Years ago, I read a "true story" about a man who receives a strange phone call from his brother, then later finds that the brother was surely dead at the time. Do you recognize it? Can you tell me anything about its origins?
I don't remember which book I read it in, but I remember the type
of book exactly: library paperback from the early seventies, much battered, black and white photos, stories of hauntings and lost airmen and premonitions of death and freakish coincidences and cursed automobiles, et cetera. All of it True!
, of course.
The story I have in mind is of a pretty familiar type, The Phone Call From a Ghost, but I've never seen its elements arranged in quite this way since. Here it is, as best as I can remember it after fifteen years:
Robert N____, of Philadelphia, PA, was relaxing in his den one April evening when the phone rang.
"Mr. N____?" said the voice on the other end. He did not recognize it: a man's voice, hoarse and amused. There seemed to be a swirl of conversation in the background, like the man was calling from a cocktail party.
"Mr. N____?" the man said. "Mr. N____, I've got Charlie here."
Charlie was Robert's younger brother. Robert had not seen or heard from him in six months. Not since Charlie had departed for parts south to seek his fortune.
"Charlie?" said Robert. "Is he alright?"
"I've got him right here," said the man. "I'll put him on for you."
There was the crinkling sound of the phone being passed around. The other voices got louder for a moment. Robert could hear them laugh quietly, as though at the build-up of a joke.
"Robert," said Charlie. He sounded faint, and there was a groan in his voice.
"Where are you, Charlie?" said Robert. "Are you O.K.?"
"They got me here," said Charlie. "I'm hurt pretty bad."
"What's going on? What happened?"
Charlie groaned again. All the voices were laughing now.
Suddenly the line went dead.
Robert called the police, who pulled the phone company records. The call seemed to have come from San Francisco. The Philadelphia police duly forwarded inquiries to their West Coast counterparts.
Two weeks after the call, a man's body was pulled from the San Francisco harbor. In its pocket was Charlie's wallet, with Charlie's license in it. The body answered to Charlie's general description, although a positive identification could never be made owing to the poor condition of the face. The coroner estimated that the man had drowned at last four weeks before...
Said famous director Alfred Hitchcock of the case: "I'd make a movie about it, if I could only begin to explain it!"
I may not have all the details correct (particularly the cities and the time spans), but I believe I have the general events in the right order. I particularly remember the parts about the laughter and the Hitchcock quip.
I read this story, as I said, back in the middle nineties, in a book from the early seventies. I have never encountered a single mention of the case since.
Does the story this ring a bell? Was this possibly a relation or an embellishment of actual events? I'd be much obliged for the provenance.