In Denverside, a suburb of East St. Louis, yesterday afternoon, Charles Holbert, a foundryman, killed Oscar Holten, a peddler, shot Jerry Jakes through both thighs, fired several times at his wife and finally put a bullet through his brain. He held the revolver so close that the ball crushed a portion of the skull. His death is expected at any moment.
Hard drink and the loss of a little pocket-knife caused the shooting. The knife was worth but the merest trifle, but its loss angered Holbert, who was crazed by strong drink, and an afternoon of terror such as had never been seen before in that part of the country followed. Several times the frenzied man loaded his revolver and fired at any one who happened to cross his path. Only once was he bluffed, and this was by a saloonkeeper. That there are not more dead, the result of Holbert's deadly aim, is considered simply miraculous.
About 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon a crowd of foundrymen and others were in the saloon of T. W. Jones at Denverside, when a jolly old man walked in. He was a peddler and had for sale an etching fluid. In showing his ware he asked for pocket-knives that he might etch the owner's name on them. Meanwhile he told funny stories and sang several old-fashioned songs. The crowd was merry and, more to assist the old man than anything else, several of the men purchased the acid from him. Just as the old man was about to leave and was returning the knives to their owners Holbert declared that some one had stolen his knife and immediately accused the peddler. Holten denied the charge. Holbert's anger grew greater. He declared that he would kill the peddler. The men in the saloon tried to quiet him, but without success.
Mrs. Holbert was told of the disturbance and hurried to the saloon to pacify her husband. He told her to go home and get his revolver, and when she refused he grasped a spade and hurled it at her. A chair turned the course of the missile and Mrs. Holbert escaped. Holbert then tried to assault Willie, the 8 year-old son of Saloonman Jones. The boy dodged behind a table and escaped from the saloon.
The aged peddler rushed from the saloon in the interim and Holbert ran to his home, where he procured his revolver and started down the street, firing as he ran. He had a handful of cartridges and as soon as his revolver was emptied he refilled the chambers. Jones was behind the bar when Holbert entered the saloon. The foundryman leveled his revolver at him and started to pull the trigger when Jones raised his hand and warned him to shoot at his peril. Holbert flinched and allowed himself to be led out of the saloon without firing a shot in it.
He fled down the street, declaring that he was looking for the peddler who stole his knife, and that he would have his life if it took the lives of all of the residents of Denverside.
When Holbert reached a point about twenty-five feet from Addison King's saloon the peddler stepped out of the door onto the sidewalk, with a smile on his face. He had done no man an injury and he could not imagine why any one should want to hurt him. Without a word Holbert ran up to him, steadied himself in front of the old man and, raising his revolver on a level with his breast, pulled the trigger. The old man fell to the ground a corpse. The bullet had plowed through his heart. Holbert stopped long enough to see that the shot was fatal.
Addison King, the owner of the saloon, and several farmers who had been drinking in his place, heard the shot and ran out to the street. With oaths, Holbert commanded them to scatter, and to emphasize hs command he fired several shots at them. He then coolly reloaded his revolver and the reign of terror began. There are many bullet holes in the windows of houses and the doors where Holbert shot at the residents of the place. Cellars were sought by every one.
Holbert took the road to his home, and on the way passed the house of Jerry Jakes, a brother-in-law of Saloonkeeper Jones. Holbert called to Jakes to come out. Jakes responded, thinking that he could probably pacify the man. He had not time to utter a word before Holbert opened fire, crying that he had killed one man, and was ready for more. Bullets passed through Jakes's thighs and he fell to the floor of the porch.
Holbert, thinking he had killed Jakes, continued his flight. At his home his wife had hidden in a room and locked the door. Holbert's weight was too much for the fastenings, however, and he battered them down. Mrs. Holbert climbed out of a window and rushed to another room, her husband firing at her continually.
Meantime a message had been sent for Kurrus's ambulance from East St. Louis, and the corpse of Holten and Jakes, the wounded man, were taken to East St. Louis. No attempt was made to capture Holbert, who had fortified himself in his home. The house was given a wide berth, and the East St. Louis police authorities were appealed to for assistance. The Sheriff was also notified.
Half and hour later a single shot rang out from the Holbert residence. It was followed by a heavy thud, which was heard across the street. A cautious advance was made and it was discovered that Holbert had shot himself. He lay in a pool of blood, which spurted from a wound under his right ear.
Holbert was unconscious when he was taken to the Henrietta Hospital. He is attended by several trained nurses who are amazed at his wonderful vitality.
