CALEDONIA — Pepper Carpenter didn’t believe in ghosts before she bought the Caledonia Wine Cottage. She was a skeptic who thought it was all in a person’s imagination. That’s all changed for the former school teacher from St. Louis. Several unexplainable events that have taken place at the historic landmark have now made Carpenter a believer.
The unexplainable sound of footsteps, sightings of a shadow man wearing a hat, voices that come from no one and other phenomena have the owner convinced that something or someone has never left the Caledonia Wine Cottage.
The Caledonia Wine Cottage was built in 1824 by Jacob Fischer as the Stage Stop Inn. The house originally had 12 rooms and a dirt floor basement. Separate quarters were in the back to house slaves along with a separate entrance.
During the Civil War the building was used as a hospital by the Union Army. Wounded soldiers from both sides who fought in the Battle of Pilot Knob were taken to the hospital. A quarantine room was located on the third floor for soldiers with contagious diseases. The room was pad locked with a hole in the door to pass, food, water and supplies back and forth.
When Confederate soldiers recovered, they became prisoners and were housed in the basement. The home later became the residence of both the Crenshaw and Ramsey family. Mr. Ramsey died in the home in the 1980s while resting on a couch. Mrs. Ramsey also died inside the home in the early 1990s while sitting in a chair. During the Ramsey’s ownership of the home, the residence was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Following Mrs. Ramsey’s death, the home was vacant for nearly a decade. It was purchased by Dave Buis and Pepper Carpenter in 2006. The couple aspired to restore the home and return it to its former state. Buis, a businessman, and Carpenter, a school teacher from St. Louis, worked on the house during weekends.
“The original plan was to open up a wine store,” Carpenter said. “We then decided to expand the plans to include a bed and breakfast and a restaurant.”
It was during the renovation work that the owners noticed phenomena occurring that they couldn’t explain. Greg Myers, the president of MPR, believes the renovations may have ignited a spark to paranormal activity.
“With a place that has been there since the 1820s and has seen many wayward travelers throughout time, been used as a Civil War Hospital with a quarantine area and temporary jail, had a young girl struck to her death at its curbside by a passing vehicle and others taking their last breath within its walls ….. how could it not be haunted,” Myers asked?
He said sometimes a change to the atmosphere of a place will bring restless souls or spirits to the surface.
Carpenter said her first hint came that there may be something supernatural residing in the home when the door leading to the slave quarters opened by itself.
“We keep hearing this woman’s voice,” Carpenter said. “It happened to me two or three times and I didn’t think anything about it. We hired a lady to work in the kitchen. I was working with her one day and I heard this lady’s voice. I didn’t say anything to her. She was washing dishes and she turned the sink off. She walked out into the front room. She then walked back into the kitchen and I still didn’t say anything. I asked what was wrong and she asked if I had heard a lady’s voice. I asked what did she say. She said the voice said hello and it was in a high pitched tone, kind of like from an elderly woman. After she told me that I said yes I had heard that a few times.”
Carpenter said she has described the voice she heard to several locals who knew Mrs. Ramsey. They told her the voice sounds eerily like the one time owner’s.
Myers believes the voice could be that of Mrs. Ramsey’s and that her spirit has never left her home for whatever reason.
Carpenter said a couple weeks after the worker told her about the voice, the same thing happened again — this time with Buis and her.
“He did the same thing and walked out into the front room,” she said. “He then walked back into the kitchen and asked if I had heard a lady’s voice. He asked if I heard a lady say hello. I told him I probably needed to tell him what had been going on. We have had four to five different people that have heard the voice.”
Carpenter said whatever is in the house also seems to affect the family’s dog, Blue. She said the dog will be observed looking curiously at areas where nothing is seen by others.
While Carpenter maintains she is not afraid of whatever is in the house and that she willingly will stay there alone, her grown daughter and son-in-law refuse to spend the night at the Wine Cottage.
Kelly Baker, the daughter, said she has seen the shadow silhouette of a man in the house.
“My interpretation is that it’s a soldier,” Baker said. “Pretty much when you look at pictures of a Civil War soldier, that’s what it looked like. He always walks in the same direction.”
She estimated she has sees the soldier about twice a month.
“The first time I saw it I was really scared because I had never seen anything like this,” she said. “I didn’t say anything to anyone because I didn’t want my family to make fun of me. We had a lady that had worked for us about five or six months, and she had experienced the same thing. We had never talked about it. One morning we were both in the kitchen and she pointed out the kitchen window and said sometimes I see… I interrupted her and finished her sentence. I described to her what I had seen and it was exactly what she saw. I got really upset because I had thought all long it had been in my head.”
Baker said there are several things that have happened in the house which cannot be explained.
“The majority of people that have stayed in the bed and breakfast have also had experiences,” she said. “The more things that happen, it calms me down to know there are things that happen here that can’t be explained.”
Baker said she had been on the second floor and heard footsteps on the third floor when no one else was in the house. She also said there have been instances when corks have unexplainably shot out of wine bottles.
“We have no carbonated wines that we sample,” she said.
She said there is no logical explanation for the corks shooting out of the bottles.
See Monday’s edition of the Daily Journal for the second part of the two part series.
The historic information in this article was obtained from Greg Myers and Esther Carroll. Chris Cline is a reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at email@example.com.
Reporter’s Note: On Oct. 11, 2008, the Missouri Paranormal Research (MPR) group, a division of Parnormal Task Force, visited the Caledonia Wine Cottage to investigate claims of an alleged haunting. The following is the first part of a two-part series that deals with the history of the building, claims of paranormal activity and MPR’s investigation.