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Voices in the Fan

John Lilis
Flickr Creative Commons

It’s common for people hear things that go bump in the night. But have you ever heard country and western music coming from an inanimate object? Community Voices producer Renee Wilde shares her close encounter of another kind, along with an interesting way to use a potato.

Okay, true story: I used to lie in bed at night trying to fall asleep. On warm nights the windows would be open, and sometimes I could hear the faint strains of country music. The sound was low and muffled, just on the verge of being loud enough to recognize, and then there were other times when I could hear a low voice talking. The result was that I would lay in bed at nights driving myself crazy trying to make out the words to the songs or understand what the voice was saying. Many nights I would go to the window and try to figure out where these annoying sounds were coming from, but I never heard anything other than the typical night sounds of the little marsh behind our house. One night I swear I went to that window thirty times.

This went on and off for a few weeks before I realized that those sounds weren’t coming from outside the house. These voices appeared to be coming from the fan.

The moment I figured this out, my first impulse was to run downstairs, grab my husband and make him listen to the fan. This thought was immediately followed by the realization that if he didn’t hear them, there was a pretty good chance that those voices may very well be in my head and not in my fan.

So after many sleepless nights laying in bed listening to the voices, I worked up a theory; I figured the fan was transmitting a signal from a local radio station, obviously country and western, and the reason that it didn’t happen every night, or even every week, was that there needed to be a significant amount of moisture in the air in order to conduct the radio waves.

Now this sounded totally plausible to me, and yet, I continued to keep the talking fan to myself, just on the off chance that I might be more crackpot than scientific genius. Then one day I’m listening to Car Talk on the radio. The caller is telling a folkloric story about how his dad had lost the antenna off his car during a long trip and a mechanic told him to stick a potato on the broken stub:

“Don’t ask me how it works or why it works, except for the fact that the potato somehow conducts electricity and what your antenna is picking up is the electromagnetic radiation that comes out of the antenna of the radio station.”

Immediately, this potato story somehow legitimizes my theory on the voices coming out of my fan and I’m thinking something similar to this potato/antenna thing is what’s happening with my cheap box fan.

Armed with this new scientific potato evidence, I finally get brave enough to tell some one about my talking fan. I go to my better half and I lay the whole story out. When I get through with the potato/antenna, he looks over at me and says he heard it too.

One day at work I relayed this all to my co-worker Steve, and before I could even ramp up to the great potato/antenna theory, Steve’s typing into his I-phone. He turns it around to face me and he says two words, “auditory hallucination”. Apparently if you type the words “hearing voices from a fan” into your favorite search engine, you come up with lots of people having similar experiences to mine.

But I’m not buying the auditory hallucination theory, Steve, and here’s why: I first started hearing the voices at our old house. Since then, we have moved across the state and into another old farmhouse that doesn’t have air-conditioning. I brought that fan with me, and I put it into the bedroom window of the new house. Immediately started playing country music at night and talking to me in that low murmuring voice, and my husband hears it too. So we can’t both be having the exact same hallucination, can we?

Renee Wilde was part of the 2013 Community Voices class, allowing her to combine a passion for storytelling and love of public radio. She started out as a volunteer at the radio station, creating the weekly WYSO Community Calendar and co-producing Women’s Voices from the Dayton Correctional Institution - winner of the 2017 PRINDI award for best long-form documentary. She also had the top two highest ranked stories on the WYSO website in one year with Why So Curious features. Renee produced WYSO’s series County Lines which takes listeners down back roads and into small towns throughout southwestern Ohio, and created Agraria’s Grounded Hope podcast exploring the past, present and future of agriculture in Ohio through a regenerative lens. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Harvest Public Media and Indiana Public Radio.