After all: Readers offer explanations for a 'haunted' phone (redial)

E&T returns to its old black telephone to hear the readers' reaction to the After All column in issue 11.

Further reader responses to After All, as published in E&T vol 4, # 11.

Dear Vitali,

I read with great interest your article in E&T 20 June - 10 July 2009.

You may not be entirely uplifted to hear that I strongly believe in things "metaphysical"!

I have experienced many events in my life which can only be explained by "cosmic connection". Indeed it is my belief this is the reason for your (disconnected) telephone ringing on this particular occasion. Perhaps you should indeed be happy that this event could emanate from (energy of) people who were close to you and this is their "method" of reminding you they are still with you albeit within a different medium, on a different plane frequency. Of course there will be other engineers who will suggest the proximity of thunderstorms, rain-static discharge and oodles of more conventional explanations - all valid - all possible - but.....

Many times I hear and read of people dismissing "ghosts", "spirits", and related phenomena as a load of old Boolean. Well I have still to gain knowledge of a satisfactory explanation of phenomena such as regression, physical mediumship, closed circle communications and a myriad of other examples of connection through what is loosely referred to as energy fields. We are all cosmically connected - less than a week ago my wife experienced a very clear and vivid dream where someone close to us lost their job - she was so worried it could be me - had I done anything in error at work? That morning after she outlined her dream I attended my (not fixed) place of work - within an hour, one of my most senior colleagues was told she would be losing her job with immediate effect. You super-scientists out there can hypothesise as much as you like, BUT explain that! Please!

In closing I must confess I have been a Spiritualist for over 20 years, and throughout that time, every meeting and demonstration I attend proves to me that our true understanding of these undefined energy forces is really of an incomplete and unsatisfactory nature. Indeed some would say at this stage do we need to know the how and why - it works - if it isn't broken don't fix it. Maybe if we discover too much for own good there is sure to be some capitalist out there just waiting to unscrupulously exploit the mechanism.

One final question: why do we possess such a potentially powerful tool namely our brains, but only use a fraction of the myriad capabilities during a lifetime?

Yours sincerely,

Michael Taylor MIET


Dear Mr Vitaliev

I always enjoy reading your "After All" column and, although I cannot supply an answer to your ringing phone query, I have tried to find an answer to the following incident which occurred one snowy night in Muswell Hill, North London in the winter of 1942. I was twelve at the time.

As it was during the blitz, my parents had rigged up a bedroom for the three of us in our cellar. The house had a front doorbell operated by two 4.5 volt flat batteries which were on a shelf in the cellar. Around 2am we were awakened by the doorbell ringing and, as I was nearest to the cellar exit, I went to answer it in case it was an ARP man warning of some incendiary danger. There was nobody there. About five minutes later it rang again; there was still nobody there, but I inspected the bell push to see if there was any melted snow inside which could cause a short(ish) circuit. The bell push was dry, so I returned and made my report. My father then asked me to remove the batteries until the morning, so I did this and placed them under my bunk bed.

A few minutes later the bell rang again, but this time I was too frightened to move and my father investigated, but found nothing. We never found an explanation.

Anthony Harrison.


Ref your article in E & T Magazine Vol.4 Iss.11

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls....."

In spite of that, best wishes,

Doug Thomson


Dear Vitali Vitaliev

From your evident interest in past history I wonder whether you are able to say if there are other IET Fellows who, like me, had a first contact with the engineering profession before 1924. In that year I was six years old when I helped my father with the wiring of a new house which he was buying for about £700. His regular job was as a skilled electrician and the contract document, which I still have, allowed for a reduction of £15 from the total cost if my father did all the electrical installation.  My own part was only to feed the wires through the parts under the suspended floor that my father was too big to reach easily. I followed his instructions as to whether the required lead had red or black insulation..

My father was also interested in wireless but only as an amateur, and we had previously been involved in receiving the early BBC broadcasts, first on a crystal receiver and then on the valve receivers designed by John Scott-Taggart.  John had been a student in our local grammar school but had left a few years earlier and had several jobs, including publishing. He may have become a member of the IEE before we used his circuit designs from Wireless World ? but I have no record. He is certainly known to have been, in 1921,the youngest Fellow of the Institute of Physics.   It is possible that my father knew him as a neighbour in Bolton before John went elsewhere but I don't think I was ever told.

I was interested to read that you shared your 50th birthday with your son in Dublin.  My eldest grandson is also in that city, in Trinity College, after gaining a D Phil at Oxford.  I will now be able to show him your interesting After All and point out that his grandfather (my father) was born (and named Frederick Horner) just before the first UK telephone directory saw light of day.  Despite this early link, my father grew up with a lifelong objection to having a telephone in our home, so I did not learn their use until I was eleven years old.

I hope that these records are of some interest to you and will continue my own research.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Frederick Horner    


Dear Vitali,

After reading your article I was reminded of an incident a few years ago when I was called out to a transient but persistant fault on an 11kV overhead feeder, suppling several hundred customers,controlled by a pole mounted H.S.A.R. (high speed auto recloser).A customer in the village of Cound in Shropshire repored that every time the supply was interupted ,the phone rang!

