Being a 911 operator requires so much bravery. They are the first to confront disturbing phone calls, trying as fast as they can to send officers out to help right such terrifying wrongs. These particular calls stayed with these people many, many years after they had first occurred, haunting the operators with a fear of these unknown tormentors. Content has been edited for clarity.
"We got a call to assist PD after they received a strange call from a very confused sounding man. When they arrived at the scene in a very nice upscale town home community, they found the police officer standing outside waiting for us. She explained that there was a male inside who said he was the occupant of the house, and that he was asking to be transported to the hospital.
Something about the whole thing seemed off at first, as the first thing they noticed when they walked into the house was that this man had nothing on, except for a soiled t shirt and some socks. The house was immaculate, except for the couch, where he had clearly been sleeping. They found a half-eaten piece of cake in the refrigerator, and the man's pants and underwear laid on the bedroom floor soiled of both urine and feces. The man said he was a diabetic and wasn’t feeling well. His blood sugar and vital signs were all within normal limits, but he did seem to be wasted and smelled strongly of body odor.
Inside the house there were pictures of a middle-aged couple and mail with names that did not match the name the man gave us. He also could not provide us the address for the residence. The officer and my partner both gave each other looks that confirmed that they thought something was off. They had to go through drawers in the bedroom to find the man some pants so that he could walk outside to our rig, because he couldn't tell us where to find him some clean pants and we were not going to let him put the soiled ones back on. As they walked the man outside to the truck to take him to the hospital, they asked him if he had keys to lock up the house. He said no and to just leave the house open.
This man did not match the house he had been found in and it seemed like he didn’t live there, but they also found no signs of a break in at the residence. Also, the man could easily be suffering from a physical or mental illness that was causing him to be confused and unable to care for himself. After dropping the man off at the ED, I was curious and checked the call logs for the residence. It turns out that the owner of that house had been calling repeatedly for weeks to complain about a homeless man who had crawled up under the house and was living there. The man was even having his mail sent to the house, and the homeowners had had to call over ten times to have him removed from the property.
I can’t prove it, but I can almost guarantee that the man they picked up from the house was the homeless man who had been living underneath it, and he had somehow gotten into the actual house while the owners were away.
In the same city we also responded to a male knocking on doors and asking to use the phone. It turned out to be a regular who PD was familiar with, and who suffered from multiple mental disorders. He sat across from me on the way to the hospital and described to me about how he was the dreamiest man in the world, that women just threw themselves at him, but he didn’t want that kind of attention. He told me all about how he hunted wild chickens in the woods and made the best fried chicken, told me all about how attractive I was and asked me to be his girlfriend multiple times. I politely declined, but I did listen to him and talked to him on the way to the hospital, as it seemed to keep him calm. As soon as they got to the hospital and walked into the ED, he started crying and stated his chief complaint was that I was trying to assault him in the back of the ambulance and steal him and use him as a slave. Good times."
"There is no way to know what the weirdest call ever at any agency is, but I can tell you the weirdest call I ever received. I got a 911 call from a female, whose husband was having chest pains. The ambulance team checked out the scene, and it ended up being a schizophrenic male chasing a female (and my ambulance guys) with a machete. He then took off into the woods, no clothing on, with said machete. Some officers got dispatched, but they couldn't find him. An entire helicopter crew got sent out, but they couldn't find him either.
I got a second 911 call from a cell phone pinging next door, about an hour later, from a man lying on a garage floor saying a demon attacked him and he couldn't get up. I thought that maybe the first creepy guy had attacked him. That caller ended up being the guy not wearing any clothes with the machete. He hit himself with the machete. Some officers got there, and he started stabbing himself in the chest. They tazed him, disarmed him, took him to the hospital, and got him on meds. He barely had cuts (thankfully it was a dull blade.) He's fine now. He brought us cookies last weekend."
