Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Glenn House's Holiday Spirit

The Glenn House is one of Cape Girardeau’s finest architectural treasures. Originally built in 1883, with significant updates in 1900, the house magnificently sits atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. For decades, it was one of the most elegant homes in Cape Girardeau and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

And just like many of the old buildings in Cape Girardeau, the Glenn House is purported to be haunted. Jacob McCleland visited the Glenn House to learn more.

Listen to the Glenn House’s story.

The Glenn House was built by a wealthy gentleman named Edwin Dean as a wedding present for his daughter, Lulu, and her husband David Glenn in 1883. David became a prosperous banker in Cape Girardeau, but his fortunes sank and by 1915 David and Lulu Glenn sold their home to move into a less luxurious place.

The middle of the twentieth century was not kind to the Glenn House and it lost its luster and became a broken-down old Queen Ann until it was renovated in the 1970s and turned into a public attraction.

The Glenn House is a big, opulent place with plenty of hidden nooks and crannies … and it’s precisely the type of place that would seem natural for a ghost.

In the case of the Glenn House, it’s Christmas – not Halloween – that brings out the spirits.

Every December, volunteers decorate the Glenn House in grand fashion, with a majestic tree, ornaments galore, and decorations throughout the house. The volunteers who work at the Glenn House really go out of their way to create the feel of a prosperous Christmas from around the year 1900.

Yet several volunteers have commented that odd things tend to happen during the holiday season. Decorations are moved around. Gifts are found stacked up. Meticulously wrapped presents are opened.

Bonnie Chaudoir is the volunteer in charge of decorating the Glenn House for Christmas. She has never seen anything out of the ordinary with the Christmas gifts, but there have been a couple of strange occurrences that have given her pause.

“Now I have done this many times, never, ever had a problem. I still didn’t see anything or hear anything. It was just really strange,” she says.

Bonnie and I stood at the bottom of the stair on the main level of the house. It’s a beautiful rustic old staircase with a worn smooth handrail. It was this staircase where Bonnie had her first inexplicable run-in with … something.

“But I started up the stairs and approximately there – up to two steps above it – was absolutely ice cold,” she says. “And I thought ‘Well that’s strange.’ I went almost to the top, came back down to see if there was a draft coming with this door open, it was still ice cold.”

Ms. Chaudoir did not know what to make of the cold spots on the staircase and that evening at dinner she mentioned it to a friend. Her friend told her, “You need to stop and think. I have a feeling that you had an encounter with a spirit that may still be in the house.”

“Ice cold. It was the strangest thing,” Ms. Chaudoir says. “See, if you open the stair door up there that goes out onto the back porch, you get a wind through here like you wouldn’t believe. But it was just right here that was cold. The stairs below and the stairs above were the same temperature as the house, which was cool, because we’re talking about November.”

Ms. Chaudoir just kind of shrugged off her friend’s suggestion until the next January, when once again some inexplicable things started to happen in the Glenn House. Ms. Chaudoir had taken down the Christmas decorations in most of the house, save one room. She was in the kitchen with a local florist had helped with the decorations.

“We were just getting ready to go out the door and we heard somebody walk from the master bedroom, across the hall, and into the nursery. It’s very distinct when you walk upstairs, the house being old, you can hear anyone moving around at any time. She looked at me because we knew no one else was in the house. We had just checked the whole house and locked it. And she said ‘I didn’t hear that, did you?’ I said, ‘No, I really didn’t,” and she said ‘Well let’s get the heck out of here!’ and that’s not a direct quote,” she recalls.

Ms. Chaudoir did not tell anybody about what she heard upstairs out of fear that people would think she was nuts. She got to where she would not go into the house alone. One day after a board meeting, the board president asked her to take something to the upstairs storage room. Bonnie asked her if she would accompany her upstairs, and told her why she refused to go alone. The board president relayed the stories to another board member, who did some research on the house.

“And I have learned that a young girl, I’m not quite sure of her exact age, fell to her death and they found her approximately in the spot where you said you felt the cold air, closer to the bottom. At the time there was conversation as to whether she had actually fallen, or if she was assisted with a push. But nothing ever came of the investigation.” Ms. Chaudoir continues, “I’d rather not say who was living in the house at the time.”

Since that January, Ms. Chaudoir says that she has not had any more similar experiences in the Glenn House.

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