Holten's body was taken to Kurrus's morgue. He had a peddler's license in his possession, issued from St. Louis.
Jakes's injuries were dressed by Doctor Hanon. He was then taken home. He is married and is 23 years old.
Mrs. Holbert was nearly prostrated after the tragedy and could not give a very intelligible story of what had happened. She said that Holbert was 34 years old, and that they had been married six years. Three children were born to them. Holbert was employed at the Elliott Frog and Switch Works. He made good wages, and kept his family above want, but occasionally became intoxicated. He had a very bad temper when drunk, but was never known to use a revolver before. The neighbors assert that he sometimes beat his wife, but Mrs. Hobert denied this statement.
T. W. Jones, in whose saloon the trouble originated, repeated the story as related above. He did not know whether the peddler had had Holbert's knife.
Addison King, near whose saloon Holten was killed, declared that Holbert was crazed with drink. ----
The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo October 23, 1877
AN OPAL RING. The Story of an Unlucky Jewel--A Grand-Mother's Legacy and What Came of it--A Pettis County Heirloom.
From time out of mind the opal has been considered unlucky. The newspapers have been full of stories about the wonderful misfortunes that have followed in its train. Of course a great many of them are exaggerated, and, perhaps, some remarkable incidents related of them never occurred. Be that as it may, the Bazoo has a story to relate about an opal ring which, so far as coincidence goes, tends, in no inconsiderable degree, to confirm the prevalent superstition with which these singular jewels are regarded, and which affords some justification, to one family at least, for looking upon the opal as A FATAL LEGACY. Nearly forty years ago the ring in question was the ornament of a Kentucky bride, slipped upon her finger at the altar. At that time it is fair to presume that the superstition with which it is now associated did not prevail, or a grandmother would never have requested that her favorite grand-daughter should be married with it, and to transmit it to successive generations with the same injunction. The opal was carved into the likeness of Hecate, and the fiery serpents which wound and twined about the beautiful head in the midst of, angry darting flames, was, to say the least A STRANGE BRIDAL GIFT. But it came into the possession of the lady in that way, and was worn by her in the occasion referred to. And now comes the legend: Every bridegroom who has since slipped it on the hand of his bride has died a violent death. The husband of the original possessor of the ring was killed in a duel before he had ever seen the face of his unborn daughter. He grew suspicious of his wife, and although one of the purest and best women in the world, her life for the two years in which her husband lived, was SIMPLY A TORTURE. One night, frenzied by the demon that possessed him, he insulted a young gentleman who was dancing with his wife, at a ball, in Lexington. A duel followed, and the unhappy man was killed. A few months later a daughter was born to the young widow, who, in the course of time, fell heir to the fatal opal. This time its work was swifter, and not less deadly. In less than a year after marriage, her husband perished by his own hand, the victim of an UNHAPPY LUNACY. By this time it began to be whispered that the ring was cursed with fatal powers; but the family to which it belonged naturally rejected this impression as the outgrowth of an ignorant delusion, which pride--perhaps the pride of terror--forbade them to believe. At all events, as fate would have it, another posthumous daughter was born, who, while yet a child, removed with her mother and grandparents, to Missouri, and settled in Pettis County. Fifteen years ago she, too, became a bride--and now for the sequel. In less than six months, her husband was shot to death by a band of soldiers, and a few months later this third inheritor of the DEADLY OPAL gave birth to a daughter. These are remarkable coincidences, but the facts are indisputable. Whether or not the opal ring had any influence in producing the singular chain of corresponding incidents, is a very different question. Nevertheless, it has probably run its career, and whether exercising a baleful influence or not, upon those who wear it, has been laid away, never more to do service at a wedding. It is preserved as AN HEIR LOOM from its association, and from the singular history that is connected with it, but the lady who owns it, guards it as jealously from her daughter's touch as if it was a viper. The story would not be complete, however, unless the further fact was stated that the present possessor married a second time about ten years ago, but in her second nuptial, refused to wear the terrible legacy, which has proved so fatal to the happiness of her family. Whether or not that refusal BROKE THE SPELL or not, must be left to dealers in occult arts to discover; but her life with her second husband has been happy and peaceful, and she now has an interesting family growing around her. There are other incidents connected with the history of the ring which would give it a curious interest aside from the fatality it has apparently exercised upon the fortunes of its owners. It has been frequently mislaid or lost, but has always been found again. One night in 1850, it was with a number of other jewels left in a bureau drawer in Louisville, which was robbed by a burglar. Every article of value was taken away EXCEPT THE RING, which was left glowing and glittering solitary and alone in its retreat. It