The wind howled outside the old brick museum. It was fall and nearly midnight. Jason Peterson the auxiliary night watchman was patrolling the grounds alone. In fact, he would patrol the museum alone for the next three nights. The curator and the board of directors felt that they would temporarily close the museum for three days while the state finished some important roadwork. No one could visit the museum once the road crew closed the roads anyway.
Mark Hamilton and Bob Biggs, the regular security guards, decided it was a good time to take vacations as well. Therefore, the curator asked Jason if he would like to pick up some hours. The young guard enthusiastically agreed to work. He only ever picked up shifts if Mark or Biggs was sick or the museum had a special event planned.
Jason reasoned this would be a great time for him to catch up on his studies. He had spent half the semester partying instead of studying for his college classes. If he wanted to graduate in the spring, he had better start cracking open the books. There would be no distractions at the museum, neither could he expect to have one of his friends call him and convince him to paint the town red. In fact, Jason left his cell phone at home just so no one could reach him.
Before they left for the weekend, Mark and Biggs ran Jason through the museum grounds. There were new exhibits that Jason needed to be familiar with as well as a few changes in the museum's layout. The two regular security guards always walked Jason over the grounds before he started his shifts.
"So kid, you have your cell phone?" Mark asked. The guard was only ten years older than Jason, but he always made Jason feel like the gap was much greater.
"Naw, I left it at home," Jason replied. "I can't afford to be distracted."
"Smart," Biggs added. Bob Biggs was in his fifties; he had been with the museum for over twenty years and could remember nearly every exhibit that ever came through. He also placed more trust in things older. These "new fangled gizmos nowadays," a category in which he placed cell phones, were not to be trusted.
"These here are some records for the record player there on display," Biggs pointed out in a History of Rock and Roll exhibit. "I don't have to remind you not to play with them.
"Man, these take me back," Biggs reminisced. "We used to have 45s and LPs..."
"LPs meant Long Playing," Mark stated. "A record is what you would call a noncompact disc. You know like a big CD."
"I know what a record is," Jason replied dryly. "Sometimes I think you are older than Biggs. What's a CD?"
Biggs busted out laughing, "That's a good one."
Mark even joined in. He and Biggs loved to play jokes on Jason and when the youth could throw one back they loved it more.
The three men continued through the museum. Occasionally they would stop so that Mark and Biggs could point something of importance out to Jason. They nearly completed their rounds when they stopped at one last exhibit. The display read ‘Technology of Communication' and behind a sign that read ‘Please do not touch', a quill and pen laid next to a telegraph then next an old phone with a crank generator, followed by a rotary dial phone and then a touch-tone and finally a cell phone.
"I bet Biggs has a telegraph at home," Jason ribbed the older security guard laughing. Neither man joined in the laughter. This made Jason stopped rather uncomfortably.
"Uh, sorry," Jason replied. "I guess I crossed a line somewhere."
"It's not you kid," Mark said. He pointed to the black rotary dial phone. "It's that."
"I know what a rotary dial telephone is. Just because I never used one..." Jason began to say.
"Some say that phone is linked," Biggs said in a serious voice.
"What you mean it is connect to the phone line?" Jason asked.
"No linked to the dead," Mark finished.
Jason began to laugh again, "Very funny I almost bought that one."
When neither security guard joined in Jason abruptly stopped again. "What? No way," Jason stammered. "There are no such things as haunted phones."
"I don't know about that," Biggs answered. "What I do know is that Mr. Feldon died while on that phone."
"People die on the phones all the time," Jason countered. "It doesn't mean they are now haunting their phones. I think you guys have been here too long."
"Mr. Feldon isn't haunting the phone. It's Mrs. Feldon," Biggs said flatly.
Jason momentarily looked from one guard to the other. Neither one cracked a smile. They all liked to joke around, but Jason had never seen the two men so serious before.
"Mrs. Feldon is haunting the phone?" Jason asked incredulously.
"That's the story," Biggs said before taking in a big breath. "It is said that Mr. Feldon never liked the way his wife would constantly talk on the phone.
"She would constantly talk, talk, and talk. For years, it seemed that Mrs. Feldon was attached to the phone. At first, Mr. Feldon felt neglected by his wife. Then he started to feel jealous.
"This went on day after day and year after year. Finally, one day Mrs. Feldon was found dead. She had died while on the phone."
Biggs stopped for a while to let this sink in. Mark picked up the story where Biggs left off.
"Yeah, some even say that Mr. Feldon killed his wife. However, there was not enough evidence to charge him with anything."
"Didn't the person on the other end mention something to the police?" Jason asked.
"The police were never able to find out to whom Mrs. Feldon was speaking," Biggs replied.
"Anyway," Biggs continued. "It was one year to the day of Mrs. Feldon's death that they found Mr. Feldon dead. His body was lying next to the phone."
