Strangers In The House

On Tuesday evening, August 24, 2004, I left my wife and three young children (ages four, three, and sixteen months) at home for a couple of hours to go to a Lodge meeting. About an hour after I left, Jen put the kids to bed and sat down at the kitchen table to eat a bowl of ice cream and work a crossword puzzle.

After a few minutes, she heard a sound coming from the general direction of the utility room, which is adjacent to our dining room, but she guessed that our Boston Terrier might have been sleeping in there and making dog sounds. When she heard the noise again, she got up to check it out. Just as she stepped into the utility room and looked at the sleeping dog, she heard a voice coming up from the basement stairs that open into that room:

“Don’t mind me – I’m just hanging around.”

Jen screamed, ran into the kitchen, grabbed her cell phone (in case the intruder had cut the phone lines), dashed into the nursery, grabbed our sleeping baby, sprinted into the room of our two older kids, slammed and locked the door, and called the police.

In a state of near panic, she told the operator that there was someone in the house, and to please send a policeman quickly. The operator kept her on the phone to make sure that she and the children were still safe, and in almost no time four cars had arrived from the Norfolk Police Division. After a quick sweep around the house with guns drawn and a police dog in tow, the operator told Jen that the yard was clear, and asked her to open the door for the policemen to come inside.

When she did, four officers dashed into the house with guns drawn, and quickly went through every room in the ground floor while Jen ran back into the kids’ bedroom to try to calm them down. Then, they moved toward the basement.

After a few minutes, a policeman told Jen that he thought they’d found the problem, and asked her to come with them. As they started down the basement stairs, he asked if we had some weird kind of video game. Jen said that she didn’t think so, but wasn’t sure why he was asking. As they rounded a corner and entered the back of the basement where we have our entertainment center, she saw him – the “intruder”. Our babysitter had left our DVD player turned on, and the kids had been watching Disney’s “Snow White”. Now, when you insert a DVD, it will often play a little video loop until you decide whether to watch the movie, turn on subtitles, or listen to it in French. In this case, that video loop happened to be the witch’s Magic Mirror hanging on the wall and saying such clever things as, you guessed it:

“Don’t mind me – I’m just hanging around.”

That’s right. My wife had been terrified out of her skull and called the police on a minor character in a Walt Disney movie. Now, let me clearly state that I don’t blame my wife for a bit of what happened. If I had been home by myself, and I heard a voice coming from my dark basement (especially a voice specifically meant to scare kids), I might’ve done the same thing. Fortunately, the police seemed to have a good sense of humor about the whole situation, and were very kind and reassuring to Jen. I really appreciate their quick response, bravery in the face of the unknown, and ability not to laugh until they were back in their cars.