is hardly possible that it could have been overlooked, since the case which contained it was opened and the jewel glowed either in darkness or light like a coal of fire. On another occasion it was dropped out of a trunk on a steamboat trip from Louisville to New Orleans was given up for lost. It had rolled into a dark corner of the cabin under the berth, and was found two weeks later by the chambermaid, and RETURNED TO ITS OWNER. One would naturally conclude that the possessor of this fatal jewel would be glad to get rid of it n any terms, and she certainly would but for another strange idea that is connected with it. One superstition naturally begets another, and the lady who has inherited it, religiously believes that if she was to part with it on any terms but as a bridal present to her daughter, that SHE WOULD DIE. She does not regard it as incumbent on her to make it the medium of her daughter's unhappiness, but she does feel bound to keep it, and to neither sell or give it away. In view of these facts, if there is anything more remarkable than the story already told, it is the singular determination of the young lady who in the natural course of events will be the legitimate possessor of this wonderful gem. She affects to believe that the legend is an absurd superstition, and that the series of fatalities which have accompanied the possession of the opal were THE OUTGROWTH OF CAUSES with which it had no connection, and she is firmly determined that if she ever marries, which she is very likely to do, the opal will be her wedding ring--just to prove, as she says, that the whole story of its being unlucky is a bundle of absurdities. While her mother lives, it is hardly probable that she will ever be able to carry her quixotic purpose into effect; but if the ring has a mission to fulfill, it is not unlikely that when this heiress of a fatal legacy is LED TO THE ALTAR, there may be no mother's restraining hand to withhold her from the desperate venture, and the opal may yet be destined to add another victim to the social tragedies that are connected with its history. Who knows?
I have been unable to find any names connected with this story and, as such, have not located any more information as to what became of the determined daughter and the cursed ring.
Daily Missouri Republican August 10, 1862
Kerry Patch neighborhood, St Louis
A Ghost or a Ghostress - In latter days the world has become sadly practical. Good old Salem ideas with plenty of broomstick witches, fairies and ghosts, are treated with a levity that would have horrified dames and patriarchs in the witchcraft era, and even Tam O'Shanter, under present day scoffling, would deny the tail that rendered him historical. Yet though other cities and countries have had their periodical preternatural appearances, the spirit world has hitherto shunned St. Louis.
Suddenly, however, like a thunder clap from a clear sky, a ghost has dropped among us. A portion of the city is haunted. It would have seemed that the owners of real estate were suffering sufficiently, without this last visitation from spiritdom, which, from time immemorial, has ruined landlords by haunting-rent-free their houses. For two or three days there has been excitement in the locality of Biddle and Seventeenth Streets. Without any warning, several nights since, plump into their midst dropped a ghost and day by day the stories of its eccentricities have grown more marvelous. When first seen it stalked forth from an alley, wrapped in a black pall, by way of dressing gown, and gradually vanished in that peculiar style known only to ghosts. There were plenty of keyholes convenient, but that method is no longer in vogue. The next night it reappeared, sat down on a door step, performed a goblin dance on the pavement, the wind whistling for it around the corner. Some good people, startled from their propriety and beds, tried gunpowder exorcism, but the bullets sped harmless except one, whereby a neighbor's Newfoundland fell a victim to canine curiosity. A silver bullet could not be had, that mineral being no longer in circulation, but a pellet made from postage stamps, which Government declares equally good, was tried without success. The three cent likenesses of our country's Father, although intended to exorcise blue devils, failed a black one. Anyone having five cents in silver will doubtless be hospitably entertained in that neighborhood.
By Friday, the ghost tales became more marvelous and widely spread, and many at dead hour of night visited the locality. Persons have appeared at the Police office, declaring they had seen it. According to rumor, 'tis truly a wonderful ghost. It appears without a head, and minus feet. Perhaps the latter is explained by a wish to avoid "footing" any bills during its terrestrial sojourn. Whenever it moves, a draft of air is distinctly felt, and gazers move instantly aside, declaring that the spiritual draft is even more unpleasant than the Government one. As to its being a male or female spirit, a ghost or ghostess, people differ. An occurence Friday night would say the latter. A Mr. Bertrand Hoyle, it is affirmed, rushed towards the appearance, and striving to clasp it in his arms found air alone. Evidently offended at the attempted liberty with female delicacy it vanished. Since the Woodstock ghosts troubled Cromwell's commissioners, there has hardly been as authentic a case as this. No person has addressed it except at an extreme distance. Reports of a late hour Saturday night state an address of two lines had been prepared from Shakespeare,
"Art thou a spirit of health or goblin damned: Bring'st with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell."
