I had what can be described only as a Twilight Zone kind of weekend last weekend.
It all began the Friday before last, just after midnight. I was stretched out on the sofa and watching TV when my phone rang. When I picked up the receiver, the phone continued to ring. It wasn’t a normal ring, it was one long ring that lasted about two minutes. I hung up the phone and picked it up again, just to see if anyone was on the line. There was no dial tone, just a rapid series of loud clicking sounds.
Twenty minutes later, the phone rang again and the same thing happened. But this time, the caller ID said my dead husband was calling me from my own phone number! Talk about an eerie feeling – I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And up until that point, I hadn’t even realized I had a hairy neck.
He turned out to be persistent. He called back at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
Well, I like to think of myself as a pretty level-headed person, but by that fourth phone call, I was convinced I was losing my mind. I dug my cell phone out of my purse and called the repair service.
Actually, I should say I tried to call the repair service. My cell phone, because I live in the Outback, gets a signal only when the moon is in the third quarter and the wind is blowing in a Northeasterly direction. I ended up having to hang over the front-porch railing, outside in the dark, before I finally got a signal. By then, I was in full panic mode. I mean, the possibility existed (in my mind) that someone, like Jack the Ripper’s great-great grandson, was outside at that very moment and was messing with my phone lines just so he could lure me outside and turn me into sushi.
By the time the woman at the repair service answered, my overworked imagination had driven me into such a frenzy, I must have sounded like someone who’d been nipping the cooking sherry.
“My dead husband is calling me from my own phone!” I practically shouted at her. “How is that even possible?”
“Well…” she said, her voice calm. “Your phone is still listed in his name, so that’s why he is showing up on your caller ID. It could be either a problem with your line or something called spoofing.”
I had no clue what spoofing was, but I learned it’s actually a service (not associated with any phone company) offered to callers where they can pay a fee and have any name or phone number they choose show up on people’s caller ID systems. If for example, they want the caller ID to say they are President Obama calling from Washington, DC, they can do it. They even sell what’s called a “spoof” card people can use like a gift card for phone calls. When they enter the code on the card, they then can use any name and number they want – to conceal their identity.
The woman at the repair service then tried my phone number. “I can’t get through,” she said. “It must be a problem with the outside lines. I’ll have a service technician come check it on Monday.”
“Monday? You mean I have to deal with this all weekend?”
“You always can unplug your phones,” she said.
Easy for her to say. Unplugging my phones meant moving a two-ton bed and a four-ton sofa that has two recliners built into it. I opted not to risk having to wear a hernia truss and decided just to deal with the phone calls.
The next night, I received two more calls from my dead husband, and on Sunday, only one. Monday afternoon, the repairman finally arrived. He checked the lines and determined nothing was wrong with them.
“So the only explanation is my husband’s ghost is making the calls?” I said. I was joking, but I actually found myself wondering if I’d done anything recently that might have upset my husband to such a degree, he’d decided to return and haunt me for it.
The calls finally stopped, so I figured whatever had caused them probably would forever remain a mystery. At that point, I didn’t care if they had been caused by a spoofer, crossed wires, or an ancient Egyptian curse. All I cared about was they were gone.
A couple nights later, my phone rang and the caller ID said it was a friend of mine who lives in New York. I answered the call and the phone kept ringing. Even worse, the phone in my office, which is on a separate line, started to play a tune that sounded like “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.” Before that, I never even knew the phone in my office could play music.
I hung up the phone and still it continued to ring, while the other phone launched into a different tune. After about five minutes of non-stop ringing and music, no matter what I did to try to stop it, I started to move furniture and unplug the phones.
And when my sacroiliac actually allowed me to bend again, I plugged the phones back in. The moment I did, they started ringing. I received over 100 calls in a six-hour period. I answered the first 10, and each time, all I heard on the other end was something that sounded like a woodpecker trying to beat the world's record for the highest number of pecks in thirty seconds. And not one of the calls showed up on my caller ID. That meant no one actually was calling.
So once again I contacted the phone company..
"It's a holiday weekend," the woman who answered informed me. "But I will put you on top of the list and the service technician will be over the moment he gets the chance."
That was Friday. The "moment" the service technician finally got the chance to come over turned out to be Monday afternoon. By then, I was ready to take a sledgehammer to every phone in the house.
Twenty minutes after he arrived, my phones were back to normal. He didn't say what had been wrong, mainly because he spent his time outside and never came inside to talk to me.
The first time I received a call after he left, I nearly didn't answer it, fearing it might be the ghost of King Tut or someone just as weird, like my Rottweiler, calling. It turned out to be my uncle, worried because he hadn't been able to get in touch with me all weekend.
So now I have my fingers crossed that my phone lines will continue to behave themselves.
And if not, I'm going to be using two cans and a really long piece of string for my home phone from now on.