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Metaphysics & Psychology

The mystery of the phantom phone calls

The mystery of the phantom phone calls 1

It was after lunch on a Saturday in June 1960 and Mrs Fox was alone in her fourth-floor apartment on the outskirts of the Canadian city of Toronto. She had half-expected her mother to call from a nearby suburb — a normal occurrence at weekends —  and she was totally unprepared for the astonishing incident she claimed was to follow. Later 35-year-old Mrs Fox was to explain to researchers what happened next. “I picked up the phone and nearly fainted when I heard the voice. It was my daughter Peggy. I have no doubt about that.”

She said: ‘Hello mum. Can you hear me? Don’t be sad … I am so happy.’ Then the line went dead. I just stood there unable to move with shock. Which was hardly surprising. For she was claiming to have heard the voice of her  daughter — and Peggy Fox had died six months earlier. Peggy, a cheery mischievous girl of 12, had been struck down with a mysterious virus in the winter of 1959 and despite the best hospital care Canada could offer, had died two weeks later with her parents
at her bedside.

Although naturally shattered by the death of her only child, Mrs Fox, a part-time legal secretary, had tried hard to gather together her shattered life and by the summer of 1960 seemed on the way to succeeding. She and her husband had talked about the possibility of adopting a child and then suddenly all the grief that surrounded Peggy’s death came flooding back. When her husband returned an hour later he found his wife weeping uncontrollably. When she explained what had happened, Paul Fox said it must be a heartless hoax. He contacted the telephone company to find if there was any record of the call so that it could be traced. There wasn’t.

Two days later it happened again. This time Paul was in the room when his wife answered and snatched the phone in time to hear a voice say: “This is Peggy, mum. Don’t cry…” Then once more the line went dead. Shocked though he was, Paul Fox still had the presence of mind to contact the phone company and once again he was told that there was no record of any call either on the trunk call system or the automatic dialling mechanism.

Later, Paul Fox would declare: “I would swear that it was the voice of my daughter — I would stake my life on that. At the same time, common sense dictates that it couldn’t possibly be her. I was there when her coffin was lowered into the grave.”

During the following week, Mrs Fox received another phantom phone call in which the voice said: “Give my love to Moggy.” That was apparently Peggy’s pet name for her maternal grandfather and one that only her mother knew she had used. Mrs Fox later told researchers: “No one would know that but my daughter. The things she said and her tone of voice were identical to Peggy’s. She even had the funny way of pronouncing the ‘th’ sound that Peggy had. I just refuse to believe that it was someone impersonating my daughter.

What would be the point of that? What could anyone possibly get out of it? Not surprisingly the case got national publicity and finally caught the attention of Dr John Craggs, a psychologist at Chicago University and one of America’s leading psychical researchers, who investigated the case and later included it in a book. He came to the conclusion: “I am certain that Mr and Mrs Fox are telling the truth about the calls.

There is absolutely no reason why they should make up such a story and subject themselves to what is undoubtedly genuine distress.” With the family’s agreement he attached a tape-recording device to the phone, triggered to operate when the phone rang. On August 3, 1960 the phone rang and was answered by Peggy’s mother. The device began to record and the resulting tape was later lodged in the archives of the American Society for Psychical Research. A published transcript of the conversation reads in part: A girl’s voice: “Mum is that you. I love you. Give my love to daddy, too. I am very happy. Please don’t cry like you did last time. Mrs Fox: “Peggy, darling, is that really you?” Girl’s voice: “You mustn’t be upset. I will try to…” At this point the phone went dead. Dr Craggs later wrote: “The tape was played to several of Peggy Fox’s friends. They all said they were certain it was her voice. So did her grandparents and her school teacher.” Just what is the answer to the apparent phone calls from the dead?

One theory is that outside influences can manipulate electrical impulses on the phone. It sounds a far-fetched solution. But in the strange case of Peggy Fox, no one has yet come up with a better one.

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