The only difficulty was, to find anybody to deliver it, and receive the answer. As all ghost stories have an ending, we shall take pains to record the doings and demise of that on Biddle street. It is said that some one has already discovered that somebody was murdered some time ago somewhere near that locality.
This ghostly sighting would have been in the Irish immigrant Kerry Patch neighborhood -- located in the northwest part of St Louis city.
The Professional World August 1, 1902 (Columbia, Missouri) Spooks and Spirits Strange Plutonian Visitors in the City
Columbians have been stirred up for the past 10 days over the mysterious appearance of a being dressed in a black shroud, walks about at the still hours of midnight. There are many different theories presented regarding this strange visitor. Some seem to think it is a man dressed in woman's clothing and it is his intention to burglarize homes, while others claim that it is simply the intention of the plutonian caller to amuse himself by frightening the inhabitants of certain homes. While still others who consider the matter more seriously are confident that "it" is a supernatural being and is the forerunner of a great calamity that is to befall Columbia and are spending all of their spare time on their knees and calling on neighbors to straighten up all former differences. Some think also that since the midnight stroller is seen principally in the vicinity of the Fred Douglass school, that "it" is a sequence of the memorable school war recently ended here.
With all of the theories and opinions passing around, little else has been discussed in the past week. And the question is now what can be done to rid the community of such a pest. The police was called to the scene by telephone last Monday night and soon opened fire on the departing figure, but the shots took no effect and the '"ghost" made good his escape.
Crowds of men have scoured the haunted section of the city for the past few nights, but have failed to capture "it" thus far. But it is evident that no peace will be had until "it" is captured.
Kansas City Star January 12, 1908
When Witches Rode Broomsticks Over Missouri's Hills
daughter of Queen Bevers
Witchcraft once was a Missouri institution. While it did not disturb the public to the extent that it did in Massachusetts, when, in 1692, nineteen supposed witches were executed, the alleged evil practices were the cause of much concern to honest but gullible folk. The early day Missourians sought to placate, rather than punish, the witches, and "witch charming" was a profession that had numerous practitioners.
Missouri's witches flourished in the early part of the last century, and their stronghold was Jefferson County. The most notorious of these sorcerers was "Queen Bevers, the witch," the widow of Thomas L. BEVIS, a highly respected pioneer of Jefferson county. BEVIS, in 1802, left Georgia and traveled northward through a pathless forest, and felled the first trees to build the first home on the land where Victoria, Mo., now stands. Spain held dominion over the territory then, and Charles Dehault DELASSUS was lieutenant governor of the Upper Louisiana.
When BEVIS died in 1826 his wife turned witch, so the settlers believed, and from that time until about 1854 she was a terror to the people of her county. The story of "Queen Bevers" is told by Judge John L. THOMAS in an address before the Old Settlers' association of Jefferson county, printed in a recent issue of the Missouri Historical Review.
"A biography of Prudence BEVIS," Judge THOMAS said, "will give a clear insight into the beliefs, folk-lore and manners of the people sixty and seventy years ago. This woman was known everywhere as 'Queen Bevers, the witch.' How she got the cognomen 'queen' I could not learn, but it is evident the people corrupted the name BEVIS to Bevers.'
"I am informed by persons who knew her well during that period that an overwhelming majority of the people really believed in witchcraft, and that 'Queen Bevers' was a veritable witch. In the immediate neighborhood where she lived, which was never far from Victoria, every ailment or misfortune happening to man or beast, was traced to her malign influence. Cows gave bloody milk, guns failed to hit a deer, though true in every other respect; the people were sick with various diseases and ofttimes would have 'hair balls' in their flesh. These and many other abnormal conditions were by the people laid at the door of 'Queen Bevers,'
"What could be done to counteract this baneful influence? The pioneers did not do as the people of Salem, Mass., and of England--hang the supposed witch--but they sought a remedy for the evils that were supposed to be inflicted on the community. This remedy was found partially in Henry H. JONES, who lived on Buck creek and who was recognized universally as a witch charmer."
Judge THOMAS gives a few instances of the witchery of Queen Bevers and the interposition of JONES, the professional disolver of spells.
