Horrifying screaming next door
July 21, 2009 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Neighbor teen middle-of-night horror screaming! I don't know what to think.

A bizarre thing happened last night, and it has my family spooked and confused.

We live in a relatively quiet suburban neighborhood, houses on 1/3 acre type place. Last night at 1:30am we were awakened by a horrible female screaming. It sounded like horror movie screaming, and very, very loud. At first I thought someone was being murdered, or a home had been broken into. Thinking about calling 911 as I went to the window. Then I could hear it was coming from the house behind us - where there's a teen girl. I could hear the parents trying to calm her - somewhat sternly, but not shouting. Then she shifted into a sort of loud wailing despair, and at one point said something like "why won't you let me go...". This went on for maybe 3-4 minutes.

I was still thinking of calling 911. I didn't think anyone was being hurt or in physical danger, but certainly emotional trauma. But as it subsided, I merely sat there with my adrenaline pumping. My wife and daughter awake too. By that point, I was not sure what I'd tell 911, and did not know the address over there, so did not call. I sorta hoped a neighbor would. Didn't happen.

Fortunately, my 10 year old daughter was sleepy and didn't really register too much of it, and was able to go back to sleep. My wife and I were up most of the night.

I should note we heard this girl wailing in a similar fashion during the daytime once. And I should emphasize that this girl was truly screaming... not I'm mad-at-mom-and-dad screaming, but all out emotional torment screaming. We have never met these neighbors or her.

So now we feel stunned by this event. Questions running through our minds...

Is there some kind of disorder that would cause such extreme screaming in a teen girl?

Is there such a thing as a teen temper tantrum?

Some sort of waking nightmare?

Should we call 911 if it happens again?

Anyone ever heard of something like this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there some kind of disorder that would cause such extreme screaming in a teen girl?

Yes. Being a teen girl.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:04 AM on July 21, 2009 [20 favorites]

Sounds like she was just being melodramatic. Teen girls do that. Probably was trying to sneak out for a party or something, and got caught and grounded.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2009

Yes, you should have called 911. There are such things as teen temper tantrums and mental illnesses that might be the explanation, but abuse is another possible explanation.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whatever the situation is, it sounds like her parents are dealing with it. Don't call 911 if you have no evidence of an emergency. It could be any number of physical or mental illnesses, but unless you have evidence she's being abused, it's really not your business.

I can see how being woken up by it would suck though- not really sure what to do about that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2009

Teen girls do that.

Uh, I was a teen girl. A pretty emotional one, too. And I NEVER did that. I'd have called the police. Maybe not 911, but the regular police department number.
posted by peep at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2009 [9 favorites]

Sounds like she was just being melodramatic

Or perhaps received some traumatic news. Or maybe a spider crawled in her mouth while she was asleep and she woke up and freaked out. Really, there are a lot of possibilities, including some that would warrant calling 911. However , since you have no way to know what happened, there's not a lot for you to do here. Figure out what the house address is so if it happens again you can call it in while it is happening.
posted by mikepop at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Anything could be happening. Absent clear signs of abuse or immediate distress there's nothing you can realistically do without potentially causing more trouble.

Maybe the girl is mentally disturbed and her parents are having to restrain her. Maybe she has just experienced some sort of recent shock that has left her traumatized and unable to self-control. Maybe her boyfriend just got into a car accident and she wanted to go to the hospital even though they wouldn't let her in that late. Maybe she just wanted to go out partying with her friends and because she couldn't she tried the old "I'm going to kill myself because you don't love me" business. Maybe lots of stuff.

You just don't know. It would truly suck to discover that something awful was happening, but without some pretty straightforward evidence you Just Don't Know.
posted by Aquaman at 10:11 AM on July 21, 2009

A police response may be exactly what is in order and for at least two reasons:

1. If it was just teen drama screaming, the screamer needs to understand how such screams can be misinterpreted and lead to some real drama.

