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Lemp Shades/Man Admits He Ran Out On The Job

 

By Adrian Cornell Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

 

COPIED FROM: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ARCHIVES

Originally published on Sunday, October 30, 1994.

 

Claude Breckwoldt admits it: he ran out on the job.

 

It's not his style; he's a conscientious, as well as talented, painter. But you can't expect a man to work with ghosts.

 

Breckwoldt had been hired by the Pointer family, owners of the old Lemp Mansion, to restore some of the ceiling frescoes at the house.

 

Things went fine for a while. Then, Breckwoldt recalled, came the night when he was working late, all alone.

 

"I was on the scaffold when I had this sensation that someone was staring at me," he said. "I hadn't heard the haunted house stories then. I got down, went into the hall and called out, `Is anyone here?' Nothing.

 

"An hour later, I was working away when I just knew someone was staring at me through the glass-beveled doors. There was no doubt.

 

"I got chills up and down my back. My hair stood on end. Until then, I never believed in ghosts."

 

He left, running across the street to the Pointer house. He told them to send someone over to lock up because he wasn't going back.

 

Breckwoldt reluctantly finished that room, but only in the daytime and only when someone else was around. He turned down working on additional rooms. "I've worked on restoring a lot of old houses, but I've never had an experience like that," he says today. "That place gives me the willies." That ought to be the end of the story. But about 10 years later, Paul Pointer, major-domo at the Lemp Mansion Restaurant, was sitting in the same room talking to an elderly man who had known the Lemps and had been in the house in its earlier days. The man was admiring the ceiling restoration work when he launched into a tale.

 

"Old man Lemp had an argument with his German artist over that ceiling," he told Pointer. "He ordered the ceiling covered with canvas and the artist out. The ceiling was never finished." Indeed, in his restoration work Breckwoldt who is of German descent had pulled a painted canvas off the ceiling and discovered the unfinished fresco underneath. It was the original fresco he restored.

 

The Lemp Mansion in South St. Louis was built in 1862.

 

It existed for more than 100 years before it gained its reputation as being haunted.

 

Maybe it was haunted even sooner; there were some very good reasons for ghosts to be roaming its 33 rooms. Nowadays, however, everyone associated with the house can tell of some encounter with a ghost, presence, spirit or just something that you can't explain. There are stories of despondent merchants and an eccentric woman in lavender, of unseen horses' hoodfbeats and mirrors that reflect people who aren't there, all somehow tied to the wealthy brewing family that once lived there.

 

The Lemp Mansion on DeMenil Street (formerly South 13th Street) is now operated as a restaurant, mystery theater and bed and breakfast by the Pointer family. The Pointers are all good storytellers, and Paul Pointer that he's not above a little hype to help business.

 

But he and his family insist that there are a lot of things that happen in the house that defy any logical explanation.< For example, his sister Patty Pointer says that she's heard things too: a piano playing in an empty room, ringing bells. She also says she once saw a candle light itself. She was so frightened, she made one of her brothers cross the room with her to blow it out. "It was clear that the candle had just been lit. There was no melted wax," she said.

 

And her 6-year-old son, Tommie, in-sists that about a year ago he heard someone call his name from above when he was on the second floor by himself. Tom-mie stays clear of that area these days.

 

Not all the presences in the house seem human. When the family bought the place, they had a red Doberman Pinscher. The dog, Paul Pointer said, got very nervous in the house, and no one could get him to go to the second floor. After a few days, he ran away, never to be seen again.

 

Again, historians of the mansion assisted. Before Charles Lemp shot himself, he shot and killed, yes, his red Doberman Pinscher. And on the second floor. Even the Pointers' mother, Pat a woman so down-to-earth that daughter Patty says "if she met a ghost in the hall, she would show it to a seat at the table" admits to some concerns about that Doberman. She has heard inexplicable barking.

 

So perhaps she's not as skeptical as she once was.

 

But neither is she worried. Despite the scary stories and grim Lemp lore, Pat Pointer notes that no tale of the house and its spirits has ever involved harm to anyone. "If there is a spirit here," she said, "it's a friendly spirit."

 

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