We had the perfect weather for our recent guided tour — it was on the cooler side, dark, dreary and rainy — you see, our team decided to take a haunted history walking tour of St. Louis just a few days before Halloween.
We joined David Riordan with his Haunted History Tours in one of the oldest buildings on Laclede’s Landing and then walked the streets of the area for the next 1.5 hours hearing stories of ghosts and history in the most entertaining of ways. Riordan, a sixth generation St. Louisan (and here, I thought my third generation roots was old) mixed the history with some fanciful tales and idioms, in the most delightful way, until it’s hard to know what’s truth and what’s fiction, or potentially old wive’s tales.
According to Riordan, St. Louis is the fourth most haunted city in the U.S. and the area of Laclede’s Landing is one of the most historical and haunted parts of St. Louis. If you grew up in St. Louis and are of a certain age, many of your weekends may have been spent bar hopping in the area. It was probably good back then to not have known about the stories of yore that happened more than a century ago on those historic cobblestone streets, alleys and some of the still-standing brick buildings, while we wandered the area carefree.
Much of the tour was a good dose of in-depth history that many of us had never heard before which made for some wide eyes and an occasional goosebump.
Riordan told about the Great Fire of 1849 and a Capt. Thomas B. Targee who saved the day, but also perished battling the fire. On our food tours we often share about an ordinance that was put in around 1850 that buildings needed to be built out of non-flammable materials, the connection as to the why of this ordinance has now been made.
We learned more details about how St. Louis was founded in 1764 by the French, and Riordan hints that Auguste Chouteau had more to do with that than Pierre Laclède, who gets the credit.
Another fascinating tale was of a haunted cave that’s been buried under Eads Bridge. I won’t give away the details, but let’s just say, I’m glad there’s no access to the cave anymore.
You can’t give a haunted tour of St. Louis and not talk about the Lemps or the Exorcist movie, which Riordan did, sharing details you might not have heard before.
What lead to the most goosebumps for me, at least, was standing on Clamorgan Alley (which I spent a lot of weekend nights in the early 90s walking up and down on my way to a now defunct underground bar, Lucius Boomer’s) where Riordan shared about the cholera epidemic that wiped out more than 4,000 St. Louisans in the spring and hot summer of 1849 and all the bodies that were piled on this alley.
Riordan packed several more tales and history lessons into this tour to the delight of everyone involved.
A great storyteller, Riordan wove in details that may embellish, but, I find, make learning the history much more memorable. If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend taking this tour from a man who truly enjoys sharing these stories and has an abundance of knowledge about the history of St. Louis.