"I called 911 a few years back, and I recently found out that the dispatchers still laugh about that call. It WAS quite funny, at least at that point. Anyway, here’s what happened: I was living in a large house with three other girls my age, and we had this neighbor who was crazy. I mean, really crazy. He was about our age (mid-twenties) and he had schizophrenia. He would make loud goat noises, and sometimes would stand on his his patio singing 90s songs at the top of his lungs. He lived with his dad, and he was always home alone all day while his dad went to work. After we had been living there for several months, little things started happening that gave us the impression that someone was watching us, like a peeping tom. These things would almost always happen while there was only one of us home. We suspected the crazy neighbor (we called him 'Goat-Man'), but we had no evidence that he was doing anything illegal.
Anyway, one day, I was in my backyard and smelled smoke. And the smoke smelled really strange. I realized it was coming from Goat-Man’s backyard, so I pulled a chair up to the fence and climbed up to look at what he was doing. I saw him hooting and hopping around a small fire on the ground, and when I looked closely, I noticed that he was burning feces. Yes, poop. Now, keep in mind, Goat-Man didn’t have a dog. I didn’t know WHO the HECK to call in such a strange situation. The police? The fire department? The Department of Environmental Quality?
So I called 911. I told the dispatcher who answered that my crazy neighbor was burning human excrement in his backyard. She said, 'He’s burning human feces?'
I confirmed. There was a long pause, and then she said, 'Please hold for a moment.'
Before she placed me on hold, I heard her start laughing hysterically. When she returned, she had only one question for me: 'Is the fire in an enclosed pit?'
'No,' I replied, 'But, trust me, THAT is not the problem here.'
'But that is city code, and if it’s not in an enclosed pit, then we can send a police officer.'
I replied, 'Well, it’s definitely not in an enclosed pit.'
She told me that she would send out an officer, and we ended the call. I found out from a dispatcher I met a few months ago that the employees still remember that call and laugh about it.
The less funny part of this story is that a few months later, I heard Goat-Man arguing with a younger guy who had begun renting the extra room in the house. They were yelling back and forth about Goat-Man’s musical choices. About 30 minutes later, I smelled smoke coming from their backyard and realized that Goat-Man had started another fire. I chose not to get involved in this one, and continued getting ready to leave for work.
As I was leaving, about four police cars were pulling up to Goat-Man’s house, sirens blaring. I thought, 'Hmm, this is not how they responded to the last fire,' and quickly learned that they weren’t there because of the fire. They were there because Goat-Man had stabbed his roommate approximately fifty times following that argument about his music. This time, there was no poop. The fire I smelled was Goat-Man burning his bloody clothing and some towels.
Maybe if someone had taken some action when they realized there was an unsupervised schizophrenic lighting human poop on fire, that kid renting the room would be alive today."
"Prior to becoming a sworn officer, I spent a few months working dispatch. This was about thirteen years ago, and I recall it as if it were yesterday. It was the call that, even in its simplicity, made me realize that I knew nothing about the world I was entering.
The call came in, saying there was an individual lying in the middle of the street in front of a convenience store. After I got off the phone, I looked over at my supervisor. She saw the befuddled expression on my face and asked me what was wrong. I told her about the call, to which she replied, 'Oh that's just Jones.'
I asked her how she knew. She proceeded to tell me that this guy would walk two miles to the convenience store, buy a few things, and then lie in the road. When someone stopped to check on him, he would ask them for a ride home. I still remember how amazed I was by this. Over the years I worked in that department, I ended up dealing with Jones on many occasions. When I would tell him to get out of the street, he'd always ask me for a ride home, too."
"This call came from my sister’s house. She was on a trip to Las Vegas, so her house was empty. Around 11 p.m., police started getting calls from her neighborhood about a man running through their backyards and then jumping over the wall into the next person’s yard. The cops didn’t find anything, and things settled down. Shortly afterwards, the skies opened up and just started pouring, with loud and violent gusts of wind.
Then they get a 911 call from my sister’s house. A man is screaming that the house is, 'FULL OF DEAD BODIES! OH GOD, BODIES, DEAD BODIES EVERYWHERE!'
Quite naturally, this really freaked them out. They rushed to my sister’s house and went around to the back/kitchen door, where the window had been broken out but the door was still locked. They couldn’t hear anything over the rain and wind and the house was dark, so they weren’t about to stick their hands in the broken window/door to unlock it. They decided to use some kind of battering ram and BAM! They broke the door down.
