Saturday, October 25, 2014

Texts from the Beyond

‘In case you missed it’ Department:

Remember The Twilight Zone?

A news item during the week reminded me of a TZ episode, Night Call. More about the news item later.

Those old enough to remember will recall that each TZ episode opened with a Rod Serling narration.  This is the narration for Night Call:

Miss Elva Keene lives alone on the outskirts of London Flats, a tiny rural community in Maine. Up until now, the pattern of Miss Keene's existence has been that of lying in her bed or sitting in her wheelchair, reading books, listening to a radio, eating, napping, taking medication - and waiting for something different to happen. Miss Keene doesn't know it yet, but her period of waiting has just ended, for something different is about to happen to her, has in fact already begun to happen, via two most unaccountable telephone calls in the middle of a stormy night, telephone calls routed directly through - the Twilight Zone.

The storyline of the episode is that an elderly woman, Elva Keene, receives strange anonymous phone calls in the middle of a stormy night. During the first calls she hears only static. Later she hears a man moaning and she repeatedly demands to know who is calling. Finally he says "Hello? Where are you? I want to talk to you." Elva, terrified, screams at the man to leave her alone.

The phone company traces the cause to a telephone line that has fallen in a cemetery.

Elva and her housekeeper visit the cemetery where she finds that the line is resting on the grave of her long-deceased fiancé, Brian Douglas. Elva says that she always insisted on having her own way, and Brian always did what she said. A week before they were to be married, she insisted on driving and lost control of the car. The accident killed Brian and crippled her.

Now that she can talk to him again she won't have to be alone. At home she picks up the phone and calls out to Brian, pleading with him to answer. He replies that she told him to leave her alone and that he always does what she says. Then the line goes dead, leaving Elva alone and crying in her bed.

Closing narration:

According to the Bible, God created the Heavens and the Earth. It is man's prerogative - and woman's - to create their own particular and private Hell. Case in point, Miss Elva Keene, who in every sense has made her own bed and now must lie in it, sadder, but wiser, by dint of a rather painful lesson in responsibility, transmitted from the Twilight Zone.

See the full episode by clicking on:

The Rod Serling narration is at about 2.20.

According to, that episode was based on stories of people who have insisted on being buried with bells and other alarms in case of being interred alive, an occurrence more common in the Middle Ages. Even today there have been instances of people being buried with laptops and telephones.

Which brings us to the news item . . .

Back in June 2011 one Lesley Emerson (above), 59, died of bowel cancer in the UK. When she was buried, granddaughter Sherri Emerson put her grandmother’s mobile phone into the coffin with her.  She did this, she explained later, because during her life Gran had enjoyed texting family members. 

After the funeral and as the years passed, Sherri and other family members would regularly send text messages to her as a means of coping with the loss and their feelings of missing her. “We know that nan wasn’t ever going to reply to our texts. It was just something we did as a comfort for ourselves, because she loved to text” said Sherri. They even paid the phone company to keep the number.

In another article Sherri elaborated on the texting: 

“Nan got bowel cancer and died very quickly, she was only diagnosed in October 2010 and died the following June. It came so suddenly and none of us could quite get our heads around what had happened.  It helped to text her, that was the way we were always in touch every day when she was alive. I texted her at least once a week for three years.”

Recently Sherri sent Nan a message telling her about family life.

A message came back from Nan’s number: "I'm watching over you, and it's all going to get better. Just push through."

Sherri:  “ ...last week I suddenly got a reply. I stared at my phone and the message was written as though it was from her, it was so strange, I went cold and shaky.”

Sherri, petrified, asked the mystery texter who he or she was. 

At that point, had it been me, I would have had visions of skeletal grandma, her bony decomposed fingers texting on the phone left with her in the coffin. The Resurrection?  Revelation 20:13:  "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds."

Or a zombie apocalypse where the dead are rising, including grannies. 

Sherri's imagination also went into overdrive:

“When the reply came through at lunchtime the following day I felt sick. Crazy stuff was flashing through my mind like ‘Is she still alive?’  Then I started getting horrible visions that someone might have dug up her grave and taken her phone, my mind was full of all sorts of really unpleasant possibilities.”

In response to her enquiry as to who had sent the message, Sherri received a reply: “A disturbing vegetarian.”

It turns out that the company had reallocated the number.

Sherri with her uncle Graham

Sheri Emerson’s uncle, Graham Emerson, called the number and spoke to a man who said he’d used the phone for several weeks. He said he responded to Sheri Emerson’s texts because he thought they were a hoax.

The phone company advised that it is trying to retrieve the number.

As for Sherri, "For me it's too late, that special way I had of feeling I was in touch with her is gone forever. I couldn't bear to go to her grave - she was like a mother to me, we had a special bond."

The dangers associated with text messages aren't confined to texting while driving. As Sherri Emerson discovered, messages sent to dead people sometimes receive replies when transmission takes place in . . . the Twilight Zone.

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