Ink and watercolor in Aquabee sketchbook (larger)
When my father was dying several years ago, I flew to Maine to help with his care and say goodbye. I arrived in late October, on a warm, fall day, and he was still eating and talking and trying to finish his last book, which I helped him edit those final days. When I left a week later on Halloween, winter had arrived with an icy blast and everything was covered in snow. He died two days later, on All Souls Day.
Before I left, the only thing of his I asked to take was his bird clock, pictured above. It chimed with the call of a different bird each hour from the wall above his writing desk. Even though the birds are now all faded to pale gray, I’ve had it on my wall ever since. Until this week, that is…when it apparently led to the haunting of my house.
I never was able to get the proper birds to chime on their designated hour. The two owl calls were supposed to chime at 6 and 12 but when the hands pointed to the Oriole it played the call of an owl, and when it pointed to an owl you might hear a blue bird or a cardinal. But I digress…back to the haunting.
A week ago, at exactly 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of the owl calling out from the clock: “Whooo whoo whoo. Whoo whoo whoo. Whoo whoo whoo.” The clock has a light sensor and is not supposed to chime in the dark, and had never done so before. I got out of bed and walked toward the clock in the dining room, but the sound stopped before I could reach it. The next day, groggy from disturbed sleep, I removed the batteries that control the bird calls.
But the next morning at exactly 4:00 a.m. the same thing happened again. I removed the last battery. The clock stopped and I put it on a shelf in another room.
The next morning at exactly 4:00 a.m.: “Whoo whoo whoo…etc.” I lay in bed wracking my brain trying to come up with what else could be making that sound but could think of nothing.
That day I put the clock in my garage, which is down a long driveway from the house. The next morning, 4:00 a.m., the owl was back, singing away from my dining room, without need of clock or batteries.
(Click “Continue Reading” below for the rest of the story.)
Now lest you think I live in a lovely forest surrounded by tall trees where owls and doves nest outside my bedroom window, I should explain that I live less than two blocks from a major highway, and there are no tall trees near enough for me to hear an owl call from them (should an owl be so foolish as to take up residence on my humble street).
And if there was an owl (or even a mourning dove or pigeon) making those whooo’s, is it possible they would do it only at 4:00 a.m., and only in three rounds of three calls? I know next to nothing about birds, but this seems unlikely.
I asked my neighbors if they have an alarm clock that rings at 4:00 with the sound of an owl, and looking at me strangely, they assured me they definitely did not. My friend Sharon who knows about these things, offered to bring over a sage smudging stick she’d bought from Native Americans in New Mexico. Last night we went through my house, waving the lovely scent of smoking sage through all the rooms, especially where the clock used to be. Then we gently invited the hauntingness to leave, along with the smoke wafting out the studio door. I tried to be optimistic but….
This morning at 4:00 a.m., it was owls again! I’ve gone through my entire house, looking for anything that could possibly make the sound but have found nothing and I never hear it any other time of day or night.
At lunch yesterday I asked my co-workers for advice. Cyndy listened and then said, “Uh huh, Jana, so has anyone else heard these birds….?” and everyone laughed. Then Kate suggested I have a slumber party where everyone stays up until 4:00 a.m., and at 3:55, positions themselves around the house, ready to pinpoint the sound. I’m guessing I’d have very few positive RSVP’s for that invitation though.
If it doesn’t stop soon I guess I have a couple of options:
1. Accept that my house is haunted and learn to sleep through it.
2. Start getting up at 4:00 a.m. every day and enjoy the quiet morning hours.
I’m usually the most persistent and resourceful person I know, but I have to admit that this time I’m totally stumped.
At this point, I’m open to any ideas or suggestions you, my kind reader, may have. Do you think it could really be a haunting? Do you think it could be a real bird (or other natural creature)? Help!
4/4/08 UPDATE! Mystery (partially) Solved!
Despite all the wonderfully creative ideas posed in the comments section, tonight I found the culprit! I pushed EJECT on the DVD player connected to my TV to insert the disk that came with a new, good book “Mastering Composition” by Ian Roberts. Instead of the drawer opening it began making that sound “whoop, whoo whoo; whoop, whoo whoo.” Something was stuck and scraping inside as the drawer tried and tried to open.
The DVD player and TV are about 8 feet from where the bird clock was. It took several pushes of the Eject button to finally get the tray to come out (still holding the Plein Air America disk I’d last been watching). I pushed Eject/Close a few more times and each time, before it opened it hooted several times.
So that solves the problem of where the noise was coming from (though I much preferred a visiting owl or my father’s spirit). BUT WHY AT 4:00 AM EVERY DAY? Even though it was a programable player/recorder, there were no items set to record and the thing was turned OFF and there was nobody pushing the button on the remote. It was in the remote holder box and there was nobody else in the house and the cats were on my bed. So the 4:00 a.m. part is still a mystery.