2. If it was more than drama screaming, well, then, a police response is likely the exact response necessary.
posted by bz at 10:11 AM on July 21, 2009 [41 favorites]

Night terrors? I've known two different people who suffered from this, and "horror movie screaming" and "all out emotional torment screaming" are good descriptions for what it sounded like. Ditto the 3-4 minute time-frame.
posted by Eumachia L F at 10:12 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, much as I find comments like "just being melodramatic" and "Being a teen girl" really demeaning towards both women and young people, do remember that our minds can blow scary noises out of proportion in the night. Like when you're camping and hear a "bear" outside the tent that turns out to be a squirrel or a bird.

It could be that "why won't you let me go..." was just referring to some party or something she wanted to go to.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:13 AM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think since you heard, "Why won't you let me go," it's safe to assume that there was no real problem except that she wanted to go somewhere and her parents wouldn't let her. Which is not a 911 issue.

If she had some other problem (say, mental or physical, something other than teenager-itis), her parents were there and surely would have taken her to a hospital.
posted by Houstonian at 10:15 AM on July 21, 2009

Is there such a thing as a teen temper tantrum?
Yes, and it can last for quite a while, from years 13 through 18.

I've heard screaming and door-slamming from my teen neighbor. And I remember screaming as a teen at my parents. Though probably not as loud as in your example, but maybe we weren't as angsty or rule bound.
posted by That takes balls. at 10:16 AM on July 21, 2009

Go over and ask them what's up the kid screaming. Their response to that should determine whether you call the police in the future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on July 21, 2009 [11 favorites]

Could be night horrors. Could be a tantrum. Could be abuse. No way to know, though: systematic abuse usually manages to be systematic because it does *not* produce a lot of public evidence (threats and/or hands or pillows silence the victim, for example). On the other hand, ten years after the event, I ran into a neighbor who lived two floors above my father in their apartment building, and he commented (jovially!) about how loud it was when he was "arguing" with one of us. He REMEMBERED WHO I WAS because of this... but never made a call.
On the other hand, a call would probably have caused more problems... sadly, in abusive situations the child is always the problem, and if the police get called then it's the kid's "fault" for being loud, or "drawing attention to themselves" by being depressed, etc.

All that depressing stuff said, the fact that it happened in daylight also, and "why won't you let me go" does sound tantrumish, albeit holy-cow-this-girl-needs-a-therapist tantrumish. Could you possibly approach her at some point, mention you heard the screaming and ask if she's okay?
posted by Billegible at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2009

Seconding night terrors.
posted by hermitosis at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2009

If it happened in my neighborhood, I'd call 911--if only because someone's screaming (loud dog, you talk to the neighbor; screaming person... not so much) woke me up in the middle of the night, I have no idea what danger the person is (or poses to others), and I am not personally equipped to address the situation myself.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:25 AM on July 21, 2009

Is there some kind of disorder that would cause such extreme screaming in a teen girl?

Autism, PDD, and various developmental disorders etc, can all lead to screaming temper tantrums, especially when you throw puberty into the mix.

Still, next time it happens, especially with a "why won't you let me go," I'd call the police. A disinterested third party needs to knock on the door and just ask what's going on.

This is precisely why we have police. Could be nothing. Could be abuse. Could be an otherwise normal kid in a normal house just screaming bloody murder because she wants the attention. You don't know.

I recall seeing a screaming teenage girl get dragged out of a mall parking lot by her parents and thrown into the back of a car. All of her friends were screaming at the parents, about how it was wrong and unfair. They booked out of there before any police could have arrived. But I recall thinking at the time, I have no clue whether these were the worst parents in the world, or the best parents in the world doing exactly what needed to be done.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, much as I find comments like "just being melodramatic" and "Being a teen girl" really demeaning towards both women and young people, do remember that our minds can blow scary noises out of proportion in the night.

