Goldenrod Showboat Investigation

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

In 1910, twenty-one riverboats plied the Mississippi , visiting 15 mid-western states. By 1928, this number had dwindled to eleven, and by 1938, only five remained in operation. Between the Great Depression, movies, and increased mobility, the days of the showboat were all but over.

The Goldenrod was the last showboat to work the Mississippi . Under the ownership of Capt. Bill Menke, she was moored at the St. Louis riverfront in 1937. By 1950, she had been partially sunk and salvaged twice. Shows were still being staged, and, for 75 cents a head, St. Louis playgoers could board the boat and “sass the actors” on stage.

On June 1, 1962, a disastrous fire, caused by an electrical short, all but destroyed the superstructure of the auditorium, and caused severe damage to the entire structure. The Goldenrod was then purchased by a group of St. Louis businessmen headed by Frank C. Pierson and Don Franz, and restored to her original glory, and beyond. Plush carpeting was laid in the auditorium, with cabaret seating, under a huge crystal chandelier. Many antique appointments were salvaged from old St. Louis mansions being torn down. Brass fixtures and rails were restored or replaced, as was the tin ceiling and elaborate woodwork. A cocktail lounge was added, with a small bandstand, where the St. Louis Ragtimers band played traditional ragtime for many years. The upstairs staterooms were converted into a buffet dining room. When this $300,000 renovation was completed, the Goldenrod had its grand Re-Opening in May, 1965. In 1967, she was registered as a National Historic Landmark. Mr. Pierson also owned the ‘Becky Thatcher’, a former packet boat, traveling no more but moored beside the Goldenrod, featuring a restaurant, lounges, and gift shop.

In 1989, Goldenrod was purchased by the city of St. Charles for $300,000 and moved to the historic Missouri River town. She was restored and renovated, costing the city about 3.5 million dollars over the next 12 years. The dinner theater continued to operate as a popular attraction. In 2001, she was run aground after Missouri River levels ran low. Goldenrod was closed due to Coast Guard structural repair requirements. The repair estimates were much higher than expected, and the City Council decided to sell her in 2002.

When no one offered to buy her, the council decided to give her away. Four groups submitted proposals, and the council chose Lewis and Clark Landing, a firm headed by John Schwarz. Goldenrod was moved to storage near the Poplar Street Bridge in downtown St. Louis. Later she was moved to Kampsville, Illinois, where she is currently (as of July 2011) moored on the Illinois River.

Schwarz' original intention was to place her in a protective basin to be constructed near her mooring location, but the plan never happened. Goldenrod was, instead, towed to a mooring spot next to the tugboat America, which was owned by Shelia Prokuski and Randy Newingham.

In 2006, a civil suit was filed against Schwarz in an attempt to collect $24,000 in mooring fees owed to Prokuski. The case was supposed to have been settled, with Schwarz retaining ownership of Goldenrod while he found new mooring for the boat. Schwarz did not move the boat, and she was sold at a sheriff's auction in October 2007. Since there were no other bids on her, Prokuski bought her for $5,000.

As of 15 January 2008, the showboat's future was still uncertain. She remains moored in Calhoun County and mired in court as questions remain about the legality of the sale. The judge, Richard Greenleaf, said the proper paperwork had not been filed for the auction, so he has not signed off on the sale.

The couple wants to sell Goldenrod but have to wait until the title clears. Though it has been reported they will sell the historic boat for scrap, Newingham has denied this.

Since 2010, Goldenrod has been under the care of Steve Debellis, Jacob Medford and the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association.

Several notable entertainers are said to have worked on Goldenrod during her glory days. Red Skelton was a dockhand, but when an actor fell ill he stood in for him, beginning his long career.

Bob Hope was supposed to have toured with Goldenrod.

It has also been reported that Goldenrod served as an inspiration for Edna Ferber's novel Show Boat.


