Experts couldn't explain the smoky mist that sometimes permeated a house or a jet of flame that roared from an electrical socket. Some thought the home was haunted.
Fire officials recorded 26 separate reports of strange happenings from March to August. Finally, everyone agreed on only one thing: The house wasn't safe to live in.So the 9-year-old house south of Chicago was bulldozed Thursday on orders from the Travelers Insurance Co.
One of the most frightening incidents happened in April, when a flame 1 inch in diameter roared out of a wall socket in an upstairs bedroom and shot 21 inches into a mattress, arson investigator Steve Smith said.
The flame was witnessed by an Orland Hills police officer, an electrician who was a part-time officer in another community and two consulting engineers hired to investigate the mystery, Smith said.
"The fire was under pressure, and that kind of pressure can't build up in electrical conduit because it's open throughout the entire house," he said.
Other times, dense smoky mists or a strong smell of sulfur permeated the house, investigators said.
Smith and fellow arson investigator Terry Hyland of the Orland Fire District said engineers, chemists, geologists, scientists and experts in explosives ran every test conceivable and couldn't find any logical explanation. They ruled out arson, natural gas, methane gas, sewer gas, other vapors or electricity.
"We have no logical explanation now, but maybe 50 years from now someone will come up with an answer," Hyland said. "Right now, we just don't know.
"The house was subjected to every kind of test. It was demolished because there was nothing left to test for.
"The only experiment left was to let someone live in that house."
After the first few incidents, fire authorities advised the occupants of the house, whose names were not released, not to sleep in the home at night.
When the bizarre events continued, fire authorities told the family to move out and Travelers Insurance hired Packard Engineering in Naperville to investigate what was causing the phenomena.
Joe Skubisz, associate manager of a Travelers claim office in Naperville, said he believes there is some logical explanation for the phenomena. Still, the company paid the homeowners a settlement and demolished the house because fire officials had ordered the family out.
"Maybe it's ghosts, I don't know," Skubisz said Friday, laughing and quickly noting he doesn't believe in such things.