Things that go bump in the night!

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night
Should not really give one a fright.
It’s the hole in each ear
That lets in the fear,
That, and the absence of light!

Spike Milligan

I was drifting off to sleep last night when a metallic tinkle sounded from somewhere beyond the end of the bed. It was surprisingly loud, but familiar, as I realised it was a teaspoon rattling against a mug. It had been slowly, slowly shifting for hours, since I last had coffee. Even though I knew what caused the noise, it still took me a while to calm down and fall asleep.

Stranger and harder to identify was a schruff noise that lasted only a second a few years ago. I searched the bedroom in the morning, finding nothing. I wondered if it was me wheezing in my sleep. Months later, while dusting, I noticed a sheet of a wall calendar had detached, sliding down the wall to get trapped behind a radiator.

One of the funniest stories I’ve heard of strange sounds in the night happened to a friend. In the early hours, he became aware that there was someone else, apart from his wife, breathing nearby. Fearing a burglar, he slowly reached towards his bedside table where he kept a cricket bat for just such an occasion. He froze when hot breath blew into his face! Then a dog licked his cheek. They didn’t own a dog. Lights on, they realised it was their neighbour’s corgi. It had somehow sneaked into the house when they had a barbeque that evening, hiding away until it decided to say “Hello.”

I’ve used strange nocturnal noises in my stories. In The Perfect Murderer, one of the killers experiences exploding head syndrome. It’s happened to me a few times, but not for years.

The noise is loud and scary, sounding like a door has crashed to the floor next to the bed.

There’s a scene in An Elegant Murder, where the detectives are staking out a field at night, hoping to capture livestock rustlers. There have been sightings of an exotic big cat, which might have been killing sheep and cattle. As they wait in the dark, they realise a mountain lion is standing on the other side of their hide, which screams loudly! I based this on a true incident that happened to a sound recordist acquaintance of mine.

He was part of a team sent to investigate reports of a mountain lion being sighted near to Minions on Bodmin Moor. The plan was to camp out overnight to record audio and video of the big cat on the prowl. It rained heavily, so thinking the assignment was ruined, the sound recordist duo were just about to return to their car when they heard something big moving stealthily outside their canvas hide.

Figuring it was one of the camera crew having a laugh, their annoyance changed to terror when the mountain lion screamed! Holding onto one another, the two men attempted to work out where the big cat was, backing away from that wall of the tent. Their car was parked 200 yards away, too far to run in pitch dark, so they spent a sleepless night waiting for dawn. The cat only screamed once, and they hadn’t recorded it. Tracks around the hide had been made indistinct by the rain.

Imagine hearing that in the night, just a few feet away!

Fear of strange noises in the darkness is natural. It kept our ancestors alive.

Have any of you used such a situation in your stories?

What bumps in the night have you heard?

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