Telephone Calls From The Dead
Apparently, the dead are always reaching out to us. They move your fingers around the Ouija Board, they rap on your tables, and they even call you on your telephone.
To me, the weirdest of these communication methods are telephone calls from the dead. I know some readers will be tutting in disbelief and yet others nodding eagerly (I imagine you both). The trouble is with strange phenomena like this that the skeptic simply won’t believe them whatever evidence is presented, while the credulous person believes them too quickly, despite often jarring inconsistencies.
Ultimately, we need to find some way to be open-minded enough to learn something about the universe from these incidents, but tough-minded enough, so we’re not taken for a ride.
This phenomenon of having someone who’s passed away ring you up on your mobile phone is not amenable to the experimental studies because phone calls from the dead happen out of the blue and present themselves as mere anecdotes.
Scientifically minded people tend to look down their noses as anecdotes. However, as well as the experimental method, science also perfectly respectably collects examples and arranges these examples into taxonomies, that is to say, it puts them in categories and groups and looks for similarities and patterns. After all, that’s what Darwin did on his trips to the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere. All the creatures he cataloged were just anecdotes back in England.
So, I think we need to be careful not to dismiss phone calls from the dead out of hand. Indeed, we might learn something if we can look at them objectively.
Phone Calls From The Dead: The Classic Study
The classic study into this phenomenon was contained in a 1979 book which is now hard to get hold of. The book was called simply “Phone Calls From The Dead” written by parapsychologists D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless.
As a point of note, D. Scott Rogo was later murdered in August 1990 in Northridge aged only 40, and his murderer was never found. We might suspect a curse, such as a curse that dogged the team that found Tutankhamen or the film crew and actors who made The Exorcist, but Rogo’s co-author Raymond Bayless lived until he was 84 and passed away naturally in Los Angeles in 2004.
In the book, Rogo and Bayless attempted to categorize the different types of calls. They divided the calls into three categories:
Apparent Phone Calls From The Dead
In this type of call, a living person receives a call from someone who has recently died, or in fact has been dead for some time. The person receiving the call may or may not know the caller is dead.
Many of these examples are taken from the Internet.
Janaye S. reports that her eldest brother’s friend Joe died of a heart attack, then, one night, there was a call to their house from someone who sounded exactly like Joe, asking to speak to her eldest brother (who wasn’t in), saying “Something strange is going on.” When told the brother wasn’t in, sound-alike Joe hung up the phone. The caller ID said “Out of Area” and was not traceable.
Dating from the 1990s, Betty (surname unknown) tells how she got a call at her new workplace. The call rang through on the phone of a co-worker, Mary, who was out for lunch. A man’s voice asked for Mary by a nickname, before correcting himself and formally asking for her with her given name. Betty said Mary was away from her desk at present and the man said, “Could you tell her this is her brother? I really missed her at the family gathering, and I wished that she had gone.”
When Mary came back from lunch, Betty innocently passed on the message, but to her complete surprise, Mary fell to pieces. When Mary finally composed herself, she said that her brother had died in a car wreck five years previously. There had been a family reunion two weeks before, but she hadn’t made it. When Betty told her that the man initially asked for Mary by a nickname, Mary confirmed it was the name her brother, but few others, always called her.
Bonnie O reports that her deceased mother rang her on Christmas Eve. Her mother had been dead three years but apparently didn’t know she was dead because when Bonnie said. “This can’t be you, mom. You’re dead.” Her mother said, “Oh, come on now, ” and became agitated that Bonnie thought she was dead, and the line was cut off. Bonnie says her mom had an unmistakable Norwegian accent, and she was sure it was her. Bonnie also said the line had a lot of static on it and the volume cut in and out.
In an “Intention Call”, there is an urgent message, which is often a warning, from a friend or relative. Initially, the call seems perfectly normal, but later, the receiver of the call finds out that the person who rang them, never actually made the call, though they firmly intended to.
In these cases, the voice on the line is often described as strange, or drunk, or mechanical. In any case, there is something off about it.
This ‘mechanical voice’ reminds me of the voice of the Mothman on the phone, or like the strangely artificial look of the skin or clothes of the Men In Black in UFO cases.
Rev. Carl Hewitt, a psychic medium, relates one case from his book A Medium’s Diary. In the late 1970s, Rev. Hewitt was so busy in those days that he employed a secretary to manage his appointments. One day, she had a strange call, and when asked what was weird about it, she said, “It didn’t sound like a human voice.”