A man in the neighborhood had a gun that he claimed would not kill a deer, though it was accurate in every other respect. He went to JONES and the latter inquired into the matter. Finding that Queen Bevers had a motive for preventing this man from killing deer, he attributed the defect in the gun to her cunning craft.
To break the witch's power over the gun, JONES made a paper likeness of Mrs. BEVIS and fired a silver ball through it. Very soon Queen Bevers was confined to her room with an injured limb, and the gun was restored to its original deer killing quality.
It was believed generally that if an owl be stuck in the chair where a witch sits her power would be overcome, and she would be unable to rise up. On one occasion when Mrs. BEVIS went visiting some one crept up behind her and stuck an owl in the leg of a chair on which she sat. But that time the charm didn't happen to work and she arose with ease when the time came for her to depart.
Mrs. Sullivan FRAZIER, the wife of a pioneer preacher, said, that Mrs. BEVIS visited her home in 1842 and selected from a herd a cow that she wished to buy. Mrs. FRAZIER's mother refused to sell the cow. The next morning the cow that "Queen Bevers" had chosen jumped the fence and ran away. It required a day and a half to bring her back to the pen and she gave bloodfy milk and was worthless thereafter.
Several sisters in the neighborhood became ill with a strange disease and their misfortune was attributed to "Queen Bevers." A messenger was dispatched at once to one of the lower counties of the state for a witch doctor. He came and found a hair ball in the arm of one of the girls, and forthwith the disease was pronounced the work of a witch. A remedy to break the charm was used and the girls recovered.
One Zack BORUM had a child who was sick, and he sent for Henry H. JONES. The case was diagnosed and the illness was pronounced to be the work of Mrs. BEVIS. The witch doctor placed a magic liquid and some needles in a small vial and hung it in the chimney. In a short time Queen Bevers became ill, but the child died anyhow. BORUM gave JONES a side of bacon for his services in this case.
But the most remarkable instance is that related by Aaron COOK, who formerly lived near Hillsboro, in Jefferson county. He declared that Queen Bevers turned him into a horse and rode him to a ball at Meredith WIDEMAN's, across the river from Morse's Mills, hitched him to a plum bush and left him standing there all night.
Among the pioneers of Jefferson county there was a common belief that witches made knots in horse's manes so that they might ride them. Such knots, to this time, are known as "witches stirrups."
Another instance of the alleged power of witchery is the case of Francis WIDEMAN, who built the first grist mill in Jefferson county. On one occasion his brother, John, wished to grind some corn after night. Francis gave him permission to use the mill, but cautioned him to keep a sharp lookout for witches.
John went to the mill and started the wheels going. Suddenly the stones began grinding with such speed and violence that he became frightened, shut off the water and ran away without his grist. This incident antedated the frenzy about Queen Bevers several years, and the witchery was attributed to some other evil one.
"It would fill a book to recount all the stories afloat about his remarkable woman," Judge THOMAS continued. "The instances of her supposed witchery that are related are sufficient to show how the people regarded her. She was said to be an unusually handsome woman, which is contrary to our preconceived notions of witches.
"Mrs. Bevis often was told that the people regarded her as a witch, but she merely laughed at the accusation. She moved to St. Louis in 1856. I learn that she lost her reputation as a witch in her later life. She died in 1858 or 1859."
Don't feel badly for Mrs. Bevis - she was quite amused by the attention! This all came about after the death of her common-law husband, Mr. Thomas Bevis about 1826. After his death and because no legitimate marriage certificate could be provided, the decedent's estate was inherited by his first wife and daughter (though Prudence had raised the child). In addition to this, her last child (Henrietta Margaetta Deborah Prudence Big BEVIS) was born soon after her husband's death. Henrietta was most likely fathered by Thomas, but this still caused rampant gossip within the community. On top of all this, Prudence was of Irish and Cherokee decent, a beautiful woman, and 30 years younger than her husband - three more reasons for the village of Victoria to shun her.
The photo above shows Mary E.M. Bevis-Dodson - Mrs. Bevis' eldest daughter. To add yet another tragic tale to the Bevis story, in 1902, Mary committed suicide by train. A north bound freight was running about a mile north of Bonne Terre Depot, when the engineer saw her walking along the track. When the train got nearer to her, and she still remained on the track, he blew the whistle and slowed up, but she turned and threw herself directly in front of the engine. The engine and several cars passed over her body, before the train could be stopped. The body was horribly mangled and almost unrecognizable.
