The stretch of South Broadway between Busch Stadium and Chouteau Avenue is rich with the velvety texture of local mythology; old stories passed around without any solid evidence. Street legend, one person called it. Not to say that this evidence isn't out there, but the question is, finally: Do you really want to know the truth about these myths, or is it better to leave them as they are?
Example: Someone told me that a foot had once been found under the floorboards of the Broadway Oyster Bar. Not a foot, exactly, but the bones of a foot, still encased in an old leather boot. The foot, according to this person, was supposed to have belonged to a young girl. That was the speculation, anyway.
The story was related to me by a former Oyster Bar bartender. It's made the rounds enough to make it more than a passing lie; the material of someone's imagination meant to dupe me.
Now, ordering coffee, I ask the bartender (a different bartender) if she has heard the story. She hasn't, but her inquisitive expression suggests she's curious about it, too. Another person the manager, I think is summoned. He hasn't heard the foot story, but there are several accounts of the place being haunted.
By whom, no one knows. But the bartender points to a framed portrait that hangs on the wall (just another element of the well-orchestrated disarray that is the Oyster Bar's interior), a reproduction of an old oil painting: "We think it's him."
"It's Rembrandt," a customer, overhearing our conversation, says, adding timidly, "I think." More a question than a statement.