Rekindles

March 19, 2011

HERRMY MEYERHOFFER’S GHOST

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 4:17 am

This one is for real, it happened, I personally witnessed the events and I still wonder if it is REAL.

Background Information

There is a 5th Fire Station in town, it was built in 1884 for the Niles Centre Volunteer Fire Company # 1. It sits in the middle of the Old Town Square Mile and is currently the Fire Museum. It is the oldest public building in town and shares the building lot with the oldest building in town which is a Log Cabin that was built in the 1850’s and was moved on to the site in 1976.  Today they are a reminder of what the early history of Niles Centre was like at the turn of the 1900’s.

The volunteer fire company was very progressive and is one of the reasons why the area developed as it did around the politics of the local businessmen that banned together to provide for the safety of their businesses and of course their customer base. At the turn of the century the area had many green houses & truck farms growing the flowers and produce for the Chicago markets. So the only men that were around during the day were the shop owners and their employees. In the beginning it was the business owners that pulled the handcart, then drove the fire wagons using the first horses to the Engine House. Later these men retired and younger men took over and finally after WW II came the Paid Per Call Firemen. The Fire Company became a social club and from the outside appeared to be a Men’s Drinking/Street Brawling Social Club named the Nor Nacks.

The Engine House was located on Back Street and behind Out Back and beyond the Outhouse was a Stable House and then Mike Schmitz’s Tavern and of course, HE was the Fire Chief for a good many years. Each year the Company gathered to vote on who was to be Chief and Old Mike always won because the annual meeting were not held in the Engine House like the bi-monthly training meetings, No Sir these were held in Mike’s back room at the Christmas Holiday time and of course there was FREE BEER for all that attended the election meeting.

Mike never lost an election UNTIL a certain young man challenged him in 1948 and won on a kind of reform ticket, no drinking while on duty. His name was Herman Tessvile Meyerhoffer and he owned the local bus line and his family was at the heart of the political foreground and his wife was the Town’s social matron and director of the theater and movie house in town.

He held the top job for only 1 year and then he fell off the wagon so to speak. The story goes he was really afraid of his wife and that when he was too drunk to go home to sleep it off, he would stumble out Mike’s back door, across the large parking lot, and into the rear door of the Engine House and up the back stairs and fall onto one of the beds in the sleeping space provided for the over night sleeper Paid on Call firefighters.

Herrmy was a Lieutenant and usually the only officer present in the station at night, so he was present at almost every fire call in the little sleepy town. Since most calls happened on weekend nights he was able to tell his wife that he thought there would be a fire tonight and he needed to be at the station just in case. He drank more and more nights and soon lost his business, his wife and his family wanted nothing to do with him and soon the fire department changed, because in 1954 the department became a fully paid department and only a few of the original volunteers were hired. Many of the new firefighters were home from the Korean War and drinking and firefighting became a thing of the past. He died one dark and rainy night in the western part of town after falling in a drainage ditch and drowned in 2 feet of water.

When I was first hired by the department I worked out of this station for more then 3 years and I worked with some of the men that knew old Herrmy and here is the rest of the story.

I was assigned to Eng #1 Shift # 3 on October 31, 1966, yep Holloween folks the night old Herrmy died. My Lieutenant was Fred Witt and he was an Ex-Marine Drill Instructor and by all accounts, he was half nuts. He did not like rookies and he was going to test me right from the start.

On arrival at 0800hrs. He took me upstairs to the BIG SLEEPING ROOM, sat me in a chair, handed me the Drill Manual and a Bible and told me to read them as he would be back to test me. I was not to do anything except read these books.

The Engine got a fire call and I stayed behind as I was ordered, on returning the Lt. chewed my ass for not making the rig and stated that I could get fired for not responding, when I tried to explain he cut me off and told me never to do that again and get back to reading.

Of course lunchtime came and went and when the Lt. came back upstairs around 3pm, he ask me if I was some kind of wise guy for not coming to lunch when the cook called. Again when I tried to explain he cut me off, and then the hook, who do you think you are HERRMY MEYERHOFFER?

Well you know what comes next, No Sir. Who is that? So since you have already read the background info, no need to go into any more details, except that Old Herrmy died on October 31 and he loved to sleep in the very same bed that you will be sleeping in tonight.  O.K.

