. Ghost hunters and obsessed researchers have combined a lot of little pieces over the years into what they believe is a glimpse into the past. Billy's unwanted child, illegitimate and disabled, was named Zeke and he was kept chained in the attic of the mansion for a number of years. Horrifying to even imagine, I know.
Starting point is 00:19:07 And if the theories are correct, Zeke was one of the last to die in that house. Unlike many of his other relatives, though, this poor young man did not take his own life. Instead, it's believed that he was murdered, and exactly how the deed was done might have been revealed one eerie evening long ago. During a ghost hunting session, someone in the attic asked Zeke to explain how he died, and they heard a distinct voice in the darkness call out the word pushed. And then, as if to demonstrate, a black mist allegedly formed in the center of the room moved out into the hall at the edge of the third floor stairs and then toppled over the
Starting point is 00:19:44 railing, falling to the main entryway, three stories below. Today we lifted the lid and peered deep into the history and legends buried beneath a real-life dynasty. I hope the trip down memory lane, with all the detours and darkness it came with, was as educational to you to hear about as it was for my team and I to put together. But we're not done yet, because Missouri has one more tale from the depths to offer up to us.
Starting point is 00:20:26 Stick around through this brief sponsor break to hear all about it. This episode of Lore was sponsored by BetterHelp. It's a common misconception that relationships have to be easy to be right, but sometimes the best ones happen when both people put in the work to make them great. And therapy can be a place to work through the challenges that you face in all your relationships, whether with friends, work, your significant other, or anyone. I know firsthand how helpful it can be to learn positive coping skills and how to set boundaries.
Starting point is 00:20:56 It empowers you to be the best version of yourself, because therapy isn't just for those who have experienced major trauma. If you're thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It's entirely online, designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist and switch therapist anytime for no additional charge. Become your own soulmate whether you're looking for one or not. Visit betterhelp.com slash lore today to get 10% off your first month. That's better help.
Starting point is 00:21:26 H-E-L-P dot com slash lore. This episode was also sponsored by Simply Safe. When you love someone, you protect them in the best way you can. That's why I recommend Simply Safe Home Security. It's an advanced system that protects every inch of your home and backed by 24-7 professional monitoring for fast emergency response for less than a dollar a day. I use and love Simply Safe on a daily basis and I cannot recommend it highly enough from the initial setup to the daily operation. Although my favorite feature of all has to be the ability to use the app to check in on the space through their amazing cameras. It truly is simple and always solid. Simply Safe offers everything you need for whole home protection, HD cameras for indoors
Starting point is 00:22:08 and outdoors, advanced motion sensors and entry sensors to protect your doors, windows, and rooms, and a collection of hazard sensors that detect fire, flooding, and more. And like I said before, the system is easy to set up without any special tools or know-how required. Don't want to do it yourself? No problem, you can get one of their expert technicians to come to your house and install it for you. Order now to get 20% off any new SimplySafe system with FastProtect monitoring. Don't wait. Visit simplysafe.com slash lore. That's simplysafe.com slash lore. There's no safe like SimplySafe. Simply safe. One of the vacations my family took when I was a kid was a drive to Missouri to visit the Merrimack Caverns.
Starting point is 00:22:56 Like I said earlier, there are a lot of caves in that state, and some of them have even become tourist destinations. For a boy from Illinois who was used to flatlands and very few trees, having a chance to go beneath all of that was an absolute thrill. I remember the Sound and Light show, a stone wall that looked like an American flag when certain lights were pointed at it, and all the crazy rock formations you could ever have hoped for. It was dark and damp and very fun.
