Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
In high school I had a few peculiar jobs, I did things from measuring the depth of a local lake to cleaning out and sorting trash, but one job stood out to me the most. During the summer of my senior year of high school I took up a job as a receptionist at our local newspaper, the Dresden Dispatcher. The job didn’t entail much, on weekdays I would arrive at work at 11:00 AM and then end at 7:00 PM, and on weekends I went to work at 3pm and leave at 11:00 PM with the exceptions of the days I did overtime. Besides arranging meetings I would take phone calls from the locals for stories. This is how we’d get the ideas for the majority of our features. Being a small town, good stories were limited, so we’d have to report on basically anything that someone sought out interesting enough to be in tomorrow’s newspaper. Believe it was one the most irritating and depressing jobs I have ever worked at. To give you an idea of what I had to endure, the first few phone calls I took were about a new stop sign that was installed and how bothersome it was. Anyway, after I’d take the phone calls I’d pass them on to our various reporters. They’d go out and get what they could then they’d come back; pass it on what they had to our editor who would give it to the printer who would then get published on to the next paper. I’d do this almost every day while I worked and got paid close to nothing.
The building that I worked at was rather small and cramped. It was made out of bright red bricks, which were complemented with a single glass door and next to that, a large glass window with a large green canopy. To the right of our building was an insurance company and the left was a small art studio, which were only separated by a small alleyway. Even though it was located in a rather popular spot it felt daunting and desolate. When you came into the building you’d be greeted by small waiting room with a few chairs and a large desk that sat at the back next to a door. Behind that door was the press room which had multiple desks with typewriters and a meeting room, and behind that room was the printing room. I’d work in the waiting room which, is where I’d take all of our phone calls.
The owner of the newspaper was a man that went by the name Mr. Melsborror. Being the owner of the only newspaper in Dresden he was well known and respected. My parents kept some tight ties to him and this is how I got the job. He was a rather busy man and would often be out doing his own business, so a lot of the time we were left to operate the newspaper by ourselves. During the day my working environment felt active and passive with so many people coming in and out, but as the hours multiplied it began to feel hectic and stressed as everyone would rush for the next paper. I was the exception to this fiasco, I would simply come in and work at my desk while everyone around me would from having sudden bursts of excitement for a “hot” new story, which would slowly turn to a panic at the midnight rush. With the exception of all the monotony that I’d have to go through, my job had its moments and it felt fairly easy. I might have considered staying longer, but after what happened I’m afraid I can’t step within a mile of that dreaded place without having flashbacks of terror.
I started my job with fairly little incident, besides a few missed phone calls I was able to stay on top of everything quite well. I was reasonably liked by my coworkers because they knew I tried the best I could at my job to ensure that they could do their job. During the first few weeks of my employment, each day felt unique because I was interacting with new and different people, but this feeling quickly began fading into the usual repetitiveness. Our stories were littered with some small accidents and car wrecks, but besides that there weren’t any real injuries or deaths. Our sports and politics sections were boring and monotonous, as our local government was small, and we’d usually rely on the high school for any kind of sport activities. Phone calls would come in about every half an hour. The conversations that I had with the people calling paper were usually quite similar, they’d start by saying how much they enjoyed the paper and then head into what they thought would be a groundbreaking story. These circumstances were generally the same and I never really thought much of it until I got the first call.
I arrived at work with the intention of having an average day. It was a fairly slow day and I hadn’t received very many phone calls, so I resorted to reading a copy of the Rolling Stones like I had many times before that. I figured reading actually good literature would help keep my sanity. As I sat reading at my large black and lifeless desk, the phone rang like it had many times before, after the second ring I calmly lifted the phone to my ear while keeping my ears directed at the magazine and said, “Hello, This is the Dispatcher, how may we help you?”
Instead of the usual response I was embraced by a strange dial tone, followed by sudden static that seemed to follow no rhythm or pattern, it sounded as if a radio was being channeled through multiple empty stations, creating a strange and eerie audio transmission. I sat there for a few seconds somewhat puzzled and then went to hang up the phone when a very soft spoken voice suddenly replied, “Hi, it’s me Mrs. Greenfellow, you see the water in my neighborhood just got shut off and the city isn’t responding, it would be nice if we could get a reporter down here to really stick it to them. The city always speeds up their business when y’all get involved.”
“Uhhh….. Right away Mrs. Greenfellow, we’ll have someone out there within a matter of minutes.” I responded, while opening the press room door and motioning towards Todd. Todd was one of our best writers and usually worked with public affairs. Mrs. Greenfellow and I said our goodbyes and I hung up the phone. I explained to Todd about Mrs. Greenfellow situation and he quickly gathered his supplies and headed out. I went back to reading my magazine and the day continued like normal. Twenty minutes later Todd came back, which was odd because generally it takes a reporter much longer than that to get a story. Todd had a look of displeasure on his face, he explained to me that he has went Mrs. Greenfellow’s house and was told that she hadn’t in fact tried to call us and she even showed Todd that her water was fully functional. I had a weird sinking feeling that began to rise in my gut, but I waved it off as an honest mistake as Mrs. Greenfellow was old and everyone had suspected he might have been losing it. The day then went on to continue as typical.