I don't know, the 3-4 minutes of horror-movie-style screaming doesn't match up with most of the arguments I've overheard between normal teenagers and adults, even taking into account it being at night. Usually those have a lot more yelling of swear words and whatnot rather than extended random screaming. That doesn't necessarily mean that calling the cops would have been a good idea, but it definitely doesn't seem like a normal situation to me.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Interesting this post comes in the wake of the Harvard story and peoples comments about not knowing their neighbors.

Were it I, I'd stroll over tonight and ring on the doorbell and (while wearing a big smile), say something like "Hey, just wanted to come say hey---you gave us a little start last night". Just to let them know that you heard, but that you're not being nosy, and that you were concerned but also that you heard mom and dad taking control so you were comforted.

You can even address it as "thought maybe you might be a little embarassed to talk about it, so I thought I'd let you know that even though we were a little spooked at first, we could hear you taking care of it and we don't want you to feel alienated" or something.

Don't say that, it sounds bad, but...just to let 'em know.
posted by TomMelee at 10:35 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

YES, go over and ask them yourself. Tell them that you heard their daughter's blood-curdling scream last night and it woke up your entire house, and come to think of it, you've heard her scream before too, and you were concerned about their family and want to see if there's something you can do to help if that situation happens again, etc. The parents' reaction should give you some more information at that point.

I disagree VERY MUCH that this is a "normal teen girl thing to do" (and that assumption strikes me as stereotypical to an extreme--it is NOT a thing that very many teen girls do, and should not be treated as a "no danger" situation because the likelihood that something serious or dangerous is occurring is high--but it also may not be your business or place to do anything about it, depending on what that is). Even if the parents explained it that way once asked about it, I would personally still be very cautious. It'd be easy to pretend like that's what it is, and rely on the willingness of others to believe it, which we can even already see is true from your having asked this question.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

My point being that if you're met with a response like "MY bitch daughter was fcking the paper boy again and I had to teach her a lesson", then you know to call the police. You might get a "yea, she's got these horrible night terrors, I'm so sorry she woke you up."

My moral is this: don't call cops on your neighbors if you don't really think you need to. I mean, err on the side of caution if you're just freaked out, but talk to them too.
posted by TomMelee at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2009

Crystal meth?
posted by mattbucher at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2009

The police should be able to do a welfare check if you'd like to avoid any maybe/maybe not an emergency melodrama. They can't say who called. When in doubt about the safety/well being of kids, generally something should be done. Good parents should have nothing to fear from police, unless maybe they're undocumented or have trauma histories or something.
posted by ShadePlant at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm having a hard time seeing the downside of calling the police. Sure, if you have the gumption, walking over there and talking to the folks may be the best solution, but barring that, why not call 911? If it's nothing, it's nothing, no harm. If it's something, well then, good thing you called.

Maybe my lack of hesitation is because I live in a fairly crime-ridden neighborhood--I find myself calling 911 at least once a month, about the prowler in the alley or the domestic disturbance across the street or my asshole neighbor being especially asshole-ish, but I don't really see the big deal in letting the police take a look.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ask the parents? You are neighbors and its always a good idea to know who they are. Just come out and say you heard screaming and wanted to know what's up and that you are very concerned.
posted by JJ86 at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Reminded me of this bit from an article on the Flaming Lips (posted somewhere on metafilter, I think) about a teen on the tour bus that woke everyone up with his nightmare screaming:
Oh, shit, is right. Because this is some serious-ass screaming. This is some blood-curdling, hair-raising shit. This is the kind of screaming that's so scary, your skin hears it before you do, and when you do hear it . . . well, Michael Ivins, the band's bassist, wakes up thinking that some deranged fan has jimmied his way into the bus and is going at someone with a knife, just hacking away. Miss Saigon, the young woman who sells the band's T-shirts, wakes up thinking that someone is being burned alive. Someone else thinks: an animal. This is the sound a human being makes when his flesh is being torn by a wild beast . . . because, see, it's that kind of screaming. It's the screaming of primal human fear. It's the voice of all human dread. It's the terrible howling song of a man who has feared something all his life and who has now lived to see what he has feared transpire before his eyes, without any ability to stop it. But someone has to stop it--someone from the Flaming Lips has to stop . . . the screaming. . . .
So it sounds possible that it could well have been a nightmare. I would imagine the parents would understand if you were to ask them what was up.
posted by funkiwan at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Unless it sounded like violence, this is really none of your business. Which is tough, because you can hear it and it's unsettling. But be a good neighbor and ignore it unless you hear people yelling back violently.

