Guide books say that St. Louis is one of the most haunted places in the country. From "Bloody Island" during the Civil War, to the Lemp Mansion and all around Alton, there are lots of stories about hauntings here. Come Halloween, St. Louis leads the country in commercial haunted houses. The whole thing to me is good fun. I never thought much more about it until these past few weeks.
A month or so ago, a woman was driving slowly down our block. I was doing work in the front yard. The lady was looking at all the houses. She stopped to talk to me through the car window. She said she was trying to find someone. I didn't recognize her or the name of the person she was looking for. She was a little agitated, and her appearance out of sorts.
She appeared dazed, as if she wasn't sure whether she belonged there. She was slight of build, with a pale complexion and dressed in loose fitting clothes. She drove away. I was a little concerned about her and her search, but I didn't think much about it after that.
Then last week, a very unusual message came across our neighborhood listserve. A member reported that their house was haunted and they were looking for someone who could come over and cleanse the place of spirits. This person was worried because they said this ghost was very strong and capable of causing injuries.
Other posters replied how their homes were haunted too, and that the whole thing was fairly common. They said the best thing to do was to call a priest because they are the best at removing restless spirits. Even a protestant poster said the best thing to do was to call a Catholic priest.
I chalk up the whole spirit and haunting stuff around St. Louis to our historic nature and strong Catholic culture. Lots of our neighborhoods are very old. There are many generations ahead of us here. Our cemeteries date to the early 1800s. A lot of people died violent or plague sickness deaths. It's no wonder we have more than our share of unquieted spirits.
So yesterday, I'm working in the backyard and the mysterious lady from last month returned, only this time she was much more specific in her search. She walked down the gangway and approached me. I was standing there with a power saw in one hand and dead tree branches in the other. She had the same unsettled appearance. From a distance, she looked like she could be in her early 40s, but once she was within a few feet, she looked much older. She might have been 50 or 60. It was very hard to make a close estimate of her age.
This time as she spoke, she was very focused in her questions. She asked me how long we had lived in the house. I told her that we had lived here for about four or five years. She said she knew that, and that when the house was up for sale, she had gone through the home back then. She began asking questions about the same person she was looking for on her last visit.
She said the man she was searching for was her sister's son. She gave me the impression the man had some connection to our house. I asked her his name and she said it was "Tom O'Toole". "O'Toole" is an old time St. Louis name. We know a family of "O'Tooles", but no Tom O'Tooles.
I told her that I had never seen nor heard of a Tom O'Toole, but that I would ask around for him. If anyone reading here knows of a Tom O'Toole that lived in South City, please reply.