As they move into the darkened house, they hear the crash of breaking glass. The cops in front of the house see that a man is smashing my sister’s bedroom window out with a weapon. Then he throws the weapon out the window and somersaults after it down the small slope in front of the house. They grab and handcuff him and finish going through the house, where there are no dead bodies.
It turns out the poor man is schizophrenic and thought someone was chasing him. He was running through the neighbors’ backyards, trying to escape or hide. When it started raining, he broke into my sister’s house and had delusions that it was full of dead bodies. When he heard the back door get broken down, he was sure the bad guys were coming in after him! He grabbed my sister’s weapon that she kept behind her bedroom door, then he saw the cops out in front of the house. That’s when he broke out her window, threw out the weapon and somersaulted into their arms. Safe at last, poor guy!
When they called me at 2 a.m. to secure the house (a broken door and a broken window in the pouring rain), I wasn’t sure I believed them. My sister had a really scary stalker who had recently gotten out of jail after attacking her, and I was afraid this was some kind of set-up where he would ambush me and my husband. But I called the police station back to make sure it was true, and then one of the officers told me what hideous visions they had running through their heads when they got the call."
"Not me, but a family member answered a call around 12:30 in the morning. Only breathing was heard on the other line, and he asked how he could help and if they are alright while getting the location of the call from the cell tower. It was supposedly coming from an area that is pretty much only woods around a main highway.
Eventually, a woman's voice came over the line between huffing and puffing about how she thinks she lost them. When he asked who and where she is so he can send help, she shushes him. She tells him that she is going to go down the little hole to see if they miss her. He hears other people in the background yelling, cursing, and repeating a woman's name.
Unfortunately it seems that someone found her and she was screaming horribly while they must have beaten her, and whatever else. They killed her in the end because a male voice picked up the phone and said, 'She is dead,' and hung up.
Her body was found in the woods a few days later, badly bruised. The story is that she was a woman who was trying to escape a trafficking group, but she sadly failed. He had nightmares for a few weeks about hearing his wife's voice or his daughter's voice over the phone in her place. I don't know if they found the men or not and this was some years ago too."
"This must have been the weirdest call to go out to 911. I was playing with a little toddler, who I had the joy of raising as my own. We will call her 'A'. Running all around the house on a Friday night had tired us out. Well actually, it had worn me out probably more than her, which was the opposite of my intentions, so I had convinced her to calm down a bit and play with her doll house. Being a grown man, I’m not sure that I was the ideal doll house playmate, but I could sure get a laugh out of the kid every time I used falsetto to mimic a doll doing something ridiculous. In fact, I must have had her squealing with hysteria for a full half hour. So, I was wildly cackling the voice of a frizzy redheaded figurine as it ran upside down circles on the ceiling, when I heard what I thought was an adult sounding voice. I tensed up. We were the only ones home, so where was that coming from?
'A' squealed with delight and ran around the room, trying to copy me. I was trying to shake off the uneasy moment I’d had, when it suddenly sounded out again. There was a male voice, muffled, as if asking a question. I signalled for 'A' to stop, but of course, she just continued running and laughing. Then, just as she went by me, I heard it a third time. It was a distinct man’s voice, coming from inside the very same room! I snatched 'A' up and gave her a serious 'shush' look, and she went quiet. But as I held her, it became apparent to me that there was a non-natural protuberance pressing into my side.
Now 'A' had been going through a phase where she thought her diaper was a storage locker, but it was the first time I’d fished out our cordless phone from her backside! And guess what? The phone was on!
'Hello?' I said. No answer. I hung up. About 15 minutes later, the cops showed up at my door and, without a search warrant, insisted they search the place. Somehow 'A' had dialed 911 as we ran around screaming like clowns. I guess the emergency call center had been listening from her diaper the whole time. I felt a little violated of my own rights, but I didn’t protest too much, given that they really just had the safety of my little girl in mind."
