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Missouri Author Exposes The Dark, 'Wicked' Side Of Route 66

The open road. Curving, meandering highways. Roadside diners and trips to remember yesteryear. These are the types of images most often associated with Route 66.

But in addition to tourists and explorers, some unsavory characters have lived and traveled along the roads that became Missouri's Route 66. Author Lisa Livingston-Martin tells their stories in her new book, Missouri's Wicked Route 66: Outlaws and Gangsters on the Mother Road.

Livingston-Martin, who is also an attorney and the co-team leader of The Paranormal Science Lab, said the book is a fusion of her interest in the law, history and the paranormal.

Among the notorious individuals she connects with the famous road are Jack the Ripper, Bonnie and Clyde and Wild Bill Hickok. Although many of the people she mentions lived before the official opening of Route 66 in 1926, Livingston-Martin said the trails and roads existed before they were cobbled together under the name "Route 66."

"We often forget that history," said Livingston-Martin of the time before the road became a U.S. highway.

Two historic buildings associated with sordid pasts and tales of paranormal activity are also highlighted in the book. The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis is an established tourist destination offering ghost hunting tours, overnight stays and an annual Halloween party. The Galena Murder Bordello in Galena, Kansas, just a couple miles west of the Missouri border, has recently been refurbished in the hopes of becoming a tourist destination as well.

Tim Trunnell is the marketing director at the Lemp Mansion. He said they leave it up to visitors to determine whether or not the place is haunted. "Many people comment on the sadness they feel," he added.

Lemp Mansion was the home of one of the premier St. Louis brewing families prior to the Prohibition. Several family members committed suicide in the mansion.

Livingston-Martin said it was the tragedy of the place in contrast to the original promise of the prosperous Lemp family that fascinated her. She said she has read accounts of people seeing full-bodied apparitions at the mansion, and heard first-hand of people feeling a ghostly touch while there.

Route 66 spans Missouri from St. Louis through Springfield and into Kansas. Just across the border is Galena, the site of the Galena Murder Bordello. In the late 1800s during its heyday, Galena was a mining town.

According to legend, the Steffelback family ran a bordello there, luring miners into the building and killing them for their riches. Livingston-Martin said officials at the time attributed the family to as many as 50 murders, and four family members were convicted of and imprisoned for one murder.

Recently there has been some controversy over whether the Galena Murder Bordello can be connected to the Steffelback family.

Brad Klinge and his brother, hosts of the Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab, are producing a documentary on the Galena Murder Bordello. He said all the court documents they looked at seem to point to the bordello being owned by the Steffelbacks.

"Any legend has a basis in truth," said Klinge. "The fact of the matter is that the place has a lot of weird phenomena."

Livingston-Martin agreed. "I grew up in this area," she said. "I had never heard until recently that that house wasn't the bordello...my opinion is that it most likely is the Steffelback bordello, and even if it was another bordello, something violent happened in that house based on the paranormal activity."

Missouri's Wicked Route 66: Outlaws and Gangsters Along the Mother Road came out in paperback in April 2013. Livingston-Martin is also the author of Civil War Ghosts of Southwest Missouri and Haunted Joplin.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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