A Dead Ringer

One of my favorite things to do when bringing in the new year is watch the Twilight Zone marathon that plays on SyFy every year.  This year two episodes caught my attention more than the others.  The first one which aired in 1961 was titled “Long Distance Call” and the second one was called “Night Call” and it aired in 1964. 

Long Distance Call synopsis

In this episode we see a 5 year old child named Billy Bayles who is having a very nice birthday party with his parents and grandmother.  When Billy opens his presents he receives a toy telephone from his grandmother.  The grandmother explains to Billy that she doesn’t have much time left and when she is gone all Billy has to do is pick up the phone and they will be able to talk anytime he wants.  Well just as grandma predicts, she passes away soon after Billy’s birthday bash.  A few weeks have passed and Billy’s mother overhears Billy having an interesting conversation on his “toy” telephone.  When Billy is asked who he is talking to, he simply replies “grandma”.  Well come to find out, somehow grandma has been contacting Billy through this “toy” telephone and she is trying to convince her beloved grandson to commit suicide so he may join her in the afterlife.  Billy almost successful in one of his attempts is quickly resuscitated after a heartfelt plea given by the boy’s father to his deceased mother, Billy’s grandmother.    

Night Call synopsis

An old woman by the name of Elva Keene starts receiving anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night.  Freaked out by this she has the operator trace the phone calls.  Again she receives an anonymous phone call and Elva demands the person to speak in which a creepy male voice is heard saying “Hello? Where are you? I want to talk to you.”  Terrified Elva screams at the person to leave her along and hangs up the phone.   Again Elva contacts the operator who says that cause of the mysterious phone calls is from a fallen power line in the cemetery.  Elva has her housekeeper take her to visit the cemetery only to find that the fallen power line is lying over the grave of her dead fiancé.  Elva explains to her housekeeper that when she was younger she was very adamant in getting what she wanted; her fiancé Brian Douglas always did what she wanted.  A short time before they were to be married Elva wanted to drive somewhere when she lost control of the car, resulting in Brian’s death and Elva being crippled.  Once Elva realized that it was her lost love Brian contacting her, this gave her peace and Elva is excited because she no longer has to be lonely.  When Elva returns home she picks up the phone and explains to Brian what happened and begs for him to talk.  After a few moments Brian finally answers telling Elva that she told him to leave her alone and he always does what she says.  Elva begs for Brian to come back but the line goes dead.

So what these two episodes have in common are these phantom phone calls from beyond the grave.  Lately I have been seeing more of these stories surface in the paranormal community.  My question is where did these stories originate?  It is obvious the story has been around since the early 60’s being that the Twilight Zone has made wonderful works of fiction out of them.

 I know that there is an urban legend that is very similar to these stories in which a woman is found dead with a frightened look on her face and in her hand she is holding her telephone.  When the family goes to entomb her body with her husband they find the phone in the crypt off the hook.     

According to snopes (urban legend website) this tale originates from the fear of being buried alive.  In the 18th and 19th century a bunch of different devices would be placed on the gravesite such as bells, buzzers and flags.  They would be used to get the attention of people in case the one in the grave should happen to wake up. 

Again the story above is just an urban legend but like all great urban legends it is very fascinating to watch the tale grow over time.   The story starts off with the dead sending messages using the telephone.  Then there were stories of the dead leaving messages on answering machines.  Now the dead send messages with cell phones, text messages, instant messages and email.  As communication technology grows, so does the story.

I would like to mention that I have read the story of Charles Peck and I don’t find it the least bit convincing that the dead make phone calls to the living.  In fact I would like to state I haven’t found any evidence that the dead can make contact with the living at all, nor that anything exists after death. 

But anyway the story goes like this: On September 12th 2008 at approximately 4:22 P.M. a train carrying 225 passengers crashed at a collective speed of 83 mph with a freight train.  This happened in San Fernado Valley in California and has been dubbed the Chatsworth crash.  135 people were injured, 85 were hospitalized and 25 died. 

One of the men who had died in the crash was a man named Charles Peck.  Now this is where I start getting mixed information, one story says Peck was on his way to meet his fiancé, others say he was going to a job interview, others say his fiancé was picking him up from the train station along with his family and siblings.

