St. Ann, Missouri
Grandma Ina did not take up residency in her St. Ann house until May 1975. By then, eight months had elapsed since the tragedy at the previous home in Bridgeton, Missouri. Married to her third husband, Henry Jeglenski, an immigrant from Warsaw, Poland (who came to America as a boy, shortly before the Nazi takeover), “Hank” (as he was known to his friends) had recently become despondent over escalating health issues. He shot himself on Labor Day 1974. The weather in St. Louis that day had been unusually rainy and cold for that time of year. Hank would die two days later at nearby St. John’s Mercy Hospital.
His widow; Ina (my grandmother, on my mother’s side of the family), sold the Foxwood Drive in Bridgeton the following month, approximately one week before Halloween. She would remain in seclusion for eight months, before resurfacing as the new owner of a smaller residence located in St. Ann, a suburb of St. Louis County. Only minutes from her previous one, she and Hank had once considered purchasing it instead of the one in Bridgeton. Unavailable at the time though, the Bridgeton property became he and Ina’s first home instead. Before that, they had lived in apartments and mobile homes. They married in 1968 ( photo ) at a Lutheran church in Bel Nor…located just around the corner and down the block from the now-famous 1949 exorcism house which served as inspiration for author William Peter Blatty’s fictional novel about demonic possession—The Exorcist.
An employee at nearby McDonnell Douglas Aircraft, Hank worked there as a technical illustrator. He would eventually invest in 115 acres of rural undeveloped land in St. Charles County. It was an investment that he hoped would pay off with a profit. It did. The Bridgeton home would be later purchased using that “profit” money. Affectionately dubbed “The Land,” Hank was cautioned against tearing down the last remaining remnant of the former homestead which had once stood there; an old dilapidated barn, who some in the area believed was “haunted.” Whether is was or whether it was not, Hank eventually hired a local contractor to tear it down, before putting the property up for sale.
Hank had always been in perfect health. Following the sale of the St. Charles property (and the tearing down of that so-called “haunted barn”) Hank’s health began to decline. Problems with his eyes was soon followed by accelerated diabetes. He developed leg problems, heart problems, and was soon being treated for acute depression. It was like all the luck he had once had was now used up. Fearing that he might soon become “a burden” to Ina, he shot himself on Labor Day (1974) with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. He met death forty-eight hours later (his death certificate) with his head still heavily wrapped in bloody bandages, without ever having regained consciousness.
The disturbances inside the St. Ann house did not begin immediately. There was a four month period, between its initial purchase on May 2nd (1975) and late August/early September, when all was normal, quiet and uneventful. Then, right around the first anniversary since Hank’s death, “strange things” began to take place there. The first I became aware of it was when my mother received a phone call late one evening from a “very frightened” Grandma Ina. There was no calming her down. She insisted that my father come over immediately. At the time, we lived in University City. Not far away, the trip over there would have been an inconvenience at best, but since both of my parents worked and had to get up early, whatever was happening over there would have to wait. “But there is someone living in my attic!” she whispered. “I can hear them walking around up there!”
My grandmother had placed all of her late husband’s personal effects in a small connecting room that had been built to merge the main house with the formerly detached garage. Had Hank lived, this room would have become his private work den. Intended as merely a sun room, it was not wired for any electricity, nor was it climate controlled. Whatever the outside temperature was, that’s what this room would more than likely reflect. However, no feasible explanation could be given how when in the high heat of August (with temperatures pressing near 100 degrees), why this particular room would continually feel “ice cold.” A faintness-like dizziness seemed to come over anyone who remained in this room for an extended period of time. In the adjacent garage, garden tools which Hank had once owned and used kept falling off their hooks and wall mounts. Shovels, rakes, hedge clippers and other items could be heard on a semi-regular basis falling loudly onto the garage floor. This would usually occur in the middle of the night, shortly before bedtime.
Disembodied “male moaning” seemed to come out of the walls at other times. Floorboards up in the attic would constantly “creak” as if someone were slowly and carefully navigating themselves atop the narrow rafters. Echoed “knocking” that seem to emanate from inside the walls, were continually being mistaken for late-night knocks at the front door. Grandma Ina was most alarmed by the strange “pops” she heard, coming from the attic in the middle of the night. She described them as sounding like “gunshots.” My mother, Marilyn, never believed in ghosts. But after spending one night in the house, I heard her tell my father “I’ll never stay over there again.” Recently retired, my grandmother returned to work, cleaning rooms at a nearby hotel and working in a neighboring funeral parlor so she wouldn’t have to spend more time in the house than absolutely necessary. This was something the house, however, “did not take well.” “I think my house is haunted,” she began to tell friends. But all they did was scoff back at her. They suggested it was “probably the car pole speakers at the St. Ann Drive-in,” which sat directly behind the house.
But she knew better. When the disturbances first began, the drive-in had already closed for the season. My father continued the routine of checking out her attic every time we would come over for a visit. By 1978, she had enough. Her nerves were frayed. She sold the house on Little Flower Lane and moved out. “Something” had obviously happened in those last nights that had led up to her abrupt decision to sell it. She would never talk about “what” had happened, only to say that leaving there when she did, was “for the best.” Her new home was much smaller, but more peaceful. It was just another house. Located just a mile or so away from the more “troubled home,” the only complaint she ever had about it, was that it was too small. “I wish I had kept the one on Little Flower Lane,” she would sometimes say, years later. By then, age and senility had set in and she had forgotten the reasons why she had gotten rid of it in the first place. She passed away in January of 1993, and is laid to rest in the same St. Louis cemetery as her beloved Hank.