"They say Mrs. Feldon called him." Mark added. "It is also said that if the phone rings and you answer it you better not hang it up or you too will die."
"Right," Jason said trying not to sound like he believed it. "How do they know that you are not supposed to hang it up? Did some leave a message on the refrigerator?"
"Laugh if you want," Biggs said in a matter of fact voice. "But it was Mr. Feldon's niece who answered the phone one day and she would not leave it. When her husband returned from work, he saw her shaking scared to death holding the phone.
"He asked her who she was speaking too, and she replied Auntie Feldon. The husband knew that her aunt was dead so figured it was some sort of cruel joke. He tried to take the phone away from her but his wife fought him off crying that if she hung up she would die.
"With renewed anger, the husband tore the phone out of his wife's hand and listened to the receiver. Indeed, he could hear someone speaking on the other end that sounded a lot like Mrs. Feldon. He couldn't make out exactly what she was saying over his sobbing wife's cries. But, he claimed she said something about death and revenge.
"Figuring it for a cruel joke, the husband yelled into the phone that the caller was sick and that if she ever called again to bother his wife he would call the police. Then he slammed the phone into the cradle and no sooner did he finish than his wife gave a blood-curdling cry and fell dead to the floor."
"How did the museum get the phone?" Jason shot back trying to poke holes in the story.
"You know old man Murphy the curator never looks a gift horse in the mouth," Mark added. "The family wanted to destroy the death phone, as they called it, but he convinced them that he wanted it. He promised that no one would ever use it at the museum.
"The death phone was an attractive exhibit for a number of years. But slowly the story faded from people's memories and the board of directors wanted the museum to be less sensational and more pragmatic."
Jason faked a yawn, "Yeah, that was a great story. It could have used more demons and ghosts, but still I would have enjoyed it more around a campfire."
"Just trying to warn you..." Biggs started to say before Mark slapped his shoulder.
"Come on. The kid doesn't believe us and our vacay is starting," Mark said leading Biggs to the door.
"See ya in a few days," Biggs shouted over his shoulder as the two security guards left the museum. "Whatever you do don't answer that phone!"
Jason waved goodbye with a smirk on his face as Mark locked up the door. That was several hours ago and now it was midnight. Jason had made several circuits around the museum checking doors and exhibits. It was the same old routine. The doors were secure and everything was in its place.
There was not another body in the museum except the old mummy the curator acquired years ago. Jason returned to his desk and started to read one of his textbooks. No sooner than when he opened it, he heard a ring.
Jason looked at the phone on the desk. None of the lights was flashing and in fact, the ring did not sound right.
Jason cocked his ear. The rings were coming down the hall towards the communication exhibit.
"No way," Jason thought. He was sitting next to the only working phone in the museum outside the curator's office.
Jason nervously stood up. It was possible that there was a new phone. Maybe Biggs and Mark forgot to mention it. He strolled down the hall towards the source of the ring.
Jason stood in front of the communication exhibit. The black rotary dial phone vibrated with the ringing. Jason started to reach out for it, but quickly pulled his hand back. Maybe it was a trick and the caller would hang up.
Maybe it was Mark trying to scare him. Jason frowned, if it was Mark or Biggs and he did not answer it they would laugh at him for months. Tentatively Jason picked up the receiver. Then he bolstered his strength and put it to his ear.
"Very funny you guys..." Jason started to say.
"Do not hang up the phone," a frail female voice crackled and wavered on the other end. "If you do you will die."
Mark met Biggs outside the museum three days later in the parking lot. The older security guard was locking his car when Mark joined him.
"How'd you think the kid did?" Mark asked.
"Oh, fine I'm sure," Biggs replied. "He's always performed well in the past."
"So did you call him?" Mark asked.
"I thought you were going to call him," Biggs said.
"Oh, yeah. I called him first, but did you call him later?"
"You mean I was supposed to let him in on the joke?" Biggs said anxiously.
"You didn't tell him?" Mark asked. "Oh God, the poor kid!"
The two men hurried across the lot and quickly opened the door. As they entered the main entrance, they noticed that Jason was not at the front desk. They then hurried down the hall towards the communications exhibit.
Mark and Biggs saw Jason standing with his back to them. He was still in his uniform holding the phone to his ear. The way he stood there unmoving and pale unnerved the two guards. They could see his hair had turned white.
The quickly ran towards Jason.
"Oh man," Mark said. "It was a joke."
Biggs snatched the hand unit out of Jason's hand and stopped cold.
"I didn't know you guys cared so much," Jason said behind them.
Mark and Biggs looked at Jason now in his regular clothes and back at the mannequin dressed in Jason's uniform that had been holding the phone.
"Kid," Mark said smiling. "You have style."