Located at GPS: 39.20452, 90.37184, Kampsville, Illinois 62053


Hauntings: Staff members and performers claimed to have seen a girl in a red dress on many occasions. Nicknamed ' Victoria ', the girl had been seen around the boat for many years. As the story goes, a widower worked on the Goldenrod, and raised his only daughter on board. Their staterooms were replaced by what would eventually be known as the banquet room. The girl wanted to be a performer on the boat, but her father did not like the idea. One night, they had a fight about the subject while docked in St. Louis . The girl left the boat that night, and was found next morning floating in the river. Her killers were never found. The father died shortly after.

Reports of the ghost started after these events, and actors and staff members claim that she is responsible for strange things that happen, such as doors slamming and items being moved about. Some claim to have even seen the host.

Equipment setup: The G.E.I.S.T. equipment was positioned on the floor of the main theater area along with the GhostCam and IR illuminator. I placed an IR camcorder and IR illuminator facing the left side of the balcony and placed a REM Epod and EM Vortex on a small table where I earlier saw a strange light. Jim Piscopo positioned another IR camcorder facing the right side of the balcony and placed an IR illuminator on the Captain’s table (without permission from the captain). Further down that same balcony I placed a set of passive IR motion detectors. A full-spectrum camera was placed in the upstairs living quarters facing a door where shadow figures had been reported in the past. Near that same doorway I placed an EM Pump and the Paracorder 667. The Command Center was centrally located in the concessions area.

Experiments performed: EVP sessions were performed in the left-side balcony area, theater/stage area, upstairs living quarters and the crow’s nest.


The Ghost Research Society investigated the Goldenrod on May 17, 2014. Team members included: Stan Suho, Marge Sucha, Michael Wright, Katherine Meagher and Dale Kaczmarek with help from Jeanne Chilton, Shana Wankel and Becca Tsigili Xayasith.









Personal experiences:

Dale Kaczmarek: While ascending the stairs to the left-side of the balcony to set up a camera, I distinctly saw a very bright silvery light illuminate a table. I immediately called upstairs to see if anyone was in the area and not only was nobody upstairs in the balcony, but there was nobody anywhere in the theater area as well! I tried to debunk and replicate the light using my very bright 1000 lums flashlight but the light from the flashlight was yellowish in color and nowhere close to the bright silver light that I had seen. I called for Jim and we immediately saturated the area with digital pictures. It appears in only one of several pictures taken there.

Later while sitting on the stage and conducting an EVP session, several investigators including myself, saw strange flashes of white light on the right-side of the balcony where Jim’s camcorder was positioned. There was absolutely no way that any outside light sources from passing barges or automobiles could have entered that room and illuminated that area as there were no windows in the theater area.

Throughout the evening a series of noises, bangs and unexplained sounds were heard including the sound of disembodied breathing. This occurred during our EVP in the left-side balcony. I and another investigator clearly heard the sound of labored breathing coming up the stairs to the balcony which abruptly stopped!

Jim Piscopo: When we arrived at the Goldenrod we were waiting for a few more members so we started exploring the boat. Dale called me over to where he was, at the balcony overlooking the stage. He said he saw a ball of light. By the time I arrived it was gone. We looked around and started going back down the steps. I turned back around and snapped off four pictures. In the first picture there is a ball of light that does not appear in the other three pictures. 

After that we started setting up equipment. I set up my IR camera in the right hand side of the balcony with my IR light on a tripod on a table in front of it. Our other member’s still did not arrive yet so I was sitting at the table and heard a loud crashing sound. I called for Dale and he came up. He didn't hear anything. We walked around and nothing was out of place.

By now the whole group was there and we did our walk through. During our tour I learned that I had set up my IR light on the captain’s table (without permission).

We were in the crew’s quarters doing an EVP session when I felt a cool draft and something stepping on my foot. Dale was the only one close to me but it was not him.

Towards the end of the investigation I was sitting by the captain’s table and got up to change the disk in my camera. As I got to the camera the IR light and tripod was thrown from the captain’s table. All through the night I heard noises coming from the stage area of the boat.