Attack on Cote Sans Dessein - 1815
About 1808, the first settlement in Callaway County was a French trading post named Cote Sans Dessein by its founder - Baptiste Louis Roi. This small village sat on a hilltop just north of the Osage and Missouri River confluence, about 16 miles due east of Jefferson City. According to a newspaper article in 1860: 'almost entirely nothing remains of them [the settlers] save the inanimate forms of those who are quietly resting in the "silent city of the dead" -- there in a small enclosure, in the outskirts of the city, they are waiting the call of their Maker, which will raise them to life eternal or endless misery.'
But in 1815, a battle broke out between the growing population of Cote Sans Dessein and several Indian tribes. A band of warriors pelted the blockhouse, where Roi, his wife, sister-in-law, and two other men sought shelter, with flaming arrows aimed to set the structure ablaze. One man busied himself with prayer and rendered no assistance in the conflict while the other two men held off the seige with a dwindling supply of ammunition.
The two women kept their husbands armed by casting balls and cutting patches. When the roof caught fire, the women quickly used up what little water they had in the building and a container of milk to douse it but the flaming arrows persisted. After the last blaze was extinguished, the weary settlers held their breath with hope that the attackers had been defeated. Just when they felt freedom was sure, yet another fiery arrow was launched and started the blaze anew. Even the brave Master Roi held a look of fear at the perilous situation he and his family now faced. With every resource now depleted, their burning death looked certain.
His wife, with an angel’s smile on her face, produced, from the urinal just then replenished, the fluid that provided their salvation. Three times the women supplied from the same fountain that lead to safety and the befuddled natives ran off, screaming a bitter howl of mingled resentment and despair.
Yes, Madame Roi used the only thing left - the potty. What a resourceful woman! Speculation states that after the battle she was given a silver urinal engraved with her name, which she refused to accept and subsequently tossed the rude gift giver out of her house.
Richmond Democrat Ray County, Missouri November 1885
Ghosts. A Humorous Sketch by One Who is Not Afraid of Spirits.
I am not afraid of ghosts. The time was when I could not meet a ghost in a lonely spot in the pale moonlight, or have a ghost come to me in the dead waste and middle of the night and lay one of its cold clammy hands upon my brow and beckon with the other for me to follow it without being scared; but now I would not mind a little thing like that.
I have been a close reader of ghost stories, and I have noticed that no person has been hurt by a ghost up to the hour of going to press. It would seem therefore, that a ghost is about the most harmless sort of thing that is in the habit of running about loose in the night time.
If you have ever met a ghost, you know, of course, that it does not come out of its hole and go fooling around in the damp night air to do you bodily harm. It comes out and steals softly to you merely because it can not rest until it has gotten something off its mind, and it wants you to help it. Sometimes it has a lot of money buried down in the cellar or underneath the kitchen hearth, and it wants you to dig it up and have it for your own. Now it seems to me hard indeed that any person should turn away from a ghost when it is in that sort of distress. If there is a ghost about my premises and it has money buried in the cellar or under the hearth or elsewhere, and it can not lie as comfortably as I can until I have that money, and the ghost will come to me any night when I am not too tired to dig for a ghost's hard-earned savings, and will awake me and beckon with one long ghostly arm, and then it, if it is a female ghost, will step outside a moment while I put on enough clothes to keep me from feeling embarrassed in the presence of a female ghost, I will gladly follow where it leads and dig in any spot it may select.
I am an obliging sort of man in many ways, and will get out of bed almost any night and dig up money and put it in my pocket if in that way I can give a ghost eternal peace. Ghosts that have money buried will please make a note of the fact that I am at home to ghosts from 12 o'clock midnight to 2 a.m., and that a cold, clammy hand on my brow will generally awake me. If not, a gentle tug at my left ear will bring the answer.
There is another class of restless ghosts who go about in the night wanting folks to avenge their wrongs. They are usually the ghosts of murdered people, and they can't enjoy their rest until their murderer is punished. Then they can turn over on the other side and be comfortable. That sort of ghost will oblige me by going to some other shop. I am not in the avenging business this season. I am perfectly willing to oblige a ghost by getting up in the middle of the night to dig up its money if I can thus give it rest and contentment, but if it has any wrongs it wants to have avenged I must respectfully ask it to call up some other man who is a better avenger than I am. My health is not robust enough for a good reliable avenger, and when I have any avenging of my own to do I always hire a practical avenger rather than attempt to do my own avenging. Ghosts who intend to call on me for assistance will please bear the fact in mind and govern themselves accordingly.