Why I say this:

I was, for about three years, the next-door neighbor of a great family with three kids. The oldest and youngest were mentally unstable in some clinical fashion and prone to fits of rage. The oldest, who was a girl of high school age, resided in some sort of facility (school, institution-- it was never explained to me obviously) and was there only on weekends.

Several times over the course of living there I was awakened by a young person next door throwing a HUGE fit late at night. If I had seen fit to call the cops and they showed up, the parents would have been aghast at the confirmation that their neighbors heard the commotion. They would have been doubly aghast at the notion that a neighbor thought that it was a two-sided confrontation.

It was probably a teen being a self-centered, melodramatic jerk. It might have been a teen having a legitimate, uncontrollable mental episode. You make it implicit in your description that you don't think it was actual violence, so you should be a supportive neighbor and pretend that it never happened.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:19 AM on July 21, 2009

I've been told more than once, by EMTs, firefighters, and police officers, that you should never hesitate to call 911. They'll decide what to do with the information you give them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:21 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Did they cancel her World of Warcraft account?

More seriously, though, I think that the other responders in this thread have nailed it. What you most likely heard was a teenage temper tantrum or a nightmare.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:27 AM on July 21, 2009

You never go wrong with calling 911 when you hear someone screaming like that. Make that a fail safe.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:39 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Prep to call the police next time. Walk around and note the address on the neighbor's house. Keep it on the fridge.
posted by lorrer at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think next time, call the police. If you're wrong, it's understandable. If you're right, but didn't call, you'll never forgive yourself.
posted by scunning at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm not saying you shouldn't be (or make) friends with your neighbors, but as far as this particular incident goes I'm voting for MYOB. The parents were there and were handling the situation. If it rises to the level of "domestic disturbance," then make the call, but it doesn't sound like that was the case here.
posted by rhizome at 12:02 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with everyone that even if she was being dramatic, a visit from the cops will stop that from happening again.

I used to wait until everyone was out of the house when I was having a really tough time in school, then when I was alone, I'd scream bloody murder to get all the angst out. Twice I remember walking out into the street and throwing glasses and shattering them. I'm thinking if the neighbors had ever called 911, I'd have died of embarrassment and stopped doing that.

In retrospect, I'm horrified I ever acted this way, but it's healthier than cutting or other means of venting pain/frustration/grief. Whether it's abuse or bullshit, call the cops and the neighbors will work out what happens next.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:02 PM on July 21, 2009

I used to get might terrors as a young child (6-8 yrs). It took a solid 15 minutes for my parents to wake me from fits that they say would be about as you described. I would even run through the house asleep screaming and slam into door frames etc.

This could be that.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2009

As a neighbor who heard things from the next house over, you don't have the information to know what happened. But I, personally, would feel it my basic duty as a human being to put in a call to someone who can actually be proactive and see what the problem is, like the authorities. For everyone's safety

Emphasis mine, obviously.

You don't have the information to know what happened, and it's most likely nothing, but you assume the worst anyway? And try to get the cops to someone's house? Erring on the side of caution in this case is much more likely to make the situation feel even worse than it already does for the parents. Imagine this situation:

Your teen daughter has either just got done being a huge brat or, even worse, having a mental episode. Things are still tense. Then at 2 AM, police officers pull up, knock on your door and question you. Then they ask to speak to your daughter, who's still riled up.

