The 6 Creepiest Unexplained Phone Calls
You all know the scene. A young, vulnerable, and preferably scantily clad woman is home alone when she answers the phone and finds herself threatened by an anonymous caller. If the screenwriters are feeling especially lazy, the big twist is that the call's coming from inside the house.
But sometimes, in real life, people get calls with bizarre plot-twists worthy of a horror movie, spawning some truly creepy mysteries in the process:
Teenager Disappears in the Middle of a Call
In 2008, 19-year-old college student Brandon Swanson was driving home after a night out when he crashed into a ditch on a gravel road in Middle of Fucking Nowhere, Minnesota. He knew as well as us that this was a classic horror-movie setup, so he called his parents and asked for a ride.
"Yeah, I'm right between the abandoned summer camp and that motel with the creepy house in the back."
Because of the whole "boonies at night" thing, Swanson's parents had trouble finding him. When they couldn't find his car at the location he provided they got back on the phone for over 45 minutes to play the world's worst game of Marco Polo. Swanson claimed he could see lights from a nearby town and was heading in that direction, but things took a turn for the creepy when he suddenly yelled, "Oh shit!"
Before his father could even scold his son for using such filthy language, the call cut off. And that's the last anyone ever heard from Swanson. Hundreds of volunteers, 34 dogs, and 120 days later, only his car was found. So what the hell happened to him?
Slipped on a misplaced Stargate?
There was no evidence of foul play or any suggestion that Swanson wanted to disappear. Phone records showed that he was wrong about his location -- when he made his last call he was about 20 miles away from the town he claimed to be walking towards. The likeliest explanation is that he fell into a nearby river, but the search came up empty, and in the two days following his disappearance all calls to his cellphone rang. If he did stumble into the river, he didn't take his phone with him.
Needless to say, "oh shit" are not the last words you want to hear from a loved one before they disappear forever without explanation. If this was a found-footage film we'd get a blurry conclusion featuring a psychobilly chainsaw killer or a monster not worth the hype. But in real life people don't actually keep their camera on when they're scared, so we may never know what was "oh shit" worthy.
"McRib is back!"
That said, this was only six years ago, and Cracked reaches a shitload of people -- if anybody out there knows what happened to him (or, hell, if Brandon himself is reading this) call the Tip Line at 1-877-996-6222 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Man Receives Thousands of Bizarre Phone Threats ... for Nearly a Decade
In the 1970s, Bashir Kouchacji left his native Lebanon and opened up a successful Moroccan restaurant in Washington, D.C. He was living the American Dream, but in 1983 he became the target of an insane, nonstop stream of threatening phone calls that came several times a day, every day. In most harassment campaigns the trolls get bored and move on to something else, but Kouchacji would put up with these calls for over fucking nine years.
"Hey, it's me again. Hope you die horribly and all that. Merry Christmas!"
The caller earned the nickname "L'Enfant," which we believe is Swedish for "the child," because the caller eventually decided that he wasn't being creepy enough and mimicked a little girl. Anyone associated with Kouchacji was a target, from his pregnant spouse to his restaurant employees. And the abuse got physical when the Star of David was scratched all over Kouchacji's Mercedes, although we're glad to know that constant harassment didn't stop him from making serious cheddar.
There didn't seem to be any escape. When Kouchacji traveled to Philadelphia to visit his sister, the calls kept coming there. Things got so bad he suffered a mental breakdown and committed himself to a psychiatric ward, but the calls continued to his restaurant, which we're guessing had a pretty high turnover rate.
"Why yes, my name is Hugh Jass. I was hired just to take calls from you."
The FBI eventually put a trace on the phone to confirm that L'Enfant wasn't an insane delusion. But it was even worse than that -- the calls were coming from different payphones at such a frequency that it would have been impossible for only one person to be involved. L'Enfant was a plot orchestrated by multiple people for the express purpose of driving Kouchacji insane. So the obvious question is: dear God, why?
The best guess is that the campaign was related to another strange event in the rabbit hole of weirdness that is Kouchacji's life -- in 1974 he was abducted in Beirut and tortured for five days. He managed to escape by attempting suicide, prompting his apparently bipolar kidnappers to take him to a hospital for treatment, where he got help and escaped. Kouchacji speculates that his captors were a rogue faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization who mistook him for a CIA agent, and while that sounds a little ridiculous, no one has any better ideas.
Did his mysterious kidnappers decide to follow him all the way to America and spend a decade harassing him for violating the sacred oath of kidnapper-hostage trust? We may never know, because the calls finally started dying down in the mid-'90s, and the FBI basically shrugged and said, "Uh ... vengeful ghosts?" before closing their investigation. Maybe L'Enfant just can't find a payphone anymore.
The Zodiac Killer May Have Called in Sick for One of His Victims
In 1970, 25-year-old Donna Lass worked as a nurse at the first aid station of a casino in South Lake Tahoe, California, where her duties presumably included treating gamblers who had their hands smashed by Robert De Niro. One day, Lass' boss and landlord both received calls from an unidentified man who claimed she was dealing with an illness in the family and would be out of town for a while.
