It's Mystery Flood time! Flying Mystery Floods! The "Los Angeles Times," August 31, 1979:
Fountain Valley - She stood in the hallway of her home with holes in the ceiling and floor, the rugs ripped up and a drill blasting away outside.Problem solved, you say? Plumber to the Stars triumphs over Water Spooks?
Sandy Johnson, looking the worse for wear, was setting the record straight.
The house was not haunted, she said. It never had been. There were no demons lurking in the woodwork. And none of the family's three daughters has any supernatural powers.
It was only water. Mrs. Johnson went into the next room and brought back a letter from an Irvine couple who would be wise not to show up at the Johnson doorstep. The letter said the couple were Christians, that they were praying for the Johnsons and that they would like to drop by and do some more praying.
Mrs. Johnson was not impressed. It was only water.
Then she told about a man who called and said he was an exorcist, that he would be glad to drop over and rid the house of the devil.
Mrs. Johnson was downright angry. It was only water.
"We haven't even been able to sit down to dinner for the last five days," she said. "People are calling from early in the morning until late at night. How would you like that?"
Obviously, Mrs. Johnson doesn't. Nor does the rest of the Johnson family, although they are not quite so vocal about their distaste for new-found notoriety.
The root of all this, obviously, is water.
About a month and a half ago, strange things started happening in the Johnson home. First, Bill Johnson, Sandy's husband, noticed some water around the dishwasher and he wiped it up. It reappeared.
"Then we began detecting water on the floor and ceiling, large puddles on the ceiling," he said.
"After about three or four days, we had some plumbing people in here. They started knocking holes in the ceiling but couldn't find anything.
"In the course of this, we happened to notice water flying through the air. It's for real and it's flying through the air."
Now, flying water is not your standard everyday occurrence. More and more plumbing people paraded through the house. The Fountain Valley public works director stopped by for a look, as did the city manager.
At one point, a geyser of water, which seemingly came from the concrete foundation, spewed up, knocked out a screen in the kitchen and splattered the curtains of the house next door.
Later, a volley of water hit a picture on the hallway wall and nearly knocked it off its nail.
Bill Johnson, in an effort to determine where the water was coming from, drilled several small holes in the kitchen and hall way. Then he drilled a bigger one near the sink, one about eight inches in diameter. He put a board over it. The board was knocked away from the hole. So he replaced the board with a heavy paint can, which was toppled by the force of the spray.
Eventually, the Johnsons' four-bedroom home began looking like a victim of extreme vandalism, and still the water kept coming, sometimes hot, sometimes cold.
"You can see the water materialize as it goes through the air," Bill Johnson said. "It's moving so fast, you can see it from five or six feet away, but you can't get out of the way."
Adding to the confusion, the Johnson home was soon filled with reporters, notified initially because the landlord, Royal Stowe, had just about gone the limit in finding a solution to the problem. He even went so far as to offer a $5,000 reward to anyone who could stop the water.
Then, along came Mel de Ford, a mustachioed Santa Ana plumber with a master's degree in engineering, who heard about the Johnson's dilemma from his company's bookkeeper. Thursday, he and another workman were at the Johnson home, drilling 10-foot-long holes under the house at a 22 1/2-degree angle. The 16 holes are 2 1/2 inches in diameter and De Ford's theory is that the house is like a cork in a tea kettle. Hydrostatic pressure builds up under the house and, seeking a release, it has permeated the concrete and emerges as a spray.
The pipes being fitted in the holes, he said, will be used to release the pressure from under the house. He guarantees his solution will work, but said he doesn't want the reward. The problem, he said, isn't new.
"I did the same thing to (actor) Cornel Wilde's house 15 years ago," he said.
Read on. The "Times" carried a sequel on September 7, in which our water-logged family deals with the one thing more horrifying than Fortean Floods and a demolished house: Government bureaucracy.
With a sputter and a splat, the water came out of nowhere and splashed on the concrete of the hallway.
"There it goes again," said Mel de Ford. In seconds, he was down on his hands and knees in the kitchen, where the sputter and splat had come from, feeling the linoleum for damp spots.
The search led to a spot by the refrigerator, which was wet on both the side and top, and De Ford finally pinpointed what seemed to be the water source. There was no hole, no apparent way the water could have forced its way through the cracks in the tile. Yet there was no way of denying the sputter and splat and the puddle on the concrete.
The water had struck again in the continuing saga of this Fountain Valley home where nature has been playing funny tricks for the last two months.
To summarize: A week ago, Bill and Sandy Johnson, who live in the house, were in a blue funk. This unknown water source had turned their home, which they rent, into an oddball place.
At night, they would awaken and find themselves drenched with water. The water force was so strong that a large picture hanging in the hallway was nearly knocked off its nail. The rugs in the hallway had to be ripped out because they were soaked.
Bill Johnson started drilling holes in the floor to see if he could find the source of the mysterious water jets. Plumbers knocked holes in the ceiling for the same reason. The home became a shambles. People wrote asking permission to pray inside the house to rid it of water. A man offered to perform an exorcism. And Sandy Johnson indicated she was about to come unglued because of all the people tramping through the living room.
De Ford, a plumber, said he could rid the house of the water by drilling holes under the foundation, thus releasing hydrostatic pressure he believed was pushing water through concrete. From that beginning, De Ford has become one of the central figures in the story, spending much of his time at the Johnson home, to a point where his wife is complaining that he doesn't have enough time to fix two leaky faucets in their own home.
The holes were never completed because De Ford said he understood that the city did not want him to do anything just yet That was last week. Since then, an array of government officials have become involved in the case of the water-soaked house.
Tuesday, the Fountain Valley City Council ordered a report recommending action to correct the problem. City Atty. Thomas Woodruff told the council the city should determine whether water beneath the Johnson home is connected to the city water system, whether permits are needed to drill, what the impact of drilling would be on the underground water table and how the drilling might affect adjacent properties.
Wednesday, Philip Anthony, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, paid a call at the Johnson home, accompanied by Jim Fairchild, a geologist with the Orange County Water District. De Ford even called the governor's office in an attempt to expedite a solution to the problem. The result of all this will be known in the next episode.
Wayne Osborne, the Fountain Valley director of public works, said the city needs more information before it can undertake a major project.
Anthony said in a telephone call to De Ford Thursday that he was willing to offer county help in pinpointing the problem.
"I think that by tomorrow, we should have the people lined up," Anthony told De Ford.
Fairchild said he wanted to spend some time at the Johnson home, even if it meant doing it on his own time.
"I'd like to spend some more time on it and see some of those spurts of water myself," he said.
And, as for the Johnsons, the blue funk has pretty much passed them by as they have become more attuned to their sudden fame and the attention of governmental leaders.
"Right now, we're caught up in the political machine," said Bill Johnson.
And, yes, savor the delightful supernatural wit that had all this taking place in "Fountain Valley," California.
For whatever reason, the story disappeared from the newspapers after this, so I cannot say how the problem was resolved. If this was like typical Mystery Floods, the water soon dried up as suddenly and inexplicably as it started.