Most likely best case scenario: Your sense of unease that was slowly dissipating is suddenly magnified by five for having to deal with cops. Then you have to deal with the embarrassment of knowing that not only did your neighbors definitely hear your daughter flip out, they think you might be the type to beat her. And then your daughter, who was calming, gets her emotions reset to high by being questioned by the police.

Calling the cops in a scenario where you have no strong suspicions makes you the grumpy old lady on the block that everyone hates, and with good reason.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2009

Night Terrors. Even my three-year-old daughter has these, and not only does she scream at the top of her lungs (as you describe) but she also repeats random sentences (something like "why won't you let me go" would be completely typical.)
posted by davejay at 12:10 PM on July 21, 2009

I'm reminded of the Karen Gregory murder, where many neighbors reported after the fact, while being interviewed after Karen's body was found, that they'd heard a scream during the night. Some thought it was a cat in heat meowing, some thought it was a family argument, etc. Not one person called 911. My opinion is that it's better to err on the side of caution and call the police if you hears horror-movie-type screams coming from a neighboring home. If it's just a domestic dispute or unruly teen, well, a report will be made and perhaps the family will be embarrassed a bit. But suppose an attack of some sort was occurring, and no one did anything about it?
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2009

I am in my thirties and I have very frequent night terrors. I had one just the other night, when a friend was visiting. It took about five minutes to calm me down, apparently, but during that time I was screaming my head off and thrashing around with crazy eyes. When I got back to sleep I would jolt awake every few minutes due to some crazy hallucination. I'd be mortified if the cops showed up, because the more likely explanation would be that my friend had abused me-- I have all sorts of bruises by nature.

I don't know what to tell you to do, but even adults get night terrors. BTW, I have no first-hand memory of that incident, or the others. I just know what people tell me later.
posted by vincele at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2009

I want to suggest that you ask the neighbors. You don't have to be nosy about it, just something like, "Hi, I know we haven't met before, which is a shame, etc. etc... Btw, we heard some screaming the other night, is everything ok? We thought it might be an emergency or something."

I don't see why it would be a problem to try to find out -- you live next door to them, and frightening behavior is certainly your business, as long as you're not too pushy about it.
posted by diocletian at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2009

Abused kids are rarely the bloodcurdling shriekers, as far as I know. If you could hear calm and stern responses rather than similar screaming in return it's probably an argument. Keeping an ear on it is good, but kneejerk calling the cops the first time you hear something could actually hurt the situation. Going over and asking them what's up isn't likely to bring you any definitive answers and might make you an enemy but it won't hurt the family even if you're being unreasonably nosy.

People who are saying it couldn't hurt to call the cops aren't considering all the possible outcomes of inserting possibly untrained or idiotic authorities into whatever the situation might have been. Some of those outcomes are both not-unlikely and terrifying, like the kid being arrested for drug-use or the parents being erroneously charged with abuse. Under these circumstances I would prefer to give the benefit of the doubt to the parents rather than police.

(Finally if you never really lost it on your parents as a teenager freaking out and screaming over nothing because hormones were zapping your brains anarchically I accuse you of being a robot.)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:56 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another vote for night terrors. I once shared a hospital room with someone who had night terrors. During one incident, she woke me up and the next thing I knew, I was running down the hall screaming myself (for help from the nurses). That's how scary they can be to witness.
posted by scratch at 1:11 PM on July 21, 2009

the suggestions that this is a case of a teenage girl being a teenage girl are unusually ignorant. no matter how hysterical you feel teenage girls may be, they don't typically scream like this. i was an angsty, rebellious teenager prone to yelling myself, but i didn't tormentedly scream. i shouted and swore and cried loudly. no matter how over-excited they are, people don't normally wail tormentedly, not even young women.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:27 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

People who are saying it couldn't hurt to call the cops aren't considering all the possible outcomes of inserting possibly untrained or idiotic authorities

I hate this kind of reasoning, but I recognize that it has a lot to do with individual towns and backgrounds.