"You say she also said to not worry or ask any questions, and to definitely not go to the police? OK, sounds good!"
Lass' boss became suspicious and contacted Lass' mother, who confirmed that the story was bullshit. Lass' car was found parked outside her apartment, but there was no trace of her anywhere. The last sign of her was an entry she'd made in her logbook near the end of her final shift -- the entry looked unfinished, as if someone had interrupted her.
No one could figure out Lass' whereabouts or the identity of the caller until the San Francisco Chronicle received a mysterious postcard six months later. It was addressed to reporter Paul Avery, and if that name sounds familiar it might be because a drunken Robert Downey Jr. played him in a David Fincher movie about this guy:
If you're going to be a serial killer, at least get some respectable frames for your glasses.
The postcard was the latest in a long line of cryptic messages from the Zodiac Killer, one of the most infamous unidentified killers of all time. The killer made no direct reference to Lass, but hinted that he had murdered and buried his 12th victim in Lake Tahoe. Since Lass' body hadn't been found, it wasn't hard for investigators to make a connection. The postcard provided a lot of tantalizing clues about Lass' possible location, but a search of the area turned up a whole lot of nothing.
Unless the Sierra Club was behind it all along.
To further complicate matters, Zodiac was known for screwing with the authorities -- he claimed to have killed dozens of people, but officially he has only five murders and two more attempts on his resume. Furthermore, Lass doesn't fit Zodiac's profile, since he wasn't known for hiding bodies.
But that leaves a huge mystery about a vanished nurse and an unidentified man who tried to hide her disappearance. It's possible some other psycho just got very, very lucky -- if you want to get away with murder, having a famous serial killer take credit for your crime sure helps.
Anonymous Caller Gets Man Wrongly Convicted of Murder
In 1931, there lived a man named William Wallace who was the polar opposite of the guy from Braveheart. Instead of giving inspirational speeches to lead Scotsmen into battle, this Wallace worked as a London insurance agent and spent his free time leading chess pieces into battle. One night, Wallace showed up for a chess club meeting and found a telephone message waiting. The message was from "R.M. Qualtrough," which could only be more fake if it was P.S. Eudonym. This "Qualtrough" wanted to meet at 7:30 the following night so he could purchase a policy.
"They can take our pawns, but they can never take our kings, because that's how the rules work!"
Since phone messages left at cafes were apparently the 1930s equivalent of Craigslist, Wallace hopped on a streetcar the next night and traveled across town. He discovered that the address Qualtrough provided didn't exist, so he headed back home, probably convinced that he was the victim of a dumb prank by the 1930s equivalent of 4chan. But when he got home, he found his wife's body.
Julia Wallace had been beaten to death, and the mysterious R.M. Qualtrough was the obvious suspect. And after an investigation, police revealed they'd determined Qualtrough's true identity. It was ... William Wallace? Jinkies! Authorities argued that Wallace had left the message to fabricate an alibi, murdered his wife, hopped on a streetcar, dicked around for an hour, then went home to "discover" his wife's body. Wallace was put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to hang. Mystery solved, right?
Not quite. In order for Wallace to have committed the crime, he'd also have to be the Flash.
He was probably not the Flash.
For starters, the employee who took the call from Qualtrough was pretty certain it wasn't Wallace's voice. There was a bloodmobile's worth of blood at the murder scene, but not a single trace was found on Wallace. A delivery boy also spoke to the victim about four minutes before her husband's streetcar left. So a frail, 52-year-old man had to beat his wife to death, dispose of the weapon, clean himself and sprint several blocks in the span of a Katy Perry song.
It seems the police decided to pin the murder on Wallace to avoid doing any real work, and the equally lazy jury went along with it because it was keeping them from their cucumber sandwiches. Thankfully, the Court of Criminal Appeal wasn't staffed by incompetent assholes, and they immediately overturned the bullshit conviction.
"On this day, his majesty the king doth issue the following royal decree on behalf of the United Kingdom: 'My bad.'"
Qualtrough was never identified, but the prime suspect was a former employee of Wallace's insurance firm who allegedly asked his wife to provide him with a fake alibi and was seen wearing bloody gloves and hosing down his car on the night of the murder, which some might call suspicious. Whatever happened, if a prank caller can lure a man out of his home, murder his wife, and get the guy wrongfully convicted, being asked if your refrigerator is running suddenly doesn't seem so bad.
"It is running? Well, then I better go murder your wife! Wait, shit."
Anonymous Calls Rejuvenate a 25-Year-Old Cold Case
In 1965, a young woman named Judith Hyams disappeared from her hometown of Coral Gables, Florida. Everyone feared the worst when her abandoned car was found in Atlanta with blood in the back seat. Hyams was pregnant and a recent divorcee, and the 1960s didn't exactly have the most progressive attitude towards unhitched women with the nerve to spawn children.