At supper I was very quiet as the stories of Old Herrmy were told and retold and added to for more then 2 hours. I knew that this was the night that I could expect some kind of prank to be pulled on me as I slept; after all I was sleeping in HIS BED.

The entire night I lay there with at least one eye open and nothing happened, in fact nothing happened for a whole bunch of nights. There still were some strange things that happened, like there were only 5 men assigned to the station, but the cook always sat out 6 plates and when I ask WHY I was told, that is for mister nobody. One time I was setting the table and remarked that I would set out Old Herrmy’s plate and the Lt. jumped all over me, saying don’t say that as he will be here for sure.

On Christmas Eve we returned from a chimney fire around 10pm and I was sitting in the kitchen with the cook and Lt. Witt. The knob on the rear door turned and the door opened, just like someone was coming in to the Kitchen.  It was snowing and there was about 3” of snow on the ground. The Lt. said “sit down and Joe( the cook) get Herrmy his cup.” Joe gets up goes to the wall where all our cups hang when not in use, takes one, pours coffee in it and sits it at Mister Nobody’s place next to the wall, it is the 12 O’clock position or straight North.

Ok lets see one of the guys must have went around the outside of the building opened the door so I could not see him and this is the big joke. I get up, open the door and look out and there is one set of footprints and they come right to the door from the East, the direction of what once was Mike Schmitz’s Tavern. There are no footprints leading away from the door so how did they make the door open, I ask myself. I look around and find nothing, or anything to explain the events that just happened.

I go back inside and the Lt. asks me why did you go outside and look around and I tell him to see how you pulled that trick on me. They both laugh and leave. I finish my coffee, it is still warm & drinkable. I pick up all the cups to wash them and when I pick up the hot coffee that was poured for Herrmy the coffee is frozen. Yep the cup is super cold and the coffee is frozen. I let the cup set on the table, wash the others, place the shift’s cups on their pegs and go to bed. In the morning, I am the first one in the Kitchen at 5am, the cup I left on the table has been washed and placed on it’s peg.

Over the next 6 months, there are nights when I hear the floor boards squeak as if someone is walking across the bunkroom floor, the street light across the street lights the room as there are no curtains and so I raise my head and see no one is there, but I can hear someone walking. Ever time I say something to Lt. Witt, the answer is the same, it is Herrmy you idiot, I told you so.

Well I do not believe any of the tricks they are somehow able to pull on me and I make no bones about it.

July 4 weekend, Lt Witt brings his dog Rex to the station and old Rex likes to sleep under my bed for some reason. It is a very hot night, the station has no screens, no A/C and I am laying in bed in my shorts listening to myself sweat. There is a low growl from Old Rex and I am suddenly bathed in very cold air. Rex starts to whimper, he is a very big Shepard and not afraid of anyone or anything. I get out of bed and look at him under my bed and he looks like he has GREEN eyes. I notice it is very warm while I am standing up and when I put my hands on the sheets they are very cold and damp. I straighten up and it gets warm and when I bend over and it is cold. From behind me comes Lt. Witt voice. He sleeps in the next bed to mine and he says “Now do you believe?” He says” you better say Yes, so we can all get some sleep, Right Boys” One by one starting at the sliding pole end of the bunkroom. Joe the Cook “shut the f–k up and go to sleep”  Artie the Engineer  “enough go to bed” and then Frank the first pipe man “He used to keep me up until I got to move over one bed.”

Suddenly there is a flash of light and the bunkroom goes dark. The streetlight across the street blew out and the room is warm again.

I crawled back into bed, but there was no way I was sleeping, because I am sure these guys are stilling playing a joke on me.

That station closed in January 1970 and it was the same old shift from that night that did the last watch in Fire Station # 1.  We answered the last call for a car fire and returned to new station # 1.

Over the year the building was used by the village heath department and then fell into the hands of the Historical Society and with a little help from friends we were able to save it from being torn down and today it looks like it did in 1898. I worked many hours alone in the building doing the demo of all the years of remodels done to the building over the years. Everyday when I went into work in the building I always greeted Herrmy and his coffee cup is still in what was the kitchen area, it is now the Society’s office.

The staff workers have reported some strange noises coming from the old bunkroom and when they go to look who is making the footsteps, no one is there, so it must be Lt. Herman Tessvile Meyerhoffer’s Ghost

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