Most of us will only ever talk to 911 Operators on the worst day of our lives. They listen to our stories of death, pain, and crime all the while staying professional and calm. The job entails the ability to work under stressful situations, listening to the very worst aspects of life but when the shift ends what happens then? Who do they tell their stories to?
A group of 911 operators shared their unforgettable scariest phone calls. Here’s a selection of the most disturbing tales they had to tell.
1. “I Need Your Help”
“There was an old couple who lived on a run-down ranch house about 20 miles east of town. When the husband passed away, the woman would call 911 Operators at least three times a week, asking for assistance with very mundane tasks not normally dealt with by first responders. “I need help turning the thermostat up”, “I need help boiling water for my tea”, etc.
The woman developed dementia, and eventually, it progressed to the point where she believed she was calling 911 to ask her deceased husband for help. All of the dispatchers would recognize the address immediately, even though all she could say was “(husband’s name), I need help. Please come home and help me”
One day she called, and again was only able to repeat her husband’s (I’ll call him “John”) name. “John, I need help. Please come home and help me, John.” By the time the first responders arrived on the scene, they found the woman lying dead in her bed. The first unit on the scene called dispatch to confirm that it was the woman herself who had called 911, as rigor Morris had already set in. We wrote it off as the fact that the heater in her house wasn’t working, and the ambient temperature in the room was about 50 degrees.
We continued to receive 911 calls from that woman, at that address for just over a year after she passed away. Even after her home was vandalized, and burned to the ground, the phone calls did not stop. “John, I need your help. John, please come home and help me.” We were obligated to send a response each and every time, but not once did we find anyone on or near the property.
Multiple calls to the phone company confirmed that the phone line had been disconnected, and the call was not coming from another address.”
2. Glass Breaking
“1979 NYC. Got a call from a crying child – a little boy – saying his mom and dad were fighting and his dad said he was going to throw the mom out of the window. I could hear a terrible fight going on in the background – a woman screaming, things breaking, a man yelling, etc. The poor kid didn’t know his address. We didn’t have the technology for call ID and would have to use reverse telephone books. A trace would take forever. Anyway, while I’m trying to get the address I hear a horrific scream and glass breaking. A few seconds later the other operators in the room are getting calls about a woman lying in the courtyard who came out of a window. Very sad.
Worst of all is that I am sure someone else in this apartment building must have heard this fight but no one called for help until it was too late. Poor kid. Working 911 Operators in NYC during the 70s/80s was a nightmare.”
3. Alone in the House
“The single worst call I’ve ever taken though was a woman who was calling in that she was hearing weird noises in her house. While walking through her house she started screaming and told me there was someone in her house. There we a couple of soft pops followed by a gurgling sound. After the officers had cleared the house and found her, it finally came out during the investigation that her adult son had killed her while high and freaking out.
Gunshots don’t sound like you’d think on the phone, they’re rather soft. It’s an eerie sound, something so violent being so soft that if you aren’t paying attention you can miss it.”
4. Static on the Line
“My uncle works for dispatch in my town and he recently told my family of the weirdest call he’s ever gotten. He says that he had received a call from a landline one night and when he answered it there was only static on the other end. This happened two more times. Finally, he calls a squad to go check out the address from the caller ID. When the cops got there and walked into the house they immediately saw that there was a dead body. The person had been dead for 5 months.
The craziest part about it was that there was no electricity or any other utility working. So there is no way they should have been able to get those calls into dispatch. But if they hadn’t, who knows how long that person’s body would have stayed there.”
5. Mom had fallen down the stairs and wouldn’t wake up.
When I was still working full time for the Fire Dept, I often took shifts working the medical part of the 911 Operators center.
Back in 2006, when flip phones were still the most common, pinning down a location was not very easy. We were still using primitive cell phone location technology which didn’t help as it only gave us a general area of miles instead of feet.
A young girl called in using her mom’s flip phone and she told me that her mom had fallen down the stairs and wouldn’t wake up. After several questions, I figured out the mother wasn’t breathing and this was the scariest part of the call because the girl couldn’t give us an address and when someone stops breathing the second’s count?
As much as I tried, I couldn’t get the little girl to tell me her address. All she could tell me was she lived on a farm which wasn’t helpful at all because a huge portion of my district is rural farmlands.
While talking to the young girl, I asked her how long ago her mom fell down the stairs. she told me that she fell down just after a TV show she was watching started.
I looked at the clock and it was just the top of the hour so piecing it together I surmised she had been down at least 30 minutes.
I asked the young girl to focus and try and tell me where she lives. I asked her if she knew the street name and she said she didn’t. I asked her if she could tell me any landmarks and that’s when she told me that the church she goes to is just down the street.
At this time, my supervisor and the police chief are looking at a map and they located 12 churches within the rural areas.
Since she couldn’t tell us which church, we decided to dispatch all of our units giving each of them a specific target.
Once they got to the target we instructed each unit to turn on their lights and sirens and drive around the area. With only one Fire Station with Two Ambulances and Several Fire Rescue Vehicles and 4 Police Officers to cover a huge area
We dispatched them to cover around the churches as the farmsteads were sometimes miles apart from each other.
Hearing our calls over the radio, several sheriff deputies and highway patrol troopers decided to join in and help. We are now almost 15 minutes into the call.
We told the young girl to take the phone and go outside and listen for the police cars and fire trucks. It seemed like forever, but she eventually heard the sirens from one of the vehicles but couldn’t see it.
We told each responder to stop and turn off their sirens and then, one by one, we had them turn them back on so we could tell which one was the closest to her.
It turned out to be one of the fire rigs so we sent everybody to their position and they then spread out to cover the general area. All with their sirens on again. Eventually, one of the State Troopers pulled onto her street and the girl could see him coming.
We pinned down the location as he got closer and the sirens got louder until she told us he was in front of her house.
This time the Trooper got inside the house the mother was breathing and trying to get her bearings and get up.
We got medical on scene and she was transported to the hospital with a broken back. The young girl was given a little reward from the police dept for her bravery in the call as she kept calm and did everything we told her to do.
The mother made a full recovery with no brain damage, Doctors don’t know if she did indeed stop breathing but only for a short time or if the girl didn’t understand the question and thought sleeping meant not breathing or something.
This call is a reminder, why we don’t stress enough to teach your kids your first and last names, their phone number and phone number of their parents, and most importantly, their home address and If there is a landline phone in the house to use that to call 911 Operators. Overusing a cell phone as the landline phone will give us an exact address. While cell phones are scariest while a lot better now can sometimes only give us a location of several hundred yards.