Owing to the popular impression, a very erroneous one however, that ghosts are troublesome in the family, a thoroughly well-haunted house is about the worst piece of investment property a person can own. It is hard to keep a prompt-paying tenant in a haunted house, and I have heard of a beautiful $20,000 home being sold for a mere song because it contained just one frolicsome ghost. If any reader of these lines has a $20,000 haunted house, and he will sell it for a song, I will take it and hire some sweet singer to sing the song. Nobody would want to give even a haunted house to hear me sing. Those who hear me sing are willing to pay almost any price I ask to have me quit. Some of my warbles will break up a congregation quicker than the announcement of a collection to put a new roof on the church.
When I was a boy I thought I would be somewhat shy in the presence of ghost. I did not think I could feel perfectly at ease at a lonely haunted spot or in my chamber with a pale, unhappy ghost that wanted a favor done and I didn't want money bad enough then to dig for a ghost's savings. There was one spot commonly reported to be haunted which I was required to often pass in the night time, and I usually held my hat on at such times and passed the haunted spot in a sort of hurry. And, besides, I went armed. I carried on those occasions in my trousers pocket one of those old-time, self-cocking revolvers, commonly called a "pepper-box." One of them was no fool of a load for a small boy to carry, and every person who has carried a revolving "pepper-box" knows how hard it is to hit a barn with one of them at twenty paces.
How I ever expected to hit a ghost and hurt it with my "pepper-box" while I was at a dead run is a mystery to me now; but many difficulties that are so apparent to age escape the budding mind of a small boy. Of course I might have had sense enough to know that I could not hurt a ghost anyway; that a ghost might be shot as full of holes as a cullender without adding to its customary load of unhappiness. But that fact never entered my then young mind.
After I had carried that heavy "pepper-box" past that haunted spot fifty or sixty nights without seeing a ghost, or waiting to learn if there was a ghost there which wanted to see me, I tried to shoot it off one day at a stray dog and then discovered that it had not been able to explode a cap in five years. That is why I was allowed to have it.
When I realized how basely I had been deceived by that old revolver, which had worn out my pockets and stunted me, and which wouldn't have shot a ghost if I had met a field full of them, I was mad. I have not since carried a revolver of any sort, and when I walk by night a ghost may come into my presence with perfect freedom and without fear.
Mysterious Cliff Cave
The St. Louis Republic - 1900 ---THERE IS A SORT OF TOM SAWYER CAVERN NOT FAR FROM ST. LOUIS. Cliff Cave Is a Nearby Place of Interest. It may not be generally known by St. Louisans that only a few miles below the city limits there is a cave which possesses all the points necessary to make it an object of interest, both on account of its natural surroundings and on account of the legends connected therewith. This last qualification is an important one, as every cavern which bears a reputation has to have some traditions, grewsome, sensational or otherwise, connected with it, and the cavern mentioned, which is Cliff Cave, of Jefferson County, has its full quota. While some of its legends are of great antiquity and elasticity and cannot be proved to the satisfaction of a doubter, at least it would be hard to disprove them on account of these very qualities, and that is more than can be said of the legends connected with many caves bearing wide reputations.
The cave itself possesses enough natural attractions to make it a thing of interest irrespective of traditional accompaniments, and in point of location, size and mystery it can be classed very high. Its approaches are from under tall bluffs and up a narrow gorge with tall trees on either hand, which shut off the light and make the place gloomy even at noon, just such a place, in fact, as the novelists picture in which to locate the principal crime in their book. The cave itself is concealed from view until a sharp corner is rounded, a then its yawning mouth is revealed to the spectator with a suddenness which sends thoroughly satisfactory chills running down his or her back. As for the interior of the place, it is dark enough and mysterious enough to place it in the category of many places of far greater extent.
The temperature of the place is quite low...that the place would make an ideal storing place for liquors and an attempt was once made by a wine merchant to build a cellar therein, walling off the small passage from the main entrance. The wall still remains, but the difficulties of hoisting his stock up to the cave either from below or from above proved too much for him and he abandoned the place. ---
Cliff Cave (also known as Indian Cave) is under the ownership of St. Louis Parks Dept. since its acquisition in 1972. This park includes public use trails that wind through 200+ wooded acres, some of which run alongside and over Cliff Cave. The cave itself has been gated since 1999 to protect the endangered bats living inside and to prohibit further vandalism of its interior.
