The phantoms of Potosi, Missouri got put to work when Paranormal Task Force invaded
some of their historic abodes during one of their Ghost Hunting Workshops recently.
Greg Myers and other Paranormal Task Force crew teamed up with the Mine Au Breton
Historical Society when they took their ghost hunting knowledge, skills and experiences
south of St. Louis, Missouri about an hour drive down what many refer to as “Blood Alley”
(Missouri State Highway 21) to the very haunted and historic town of Potosi.
With a sell out crowd of paranormal enthusiast in attendance and a conference room
bursting at the seems with only standing room left, Paranormal Task Force educated
others with haunting classifications, theories, basics of ghost hunting, field equipment
usage and even shared many of their eerie tales and evidence from some of their past
encounters with the unknown. Everyone was on the edge of their seats while learning
about hunting ghost and being able to actually explore some of Potosi’s most haunted
locations soon after and on the hunt themselves for their first time.
Potosi, Missouri is no stranger to ghostly residences with its rich history. Originally
called Mine Au Breton, it was actually founded by Francis Azor, aka "The Breton" a retired
soldier from Ft. DeChartres, Illinois. He was called "The Breton" because of his
birthplace in Brittany, France. Francis Azor and his guide were hunting bear in this part
of then Upper Louisiana around when he discovered large outcrops of lead at the
grounds surface. After this discovery, he soon received a land grant and built crude
stone furnaces in the area for smelting the lead. The primitive mining village of “Mine Au
Breton” seemingly popped up overnight with many French miners and their slaves
coming to the call.
Around 1796 Moses Austin, a wealthy businessman from Virginia heard of the rich mining
area and received a grant for a much larger tract of land in this same area. He moved to
this area in 1798 and resided in his newly built home known as Durham Hall. Moses sank
the first mine shaft in Missouri and built the first reverbatory furnace west of the
Mississippi River. With such large scale operations, other businesses and
improvements such as roads and bridges soon followed. This soon became the first
major industry in this area and in what was later to become the State of Missouri.
After the County of Washington formed in 1813, Moses donated 40 acres of his land for
the county seat and public lots. The town was named Potosi after a Bolivian silver mining
town with the same name meaning “place of much noise”. Even though Francis Azor may
have been the original founder of the area, it was Moses’ large scale operations and
donation of land that credits him as being the towns’ “founding father”.
A little known fact about Moses Austin is that he traveled to San Antonio, Texas in 1821
and received the very first land grant for American colonization in Texas. After receiving
this grant he retuned to Missouri and passed away the same year. It was his son
Stephen Austin, who took this grant and moved 300 families to Texas and later becoming
the famous “Father of Texas” and who Austin, Texas is named after. Moses Austin is
sometimes referred to at the “Grandfather of Texas”.
Some of this town’s paranormal activity may stem from its founding father as Moses
Austin was originally buried in Hazel Run Mines, Missouri in 1821. Then in 1828 other
individuals thought it would be proper to dissenter his remains from Hazel Run Mines
and reenter them in Potosi, the town he was the founding father of. Upon digging up his
remains it was noted that his coffin was completely rotted and gone, but his body
remained in an almost perfect stone like or petrified state with only his nose and some of
his fingers missing. After being reentered into the Potosi Cemetery, Moses grave was
later found dug open with the new coffin lid open. It seemed that some who heard of the
possible petrifaction of his body did not believe it and they had to check it out on their
own. Moses was undamaged and again buried back into his resting place deeper in the
ground and entombed this time. Moses Austin seems to have had a hard time finding
rest after his death.
Then if that wasn’t enough, in 1938 a group of Texans equipped with their own
undertaker and hearse came to Potosi with plans to steal Moses’ body and take the
“Grandfather of Texas” back with them to burry him there. Their body snatching attempt
was foiled when they were caught chipping away at the tomb after a call was made to the
local Marshall. A few weeks later the Texas Governor sent his Secretary of State to
Potosi to make a public apology. With the deceased being treated this way no wonder
why this historic town may have spirits not at rest.
