The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 17, 2013

Galena bordello nearly ready for new business

GRANBY, Mo. — The notorious Galena bordello that was linked to a family of murderers in the 1890s has been brought back to life.

“Used to, when you walked in here before, it had an eerie feel to it,” said Russell Keeler, of After Midnight Paranormal Investigations. “When I walk in here now, I feel comfort. It’s almost like a regular house now.”

The paranormal group, based in Siloam Springs, Ark., on Saturday was the host for a dinner and ghost-hunting tour in Galena to celebrate the grand opening of the bordello, which had fallen into serious disrepair and is now nearing the final phases of renovation. In attendance were local ghost hunters and history buffs, as well as Barry Klinge and Brad Klinge, brothers and hosts of the Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Lab” television series.

The bordello has gained notoriety for allegedly having been owned by the Stefflebacks, a murderous family that might have even used the building as the site of some of its crimes.

According to various accounts, Ma Steffleback, also known as “Galena’s Bloody Madam” or Nancy Wilson, her given name; her second husband, Charles Wilson; and her sons, Ed and George, were all linked to the October 1897 death of Frank Galbraith. He has been referred to as a miner, peddler and client of the bordello.

The Stefflebacks were accused of taking his belongings after killing him and dumping his body in a mine shaft. All were eventually convicted and sentenced for the crime.

An online petition started by members of MoSo Ghost Hunters and backed by Galena’s mayor sought last fall to save the building, which dates to about 1890, from demolition. Keeler said all evidence points to the building at 203 N. Main St., just north of Four Women on the Route, as having been the Stefflebacks’ bordello.

“Whether it is, we can’t really say for fact,” he said. “It’s pretty close to the facts that we can come up with, and nobody can tell us different or has proved different.”

Now privately owned, the bordello has gotten a much-needed face-lift over the past few months. It has new floors, drywall, fixtures and a roof, as well as a rebuilt chimney. The structure itself, which Keeler said was “on its last legs” and was leaning backward and at an angle, has been straightened.

Once the renovation is complete, which Keeler said could be within 30 to 60 days, the bordello will be fully furnished with heat, air conditioning and running water. But don’t be fooled by the cheery yellow walls or bright sunlight streaming in through the windows, he said.

Ghost hunters and members of paranormal groups have claimed that the bordello, with its sordid history, is still haunted. They have said they witnessed shadows, black masses and other unexplained phenomena inside the house during their investigations.

Keeler said for that reason, he hopes to repaint the walls a more somber color and add heavy curtains to the windows to try to re-create the sort of atmosphere that gave the bordello its notoriety.

“We want to keep some of the haunted value,” he said.

Brad Klinge said the weekend marked the first time he and his brother had visited Galena to check out the famed bordello.

“It’s a hobby,” he said. “A lot of people play golf on weekends; we hunt ghosts.”

Klinge said the renovated building could prove to be a big economic draw for Galena.

“It’s this fascination that people have in this country with crime and vice,” he said. Add to that the fact that the bordello sits on historic Route 66, which will attract people searching for a bit of Americana, he said, “and this house is right here in all that.”

Keeler said nearly 50 people were at Saturday’s dinner, and most participated in the nighttime ghost hunt that was spread over three locations: the bordello, Oak Hill Cemetery in Galena, and the caves off Malang Road between Joplin, Mo., and Galena. The last ghost hunters turned in around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, he said.

Future uses

THE NEWLY RENOVATED GALENA BORDELLO will be available for walk-through tours, for paranormal investigations and to rent for private events, said Russell Keeler, of After Midnight Paranormal Investigations. More information is available at galenabordello.com.

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