The content of the call was relatively normal, the voice had asked for an appointment for a psychic reading with Rev. Hewitt. When the secretary phoned back the day before the meeting to confirm with the man, Robert, he was blisteringly angry because he said he’d never spoken to her before and had made no such appointment, and furthermore, he didn’t believe in that kind of thing. Still, he agreed to come to the meeting.
Robert remained angry when he arrived the next day, but as he spoke, Rev. Hewitt became psychically aware that a young man called Fred was standing behind Robert. When Rev. Hewitt finally got Robert quiet, Fred asked Hewitt to pass on the message that he, Robert’s son, had never committed suicide as his father believed.
This case, I guess, is harder to swallow for the skeptic because it was reported by a psychic medium, a group of people skeptics generally pay no heed to. But, otherwise, it falls into the Intention category of phone calls from the dead.
A similar Intention case was reported as a blog post by Sandra Brand-Wilson . She tells that her husband, Kenny, received a call from his boss. What he didn’t know was that his boss had already committed suicide about an hour earlier. Her husband’s boss was in tears and said, “Help me, Kenny,” but at the time the call was made, the poor man was already gone.
Phone Calls From The Dead: Famous Examples
Perhaps the most famous intention case was made to horror author Dean Koontz, as recounted by his biographer Katherine Ramsland.
On September 20, 1988, Dean Koontz was at work when the phone rang. It was a female voice that sounded far away, and the voice said in an urgent tone, “Please, be careful!” She said it three more times but didn’t respond to Dean’s questions about who she was. In the end, the line got cut off. Dean felt the voice sounded like his deceased grandmother. His number was unlisted, so it didn’t seem possible it was a prank aimed deliberately at him.
Two days later, Dean went to visit his father who lived in a facility for people with dementia. His father had a fishing knife, and in his confused state, he slashed at Dean. Dean got the knife off him safely, but as he did so, the police appeared and trained their guns on him, thinking he was trying to assault this older man. Dean says he realized he was within a hair’s breadth of getting shot. Later, he linked that near-fatal incident to the warning he had received over the phone.
In another article, I talk about my visit to Grizedale Forest. What I forgot to mention there was that when we went there, the young women who worked in the theatre office told of calls that they would get on their mobiles while out in Kendal. When they answered, it was a strange woman’s voice who would ask them to help her, though they never got any detail about what help she wanted, just “Help me, help me, please”. The number on the phone was from their office back at Grizedale, an office that should have been locked and empty.
Coast to Coast AM Radio Host George Noory, in his book Talking To The Dead reports a case from a woman called Beth. Beth said that her father had passed away in a car accident, and then several years after, she was at home alone, and the phone rang. The line had a lot of static on it, and the voice sounded distant like it was coming from a long way away. The voice said, “Beth, Beth….is that you?” She was confident it was her dad’s voice, but the more she called to him, the more distant the voice seemed until it just faded away completely.
In these calls, the person making the call rings someone, has a conversation, and only later finds out that the person they were speaking to was actually dead.
Crystal S. rang her friend Jessica’s cousin, Amelia’s number. An old lady answered, claiming to be Amelia’s grandmother saying, “No, dear. Amelia isn’t here, sweetie. I should be expecting her any minute now.” So I thought nothing of it and hung up. When Crystal asked Jessica, she said, “Amelia’s grandma is dead. And we were there all day long. We were sitting right by the phone. It never rang all day.”
Mary B. says that she made a sales call to Pennsylvania and spoke to a woman who identified herself as Mrs. B. The sales call seemed reasonable, but she wouldn’t agree to the sale until she talked to her husband. The next day, Mary phoned back to speak to the husband who was astounded. He told Mary that his wife had passed away some time previously.
In 1969, a New Jersey musician named Karl Uphoff claimed he was called by his grandmother, who had died two days earlier. Karl says one night in 1969, he lifted the phone to hear his deceased grandmother’s voice. When he questioned her how she could ring him when she was dead, she ended the call. Over the next several days, there were several similar calls, and each time Karl asked her where she was or how she could call, the line went dead. The calls kept happening for nearly a week until one day they mysteriously stopped.
