The Telephone Ghost

a true story

Back when I was a student I rented a tiny bachelor apartment where I spent many long winter hours cooped up with my books. Due to some mysterious quirk in the telephone system (at least it seemed mysterious to me), it sometimes happened that when I picked up my phone to call someone I could hear other people’s conversations. I would usually hang up right away and then try the phone again a minute later, and there would be no voices. I wasn’t sure if the other people on the line would have been able to hear me if I spoke, because I never did. After this happened a few times I began to look forward to it. Listening in secretly on someone else’s conversation had a sort of illicit thrill to it, even though what I heard on the line was never very interesting (this was when I first realized that some people will talk on the phone for ages without having anything to say). It was more fun than studying, at any rate, and besides I thought that others were probably listening in on my conversations from time to time, so what was fair was fair.

Late one evening I picked up the phone to call a friend and I heard two women chatting with one another in a language that I guessed was Italian. I listened for a while, but since I couldn't understand a word they were saying I quickly got bored. Then the question occurred to me again: would the other people on the line be able to hear me if I spoke? I waited and listened for a while, wondering whether I should say anything or not. I felt that it would be awkward to suddenly introduce myself.

Then I had a better idea. Without any warning I let out a deep, long, throaty, perfectly evil laugh.

There was a moment of silence. Then, much to my delight, the women started jabbering at each other in shrill, frightened voices. I couldn’t understand a word, unfortunately, but there was no doubt they’d heard me.

I don’t know if this sort of thing still happens to phones. It hasn’t with mine ever since I moved out of that apartment, at any rate. But it still tickles me to think that somewhere out there two women may be telling their grandchildren the scary story about the night that the Devil got on the phone with them.