Stan Suho: Tough to get to but worth the trouble. This old showboat is very active. We had to traverse two ladders “with all our equipment “to get aboard. There were several sections that were off limits, I think for different reasons then when I was in the military. We were joined by Jeanne and Rita. After the walkthrough with questions and answers, we began our
setup. The command post was located in the Bar Room area just off the main entrance. The boat had no power, but I had bought along enough batteries to give us three hours’ work time. The full G.E.I.S.T.  setup was used with camera, microphones, monitors and Audacity Laptop. Dale used a monitor also. The setup was in the auditorium with the IR cameras focused on the stage area. Dale had a camera on the balcony and Jim had one upstairs. Once the group got quiet, the noised commenced. From the stage, from the auditorium, from the balcony. There was no one in any of these places. The noised continued until breakdown. Bumps, knocks, raps and they were all recorded on Audacity and a DVR. The EVP sessions were started and continued throughout the evening. We were joined by a very friendly cat demanding constant attention. Thus proceeded our investigation. At breakdown the same two ladders were crossed, this time in the dark.

Before we even started Dale encountered a phantom light shining on him. Jim had a Tripod knocked off a table. This combined with all the noises made for a very interesting evening. I don't recommend this Showboat for people who are unstable on ladders or have trouble crossing ladders over voids. Other than that I think you will find this old boat well worth the trip.


Katherine Meagher: On May 17 2014 6:00 PM I Kat Meagher accompanied Dale Kaczmarek President of the Ghost Research Society and other members to the Goldenrod showboat in Kampsville IL on the Mississippi River. This grand vessel was a floating antique. It is a magnificent piece of history. Before I go on investigations I try to find out as much as I can to the history of the place we investigate. The history of the past puts a compelling spin on the possible evidence that is to be found. It also pushes me towards more unanswered questions.

After getting the rundown of history and what has been felt and evidence that has been gathered the set up begins. My equipment is limited but with recorder in hand, camera at my side and camcorder we roll through the showboat from top to bottom gathering evidence.

I have to say I felt nothing out of the ordinary. Just being on a piece of history where Bob hope and Red Skeleton preformed was enough for me. I took part in multiple EVP sessions staying close to the group since this is my first real investigation with seasoned ghost hunters that have respect to the paranormal.  

Going through the tape recorder and pictures after the adventure was very surprising. With the things I picked up on the recorder and a picture that I am still trying to debunk, I have to say there are a few things I really can’t explain. This brings me to more questions. I am still listening to what I collected looking for an explanation and still debunking some of the evidence.  

It was extraordinary just to be with history weather ghosts reside there, it is possible because of the bits of evidence I collected I have no real explanation at this time.  

Digital Camera, Sony Cyber shot

Digital Tape recorder, Olympus VN-702pc

Camcorder, Bell Howell infrared night vision DNV16HDZ

EMF detectors


Michael Wright: The Golden Rod is an interesting place. We started the evening by getting a walk through right before night fall which we received a brief history of the vessel. During the walk through there were several pictures taken by other members of the team that showed strange anomalies in the photographs.

Our first session on the balcony I recorded 2 EVPs. There were a few bangs and clicking noises which sounded like they were coming from sections of the boat which no one was on (could have possibly been natural settling noises).

We also did EVP sessions in the Captains Quarters, The Main Stage, The Crow’s Nest and the Lower Deck, The lower Deck and the Main Stage (same area) my recorder shut off after a few seconds.
In the Crow’s Nest there was an EVP that was picked up on my recorder.
In the Captains Quarters there were a few things that could have been EVPs but they very hard to hear. There were also quite a few noises throughout the night that did not come from any of our team, heard most of the noises in the main deck and balcony area.
I was very happy that I had the opportunity to investigate the Golden Rod, before it was moved to another location.


