Chapter 1 – This is a book and a multi-dimensional rabbit hole
The rusty dumpster lay open compelling me from the sidewalk. Towering about was a large Lafayette Square Mansion that reminded of the haunted mansions from a child’s book. I was curious and as my young 3 year old sat in the pint sized wagon with his new library books on our way to Lafayette Square Park playground, I poked around inside enticed by the idea of strange items and a haunted history. I found both.
An overwhelming smell of mold rose from heavy curtains scattered among yellow pages, damaged picture frames and nick-knacks…..nothing of interest until I spied the books. Several compelling titles called to me with philosophy and psychology as central themes. I dug deeper into the dumpster and a box fell open with handmade folders spilling out. A mystery!
The brown paper folders that held secrets also contained Graphic Art clippings going back to 1922. This mystery would develop into a full blown rouge art project based on a narrative that was both compelling and completely life shaking. Interesting dead people rose from trash oblivion to speak once more, through social media, art festivals and one short strange Youtube video.
A week later as the folders began to unravel it’s mystery, a late dumpster diving dig into the same dumpster would discover a deeper aspect to the story. Donning hoodies and flashlights, me and my friend would push aside a week worth of drywall, bathroom fixtures and wood to find a magically significant discovery that would become the basis for the creation of Dumpster Archeology.
Photographing the artifacts and connecting the dots of human existing, this descent into Saint Louis history and the House at 2323 Lafayette avenue became a Storytelling experience. The remaining “things” of a particular person or set of people discovered in a dumpster became the crux in which this madness revolves. What Dumpster Archeology attempts to do is tell our collective story, artistically reflect the beauty of the artifacts and create a Living history. Each link and detail is a piece of a puzzle that ultimately paints a cohesive narrative that is based entirely out of Found Information. In an attempt to mythologize a personal history, one has too simply say that it is … “True Enough“
Like a “Choose your own Adventure” Novel
Each trail is a self contained narrative that adds to the whole.
Our first major art-ifact clue of the Project is discovered, an Envelope from within brown folders. A name and address, Dr George Seib of 2323 Lafayette. From this name, the entire project would explode outward.
The neighborhood is called Lafayette Square, surrounding a city park that goes back 200 years as a common ground. The French built the first houses, the new American Germans beautified the space, and in 1896 a tornado almost destroyed it. The mansions and Victorian houses survived the great depression, suburban flight and slowly declined until the 1980’s when architecture fans resurrected the neighborhood to be fit for a new wealthy class. The Seibs never left, occupying the City lot from 1923 to 2015.
Everyone knows about the haunted mansion in Lafayette Square, they know about the seances on the 3rd floor and maybe they even took one of the Garden Tour, looking at the strange hand-built wall with embedded tomb stones stolen from Illinois. This house is legendary in certain circles, and the myths that are true, are still to be uncovered.
George and his family would prove to be compelling and their history felt alive for me as I walked the same streets as the Project characters and peered deeply into their old garden. The dumpster kept filling up each day, as Contractors emptied the basement, tore up dry wall and purged the remaining items left from the Seib family. Later that week me and a friend returned late at night to the street side dumpster, with flashlights, gloves, hoodies and a willingness to find anything historic.
Underneath a large sheet of drywall, with mold, I found something odd with my gloved hands. A small box, that once opened and shone with a headlamp revealed to be a Reel to Reel tape. On the back written in pencil was the words, “Carrie Seib 1949”. The history story unfolding was about to get much stranger as I found the Lost Psychic of Lafayette Square.
Edna Seib was an artist, through and through, spending her life creating in one medium or another. Her folders were a place to put inspiration, pretty things to draw, interesting stories and her passion. It was hard to understand the woman that was Edna. A dutiful mother and wife, a beautiful smart teenage student, a feminist/suffragette and above all else, an Artist.
The “clipping folders” contained so much more than Edna’s artistic passion, but contained clues and history. The medical magazines of her older brother, the local paper and the Sunday publications reflected an interesting Print history, from roughly 1922 to the late 1980s. The story of her Art and the folders splinters into two parts.
Months passed and the Mystery of 2323 deepens. In an effort to tell the story a plan is created to showcase the findings in the same neighborhood where the Lost Psychic lived. Strange Folk Festival was taking over the neighborhood and Dumpster Archeology was put the Project to the test for the general public.
After months of building and promoting, the Project was being seen and appreciated. Family members, House owners, neighbors and Artist all got a chance to experience first hand the oddness of Dumpster Archeology with a “mock-living” display and a constant shifting narrative built from new information.
George Seib lived a remarkable life, full of adventure and purpose. Gifted and “capable of all he undertakes”, George never had kids, but he was responsible for so many as the local doctor. He was an Educator, Anthropologist and Gardener. On top of upkeeping an old mansion for most of his life, George took on the legacy of his mother.
There is only so much one can say on a stranger, but try as I might, Dumpster Archelogy explores the history and life of Dr George Seib.
Written early in the history of the Project, before certain details emerged, before the extensive conversations with the family, this was the Meaning behind the Project. *things have changed and are as noted.