Dumpster Archeology: Beginnings

The original true story of the discovery of a lifetime.

Let’s say it was a Monday, who knows the true date of such things. A Monday evening walking back from the library. My son sat in the wagon with the books, dvds and water bottle as we wandered towards Lafayette Square Park. It was October for sure and we passed the same old empty Mansion with a haunted vibe.

It was the dumpster that called to me but perhaps I should describe the house, it was to become a central figure.

The House at 2323 Lafayette Ave was three stories high, with a unique rounded front and grand entrance. Unlike most of the area, it’s style was Romanesque and had a massive garden on both sides. One could see odd stone paths, outlaying buildings surrounded by a large stone wall and one “log cabin”. The gardens were overgrown, the house never had lights or activity and everyone in the neighborhood just knew it was haunted but no actual ghost story exisited.

A rumor had spread that seances took place on the third floor and a very odd woman who used to live there.

So when one sees a dumpster in front of such a house, and one is a dumpster diver, the call to dig in is almost symphonic.

I noticed the “old woman” stuff, the lace curtains that smelled like stale cigarettes and Precious Moments statues. The books in the dumpster were damaged and had mold on pages, but a few unique titles caught my eye. Academic stuff with an edge of progressive thought, then I discovered the folders.

30 brown paper folders that contained clippings from newspapers and magazines. The dates begin in 1922 and end in 1987 with the majority from the 1960s. It was a unique find that left me a clue.

The name George Seib MD on envelopes.

A simple online search speaks to the nature of the man. A medical doctor and one time Professor of Anthropology at Washington University. He died in the 2000s and lived in the same house since 1923. I figured the folders were his, as a sort of categorization of Culture and Primitive Arts. The folders contained more clues that I explored like a scientific exploration.

It was Friday now, and I showed the folders to a friend, who wondered if more odd stuff might be in the dumpster? So we took off with hoodies, headlamps, gloves and a sense of adventure into the cool night. I found more of George, with postcards, drug scripts, medical paraphernalia and memories. Pushing aside a large piece drywall, I reached down past asbestosis filled air with my leather glove and pulled out an odd item and held it too the light. It was an old analog reel to reel tape.

In terms of an analogy of audio quality, on the personal ownership level, one couldn’t get a better deal than a Reel to Reel player in the 1950s. To be able to record music, interviews, history and significances was vital to certain history makers. George Seib MD was in this class of audiophile as I found 16 tapes in that dumpster that he recorded.

The mystery is…who was Carrie Seib and why did he record her from 1949 to 1957?

Months after that discovery I finally solved the odd question, as no public record existed on the name. Conrad Fink, Civil War Steam boat Captain, his empire and the house inherited by his Son-n-Law August Nasse was easily uncovered and the strange tales from the house at 2323 Lafayette became the focus until the day I got a Reel to Reel Player.

This epic moment was captured on film, as me and a friend recorded and listened to the German accent of Carrie Seib speak through the 1970s era Sears Brand recorder.

Carrie spoke as if she was preaching and a crowd sang hymnals throughout the tape recording. I wrote down phrases and mannerisms and it dawned on me that something very odd was happening. It was the second part where she seemed to go into a trance that truly baffled us Researchers. On the off chance we switched the search criteria for “Spiritualism” and “C. Seib” and found the truth.

Carrie Seib operated a Spiritualist church out of her home at 2323 Lafayette ave from 1933 to 1964. The rumors of seances turned out to be true, only it wasn’t a Hollywood version with crystal balls and Ouaji boards, it was a proper church with wooden pews, a pulpit, grand piano and financial records. Carrie was a Psychic operating out of her home.

George Seib is still a central character, as the main historian recording his mother’s wisdom and publishing her 3 Volume 50 year span of channeled poetry with the help of a Lutheran Publishing house based out of a Webster Groves Theology school.

The story goes that George was a believer and a top educator in the field of Medical Anthropology as well as a devoted son and chronicler of the true wisdom of this real life psychic. He turned from Academic pursuits to an “In-house” Doctor in in the early 1940s and made a name for himself in the Lafayette Square area with the Historical Society and House restoration scenes.

Carrie Seib kept her psychic gifts to certain Sunday/Wednesday night offerings and died in 1969.

As the story got stranger, with twists like the mental dramas of her daughter Edna, the adopted children, the ghosts and one house staying in possession of decendents, maintaining the house until 2015, it became necessary for me to find a way to tell this epic story. The Dumpster Archeology project truly took off when I was able to present my findings within the Lafayette Square neighborhood in 2016 with a Art Installation piece I called “the View from 2323“.

Strange Folk Festival accepted my offer, and I built a “mock-living” room against the 100 year old fence line, that reflected the history, audio recordings and an Artistic intent toward meta-storytelling.

Dumpster Archeology was born and while the story of Carrie Seib gathered steam within the online world, and her poetry/wisdom returned to our collective St Louis history, it spiralled into other souls and collections found in dumpsters. For 4 years, more unusual stories become central characters of this epic project.

The Living became part of the story as I met with Carrie Seib’s ancestors, the new owners of the house and the neighborhood itself told their little tales of the family and that haunted Mansion down the block. Who Carrie was and her legacy is still a story unfolding with each passing year.

I coined both the terms “Death Purge” and “Dumpster Archeology” and refined it’s nature into something cultural and philosophically relevant.

One does not need to “believe” in psychics or ghosts but there are those that do, and it is from their perspective that we learn exactly what it meant to be “gifted” with abilities that are hard to define.

This is the story of a Psychic and the story of Artists, Anthropologists, House Wives, Widows, Historians and one Dumpster Diver who saw these epic stories disappearing into Trash Oblivion and hopefully is making the case, that perhaps we shouldn’t toss ALL our history into the dumpster, because some of it is far too literary to be lost.