Welcome to the third installment of October Oddities, where we explore the offbeat and mysterious side of tech, each Friday of the month. Join us now as we spin yarns that are sure to send shivers up your megabytes and down your tablets.
Gather ’round, Dear Readers. We’ve taken some of your favorite ghost stories, frightening frights, urban legends and spooky tales and have updated them for the digital age. Proceed with caution.
The Call is Coming From…
On a cold, windy and creepy night, not much unlike this one, a young man sat at home alone. The wind outside bashed trees against the windows as he flipped through his fantasy football lineup on a tablet, blue light illuminating his face.
His parents were out, visiting relatives two towns over. This was the young man’s first time home alone. He’d already ordered a pizza online, watched three seasons of his favorite show and lazily nudged his math book with his big toe when the phone in his pocket rang.
When he looked down at his phone he saw a number he’d never, ever, in his entire life, seen before—555-234-7272.
The young man declined the call. It went to voicemail, but then, as the wind continued to beat the trees and other scary stuff happened, the phone rang again! The young man declined again, because they would text if it was important.
But the phone continued to ring. Finally, the young man answered. He heard nothing but heavy breathing. He hung up, thinking it was a pocket dial or a poorly executed robocall. And yet, the same number called again! The young man picked up and this time a screechy voice whispered his name, just so, “Bobbbby. Bobbbby. Bobbby.”
The young man, a little freaked out, hung up and called his parents.
“Hey,” he said when his dad answered. “Do you know the number 555-234-7272?”
“Bobby!” his dad screamed. “Bobby!”
“What, Dad?” the young man asked.
“I can barely hear you, the reception out here is terrible! I do know that number!” his dad screamed. “Bobby! That number! The calls! They’re coming from inside the house!”
“What?” the young man asked.
“Yeah, the old rotary phone in the basement, we never disconnected it,” his dad said. “Your sister is probably down there calling to mess with you.”
It Came from Underneath the Bed!
Meredith, a 21-year old junior at your cousin’s college, came back from a fun, and completely responsible, evening at a college party and updated her social media before she pulled on her favorite PJs and went to bed.
She’d always been what you’d call an “odd” sleeper, with one arm or a leg hanging off the bed and this evening—a chilly, cloudless, spooky evening—was no different.
Her right arm hung off the thin dorm room mattress, knuckles grazing the linoleum floor that hadn’t been updated since 1982. Some say that linoleum still reflected the eerie glow of the frightful event that happened on Meredith’s very floor all those years ago. But that’s a different story. This story is about Meredith and the creepy evening and her odd sleeping and that arm hanging off the bed just so.
Meredith drifted off to sleep and launched into her usual cacophony of snoring, as she was wont to do. She wasn’t but two to three snores into her slumber when she felt something on her hand, the one that was hanging off the bed just so.
The thing, in this case, felt to her like a lick. She brushed it off and fell back into her sonorous log sawing. But there it was again. The lick. She was certain this time it was indeed a lick. But she thought maybe that her roommate, Susan, had brought over her sorority sister’s Pekinese again and the poor thing was just looking for some affection. She slept.
But then that hand was licked again. She couldn’t tolerate the licking. She bounded out of bed, pointed her phone’s flashlight underneath and to her horror, saw the one thing she’d warned Susan never to bring into the house: a robot vacuuming device! Meredith had a strict no robots policy in the room, so she snatched the device up by the cord and hung it from the door with a hastily scribbled note “Humans can lick, too! Seriously, Suze, why was this thing under my bed?”
The Scraping on Top of the Car!
A young couple parked their car (a sensible hybrid) on a lonely stretch of road on—you guessed it—a cold and creepy night. There was also a full moon that night. They’d both swiped right a few weeks earlier and the couple was finally ready for their first kiss when they heard a scraping on the roof of the car. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. They ignored it. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Their first kiss was too important. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.
“Will you hang your phone out the window and take a photo to make sure that noise isn’t anything creepy, spooky or weird on this cold and creepy night?” one of them asked.
“Sure,” the other one said. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.
“It’s just a branch,” said the one who took the photo and then they had their first kiss.
The Red Ribbon
A woman and man had been dating for some time. They had liked and shared each other’s social media updates. They’d streamed shows together in the mid-sized city where they both lived in practical apartments. They shared a love of sorting recycling, composting and renewable energy. They worked at the same co-working space, she as a freelance eco-social media strategist and digital marketing guru, and he as an influencer in the butcher and organic egg space.
They would stroll their city and drink doppios from the coffee shop where Malcolm, a bass player in a noise band, worked. (He was the meanest barista, but they both knew it was all just for show.) On the weekends, they would ride their bikes to the local brewery for one local craft beer before dropping their bikes off at home and splitting a ride sharing ride to their favorite artisanal restaurants. They were in love.
There was this one thing, though.
And it all came to a head on what can only be called a cold and certainly creepy evening….in October.
You see the man in couple had this habit of wearing a supple, red ribbon around his neck. He would wear it at the co-working space, at the coffee shop, at the restaurant, at the sporting goods store that sold climbing gear and tents, the indoor climbing gym they belonged to and the local vegetable co-op where they volunteered and sourced various mustard greens. He never took the ribbon off.
Now this couple was a little more seasoned, and they’d been in college sometime around the eighties or nineties, whichever sounds more like you or your parents, Dear Reader. And the man always said that the ribbon was a holdover from his college days when he was in a band of some sort.
“Chokers were a thing back then. I’m serious,” he would tell the woman every time she asked about it.
“They weren’t that much of a thing,” she’d say back every time she asked about it.
Until that fateful night when the couple had reached every step per their activity trackers, their recycling was neatly sorted, their text messages all replied, and social media liked and shared. The woman just had to see him without the red ribbon.
“Will you please just take it off?” she asked.
“Chokers were a thing back then. I’m serious,” he said.
“Please take it off. For me?” she asked.
And ever so slowly, with hands full of rings because rings were also a thing back then, the man undid the knot at the back of his neck. His head dropped and he pulled. He pulled the ribbon away from his neck revealing the horror.
There just on his neck was a small tattoo in a language she didn’t recognize.
“It was supposed to say, ‘strength and courage,’” he said hanging his head in shame. “But it actually says, ‘turtle fish snort.’ Tattoos like this were a thing back then.”
And there you have it, Dear Readers, our glitchy gallop down the lane of technological terror. We hope you enjoyed these bits, bytes and mega-frights. Now, make sure to share with friends and loved ones this Halloween.
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