The quiet suburb I grew up in had and has a generally polite, well-trained police department with officers we all recognized from their biking around town. If the OP's neighborhood is anything like mine was, I wouldn't hesitate to call 911, explain the situation and ask if someone could check it out. In my quiet suburban experience, this is not a big deal ("Neighbors heard screaming, everything ok?"). It's possible I grew up in Mayberry without realizing it, but I really don't think "untrained" or "idiotic" is the norm for suburban police.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:12 PM on July 21, 2009

I'm the neighborhood watch coordinator in a neighborhood that sounds similar to yours, and the local police are always telling me to emphasize to everyone in the area that they should call 911 even if it only might be an emergency.

Better safe than sorry... and it makes the neighbors feel safer when they see that the police will respond when called.
posted by Pufferish at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2009

It's not your job to decide whether or not something is "worthy" of a police call-out. The POLICE will make that decision based on their professional judgement and the information they have. But it is your duty to report if you suspect something criminal or dangerous might be taking place. Next time, make the call.
posted by wayward vagabond at 2:58 PM on July 21, 2009

I would have called the police. "Ask the parents" is, frankly, pretty horrible advice in my opinion-if the girl really is being abused, the parents are going to lie about it. I also think that the people who are saying that the phrase "Why won't you let me go" accompanied by wails at 2 in the morning probably refer to some kind of party that the girl isn't allowed to go to are faulty- maybe it's just my background, but I would have assumed that the girl was being held down by her parents. Potomac Avenue said "Abused kids are rarely the bloodcurdling shriekers, as far as I know. "...this is woefully inaccurate in my experience. As far as *I* know, kids that are not constantly abused (but when they are, it is often by surprise and incredibly violent) are often bloodcurdling shriekers.

Find out the address. Next time you hear this, call the police- DON'T get involved yourself. If the girl is really being abused, letting her parents know that other people are aware of the abuse could be disasterous for her and lead to even more abuse.
posted by kro at 3:42 PM on July 21, 2009

People who are down on other posters for having "stereotypical" views of teen girls have never met my sister. While not stereotypical, she was autistic and didn't get along well with my father, and found that if she started screaming horrible, bloody murder, and things like "DAD DON'T HIT ME!!" when he wasn't doing anything would get the neighbors to come over, which would stop the punishment/lecture/forced room cleaning for the time being, at least.

If I was a neighbor, I would have called the cops, hearing the things she said and the way she screamed. I wish someone had; my father would have been able to clearly explain himself and my sister might've had the fear of the fuzz put in her.

But anyway, she grew out of it and is pretty much fine now. Next time, call the non-emergency police line - perhaps they've gotten calls before, perhaps something's really happening, who knows? You'll feel bad if it was a teen tantrum, but you'll feel REALLY bad if something worse was going on.
posted by m_lazarus at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2009

Well, I know my neighbors really well, so if I hear the 5-year-old screaming from inside my house, I might open the door and yell "are you okay?" They've never gotten mad at me for doing this.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:45 PM on July 21, 2009

do remember that our minds can blow scary noises out of proportion in the night. Like when you're camping and hear a "bear" outside the tent that turns out to be a squirrel or a bird.

Don't want to overshare here, but one time we were out camping and in the middle of the night suddenly were awoken by strange horrible breathing noises from like three feet away and more or less directly over our pup tent.

Of course in a flash every possibility went through my head from "Ol' Fred" the supposed escaped murderer who was said to haunt the mountains to maybe a (very large, very drunk) college kid, or a stray cow or bull--or, of course, a bear.

Well, it turned out to be a cow moose, complete with newborn calf.

Don't know if it's true, but some say moose, especially a cow with a newborn calf, are actually more dangerous than bears. At any rate, moose stompings--causing severe injury or death--aren't all that rare, and everyone who lives in moose territory is frequently warned to keep well away from a cow moose & calf if you value your life.