"A woman called, screaming her head off, that she had driven into a body of water. Apparently, her car was filling up with water quickly. She couldn't open the door, and she didn't know where she was. She had her kids in the car, and according to her, they were all going to die.
Meanwhile, I'm at a loss for words. What do I do now?! I try to find out details about where she is. We know she can see a massive shopping center, but it could be anywhere even remotely close to that location. Local units all fan out to the different large ponds and streams that seem like likely candidates. I call the coastguard and marine support units to help.
I try to find out what kind of body of water it is, and how big it is, and she is just too panicked to answer any of my questions whatsoever. I somehow managed to get the registration of her vehicle and that was it. Well, it turned out that she had driven into a flooded road. This road had flooded from rain, so it was not anywhere near an actual body of water. There was absolutely zero danger of the water going past her knees."
"Two different ones come to mind for me:
Our required line to say for my agency when answering emergency calls is '911, what is the address of the emergency?' and to that question, an older lady replied 'It's too late, honey,' and hung up. We had an officer check the area where the cell phone pinged to and found an elderly woman who had killed herself. The part that sticks with me the most is that this was Christmas Eve, and she had laid out her presents for her grandchildren and children, as well as her will neatly on the table. She had cancer and left a note about how sorry she was.
The second call would be a woman who went to her mothers house because she hadn't heard from her for a few days. She called me moments after she discovered her moms body. The mom's face was covered by a bag. Her mother had suffocated herself. The caller was beyond distraught, and she said such brutal things that will stay with me forever.
Some other calls that I have been in the room for would include a woman who ran over her own son, which was just as graphic as you can imagine. I had a different caller who was 10 years old, saying his brother was jumping on the trampoline with his younger brother and got his brothers neck caught on a rope swing. Another one would be a person who killed themselves. I stayed on the phone with the caller and could hear the blood dripping from their head and hitting the phone."
"I was a 911 telecommunicator for 16 years, and this is the absolute worst question to ask us. Because we just love remembering the absolute worst things a human being can listen to. My worst experience was probably over the radio. Two officers went out to serve a warrant at a guy's house. This guy had attempted to run over a parking enforcement officer a couple days earlier. The officers called out when they arrived. When the guy opened his front door, he was holding a loaded weapon. One of the officers was at the door and the other was at the bottom of the stairs. One officer keyed up real quick and advised a male was at the door holding a weapon. We started sending backup. Not much time passed before they started yelling that shots had been fired. We send more help. While other units are responding, one officer advised his partner has been shot and is requesting medics. The offender has also been shot. The officer that has been shot starts keying up every few seconds, his voice is strained and soft, pleading, 'Help me. I'm bleeding. I'm dying.'
I'm sitting in a room with two other telecommunicators coordinating a massive response of police and medics, with other unrelated 911 calls coming in. We hear him crying over the radio. Part of me wonders why his partner isn't stopping him from keying up and what's going on there. The next day I am required to attend a debriefing of the incident. One of the other attendees is the officer that was there that answered the door. He is not injured. He's required to tell the story of what happened, and as he tells the story he has a vacant expression in his eyes. As he tells the story, we can all tell that he's literally reliving last night in his mind. The amount of detail he's giving is extraordinary. The room is silent as he recounts everything he saw. How the guy pointed the weapon at them and as he wrestled with him, the man shot twice, both times hitting the officer's partner. One in his chest and one missing his vest, going under his arm. His partner falls into the house, ending up on the floor between the couch and the TV. The offender has a chest wound and falls down with the other officer. The officer explains how he just cradled the guy in his arms. He could hear the air being sucked into the chest wound. Help got there. The bad guy died. The good guy lived. Thank goodness.
Another 911 call I remember was from a mother of a 6 or 7 year old girl. Mom is crying. She tells me that her daughter had been out playing. She was gone for a while and has just come back. Apparently an old man that lives down the street offered her some candy and juice. So she went inside his house. She got sleepy and took a nap on his couch. When she woke up she was bleeding. Mom is trying to comfort the girl without telling her what actually happened. That everything will be okay. That some people are going to come talk to her and help her. Now that I've had to think about such intense experiences again, I'm going to go watch some cat videos online."