The Unfortunate Case of Jerome Feller (or Part II of The Blockplant)

I should probably save this post for Halloween – but what the heck – I got a million of ’em, as the saying goes.  So in my last post I talked a little about the Blockplant, and left you with the statement that the house I grew up in was haunted.
Like any real haunting – proving that the place is haunted is pretty difficult. Radios would turn on by themselves, doors would shut and lock themselves, we all dreamed about the same apparition – and one family member who does not wish to be identified (no, it’s not me) saw a full body apparition in the house. There were also a lot of strange noises and occurrences in the house – a low breathing in the garage we could never figure out, and once right after we moved to California I heard that the basement filled up with hundreds of snakes.

Definitely a weird place to grow up. Add in the Blockplant, and you have the beginnings of a Stephen King novel. All of which goes a long way toward explaining why, as my mom puts it, “the veil between the worlds is thin with me” and my grandma always said I always have “one foot on the other side.”  It probably also sort of explains why my personality is a little on the odd side.

So there were all these odd occurrences in the house, and everyone agreed it all centered around the well room. The well room was clearly built onto the back of the house after the house was finished – otherwise it would have been a lot more integrated with the rest of the house. The parts of the house that had the most “activity” were the parts of the house closest to the well room. It was just that – a concrete room 3/4 sunk into the earth (1/4 above ground, in other words) with a well that went down over 100 feet, with an electric pump on the well head. Which was weird – because the artesian well was at the front of the house, which provided MUCH cleaner and softer water than the mud-hole well behind the house. It just seemed like a really bad place for a well.

The well room was always cold, and you could not get it well lit – a 100 watt bulb in that room would be no brighter than a 40 watt bulb. It was the darnedest thing.  When I was young, I had a lot of nightmares and waking nighttime hallucinations in the place, most of them centering around the well room. As I said, there is no doubt in my mind that that house is very haunted.

But, like most hauntings, there isn’t really a “smoking gun,” – something I can point to and say “See – it is haunted!”  We all dreamed about the same ghost, and we all agreed that there were “friendly” ghosts in the house, of which she (the ghost) seemed to be one. We also all agreed there were malevolent spirits in the house, and I don’t doubt that either.

But again – I have a pretty scientific mind, and while I know what I experienced in that house, I want proof. So, I assume, do you.

Enter the unfortunate case of Jerome Feller (first name pronounced “Ja – roam”).

Jerome Feller bought the house in 1967, after the owner of the Blockplant decided to give up his dream, apparently. He was the home’s second owner. (Note: the following information was researched through interviews with long-term residents of the town, and through archived newspaper articles in the town’s library.)  Again – the records showing this are missing from the County Courthouse, the records show that we were the first occupants of the house, but this is provably untrue. From all accounts, Jerome loved the place, and lived happily there alone until the winter of 1971 – one year before we moved in.

In early December of 1971, Jerome drove to Billings, Montana to do some Christmas shopping. He left Billings at 3 pm on a Sunday so he would be home by 5 pm – after sundown at that time of year “black ice” can form on those two-lane highways. Black ice is a sheer thin layer of perfectly smooth ice that forms as condensation on the smooth pavement freezes. Black ice is so slick that any car that hits it has no control over steering or braking – the best thing to do when you hit a patch of black ice is to let off the gas and try to coast over it without any more steering or braking input than absolutely necessary. On one sharp curve in the road that is known for the formation of black ice, Jerome’s car hit a large patch of black ice at too high of a speed and spun out of control. The car spun into the oncoming lane, and the front fender caught on a vertical drainage pipe sticking out of the shoulder on the other side of the road. The car caught on the pipe and flipped over several times in the ditch on the far side of the road, coming to rest on its roof. Jerome Feller died at the scene.

Every day at 5 pm – a car door slams in the driveway of the house. It is the loudest on Sunday evenings. Visitors to the home have heard it, friends who came over regularly have heard it. Even when there is not a car for half a mile in any direction (as was often the case on summer days when mom and dad were at work) a car door slams in the driveway of the house. It is loud enough to be heard from inside the basement with all of the doors closed. To my knowledge, the sound has never stopped or missed a day – exactly at 5 pm every day, whether there is an actual car present or not, a car door slams in the driveway. After extensive attempts to pinpoint the source of the sound – including experiments slamming a car door at the end of our dirt road and from down at the Blockplant – we concluded that there is no possible way for the sound to be produced by anything but a car door slamming directly in front of the house. Even when the driveway was completely empty.

It actually was not until we moved away that I talked about a lot of this with my family members and we all finally agreed on a paranormal explanation for the sound – after much debate, we decided the sound had to be Jerome Feller trying to come home at the same time every day, the time of day he was due back from his ill fated trip home from Billings.

Of course I didn’t need to do any of my research into the case or have any of those conversations with members of my family to know this – that was just so there was something semi-concrete there to point to as evidence that the place is actually haunted. Heck, I knew the car door slamming was Jerome Feller coming home as a kid.

In early December of 1973 – we went to Billings, Montana, in my dad’s Ford Mustang for some Christmas shopping. I was four years old. We planned to leave around three, so we would get home around five, just after dark, to avoid most of the black ice on those roads. On the exact same curve at the same time of day (though we didn’t yet know the story at that time) my dad hit a patch of black ice going a little too fast on the curve and the car spun out of control. The front bumper hooked on that drainage pipe sticking out of the shoulder, caught the car, and flipped it over.

POOF!!!!!!

The car landed on its roof in seven feet of freshly fallen powdery snow that had filled the ditch. It was like dropping a car onto a giant feather bed. Though shaken, none of us were hurt. The car’s roof wasn’t dented, and none of the glass was even broken. The only reason the car had to be towed home is because flipping a gasoline engine upside down kind of messes it up, so the car needed some minor mechanical attention after the incident, but that was it. We all rode home in a Chevy Impala sedan that the towing company was nice enough to send for us. This was the only major car accident I have ever been in, and to say that we were lucky would, in my opinion, be pressing the limits of what can be explained as mere luck.

Say what you want – I will always be convinced that the ghost of Jerome Feller guided that car on that fateful day and caused it to repeat his crash almost exactly – the only difference being that in so doing all of our lives were spared by repeating the same crash that killed him.

And maybe that’s just wild speculation on my part. I have to admit that. But I gotta be honest – I’m not real sure that I believe in coincidences like that. There are times – very few times – when the paranormal explanation is also the most plausible one.

If you believe in that sort of thing. And maybe, just maybe, even if you don’t.

I feel bad for the spirit of Jerome Feller.  For 40 years now, all he has wanted to do is come home.  If that isn’t Hell, I don’t know what is.

Is the house provably haunted? I think so. So, by the way, does anyone who has ever lived in it. At least one person I know of (since we left) had a nervous breakdown after living alone in the house for six months. The family that currently lives there has now lived there for over a decade. They are the first ones since my family to do so.

I visited them on a road trip back to my hometown in 2003. The first question out of their mouth was, “So what can you tell me about that well room?” Turns out that they had the well room all boarded up and didn’t use the basement for anything but storage. Incredibly, the carpet and drapes on the window wells in the basement bedroom were just as we had left them. I asked them about the car door slamming, if it still happened.

“Every night right at 5,” was the answer.

Why is the house haunted?  The unfortunate case of Jerome Feller is one reason – but clearly there is more going on there than just that.  Is the haunting connected somehow to the Blockplant?

I tend to think so, but that is one question that will in all likelihood never be answered.

People sometimes ask me if I believe in ghosts. I always give them the same answer – I grew up in a haunted house.

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