For a while, I thought we had a ghost in the house.
The eerie, slightly garbled voice never spoke during the day, only at night and just for a few seconds at a time.
There I’d be in a deep sleep, to be jolted awake by a forlorn-sounding phantom softly saying, “Batilheeneeyhaing,” or whatever its message-from-afar was.
The first time it spoke, I thought it was part of the nightmare I was having, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. A half hour later, the specter piped up again. “Batilheeneeyhaing.” And again an hour later.
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The sounds and the mystery were driving me batty. Hiding my head under the pillow only meant I couldn’t breathe. So, I started searching. Maybe the lonely little ghost just wants some company, I thought, and then shook my head because I realized how dumb that sounded. I get goofy when I’m sleep deprived (all right, goofier).
But you can’t track a voice that’s not talking, and the ghost had gone silent.
I suspected that the voice might be electronic instead of being a banshee in the bell tower.
That was good news, because I wasn’t quite ready to deal with a real ghost in a house in which I could already sense the spirits of people who’ve lived (and died) here. It also was bad news, because you have no idea how many electronic devices we have in the large great-room area that was seemingly possessed by our lonesome phantom.
We launched “Mission GhostFinder.” First, we eliminated a panoply of gadgets because they’re mute, having no speakers. And then we waited for another visit, which didn't happen until the next night.
"Batilheeneeyhaing.” It echoed around the room.
Was the voice perhaps from the emergency warning radio that’s supposed to pipe up when disaster looms in the form of tsunami, high winds or monster storm? I unplugged it, took its batteries out and, for good measure, stomped out to put the radio in the garage.
Was it the surround-sound system for the flat-screen TV in the living room? Nope. Standing on my head to unplug that didn’t silence the talkative spirit, either.
After two days of searching, and three nights of interrupted sleep and beating my head against the proverbial wall, I felt like a woodpecker with a hangover.
Then, about 5 a.m., “Batilheeneeyhaing,” this time followed by a recognizable, decidedly electronic beep.
“Aha!” I thought. Smoke alarm!
It soon appeared that our mysterious ghost invasion was nothing more than a talking smoke/CO2 alert we’d never noticed before, and therefore had never changed the battery in. Our ghost wasn’t lonely, it was starving.
The small, flat, white siren was tucked up against an exposed, whitewashed roof truss, fairly close to the kitchen, where normal cooking heat and air flow might trigger an alarm. We’d never looked there before, assuming nobody would ever put such a device there. Yeah, right.
Son Brian changed the battery, and all was blissfully silentuntil about 6 o’clock the next morning, when a remarkably familiar echo was heard in the living room area.
Oh no! Was the voice not from the alarm? Did we have twin ghosts?
At that point, I was not thinking ladylike thoughts, but gave the considerate new phantom kudos for waiting until I was awake before it began its one-way conversation.
Fortunately, this “Mission GhostFinder” foray didn’t take nearly as long. We knew where to look. Up.
Yes, there was indeed another alarm hidden away at the other end of the great room, fairly close to the wood-burning fireplace, another spot in which we had assumed nobody would have ever put such a heat-sensitive device.
Our second lonely little ghost was simply saying “Hello, you found me." Fortunately this one had better diction and a louder voice. Husband Richard finally translated the gibberish as being “Battery needs changing.”
So we did, silencing the ghosts, at least until next time.
Now, it feels as if something’s missing. How silly is that? How can you pine for a smoke alarm?
Or maybe, just maybe, it was lonely little ghost after all, wanting company so he could wish us a happy Halloween.