The early settlers of this area have also been subjected to savage attacks in which some
settlers were killed and their wives were taken away by Native Americans. Ironically, it
was also a stop along the “Trail of Tears” in the 1830’s and even later visited by
Confederate Rebels during the General Sterling Price raids during the Civil War in
Missouri. This town even hosted what is referred to as the “Battle of Potosi” by some
which occurred on September 27, 1864 when some troops of Confederate General
Joseph Shelby came to ransack and claim the town. While most of the town got word and
took their worthy possessions and fled, John Meyers a resident and Veteran of the War
of 1812 decided to defend his town. Equipped with three rifles he took his position upon
his porch and fired upon the advancing Confederate Rebels. After wounding one of
them, the Confederates then shot this lone defender dead on his own porch then filled
his lifeless body with several more bullets before trampling it and ransacking his home.
John was not the only one planning to defend the town as 26 Union Soldiers and 130
citizens attempted to hold off the Confederate advances. However, they all were forced
to yield the white flag after having to retreat into the old Court House subjected to
cannon fire. Some were then taken outside and shot dead for being obnoxious towards
the Confederate Rebels. The Rebel flag was then hoisted high above the town while its
women and children were robbed of even their clothing. The town was then ransacked
and looted for its goods while nearby mining facilities and its branch of the railroad were
To further add to its tragedies, the town awoke to one of the most brutal slayings in
Missouri history on Monday, November 21, 1870. A local French Creole family, David and
Louisa Lapine along with their children and Mrs. Lapine’s sister with her child were
found brutally murdered in their log cabin. On the night of November 19, 1870 Leon and
Charley Jolly along with John Armstrong went to the Lapine cabin while intoxicated from
whiskey. While the family was sound asleep, John Armstrong kicked in the front door
with an axe in hand. Charley Jolly then entered and mercilessly shot the startled adults
dead where they stood. John Armstrong then chopped Mr. Lapine’s head off and killed
the children with the axe and then mutilated the bodies into several pieces. They then
set fire to the cabin before returning home to have breakfast while still wearing their
blood covered clothes.
What could be gathered of the Lapine family was placed into a box and buried in the
Potosi Cemetery. The Jolly brothers and Mr. Armstrong were soon arrested and placed
in the town’s jail, but before their trial a mob gathered outside the jail on November 26,
1870 wanting to deal their own kind of justice to the murderers. Before all was said and
done six citizens were wounded and one killed by the Sheriff and his deputies defending
the jail and prisoners. The trial finally came on December 21, 1870 and after deliberating
for only 10 minutes the Jury came back with a “Guilty” verdict. With the Judges final
words of “May God have mercy on your soul” Charley and John were sentenced to death
by hanging. Leon did not participate in the murders and testified against his own brother
at the trial.
On January 27, 1871 the day of reckoning arrived and it was proudly advertised in all
surrounding newspapers as “The Day for a Double Hanging”. Families came from afar
adorned in their best Sunday clothes as eager spectators for this event and at 1:40 p.m.
the two condemned murderers were placed on the gallows with nooses secured around
their necks. When the jaws of justice below them finally opened Charley’s head was
almost ripped from his body while John’s toes scraped the ground and he slowly
strangled to death. Justice was finally dealt!
With tragic events such as these one would find it more amazing if this historic town was
After the presentation, the enthusiastic attendees were then able to explore the three
very historic and haunted buildings of the Mine Au Breton Historical society. Lead by
Paranormal Task Force and Mine Au Breton Historical Society members they were able to
search for their own ghostly encounter and learn more about the history and hauntings
of the Long-Banta Home, Austin-Milam Store and the Old Presbyterian Church with its
The first stop on the trip for some was the well known and haunted Long-Banta home
which was built by James Long, a very prominent business man, around 1865 not too long
after his father was taken by Confederate Rebels and executed in a wooded area near
Union Township in Washington County, Missouri. This beautiful and charming Victorian
vernacular building has been home to generations of the Long Family. It has also been
the building where several of them breathed their last breath as James Long, his wife
Betty and all three of their daughters passed away within its walls. This home has also
hosted the passing of Parke Banta who was the husband of a female descendent of the
Long family and who also served in the United States Congress.
It was actually James Long’s descendents who first experienced ghostly encounters
within this historic home as they told others that they believed their ancestor James was
still there watching over them and haunting the home. Later reports came from those
who witnessed seeing ghostly figures looking out at them from the windows when this
building was absent of any human inhabitants. Some even reported hearing strange
unexplainable noises and voices while inside. This led to the paranormal investigations
conducted by Paranormal Task Force. It was during these investigations that
investigators outside the home witnessed a ghostly shadow walking past windows on the
inside, experienced unexplainable moving areas of electromagnetic fields coupled with
temperature drops on the inside, had questions answered by piano notes played by the
unseen and even captured the disembodied voices or what is referred to as Electronic
Voice Phenomena (EVP) on their audio recordings.