Evidence collected:  

Bang goldenrod.mpg – the static IR camcorder positioned in the balcony of the auditorium picked up a loud bang.  

Breathing goldenrod.mpg – while conducting an EVP session in the balcony, disembodied labored breathing sounds were heard coming up the stairs.  

Breathy voice goldenrod.mpg – Piscopo’s static IR camcorder positioned on the balcony of the auditorium picked up a breathy voice.

Captain1 goldenrod.mpg – during an EVP session in the stage area, the Ghost Box said, “Captain.”  

Captain2 goldenrod.mpg – during an EVP session in the stage area, a question was asked, “Is the Captain here?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Captain.”  

Crash crow’s nest.mpg – during an EVP session in the Crow’s Nest Hallway, a question was asked, “Who walks this hallway?” A loud crash was heard in the background in a response.  

Crash1 goldenrod.mpg – the static IR camcorder positioned in the balcony of the auditorium picked up a loud crash.  

Crash2 goldenrod.mpg – the static IR camcorder positioned in the balcony of the auditorium picked up another loud crash.  

Crash3 goldenrod.mpg - the static IR camcorder positioned in the balcony of the auditorium picked up another loud crash.  

Crash4 goldenrod.mpg - the static IR camcorder positioned in the balcony of the auditorium picked up another loud crash.  

Crash5 goldenrod.mpg - the static IR camcorder positioned in the balcony of the auditorium picked up another loud crash.  

Creaking sound goldenrod.mpg - Piscopo’s static IR camcorder positioned on the balcony of the auditorium picked up a creaking sound.

Crowsnest1.mpg - during an EVP session in the Crow's Nest Hallway, a comment was made, "I have a kitty named Rocky." In the background whispered voice is heard sounding like, "Roxanne."

Don’t worry goldenrod.mpg - Piscopo’s static IR camcorder positioned on the balcony of the auditorium picked up a voice saying, “Don’t worry.”

Goldenrod.mpg – during an EVP session in the balcony, a question was asked, “Can you tell us the name of the boat we’re on?” The Ghost Box responds with what sounds like, “Goldenrod.”  

Music goldenrod.mpg - Piscopo’s static IR camcorder positioned on the balcony of the auditorium picked up the sound of weird music.

Of course.mpg – during a Ghost Box session in the stage area, a question was asked, “Do you know who the people are that’s been coming in here and vandalizing the place?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Of course.”  

Voice1 goldenrod.mpg - Piscopo’s static IR camcorder positioned on the balcony of the auditorium picked up a voice.  

Voice2 goldenrod.mpg - Piscopo’s static IR camcorder positioned on the balcony of the auditorium picked up another voice.

Whisper.mpg – during an EVP session in the stage area, a question was asked, “What is that sound?” It is followed by a whispery voice.  

Yep.mpg – during an EVP session in the stage area, a question was asked, “Captain were you lighting your cigar?” A voice comes through that says, “Yep.”  


Conclusions: This was a unique experience being able to investigate a riverboat! There were a number of unexplainable crashes and sounds recorded in the auditorium; many when there wasn’t anyone nearby. In one instance, the entire group was upstairs in the living quarters conducting an EVP session when at least four loud crashes resounded in the auditorium. Unexplained lights were seen by many investigators that evening in the balcony area and even on the main floor and there was equipment manipulation.

Perhaps the spirits of the Goldenrod are upset at the constant vandalism and break-ins that occur all the time and they are venting their anger through the sounds, lights and making their presence known through interacting with equipment.

We did have a resident cat with us the entire evening and he did not seem at all disturbed by anything in the Goldenrod. Perhaps he was just a mellow kitty?  Several times, “Captain, “came through on the Ghost Box, which to me, indicates that Captain Menke may still be around and watching over his beloved boat.

While I don’t believe we contacted Rose’s ghost, there may have been other spirits that we came in contact with that evening.

I believe the boat is definitely haunted and moving it may cause those spirits to become even more active, in my opinion.

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