The Osage Indians believed a Spirit Being resided within Cliff Cave, which they called Earth child or Little Earth (Monenka zhiga in Osage). In similar caves, researchers have found what the natives believed to be images created by these Beings which could, most likely, also be found in Cliff Cave before its walls were coated with graffiti paint. In recent years, residents living near the park have reported hearing the sound of drumming that seems to originate from the cave. They have also noted odd experiences in their homes - doors opening and closing, items being moved, etc... Some believe native spirits to be the cause. Others attribute the ghostly sounds and activity to more recent deaths.
In 1993, just as rain-swelled rivers were taking over much of our state, two adult counselors from St. Joseph's Home for Boys in Saint Louis led five of their young residents on an outing to Cliff Cave. Twenty hours later, only the life of a 13 year old boy was spared from a horrific drowning as he watched the bodies of his friends and leaders being tossed around by the flash flood.
In October of 2008, an 18 year old male fell fifty feet to his death when he slipped while climbing down a rock wall to access the cave's barricaded entrance.
Countless lives have been lost to the mysterious caverns throughout its history, though as to how many we can only speculate. By looking at the cave's known timeline, it's easy to assume the casualty list is fairly long.
During the early 1900s, newspapers were busy accounting numerous deaths and burials near Cliff Cave. I've listed a few of them here.
An unidentified 40 year old man was found by John Murphy, who was hunting for wild grapes near the cave in 1901. The dead man had red hair and a short mustache and wore blue overalls. He had been in the water about twelve hours and after an inquest, it was ordered that his body be buried where it was found.
Rudolph, a wanted fugitive in the early 1900s around St. Louis, was reportedly spotted near the cave by a visitor. Also during this time, a missing man's body was discovered floating near the cave with no identifiable cause as to his death.
In 1903, two men discovered the badly decomposed body of an unidentified man near the cave. They found a ten dollar bill in his pocket and a hole in his side resembling that of a pistol shot.
A drowning death is reported by the Scott County paper in 1904, with the body described as a "well-dressed man." That body belonged to Frank Blase and he was found wearing a dark striped suit of superior quality with fine accessories and a horse head lapel pin. The 40 year old had in his possession two pocket knives, two keys, a match box, comb, and an empty pocketbook. His remains were buried on the river bank.
An inquest was held in October 1905 after government workers aboard a dredging boat recovered a 40 year old man's body from the river near Cliff Cave. Decomposition had long set in, with Dr. Koch estimating it had been in the water for 1 to 3 weeks. The dead man was dressed in an expensive dark vest and trousers with small white stripes, a turndown collar, black bow tie, black gator shoes and grey cotton socks. Obviously not appropriate caving attire. The body was buried near the place where it was dragged ashore. Two months later, another man's body was found and buried nearby. It was later identified as Henry Feuser, an employee of the Wilson Heater Company, who was drowned in an explosion of a gas launch near Jefferson Barracks. Feuser's body was exhumed and identified by an anchor tattoo on his arm. He was reinterred in an appropriate burial by family.
In 1913, the body of Charles Franklin of St. Louis was also pulled from the same watery grave. He had been visiting the cave a week prior to his remains being found.
Cliff Cave Timeline: 1749 John Baptiste D'Gamache receives cave and land in Spanish Land Grant. 1830s Cliff Cave Wine Company formed, masonry in cave erected, cave used as wine cellar. 1860s Confederate soldiers rendezvous at the cave. 1871 Cliff Cave Wine Company made 3000 gallons of wine (St. Louis the Future Great City of the World, 1871, page 81). 1879 Cliff Cave Wine Company shut down. 1898 Cave is used as a recreation spot for volunteer soldiers from Jefferson Barracks and they build a saloon in the entrance. 1910 Anheuser-Busch leased cave. Stored beer was cooled by blocks of ice cut from the frozen river during the winter. 1920s Speakeasies along Cliff Cave Road. Mob dumped bodies in cave. 1963 High school kids lost for two hours within cave. 1965 Cave partially mapped. 1981-1982 Surveyed by A. Marty, J. Marty, and S. Bielawski of the Missouri Geological Survey, Rolla. Cliff Cave is second longest system in Missouri with 4723 feet surveyed. 1993 Two 17 year old boys get lost but find their way out of the cave. Property owner requests the county to blast entrance closed. County refuses due to water run off concerns. 1993 Cave accident with six dead triggered the closure of the cave.
With a colorful and often tragic history like this, it isn't surprising to hear of haunted tales surrounding Cliff Cave - with its anonymous burial grounds in and around the entrance there's bound to be a few unidentified souls lingering still today.