Saturday, November 10, 2007

Is the Ghostly Lady In Red Still Haunting The Goldenrod Showboat and Bringing It Bad Luck?

By Phyllis Schaltenbrand
The Goldenrod Showboat, once a main attraction on the great rivers of the United States, and later the St. Louis Riverfront, was sold to the city of St. Charles in 1989. It was later moved into specially designed mooring facilities on the Missouri river causing a drain of $5 million in St. Charles taxpayer dollars. It has now become a drain on its current owners and is still siphoning off tens of thousands of dollars and causing major problems without any return on the more than $225,000 they have invested to keep the boat afloat. Many are wondering if the owner is suffering the curse from the ghostly “Lady In Red” known as Victoria who is said to haunt the vessel.

For years the Goldenrod has been rumored to be inhabited by a ghost called the “The Lady In Red.” She has been seen by many people wearing a red Victorian type dress in many locations throughout the boat. She apparently roams the Goldenrod at all hours. Rumor has it that a young lady and her father were visiting St. Louis and upon seeing the Goldenrod the young girl and her father had an argument over her wanting to be an actress. Her father reportedly said no and, in a fit of anger, she ran off the boat and was murdered that night.

The current owner of the vessel, John Schwarz of St. Charles said, “I have heard the stories but have never seen the Lady In Red myself, but apparently she is angry and still on board.” Schwarz said that after they moved the Goldenrod from St. Charles they stored it for a short time on the St. Louis riverfront south of the Gateway Arch. “We had ADT put an alarm on the boat and numerous times we were notified that the alarm had gone off but before we arrived it had reset itself. Once when the alarm went off the St. Louis police discovered that the boat had been broken into and during their investigation they discovered that on a table in the main lounge someone had written Victoria with salt on a table.”

The Goldenrod had been moored in St. Louis at the foot of Locust Street from 1937 until it was purchased by the city and brought to St. Charles in 1989 at the behest of the then CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Steve Powell. The Goldenrod was considered by many residents to have been a financial drain on the city.

In 2003 the Coast Guard declared the vessel unsafe and the boat was closed thus saving the St. Charles taxpayers the bleeding of millions more. After suffering the loss of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on the vessel, including building a $1.5 million dock that sits vacant at Bishop's Landing in Frontier Park, the city gave the boat to Schwarz and his group in May of 2003 by a unanimous vote of the St. Charles City Council and the approval of the Mayor. (As a side note on the dock, several years ago one of the largest vessels ever to be on the Missouri River, The Hotel Barge, was tied to a tree near downtown St. Charles and passengers were disembarked. When we questioned the Captain why his vessel was not using the $1.5 million dock he replied, “ I am a river man. We don't need any fancy docks. All I need for my boat is a large tree and a stout rope.”)

Schwarz and his group had planned bringing the Goldenrod up to Coast Guard safety standards and then having it moored somewhere in Missouri as a regional entertainment draw. While contemplating on what could be done with the vessel Schwarz had it towed to Calhoun County, Illinois and put in storage. There, with probably some urging by the Lady In Red, an argument between the storage company and Schwarz’s group escalated into a court fight where the outcome could have resulted in a sheriff's sale of the Goldenrod and the eventual dismantling of the vessel. Its steel hull would be valuable if sold for salvage.

Hopefully the Goldenrod will be saved and the boat will continue to float and be the home of the elusive and angry Lady In Red. According to attorney Scott Schultz, who represents Schwarz, “We are close to working out an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties and maintain the historical value of the boat.”

Built in 1909 by the Pope Dock Company of Parkersville, West Virginia for W.R. Markle, the boat cost $75,000 when it was new. It was 200 feet long and 45 feet wide and had an auditorium 162 feet long with twenty-one red velour upholstered boxes and a seating capacity of 1,400.

Several notable entertainers worked on the Goldenrod during its glory days. Red Skelton was a dockhand and when an actor fell ill he took his place and the rest is history. Ted Mack played an offstage bloodhound in one of the melodramas and Bob Hope toured with the Goldenrod. It has also been reported The Goldenrod served as an inspiration for the musical Showboat.

Hopefully by the time this story appears in print a settlement will have been reached. Schwarz told the First capitol News that his group is looking at several options and maybe soon the vessel will be alive with the sounds of music and fine dining and the “Lady In Red” will once again roam the decks of the Historical Landmark Goldenrod Showboat greeting its many guests.