Peck was found 12 hours after the crash and coroners said he died on impact; however in other stories I have read, they also said his age was 58 which they later corrected to 49.  So if this is true perhaps it’s possible he didn’t die on impact, I don’t know I am not in a position to make that call.  Anyway for the first 11 hours Charles Peck made some phone calls to his loved ones which included his son, his fiancé, his step mother and his sister.  Yet every time they answered the phone all the heard was static, when they called him back it went right to voicemail. 

Supposedly the way Police found his body was by tracing his cell phone signal, but to make the story more eerie; Peck’s cell phone was never found.    

So in the case of Charles Peck, I have no real evidence that the story is true (the cell phone part at least), I don’t even have a creditable story to go off of, but just going on what I have read, the phone calls his loved ones received never reported talking from Charles, just static.  To me this says Charles wasn’t calling and that there was something wrong with the cell phone.  I know if anyone of my friends or family members call me and there is static, I am not going to assume that there is ghostly interference; I am going to assume that there phone is messed up.   Also when Mr. Peck’s family members called back the phone went straight to voicemail…Ok, I failed to see how this means paranormal, but apparently it is important info to this story. 

However before someone says “well explain how his cell phone made phone calls after he was dead?”  Well could you please explain to me how a dead person makes phone calls?  Or how his spirit or ghost knew how to use the phone but didn’t know how to speak on the other end?  Please refrain from using the argument from ignorance, which would be something like “well since you can’t explain how his cell phone made those phone calls after he was dead, it must have been his ghost.”   Thanks for reading.

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About Bobby the Paranormal Skeptic
Bobby Nelson is a skeptic, writer, and co-host of Strange Frequencies Radio. His personal blog can be found online at www.porkrhine.com At one time, Bobby was what could be called a "true believer" in paranormal phenomenon. Having been an active investigator of the paranormal for 12 years with several different Toledo based teams, he has examined countless claims of activity. But years worth of research and investigation proved to him that the evidence for these claims are generally lacking and, furthermore, the vast majority of so-called scientific paranormal investigators were using improper methodologies which caused them to draw both false and misleading conclusions.

One Response to A Dead Ringer

  1. Jason Korbus says:

    I’ve been reading about this Charles Peck story after having heard about it here on the Pork. It is so difficult to find facts, because every paranormal website and newsletter have picked it up…and they all seem to copy and paste different aspects of each other’s stories. And I mean literally word for word copy and paste. So, in other words, they just plagiarize each other with seemingly no regard for the truth.

    It’s interesting to me that in the stories I read from reputable and legitimate news gathering organizations about this incident, that were either published in the days following the tragedy, and/or retrospective pieces that included interviews with people involved, no mention is made of the missing cell phone. That’s not to say they aren’t there, I just haven’t seen them and I’m through several pages of Google searches. The paranormal sites all say they rescue workers never found his phone, and this of course sounds very spooky. But the sites for the LA Times, South Jersey’s NJ.com, and even the San Francisco Chronicle make no mention whatsoever of the missing cell phone.

    Everyone reports that the call continued to make calls hours after Charles Peck was likely already deceased. I’m willing to accept this as fact. But if I can’t find verifiable proof from a legitimate investigative reporter (Hint: Not a paranormal mystery monger) then it would be very easy to conclude that Mr. Peck’s phone, damaged in the wreck, malfunctioned and dialed numbers. This would probably also explain the static his family members heard. The phone was screwed up, and probably didn’t get great reception inside the train anyway.

    But, I guess no one can really say for sure at this point. Not with the limited evidence and verifiable sources we have. It’s still an interesting story, but one that must be heartbreaking to the Peck family. Anytime I read of incidents like this, I am much more comfortable thinking something like, “Hey, if the family believes their loved one was trying to reach them from beyond the grave, then so be it.” Honestly, I wouldn’t even argue. Sometimes I think it truly is better to just allow someone to believe something that makes them feel better…even if it may not be the truth. And believing that Peck tried to contact them surely gives them some kind of comfort.

    However, if I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who wants to investigate the matter, then without any quotes from rescue workers, police, etc saying the phone was never found…at this point it is easy to conclude that it was found smashed up in the area where the rescue crews finally located Mr. Peck

    No matter how you look at it, though, it’s a sad story.

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