Wednesday, February 24, 2010


We bought a new doorbell yesterday. Well, I say we bought it yesterday, actually we bought it at the weekend and it was delivered yesterday evening, but the effect is much the same. It's one of those wireless ones, where the bell plugs into a spare mains socket and the button is a little battery-powered jobby that sticks to the door frame. It can be programmed for three different chimes - a cheery 'bing-bong', a Big-Bennish 'bing-bong bing-bong, bing-bong bing-bong' and a rather minimalist single 'bing' which leaves you waiting expectantly for the 'bong' to fall. It cost less than ten quid, and has a long enough range that I can have the bell down in my study at the back of the house when I'm working and not miss those important visitors.

Last night, I tried it out, as one does, but didn't affix the button to the door frame - it being dark and snowy and generally unpleasant outside. All I did was plug the bell in, slot the battery into the button assembly and press. Ding-dong. Not wanting to go outside, I then put the button assembly back in the little cardboard box it had come in and left it on the sitting room table.

At half past four this morning, the doorbell rang.

Now this freaked me out somewhat. Not enough to get out of my nice warm bed and go see what it was all about, but it vexed me nonetheless. I lay awake, staring at the ceiling and pondering what could possibly have happened. There is an old button assembly at the front door, fitted long before we came, and minus its bell, so useless. I considered for a while the possibility that this was, by some freak of circumstance, working on the same wireless frequency as the new bell, and that someone had come to visit. That lead inevitably to thoughts of who, and why at such an ungodly hour. I have been woken from my slumbers in the wee smalls before. On July 27th 2008, to be precise, by two police officers come to tell me my parents were dead. So you can imagine how my thoughts could soon plunge into the darkest of places.

But back then I had no phone, otherwise the terrible news would have reached me many hours earlier. Now I have both phone and functional broadband, so there was no need for the police to come round and wake me up. Besides, that time they hammered on the door and shone torches at the windows. This had been a single 'bing-bong' and then a return to the silence that makes this part of Ceredigion such a nice place to live.

Then I remembered the incident some months back when the smoke alarms went off in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. I speculated back then that maybe it was the work of an errant spirit, a mischievous ghost with nothing better to do than wake me from my beauty sleep. One odd electrical incident might just be chance - the random interaction of some incredibly rare cosmic particle with just the right part of a circuit triggering a cascade of electrons, eventually leading to an alarm going off. Perhaps this was evidence of the much-sought-after Higgs Boson. Or maybe a tau neutrino or something. But two such events happening in the same place in reasonably close sequence, well that begins to look like the work of some more directed force than chance. There was surely a malign intelligence at work here, calling me from beyond the grave.

Or possibly not. I fell asleep again after I'd persuaded myself the bell wasn't going to ring again - probably not much more than five minutes, if I'm being honest.

Fast forward, if you will, to this afternoon. I've been redecorating the sitting room this past week, and today has been the final stage, the gloss coat on the doors, frames and skirting boards. This is the last room, meaning that all that's left to do of the restoration is snagging work, essentially. But that's a post for another time. This afternoon I was kneeling down carefully covering up all the flaws and dents in hundred-year old warped and cracked skirting, when a sudden noise disturbed my reverie. Ding-dong.

This time I knew there was no-one at the front door, and I'd checked the old button assembly to find out that it didn't have a battery in it any more, so it couldn't have been that. The new one was still in its cardboard box on the table. No-one had pressed anything, so what had caused the ding to dong?

I was forced to consider the possibility that not only is my house haunted by unquiet spirits, they are sufficiently robust to come out even at the height of the day. But then I noticed the owner of the house over the road had just come home in his car, and I remembered something else about these cheap wireless doorbells. They fitted one at work when an idiot from head office decided that our security wasn't good enough. I'm sure that Wolverhampton is thick with thieves trying to break into offices and steal computers that are so antiquated they're an embarrassment, but out here in the sticks that's never been a problem. Still, it was an official memo, so had to be complied with. We fitted the bell and put a combination lock on the front door so that only employees could get in.*

That bell has a habit of going off when certain types of remote-locking car keys are activated. I guess they use the same radio frequency. It's quite amusing, for a while, sitting at your desk and setting the bell off, then watching the secretaries go and unlock the front door to let nobody in. A bit like chapping on doors and running off when I was a kid - some things never grow old. My neighbour over the road sometimes has to leave at ungodly hours to do work far, far away, so there's every possibility he was off at half four this morning. Getting back mid-afternoon, he'd plipped the lock and... ding-dong.

Well, it's a slightly more reassuring answer than ghosts, or stray cosmic rays  - I've seen what they did to Reed Richards, after all.** I can unplug the bell at night to avoid early morning unprompted awakenings.*** If someone really wants to get in after I've gone to bed, they'll just have to crawl through the dog-flap.

I'm still not sure what set off the smoke alarm, though.

* and their friends and families, of course. Oh, and the postman. And that nice delivery driver who brings all the parcels from head office. And the cleaners. And... and...
** cosmic rays, that is, not ghosts, although come to think of it the Fantastic Four have had run-ins with plenty of ghosts over the years too. But it was the cosmic rays what started it all.
*** and if it still goes off, what then?

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Blogger highlandwriter said...

glad you narrowed the ghostie bits down to your neighbor's early morning commute.

i had some similar experiences last year -- not ghosties, but poltergeist activity, for sure.

bleeping scary, all around.


March 03, 2010 4:44 am  

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