As a police officer, I’ve seen some shit. Some outrageous, some hilarious, some disgusting. Those are the three categories (besides not being noteworthy at all) that I would group calls in. Every now and again, though, we’ll get a call for something I can only describe as “unbelievable”. I’m going to share what I would consider to be the most outlandish, strangest call I’ve ever been a part of.
I was on the tail end of my break when a call came through for a break-in just a few blocks from where I was. The neighborhood this alleged break-in was happening in was one that’s populated with a lot of somewhat dilapidated, albeit very large houses. At one point, this neighborhood was upper class. Now, sadly, the properties weren’t worth all that much, and many of them were abandoned. The ones that were still occupied were inhabited by elderly people that have lived in them since before the neighborhood went to shit. The 9-1-1 call had come from the landline of an elderly woman I’ll call…I don’t know…OH!…in the spirit of the break-in, I’ll call her, ”Robin”.
Robin had called the dispatcher and reported that her front door had been opened and closed, and that she could hear walking on the floor below her. Her husband had passed years prior and she now lived alone, so obviously this wasn’t a normal thing. Robin stayed on the phone with the dispatcher the entire time, and confirmed when I got there that she was still hearing someone walking around on the ground floor. She informed them that she was going to hide and then hung up the phone.
I had arrived at the same time as another pair of cars in the area, one of which had two officers, and so we sent one of them around to the back of the house and kept one stationed at the front while me and the last officer went through the front door. With our guns drawn, we quietly opened the front door and crept in. While I began walking around the ground floor clearing rooms, the officer that had gone through the front with me immediately went up the staircase in front of the door to clear that floor and make contact with the caller..
I skulked around the ground floor listening for any sign of anyone, but when I cleared the first room I needed to make it known, so I called out that I had. This was going to make the element of surprise nonexistent, but it’s protocol. I cleared the living room and entered the dining room, still not having heard anything. I cleared the dining room and moved to the kitchen, which too was empty. I looked out the window and motioned to the officer in the back as if to ask “anything?”, to which he replied in the negative. I noticed then that I hadn’t heard the officer who’d gone upstairs verbally signify that she’d cleared any rooms. Expecting the worst, I called out for her and ran through the house to the stairs.
I ascended the stairs and when I got to the hallway at the top, the officer was walking back towards me. At the same time we asked each other why the other hadn’t verbally called out the clearings of rooms, which we both said we had. I then asked if she made contact with the caller, and she said she hadn’t. Confident the officers positioned at the front and back of the house would catch anyone trying to escape during our absence from the ground floor, I told the officer to help me search the top floor again. We checked each room one by one, first the room in its entirety then the closets of each room. We made it to the back of the hallway and hadn’t found her, so we turned around to go look downstairs.
We once again searched the entire ground floor, not finding anyone, but when we got to the kitchen, there was a door that I swore hadn’t been there when I cleared the kitchen the first time. Nonetheless, I opened it, and it led to the basement, but it wasn’t normal. I could only see down maybe three steps before darkness completely overtook everything else. I got a strange, overwhelming feeling when I looked into the abyss, it was so purely dark and empty that I felt unadulterated fear. The officer I was clearing the house with was a rookie, and in what I think was an effort to impress a veteran officer, took it upon herself to clear the basement.
When Robin had said she was going to hide, she had mentioned that she’d only heard one door open and close, her front door. She said she knew every sound her house made after living there for 60+ years, and that she was sure the suspect was still on the first floor. The rookie officer clicked on her flashlight and shined it down the stairs, but the darkness stemmed to suck the light away. She descended the creaking stairs into the enveloping black and not long after reaching the basement floor, I heard her yell out a distinct “clear!”. I expected her to come back up immediately, but there were about five seconds where I didn’t hear anything at all.
I then heard the stairs begin creaking in my direction, and sort of half got my gun ready in case whoever came out of the darkness wasn’t the officer. Indeed it was the officer, but it was like I was looking at a completely different person. All of the color had drained from her face and her eyes were welled up with tears. Her previously confident posture was now stiff and worrisome. I asked her what was wrong and she didn’t respond, so I asked her if the basement was indeed clear, and she shakily shook her head in confirmation. After asking her again what was wrong, she simply rushed out the front of the house.
Now confident that the suspect wasn’t still in the house, and that Robin had simply had a good enough hiding spot from having lived there so long, I called out for her. I heard her voice call out ”Hello? Who’s there?” to which I responded by identifying myself as police. When I walked upstairs, I found Robin in the first room on the right, in bed, like she’d been there the entire time. Not only that, but she acted like she had no idea what was going on. She claimed that she hadn’t called the police, and that she didn’t even have a telephone.
Nonetheless, I informed her that we’d received a call, and that we’d cleared the ground floor, the floor she was on, and the basement, and that she had nothing to worry about. Her response to this sent a chill down my spine.
”This house doesn’t have a basement.”
At this point, though, I was convinced that this woman more than likely had some kind of dementia, and was more concerned with the fact that she still lived alone. After confirming that the woman was safe and all that, I headed back downstairs to leave. To satisfy my own curiosity, I walked through the dining room back to the kitchen, where I was undoubtedly more confused than I’ve ever been. The door to the “basement” was indeed there, but it didn’t lead to the basement at all. It was a pantry. It was lined with shelves of canned and boxed foods, all of which was perfectly visible in the moonlight coming through the windows.
No stairs, no overwhelming darkness.
I went outside and reconvened with the other officers. The partner of the officer that had gone through house with me asked “what the fuck had happened”, and I replied that in all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure. I went to check on the female officer but she just sat in the passenger’s seat of their squad car whispering to herself over and over.
”Not supposed to be there. Not supposed to see it. Not supposed to be there. Not supposed to see it.”
I was told that they returned to the station after that call where she promptly resigned.
I have no idea what happened that night, and had more questions than I did when I got there. I don’t know who had called. I don’t know where Robin had been when the top floor was cleared not once, but twice. I don’t know how the female officer descended stairs to a basement in a house where a basement doesn’t exist. I don’t know I had missed the door on my first walk through of the house. None of it makes any sense.
I’ve lost a lot of sleep thinking about that night.