Good morning, friends!
Last night we wrapped up being featured speakers for the St Clair County Historical Society haunted walking tours. The theme was ‘Belleville Horror Story’ and we were asked to represent our home by sharing research and stories, along with former owners Chris and Nikki Hettenhausen.
All said, we stood out front of our home 18 times this week and told our stories to almost 650 people. It was more fun than work and I enjoyed getting to know Chris and Nikki a little better. We got great feedback from tour-goers and my only hope is that it sparks a desire to continue learning the history of this family, home, street, and town.
Now that the tours have concluded, I figured we could share our side of the story. For my part, I started out by sharing the history of the home and the story of Roland and Petra Romeiser. I’ve posted it here in depth before [you can click on their names for links], but I want to recap here. I ended with our personal experiences in the house which are things I’ve never shared publicly before. If you missed out on getting a ticket for the sold out walks, here’s your chance to read up on what we talked about!
As you all know by now, the family that originally owned our house was very well-to-do in the late 1800s. The patriarch, Peter, owned a mercantile store and was very successful. He lived in the house with his wife Elise and their 8 children. In 1906, their 6th child, a son named Roland, had just graduated from high school. He was well known and well loved by the entire town. Very musically inclined, not only did he raise money for a new piano for the high school, but he composed the graduation song for the Belleville High School senior class of 1906
That November, the family had gathered to celebrate Peter’s birthday. They did this by gathering around the piano for hours as Roland entertained them with songs. The family went to bed around 10pm while Peter stayed up to read the newspaper. About an hour later, he himself headed to bed and heard a disturbance coming from the boy’s bedroom upstairs. Upon entering, he found Roland struggling to breath. He called for the doctor but by the time he arrived, Roland had died in Peter’s arms.
This otherwise healthy, happy 17-year old boy whose life was just getting started died of a heart attack. The entire town and his family was absolutely devastated, especially his older sister Petronella who had been home visiting from college. Petra even remarked several times how she wished she had been the one that had died. It was remarks like this that led the eldest daughter, Emma, to keep a close eye on Petra. She didn’t leave her side, even going so far as to pretend to sleep at night… basically keeping one eye open so that she could watch Petra and make sure she didn’t harm herself.
Two days after Roland’s death, the night before his funeral, Peter and Elise were off making funeral arrangements. All the Romeiser siblings had been invited to dinner across the street. When they arrived, Petra made an excuse that she had forgotten her dinner gloves at home and needed to go fetch them.
No one really thought anything of it and so she turned to leave. It took a split second for Emma to realize she would be alone… when she looked back at Petra, she discovered her running full speed towards the house. Emma took off after her..
When Petra got to our house, she ran inside and up to the second floor. And she kept going. She ran all the way up to the third floor bedroom. Emma was close behind her the whole time. Once she reached the 3rd floor, Petra had so much momentum that she flung herself through a closed glass window. Emma was able to grab onto her foot but couldn’t hold on and so Petra tumbled around 50 feet to the ground below. She suffered a broken arm, deep cut, and a massive concussion but because Emma grabbed her foot and slowed her fall, she lived. She was, however, institutionalized in a facility outside Chicago.
She stayed there for two years. Then, in 1908, she was out for her daily walk with her assigned nurse. She convinced the nurse to break from their regular route… to a route that crossed a train track. Petra leaped onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train.
The last thing she did was turn, look at her nurse, and she smiled. The train struck her and she was killed instantly. The train even had to be “lifted up off of the tracks to retrieve her mangled form,” a newspaper report said.
Sadness followed the Romeiser family after Roland and Petra’s deaths. Matriarch Elise would go on to die in the home in April of 1916, followed a few short months later by Peter himself. And, furthermore, Emma (the sister who cared for Petra), would later go on to die tragically on the crash of the Hindenburg, alongside her husband John. Their adult son Hilgard was on the observation platform watching helplessly.
The fact that SO MUCH tragedy can touch one singular family is kind of astounding to me. Of all the original 8 children, only one has any remaining living descendants and I feel like if we don’t start sharing and preserving these stories, soon enough, there won’t be anyone left to tell them.
This story sort of sets the tone for some of the paranormal activity that could have occurred here in years since because who’s to say that anyone who died in this home or was attached to this home in someway ever really left.
Ash and I are pretty extreme skeptics. It’s not that I don’t believe in ghosts or paranormal activity… I’m just not sure what I believe. I like to think that those we love and have lost still have some way to communicate or be with us but a large part of me thinks I just tell myself that as a comfort. I don’t mean to discredit anyone’s personal experiences; if anything, they actually convince me even more that there could be some other plane of existence out there beyond this world.
About a month ago (almost exactly the one-year-anniversary of the date we moved in), we were headed to bed and above our heads on the third floor I heard someone (or something) knocking. Just like you would knock on a door. It was three distinct knocks, clear as if they were in the room next to me. I looked at Ash and asked if he heard it and he admitted that he did. When he got up to go investigate, it happened again. Sometimes we hear muffled footsteps up on the 3rd floor, and what I would describe as something being dragged across the floor. We’ve always tried to explain away these sounds but eventually it will get to the point where maybe there isn’t an explanation. It should be noted that the 3rd floor is completely unfinished, empty, a construction site and our kids aren’t allowed up there.
Okay, I’m almost done. One little thing and one big thing.
Little thing: the motion detector we have on our second floor to help us see down our dark kitchen staircase comes on ALL the time, even if we’re not near it.
And the big thing. This is what made me really start to question my stance on ghosts and spirits and activity. Last Winter, I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Son #1 was in the living room watching a show and Son #2 was upstairs in his room playing. He was 5 at the time and didn’t have any sort of electronics in his room, not a TV or video games or even a radio. Just him and his action figures and blocks.
All of a sudden I hear him flying down our back kitchen stair case as fast as he can go. When he gets to the kitchen I look at him and he is white as a sheet. I say, “Baby! What’s wrong?!” and he breathlessly says…. “MOM! ….someone said my name.”
Stay sweet and Happy Halloween, friends!
The Brick and Maple ❤