I didn’t come in to work until the following Monday. Many of my co-workers were late that day because their water had been accidently shut off, I thought that Mrs. Greenfellow may have been to something, but I resisted thinking anything more than that. That day seemed to go a little bit quicker as there was an armed robbery in Martin that had turned into a chase and had ended in a wreck just outside of town. I was receiving calls all day from witnesses who wanted to give their own stories. I ended up staying in late as we had so much information we had to get down and it had been very busy. At about 10pm I got another strange phone call. It had the same sound with the same strange static that I had heard, but this time there was a voice of a very panicked woman on the other line, “She’s dead! My own daughter!” The woman screamed,
“Dead I tell, you!”
“I’m sorry?” I questioned.
There was a slight pause and then a screech erupted from the phone “My daughter Heather! She died just 20 minutes ago at the McKenzie Hospital! My baby!” The screaming quickly turned to crying and the line went dead. My stomach dropped and nothing about that situation felt right. Her words were burned into my mind, but something told me that it was fake and that the phone call didn’t actually happen. I asked one of our reporters Thom to go to Mckenzie to check it out and he complied. I then went home and rested away the night.
After arriving at work next day, I was confronted by Thom who explained to me that the girl was in intensive care after being hit in Martin during the chase, but that she was still alive. At 11pm, we received the obituary request for Heather Beckwith. The strange feeling again began to grow larger; I didn’t quite know what to make of my situation. Strange phone calls still continued, each phone call different, sometimes they’d again be strange conversations about things that were supposedly happening around town, and others were simply strange almost inaudible whispers, but they all shared one thing in common, the strange static noise. What was worse about of this was that they began not just happening at my work, but at my home as well. I began just ignoring the phone calls, but they continued driving me to near insanity. At the time, I lived with my parents and they’d also hear the phone ring, but whenever they picked up the phone it would just be a normal person. I decided that the next day at work I’d attempt to record one of my calls and show it to my co-workers to get a second opinion.
I went out and bought a small coil microphone that I then used to record all of my most recent calls. I came in to work sleep deprived with no intent to be productive. I sat at my large black desk with no source of entertainment, my only motive to record one of the phone calls. For everyone else the day carried on as typical, but for me it inched slowly in my anticipation. Almost all of the calls were normal, I began considering to just start hanging up on those who wanted to report actual news. When I was willing to admit defeat and to agree that I had reached mental insanity, the phone rang, even louder than usual. I waited a good few seconds then slowly picked it up and put it to my ear. The static noise this time was much louder than it had previously had been, so loud in fact I had to take my ear few inches from it. I then hit record and hoped to god that the phone call picked up on my microphone. After the static faded, a deep voice passed through the phone. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but every voice before then had been that of a woman’s. This time it was clear that it was a very enraged man. “That bitch deserved it I tell you! She promised to never cheat! NEVER!” The voice went dead and then the sound of a shotgun echoed throughout the room.
I had almost forgot that I had recorded any of that as I was in shock. I stopped the recording and then considered playing it back. I needed to know if what I was experiencing was real. I slowly hit play on the device, there was a pause, and then static, and then the man’s voice. My heart sunk, I felt somewhat relieved, but at the same time scared and shocked. I went up to my coworker Thom and showed him the recording. He had almost the same reaction that I had. He then suggested that I should possibly show the tape to Mr. Mellsborror, but that he hadn’t been seen for past few days so I should hold on to it. I felt tired, I felt like I could collapse at any moment after that point. I went home and rested all while keeping the recording in a safe place.
I was awakened by my father at 4:00 PM, the next day. I almost slept an entire 18 hours. My father explained to me that there was a tragic accident that had occurred and was all over the news. I sat down on the couch and watched the TV with my full attention. The broadcaster in a strong and authoritative voice announced “We just received word that Mr. Melsborror has just committed suicide, after being wanted for the suspected murder of his wife of twenty years. Mr. Melsborror was known to be a well-respected man owning the local newspaper of Dresden Tennessee.”
I sat there in a mild confusion and then went to my room where I grabbed the recording and gave it to my father. If anyone were to know how to handle this situation it would be him. My father listened to the recording just once to know exactly who it was. He called the police and they confiscated the tape as evidence. They took me down to the station and questioned me, I told them everything I knew, they must have seen me as being psychotic, but they had to let me go with a lack of evidence. That was the last time the Dispatcher was ever open. It has since been bought by a different newspaper company who went on to rename the business, but otherwise kept it the same, they even are still using the same printing devices that we had all those years ago. Our town was never the same after that incident. No one ever mentions the name Melsborror or the Dispatcher anymore, as it gives a reminder to the tragedy that taken place in our small town. I’ve never repeated to anyone my story, only three people to my knowledge have ever heard the recording, and every time I hear my phone ring I get the sudden panic that all I’ll hear is static on the other line.
Credit To – TheContemptInsomniac