Electronic Noise Phenomena
I was born a skeptic. My earliest memories regarding things that stereotypically go bump in the night was that they were all house noises. You know, the heater, expanding wood, wind through the cracks – any and every possible noise had a logical explanation. When we moved in 1953 to a brand new big house in the suburbs, my father explained how new houses naturally needed to settle, and it made complete sense to me.

The house we came from was an old frame structure – mostly wood and shingles, small and in need of some TLC. There was a hole in the living room floor, covered by a dark and worn grate – our heating unit was below, but through the openings in the metal work, you could see straight into a blackness that I was certain had to be Hell. That was the only reasonable explanation my four-year old brain could come up with at the time, and it seemed to unquestionably explain the heat that came pouring out of there all winter long. I sat on the edge looking down into the abyss – half expecting to catch sight of the Devil himself. I remember feeling real fear about it, but that didn’t stop me from looking.

My grandmother’s house in Scranton, Pennsylvania was the most interesting of all the places of my youth. Her house dated from the late 1800s, and it had all sorts of interesting nooks and oddly-shaped corners. It was partly Victorian and partly improvisational, I think, and even though it was well taken care of, and always clean, there were places inside that house that were a little odd. Strangely large closets, a hexagonal room, a wall of drawers built into the hallway – just to name a few.

At night, I sometimes laid awake listening to the sounds – all the house noises - the warping wood, the effects of temperature changes, critters in the walls, the old radiator heat clanging and sputtering. There was a coal furnace in the basement, and a huge storage bin just to the side of it, and sometimes the coal would shift. You could hear it two floors above – especially at night, as the black rocks would roll and then slam into the thin wooden walls that defined the bin.

Sometimes, upstairs alone, you could hear people in the kitchen making noise, talking. I was so young, and always in bed before everyone else, but I would hear them continuing on with their night - the sound barely piercing the thick ceilings below me, making them seem distant and other worldly. But I knew who it was. Sound traveled strangely in the house, and if you paid attention, it became second nature. Sometimes you could hear things that were very far away with incredible ease and clarity, only to miss something practically next to you.

Regardless, my parents had educated me well about the unexplainable sounds of the house, and I had no fear. I was told that if I woke up in the middle of the night and heard something frightening, I was to imagine all the possible ways a house could make those offending noises. I came up with dozens of explanations – each one more logical and sensible than the last; each one designed to ease the trepidation that invades the territory a young child has to travel every night.