Starting point is 00:23:23 But not all caves in Missouri are as much of a joy to visit as that one. You see, about 120 miles north of my childhood vacation memories is another cave, and this one has a history that's filled with a lot more folklore. Like a lot of caves in the area, it was explored by white settlers early on. We know the place changed names a number of times over the years, too, but way back in 1819, locals just called it Sims Cave, after a pair of brothers who claimed to be the first to stumble upon it. On top of that, some folks believed that Panthers had lived inside it, leading to the name Panther
Starting point is 00:23:56 Cave as another option. And throughout the 1830s and 40s, it was even called Salt Peter Cave, thanks to the large amounts of bat guano found inside, a substance that was used to make gunpowder back in the day. But in 1848, the cave became home to a new story and as a result, a new name. It started when a surgeon named Dr. Joseph McDowell purchased the cave and set about building a big stone wall across the entrance with just one lockable door in the middle. Now, McDowell was sort of an odd personality. He was a physician who studied anatomy in an era when people were still a bit squeamish
Starting point is 00:24:32 about using human bodies in medical research. So his plan for the cave was to build a safe place where he could do all the slicing and dicing that he wanted to, without the prying eyes of the rest of the community. Except building a wall and locking the door to anything is a great way to generate a whole lot of curiosity. Naturally, people started trying to get inside Dr. McDowell's cavern slash laboratory. In one instance, it said that a number of people broke in while he was working one night, and he was able to extinguish his lantern but that left him standing in pitch blackness without a way to find his way out.
Starting point is 00:25:08 In that moment, he claimed that the glowing specter of his dead mother appeared beside one of his work tables, allowing him to climb on and cover himself with a sheet to look like a dead body. At least at the time, it seems to have worked. But there was another curious sight inside that cave that locals, especially children, were wild to get a look at. It seems that Dr. McDowell had outlived a number of his own kids, and had experimented with various ways to embalm them.
Starting point is 00:25:35 Most were in a graveyard somewhere, but his most recent loss, his 14-year-old daughter, had been brought to this new laboratory. And there, the doctor apparently built a cylindrical coffin out of sheets of copper, placed her inside, and then filled the tube with alcohol and other preserving agents before sealing the lid. And then that creepy metal coffin was suspended from the ceiling by hooks and rope. As if that weren't spooky enough, this metal coffin also had what I can only describe as a porthole hidden beneath a small metal door.
Starting point is 00:26:08 Anyone who wanted to look upon McDowell's dead daughter's face just needed to slide the door open and look through the glass. Like I said, he was an odd guy. Two years after buying the place and moving in, McDowell got fed up with all the vandalism and the break-ins, and he shut the place down. He moved his daughter's copper capsule to a proper burial site, and quietly moved on. And for a long time, folks in the area called the place McDowell's Cave, because… well, I think you get it.
Starting point is 00:26:37 Today, though, that's not its name. You see, one local who lived there during McDowell's use of the cave was a teenager named Sam. There's no way that he couldn't have heard the rumors about everything that went on inside there, filling him with a sense of wonder and adventure. And even though Sam moved away a couple of years after the mad scientist did, those stories stuck with him. He would go on to accomplish a lot in life, too, from printer and typesetter to riverboat
Starting point is 00:27:02 pilots and journalist. But his biggest claim to fame is probably one of the novels that he wrote that pulled in pieces of that mysterious cave from his childhood. He called it McDougall's Cave and swapped out the medical shop of horrors for a scene where two of the main characters get lost inside, wandering for days. This novel is now viewed by most as a masterpiece of American literature, and one of the people we have to thank for that is McDowell himself. Fast forward almost two centuries and that cave has become a tourist destination.
Starting point is 00:27:33 In fact, it's even a registered national natural landmark. Throw in the added detail that infamous outlaw Jesse James also spent time inside it, and you can probably see why people want to pay it a visit. One last thing though, back in 2019, a tour guide was taking some guests through the cave when they spotted something no one had ever noticed before. It was a little bit of graffiti, nothing more than a signature, really, but it was Sam's signature. Samuel Clemens, I might add, known around the world as Mark Twain, the author of The Adventures
Starting point is 00:28:08 of Tom Sawyer. This episode of lore was written and produced by me, Aaron Mankey, with research by Cassandra De Alba and music by Chad Lawson. Don't like hearing ads? We've got a solution. There's a paid version of lore on Apple Podcasts and Patreon that is 100% ad-free. Plus, subscribers also get weekly mini-episodes called Lore Bites. It's a bargain for all that ad-free storytelling and a great way to support this show and the
Starting point is 00:28:48 team behind it. Lore is much more than just a podcast. There's the World of Lore 3 Book series, plus two seasons of the television show on Amazon Prime Video. Learn more over at lorpodcast.com. And you can also follow this show on threads, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Just search for Lore Podcast, all one word, and click that follow button. And when you do, say hi.
Starting point is 00:29:10 I like it when people say hi. And as always, thanks for listening.

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