Aren't single mothers what they have in communism?
Hyams allegedly made arrangements to get an illegal abortion from a Hungarian doctor named George Hadju, who had about as much credibility as Dr. Nick. Hadju was charged with conspiring to perform the abortion, but skipped bail and fled the country. And then everyone kind of just forgot about the case for a quarter-century until it was rejuvenated by a series of bizarre phone calls.
"Christ almighty, why can't these tips ever just be straightforward?"
In 1990, Captain Chuck Scherer of the Coral Gables police received a message from an Omaha, Nebraska, radio host claiming he had information about Hyams' disappearance. Scherer called the host back but was treated to a big fat, "Huh?" The host said he never made the call and knew precisely dick-all about Hyams. Apparently someone decided to inquire about a forgotten 25-year-old case by impersonating a radio host from a different state.
Scherer soon received another anonymous call claiming that Hyams was alive in Omaha. Now, Captain Scherer knew nothing about the case, but he had recently traveled to Omaha to deliver a lecture at a police academy. Was this an elaborate attempt at a prank? Maybe, but keep in mind that in 1990 the Internet mostly consisted of people exchanging Star Trek erotica. It would be an awful lot of work for someone in Nebraska to obtain information about an obscure Florida cold case just to amuse themselves.
"Man, the Internet just doesn't have any good porn. Guess I'll troll the police."
Scherer got a third anonymous call from someone who claimed to be an FBI informant who had recently spent time with Dr. Hadju in Hungary. They even provided an old phone number for Hadju that checked out. The confused Scherer did what any police officer would do with a baffling case -- took the story to Unsolved Mysteries. Days after the Hyams episode was broadcast, Scherer got an anonymous letter confirming what many people suspected all along: Hyams died during an illegal abortion and wound up in a watery grave.
While that's the logical solution, it doesn't account for all the strange calls, and anonymous letters aren't exactly legally binding. The callers and writer haven't been identified, the shady doctor hasn't been found, and Hyams' body was never recovered. For all we know the Zodiac Killer took a road trip.
Related: 5 Crazy Ways Cold Cases Were Solved
An Anonymous Caller Predicted JFK's Assassination
Sometime after 10 a.m. on a routine workday, an Oxnard, California, switchboard operator received a call from a whispering woman who dropped a bombshell: the president of the United States was going to die in 10 minutes.
That time passed without incident, but the woman, still on the phone, doubled-down: "The president is going to die at 10:30." She continued to babble away with cryptic statements like, "The Supreme Court. There's going to be fire in all the windows," and, "The government takes over everything, lock, stock, and barrel," before the call finally disconnected at 10:25.
"Look, that's great and all, ma'am, but I can't put a dead president on your pizza."
Naturally, the call was written off as the ramblings of a crazy person. As anyone with an Internet connection knows, the president gets nonsensical death threats multiple times a day. And the president wasn't even in the state of California, so there wasn't much cause for alarm. The operator probably had a nervous laugh and would have shared the story on Not Always Right, had it existed at the time.
But it didn't, because this call was on Nov. 22, 1963. As you hopefully know, something historic happened that day, at exactly that time.
That's right, the release of Phil Spector's Christmas album.
While the call was taking place, President Kennedy was traveling in a motorcade toward Dallas' Dealey Plaza, where Lee Harvey Oswald would express his disapproval of the administration with extreme prejudice. The exact time of Kennedy's death? Well, in California it was 10:30 -- the woman's prediction was right on the money.
Now, let's get to the spooky part. Kennedy was scheduled to arrive in the Plaza before 10:30, but the motorcade ran late because the president kept stopping to shake hands with onlookers and, presumably, hit on women. Halfway through the call the operators thought they heard the woman put the phone down and dial another number, and when they asked if she needed help she responded, "No. I'm using the phone." It was after this that she bumped the time of the president's death from 10:10 to 10:30. Did she somehow know that Kennedy was behind schedule?
It's a good thing everyone agrees Oswald acted alone, or else there might be some questions here.
Conspiracy theorists speculate that the anonymous caller was actress Karyn Kupcinet, who was found dead in her West Hollywood home six days after the assassination. Kupcinet allegedly had advanced knowledge of Kennedy's murder because her father was friends with Jack Ruby, the guy who shot Oswald while he was in custody (ostensibly to silence him, the conspiracy goes). It's a tenuous connection, but Kupcinet's suspicious death is a bizarre unsolved mystery in its own right.
Unfortunately, the origins of the call were never determined. Sure, it was probably just a rambling crazy person who made a lucky guess -- after all, her prediction of the Supreme Court catching fire didn't come to pass, nor did her fears of a government takeover (unless you ask Free Republic). But at the very least it's a prime example of why every anonymous tip, no matter how loony, should at least be considered. Sometimes the crazies are right.
Just not about whatever conspiracy you're thinking of right now.
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