The Random Grave

I was in graduate school in 1985 in DeKalb, Illinois. This one late afternoon I brought a friend over to my apartment and we decided to take a walk. We had been talking about psychic events in our lives and I had just told Wendy about driving to the grave of a boy I didn’t know back in 1973. I happened to live next door to a cemetery and as we walked, Wendy suggested we walk through the graveyard. Wendy was picking my 1973 story apart, and as we walked through the graveyard, she said that one explanation to my story was that I was able to hear the dead speak from their graves. “How else could you have known where this boy’s grave was?” she asked. As we walked, Wendy said that she wanted to test me. She said that she wanted to pick out a grave at random, and that I was to tell her as much about the person as possible. I agreed.

Wendy walked away from me a distance of about 50 feet to a grave with a flat top, where the writing was visible only to her eyes. She sat on the grave.

I immediately began “hearing” information. “It’s a woman,” I said. “She was 76 years old when she died.” And with those two basic pieces of information, I began to talk about the woman’s life, revealing trivial details. Finally, I approached the grave, and Wendy stood up. We looked down and read the tombstone. It was a woman, and she had died at age 76. The rest of the details of her life we could not verify, but those two facts spooked Wendy and she became very upset. We returned to my apartment and sat in the living room.

Wendy said that getting the sex right was a 50-50 chance, but getting the age right had made her feel as though I had actually communicated with the woman. Again, she said, the other details about her life could only be verified if we contacted a living relative. So Wendy, being spooked, said out loud, that she wanted a sign from the woman to verify for her that we had actually communicated with her.

As Wendy spoke those words, the smoke detector in my bedroom hallway went off. I rushed around the corner and looked up at it, and there was no smoke to set it off. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a towel, and fanned the smoke detector, but it would not go off. Finally, I carried a chair into the hallway, climbed up and opened up the smoke detector, and pulled the battery out, and it went off immediately.

Wendy was very upset by what she thought was a “sign.” She was questioning how a spirit could make a smoke detector go off, and I was rambling on about how it was probably faulty and to not worry about it, as I could see that it had upset her so much. As we talked about how it had spooked her, Wendy decided to ask the spirit of the woman to do it again. Again, just as Wendy spoke those words, the smoke detector alarm went off. We both looked down at the battery that I was holding in my hand. We ran again to the smoke alarm and it finally stopped. Wendy became very upset again, crying, now thinking that some spirit was operating this thing even after the batteries had been removed. I tried to calm her down by saying that possibly the smoke alarm kept a charge and that it could go off, even after the batteries had been removed.

There is little mystery in guessing someone’s sex – even a dead person’s sex – given that you have a 50-50 chance of getting it right. I will even concede that when guessing the age of the deceased that going with a number in the 70s or 80s will be correct most of the time, so that narrows the odds of hitting it right. I do not like to think that spirits can follow people home like that and make alarms go off, but the second half of this experience, however it happened, was a spooky coincidence that made me rethink casual walks through cemeteries or any thought of attempting to communicate with the dead. Better to let them rest in peace. And a side note, I contacted a major manufacturer of smoke detectors a few years later. They informed me that the battery operated style of smoke detectors did not hold a charge after the battery was removed. The apartment management assured me the smoke detector was not internally wired.

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