And this cow moose was quite literally right over us. Like its one hoof and leg was impinging into the side of and underneath our (very small) tent as it reached its head over the tent to rip out the grass growing along another side of the tent out of the ground and wolf it down.

And this went on for a l-o-n-g time--the heavy breathing, stamping right alongside and around the tent, pulling up grass right underneath the tent (or is that trying claw its way into the tent?), chewing noisily right above our heads, etc.

And that means like 10 minutes of absolute terror trying to figure out what sort of huge, horrible, asthmatic beast was shuffling, very curiously and methodically, around, alongside, under, and over our tent. I could tell right away it was something well north of 500 pounds just from its breathing--and the list of 500+ pound creatures that roam the mountains at 3 AM is fairly short but really not that pleasant to contemplate.

And then a further 10 or 15 minutes realizing that you are now lying UNDER AN 800 POUND MOOSE complete with razor-sharp hooves and a bad temper. And with nothing better to do than just wait for it to eat all the grass from under the tent and go away. Or step one foot over and accidentally crush a few of your various body parts. Or startle and trample the hell out of you on its way out of dodge--whichever.

Anyway I'm not sure what to tell you to do about your situation, but it is well worth bearing in mind, that most of the time, a few strange sounds in the night are more or less exaggerated by your hyperactive imagination.

But SOMETIMES IT REALLY IS A MOOSE! and it pays well to consider that possibility along with the other, more mundane ones.

Because, believe me, the one time it really was a moose outweighs all the rest by far . . .
posted by flug at 10:18 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

I have worked with students who have various mental health disorders, as well as students who have Autism or other disabilities that effect cognitive development. I have experienced instances like this in the classroom setting, and it's quite possible that the young lady you heard screaming may have a disability of some sort. However, I would call the police, as having them check it out seems like a good idea, just to be sure it's nothing. As a note, sometimes kids with these disabilities are able to inflict quite a bit of harm on other people, parents included, or can self harm. Having someone step in to make sure that everyone is okay is probably wise.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 10:48 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's quite likely that the police will be calm and kind, and maybe even refer the family to some help. Lots of cops are parents, and most departments train on domestic issues. So call, and just describe the situation.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on July 22, 2009

Just to qualify my answer a bit, I think the stereotyping of teenage girls is beyond insulting and I do think calling the police is in order in these situations.

However, as someone prone to night terrors, if the police came to my house when a male guest had been around for the night terror episode, the police would place the guy under suspicion. I dread the day I have to explain to the police that the blood curdling shrieks were night terrors, not due to drug use or domestic violence.

That said, it is a good thing that police respond the way they do to domestic calls. In my area it is a result of domestic violence protocols. I know about the protocols because I volunteered to implement them. But for the guys visiting when night terrors hit, it's a huge worry for them.

So, I think you should introduce yourselves and mention that you heard some loud noises. Bring a plate of cookies or something simple, and give them your phone number and tell them that they or their kids should feel free to call at any hour if they ever need anything.

Perhaps they will volunteer the details of what happened, maybe not. Regardless, you will show yourself to be a friendly neighbor. (This advice applies to the Midwest, South, and Southwest areas I know. However, I could see this advice receiving a cool reception in the Mid-Atlantic and New England, where I've lived more recently.)
posted by vincele at 12:03 AM on July 24, 2009

When I was a teenager, I used to scream in my sleep extensively. I would have dreams, but they wouldn't be scary. But I would wake up out of them into something scary, not knowing it was another dream. Because I would be in my bed, always. So I would yell, but I wouldn't just be yelling in the dream. And then I would wake up for real and still be yelling. That sucked ass.

I was not a teenage girl.
posted by happysurge at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2009

« Older Radical lefty sightseeing in The Bay Area?   |   Sexual relations problem. A little NSFW but not... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.