Investigation led us to a PN16 post insulator on the adjacent substation pole which had a hailine crack caused by a previous lightening strike.

When this fault occured the current would discharge to earth,and the recloser would instaninously disconnect and then reclose to restore the supply . The stray current was evidently bieng picked up by the telephone and cusing the bell to ring.

As I understand it a "party line"uses an earth return.

If the phone to which you refer still had the earth loop connected then stray earth current ,from any sourse may cause it to ring even if is not connected to the system.

Regards D.Elliott I.Eng.M.I.E.T (semi-retired)


Dear Vitali,

If your son's ancient telephone instrument was connected to an outside line, but disconnected on the Main Frame of the local exchange, then your experience is not unusual.

As a telephone engineer, of pre-war, and immediately, Post-war experience with the GPO, in London, on a night shift in two 10,000 line exchanges, the fortuitous cutting in of a line finder switch, which immediately dropped out, was something for which we could not find an explanation. We put it down to a faulty routine tester or cable interference.

If, as I suspect, the instrument on the mantle shelf of your son's house was totally disconnected from anything else, then, with the receiver on the hook, a ringing circuit, comprising one or two inductive coils, is open to the atmosphere and will comprise a tuned circuit.

A charged rain cloud, discharged elsewhere, resulting in an earth current with a frequency similar to that of your son's telephone, could possibly cause it to tinkle, or could it be something else?

I have a view, scoffed at by many, but the more serious, are unable to prove that it is wrong. This is not totally removed from your experience with an old telephone, for it hinges on the fact that all masses in space, are bombarded with tiny particles, known as neutrinos, traveling at near the speed of light.

These particles, are so small some can pass right through the Earth, without colliding with anything, because of the small amount of space taken up, in the atom, by solids.(protons).

They are generated by every star that can be seen, and in every direction by each star. Because some do strike a proton in a body, and their number is so enormous, then a person standing on the Earth, receives a pressure from every direction, except for the reduced pressure provided by the Earth's absorbtion of those neutrinos that do collide with particles in the Earth's atoms, and masked by the Earth.

This results in a pressure to the centre of the Earth, known as GRAVITY. The stars themselves are not driven, in any direction, by this radiation, since it emerges from them in every direction.

A neutrino in its passage through space, could receive many collisions, resulting, since it was originally traveling at the speed of light, in increased mass. This could strip the electrons from a coil such as your ringing circuit in your telephone if it passed through it, causing a current to flow and the bell to ring?

With gravity as positive pressure in every direction, instead as an attractive force to the centre of a body, the manifestation of which has never been found, answers to many things could be modified, but certainly not Newton's Laws.

I hope I have not bored you.

Roy Patten


Dear Sir.


An approaching thunderstorm at midnight - the short open line connection saved the phone from exploding, so with the energy imparted it did all else it could muster.


Ian L Rubery, C.Eng MIET 


Hello Vitali,

With reference to your mysterious disconnected telephone ringing, I recall an account, probably over forty years ago, by a GPO telephone engineer who was called to investigate the telephone at a lady's house. She had complained that the telephone rang persistantly but when she lifted the receiver there was no one on the line. Sure enough, shortly after the engineer arrived the 'phone rang and when the engineer lifted the receiver there was no one on the line.

Having carried out all the usual checks he finally had the wires completely disconnected, (they were not equipped with plugs in those days), and yet again the 'phone rang!

It transpired that the the lady's mynor bird had learnt to mimic the telephone bell!

In a more mundane sense could it have been that the line still existed as far as the exchange where it was disconnected. Could some telephone engineer have inadvertantly applied a supply to the line whilst carrying out his work on another line?

Or could it even be that a thunderstorm had come back to haunt you by inducing a voltage on the disconnected wires? 

By the way I really enjoy your articles. Keep it up.

Michael Twitchett. 


I write this response to your article from a friend:

'I don't know whether ten years experience of working in the field of the paranormal counts as a "metaphysical theory" with which I am "sure to be dissatisfied", but what you write about the telephone ringing as you clocked up half a century doesn't surprise me in the least. I know these things happen. As a member of my Anglican diocese's Deliverance Ministry team I have investigated dozens of such cases, and counselled the people concerned, who have often been scared out of their wits.

My engineering was of a distinctly practical form in ships of the Royal Navy - I do know about the necessity of wires to get power to the Captain's shaver socket, and the radar, and the ammunition hoists, and the hundreds of telephones which we had in a large warship. But I also know that engineering truths are not the only ones in this world, and the interface is often rather mysterious.

Of course there was no-one at the other end of a non-existent wire. That was why your son heard only a dead silence. But that doesn't mean the telephone didn't ring. We don't know the precise mechanism by which these things happen - but happen they do, often enough, as you experienced, in the most unlikely situations, and almost always unexpectedly.'

Fr. J M Pennington, MIET


Further information

The "Return of the dead ringer" After All column

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