Witness: James Hellenthal
Location: Hamilton, Illinois
Date of Encounter: July 2003
My two brothers and I each have a home, located three-in-a-row, right next to one another along U.S. Highway 136, on the east edge of Hamilton, Illinois. Hamilton is a small river town on the mighty Mississippi, located on the Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois border. Hamilton is about 30-miles up river from Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of famous American writer Mark Twain and his legendary stories of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
My brother Bill, and his wife Rhonda, reside in a split-level home, which was built around 30-years ago, and is right next door to my house, located about 100 yards away. The haunting occurred in the Summer of 2003. It was a hot summer that year and in the middle of July, the temperatures climbed into the upper 90’s and even soared above 100 degrees for several days in a row. It was on one of these sweltering hot July days when it all began.
My brother, Bill and his wife, Rhonda, run a small county newspaper in Hamilton. Our homes are located about 1-mile up the highway from their newspaper office. It was around 5:00 p.m. and Rhonda was driving home from work. There were two cars traveling on the highway directly behind her, making a total of 3 cars traveling at close proximity to one another. As Rhonda approached the driveway to their home, she put on her turn signal and slowed down to pull into the drive. Apparently the third car in the sequence did not realize she was slowing down and it slammed into the back of the second vehicle, which was right behind Rhonda’s car. When the third car made impact with the second car, it shoved it into the opposite lane and the second car was then hit again by an oncoming tractor-trailer. The impact of the semi-truck threw the car into Bill and Rhonda’s front yard, less than 25 yards from their front door. Rhonda’s car was luckily not hit, and she pulled into their driveway and immediately went into the house and called 911, then she called Bill, who came home immediately.
When Bill arrived at the accident scene, which was in his front yard, he ran up to the car to see if he could be of assistance to the people inside. All four people in the devastated car were dead. Bill said the frozen looks on their gruesome dead faces were full of horror, with their eyes still bulging wide open. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the other car or the semi that was involved in the accident. A few minutes later, police and emergency vehicles arrived and secured the scene.
After a few minutes of investigation, the Illinois State Police approached Bill and informed him that the two cars involved in the accident that were behind Rhonda were all members of the same family. It was one family traveling together in two separate cars. The parents and grandparents were traveling in the car that all four were killed. The other car, in which no one was injured, were the children of the family. The state police asked Bill if he would have the children of the family come into his air-conditioned home and wait inside Bill and Rhonda’s home. Thereby the children wouldn’t have to witness the morbid task of excavating the dead bodies of their parents and grandparents out of the mangled car in his front yard.
Bill readily agreed and he took the three children down into his finished basement. The children, age 18, 12, and 9, were obviously very upset and in a state of shock. They were crying and yelling and moaning. Rhonda tried her best to calm and console them. Bill and Rhonda have a full bath in the basement and all the children were sick, vomiting, and had bad diarrhea. A couple hours later, when it was all over and the accident scene had been cleared, the police came to Bill and Rhonda’s door and got the 3 children. After they had left, Bill and Rhonda cleaned up the basement bathroom, which had vomit all over the walls and diarrhea on the floor and running down the sides of the stool. A day or so later, Bill and Rhonda felt relieved, thinking that the nightmare was over. Little did they realize that it had just begun!
Bill and Rhonda are very down-to-earth people, and neither one of them had ever believed in the supernatural, the paranormal, or ghosts, until a couple days after the accident. As I mentioned earlier, this all happened in the middle of July, and the temperatures were very high. Bill and Rhonda kept their windows shut and their air conditioning was turn on. Two days after the accident, Bill came home to the house in the middle of the afternoon. He and Rhonda are the only two people that live there. He unlocked the house and went upstairs to find one of the upstairs bedroom windows was mysteriously opened. He didn’t think much about it and shut the window, and double-checked the rest of the house to make sure no other windows were open, then went back up to the newspaper office, where Rhonda was working. Bill asked Rhonda why she would open the bedroom window at home with the air conditioning on. Rhonda replied that she had not opened the window and didn’t know what he was talking about. That evening, around 5:00 p.m., when they came home from work, there was another window open. Over the course of the next 2-3 weeks they would find several windows open in their house with no explanation as to why.
During this same period of time, while lying in bed watching television in the night, Bill and Rhonda would see strange shadows move across the ceiling in the bedroom and in the upstairs hallway. Their dog, Eddie, would stand up at the foot of the bed and growl at the shadows that would glide across the ceiling. Never before had Eddie acted like this, but all three of them knew there was some real spooky stuff happening in their home since the accident. During the next 2-3 weeks, doors in the house would slam shut by themselves, windows would open, and shadows would run across their walls and ceilings. Bill and Rhonda now believe the spirit or spirits of the deceased family members followed the children into the home and haunted the home.
Three weeks after the accident, a family member from the family involved in the accident came down from Chicago to tie up some loose ends with the police regarding the accident. On their way out of town, they stopped by Bill and Rhonda’s house to visit with and thank them for watching the children. Immediately after the relative visited Bill and Rhonda’s home, the haunting stopped. Nothing like that has happened to them since.