Author Susy Smith in her 1975 book The Power of the Mind recounted how Bonnie and C E MacConnell got a call out of the blue one Saturday evening from a friend they hadn’t seen for a while, Enid Johlson. Enid told them she was now living in a nursing home nearby. Bonnie MacConnell said she would visit her and take a bottle of brandy for her birthday, but Enid replied, “I won’t need it now.” Several days later, Bonnie phoned the nursing home they said that Enid had died on Saturday morning, just hours before she called them.
In another case, dating from 1969, a young man called Carl rented a cottage by the coast for his vacation. There was an old-fashioned early telephone in the place, and to his amazement, it began to ring at 11:13 pm. He tried to ignore the ringing, but eventually, in frustration, he answered and heard his father saying, “Ah, there you are Carl. Your mother will be trying to reach you. Call her up; she has a message for you.”
Carl offered to speak to her there and then, but his father said he couldn’t call his mother as he wasn’t with her. Carl asked where his dad was calling from. His dad said, “It’s a very beautiful place. Be sure you call your mother. Good-bye, Carl.”
The next day Carl found out that the antique phone in his room didn’t work, had never worked, was bought as a decoration and wasn’t even connected. When Carl finally got hold of his mother, she said she had been desperately trying to get hold of him to tell him that his father died of a heart attack at precisely 11:13 the previous night.
George Noory, the radio host, also told about the case of Wilma who said that her mother was dying in hospital after a long illness and the phone rang just before 3 am. Once again, there was lots of static on the line. There was a voice, but it was garbled, so no message was given, but later the hospital confirmed that was the exact time Wilma’s mother passed away, and Wilma took it as a farewell call.
Telephone Calls From The Dead: Concluding Thoughts
I’ll finish with an example of my own. Though not on a telephone, it did strike me at the time as a call from behind the grave.
In 1979, when I was 18, I had been to a party. It was raining hard, and I wanted to stay in the house where the party was. I was in fact the last to leave. It was a three-mile walk to where I lived, and, as I said, it was a foul night with the rain bucketing down. The girl who held the party said I couldn’t stay, despite the weather, because her parents would kill her if they found out (they were of course out of town).
So, I walked off, aiming for home. There was a split in the ways after about a mile and a half. The quicker way was down a deserted railway line, but it was dark and lonely, and there were no lights. There was a rumor that crazy people or murderers or something worse lurked along its shadowed track.
The longer way was through a lit housing area. If I’d been with friends, I would have gone the shorter route down the railway line, but as I was alone and no one would find out, I was minded to chicken out and walk the long way.
And as I stood there, deliberating, I had the strong sense of a voice which I took to be my late grandfather, a man who always looked out for me. This voice — though ‘impression’ would be closer to the mark because I didn’t actually hear the words — urged me very strongly to walk the darker way and avoid the shortcut.
My rational brain told me this was nonsense, and after a long period of hesitation, I walked off down the lit street. At the end of the road, there was a short cut over a small bridge. From there, I could climb quickly through the churchyard, but I wasn’t afraid of ghosts, so that wouldn’t be a problem.
What was the problem was torrential rain had swollen the stream so it ran high over the single span of the bridge. I put my foot on the bridge and soaked my shoe, now realizing the water was up over the concrete but it was so dark I couldn’t see how deep it was. There was a handrail on one side, and the small bridge was just a concrete span, so I judged I’d be okay and get over safely.
I waded out, one hand to steady myself on the single handrail to my right. After about six paces, I knew I wasn’t going to be fine. The current was rushing down the stream, and it took my legs from under me, and before I knew it, I was being sucked under the bridge. On top of that, I was wearing a substantial military greatcoat — they were all the rage back then where I lived.
The coat was saturated and got heavy and worse still; someone had put chicken wire on the underneath of the bridge on the seaward side to collect bits of wood and logs and stop them careering down the streambed. If I went under here I’d get stuck in the wire and never come out the other side.
I hung onto the concrete with my fingertips. It seemed a long time, but was probably only a minute, and then — and the Lord alone knows how I got the strength to fight that mighty current, or what guardian angel was looking after me that night — I found the strength and dragged myself back onto the bridge, pulled myself up and escaped my fate.
So, I’ve never had a phone call from the dead, but I firmly believe that voice was my grandfather warning me. He warned me many times during his life not to do crazy things when I was a boy. He did so again on that rainy night, and once again, I ignored him.
Luckily, he gave me a second chance.