Another stop in the pursuit of ghostly happenings was the very historic Austin-Milam
Store. The front portion of this building was first erected by Moses Austin from logs
about 1797. It has since been added to and built upon over time creating the building
that stands today. This is the same location that victims on the “Trail of Tears” bought
supplies when passing through in the 1830’s, a place Confederate Rebels ransacked and
raided during the Civil War and also the place in 1932 where Frank Flynn, a bank clerk,
decided to take his own life with a self inflicted gunshot wound to his heart with a .38
caliber pistol. Over time local residents have reported seeing a shadow person walking
by or peering out the upstairs windows where Mr. Flynn took his own life. When used for
boarding and apartments in its later years, tenants reported odd electrical occurrences,
unexplainable odors as well an anomalous floating lights inside. During investigations
by Paranormal Task Force interferences with electronic equipment were documented,
unexplainable moving areas of temperature drops were recorded, disembodied voices
were captured on recordings and a black floating ball like anomaly was captured on
The last stop of this adventure was the Old Presbyterian Church which was the first
Presbyterian Church built west of the Mississippi River in 1832. The Church also had an
upper gallery where slaves could attend church services with their owners. The church
relocated to a new building in 1907 and this building was later used as a Masonic
Auditorium, a school gymnasium, a theatre where silent movies were shown during the
1920’s and finally a Boy Scout Hall. Now it sits as a Museum and a reminder of the rich
and significant past this area has endured. There has really been no reports of
paranormal encounters from this building except for those who may be a bit more
sensitive than the rest of us and just have had “that feeling” over time that something
was there inside watching them from the old upper gallery. A feeling that some of
Paranormal Task Force’s more sensitive investigators confirmed with their special
inherited gifts and believe is more of a residual haunting presence and not interactive or
However, this building also sits adjacent to three small cemeteries which hold a different
tale. The Old City, Presbyterian and Masonic Cemeteries sit just behind this Old
Presbyterian Church. Much of the town’s history is buried within their boundaries.
Within the confines of these small cemeteries is final resting place of the Long Family
right across the street from the home they once resided in, Moses Austin the founding
father is also here along with the box containing the remains of the brutally murdered
Lapine Family, the grave of John Meyers and many more. Past Paranormal Task Force
investigations have captured the disembodied voices from some of the souls at unrest
here along with unexplainable moving areas of electromagnetic fields coupled with
temperature drops. And, of course, the occasional experience of an investigator seeing
something from the corner of their eye has occurred in these cemeteries many times as
Everyone in attendance at this Ghost Hunting Workshop and its interactive investigative
tour had a very positive and enlightening time. Some even had that ghostly encounter
they were or were not looking for. At the Austin-Milam Store one paranormal enthusiast
in attendance had her arm grabbed by the unseen, others encountered an unexplainable
growl and a human sized shadow was observed as it walked by a second floor window by
those outside the building when it was empty.
In the Long-Banta Home some newly trained hunters were able to physically chase
around a moving anomalous area of increased electromagnetic fields coupled with a
temperature drop. Even the Old Presbyterian Church gave its first paranormal
performance this night when several heard the sounds of footsteps walk across the
upper gallery before descending the stairway to the floor they were on below.
Whether you are interested in history, hauntings or both then Potosi, Missouri is a “must
see” addition to have on your ‘places to visit’ list. To check on available tours or special
events with the Mine Au Breton Historical Society and their properties you can call their
President, Jerry Sansegraw, at 573-438-3093 or email him at: email@example.com
If you are interested in the paranormal, hauntings or future events conducted by
Paranormal Task Force, then they can be found on the World Wide Web at WWW.
CATCHMYGHOST.COM or you can email then at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Future ghost hunting workshops will be conducted by Paranormal Task Force with the
Mine Au Breton Historical Society in Potosi, Missouri. In fact the next one is scheduled
for November 8, 2008. Come and learn more and possibly go home with your own ghostly
encounter to share!
© 2008 - Gregory Myers, Paranormal Task Force, Inc.
Also published on WWW.HAUNTEDAMERICATOURS.COM
|"Pursuing the Phantoms of Potosi"
|"Pursuing the Phantoms of Potosi"
by Gregory Myers, President of Paranormal Task Force
Research & Editing by Esther Carroll