17th August 1992
Denton Baines is a currently an electrical engineer, employed by a well-known British manufacturing company. Short but powerfully built, he is jovial fellow, quick with a smile, although one cannot help but perceive that he is probably someone you would not choose to mess with.
Back in the early ‘90s, during the Gulf War, he was a tank crewman for the 1st Armoured Division.
But it is not his military career that concerns us today, rather what he experienced on his return to the United Kingdom.
I have been in contact with Mr Baines for several weeks, and he kindly invites me to his house in Kingston for a spot of tea and to discuss the events that, in his own words, ‘started out weird and just got weirder’.
“The last action I was involved with was actually Operation Norfolk, in Southern Iraq. The ceasefire was called soon after that. I was there for a few more weeks before I got out. I’d been in the army for six years by that point. I’d got my Engineering certificates, so I was done.
“I went back to base at Verden to collect some belongings, then I drove to Hamburg and caught a commercial flight back to London from there. I was going to move back in with my parents in Croydon for a bit, so I could sum up my options.
“The ‘plane was pretty empty, and there was lots of spare seats, including those next to me. About halfway through the journey this pale little guy in an ill-fitting suit plonks himself down to my right.
“I gave him ‘the smile’. You know it, the one you give when you want to acknowledge someone’s presence but you also want them to sod off? Most of the time, it works.
“Sadly, not that time.
“This guy, he starts talking to me, asking me a bunch of personal questions.”
“What kind of questions?” I ask.
“Weird stuff. Like which way I faced when I slept, did I ever sit down to take a whizz, had I ever had terrible dandruff. Stupid things like that.
“He had this notebook that he was writing stuff down in. Which was odd, as I wasn’t even answering his questions, just trying to make him to go away.
“Eventually a stewardess came over and asked him to go back to his seat. I didn’t see him again.
“Then, as I’m leaving Heathrow at the other end, bags in hand, someone else starts badgering me. Another pale little guy, in an equally ill-fitting suit, would you believe. And he starts asking me stupid questions as well.
“I just ignored this guy and got in a taxi.
“And then something even odder happened.
“I hadn’t told my family I was coming home. I wanted it to be a surprise. But when I arrived, they weren’t surprised in the slightest. Apparently I’d phoned a couple of hours before to tell them I was on my way.
“Not only did I not ring them, I was on the plane when they received the call.”
This was just the first in a series of strange calls the Baines household receives after Denton’s return.
Over the course of the next few days the telephone rings no less than a hundred times. When answered, a distant, metallic voice asks to speak to Denton Baines. When Denton takes the call, the voice spouts a series of nonsensical ramblings and bizarre non-sequiturs.
Fortunately, Mr Baines is able to record several of these calls. The following is one example, recorded on the 20th of March 1991.
Denton Baines: Hello?
Voice: May I speak with a Mr Denton Baines, please?
Voice: Denton Baines, of the family Baines?
DB: You know it’s me. Who is this?
Voice: You are destined for great things, Baines. Your waters will run clear for decades.
DB: Why do you keep calling me? What do you want?
Voice: I saw you once out in the sands. The others are just copies, pretending to be you. I saw you out in the sands. Hiding in that metal box on tracks…
[a series of monotone beeps]
Voice: …in the dead of winter, steam will rise from the wounds…
Voice: …when the sun burns out on the lake and you have no more moves left. [laughter]
DB: What’s that even supposed to mean?
Voice: May I speak with a Mr Denton Baines please?
[dial tone as DB hangs up]
The voice speaks rhythmically, pronouncing each syllable with equal length and stress.
A second phone call, recorded on the 21st of March 1991:
Voice: May I speak with a Mr Denton Baines, please?
DB: Speaking. Who is this?
Voice: Alpha. Episilon. Zeta. Lambda. Kappa. Twenty clicks until goodbye-time. All your ducks in a row.
DB: What is that supposed to mean? What do you want?
Voice: Goodbye, Commander Baines.
[dial tone as the Voice hangs up]
It is worth noting that Mr Baines has never held any kind of officer rank, let alone ‘Commander’.
Mr Baines’ father contacts the phone company and asks them to check the line and trace the source of these nuisance calls.
The phone company does as requested. According to them, there is nothing wrong with the Baines’ connection. According to them, each phone call is being made from an entirely different location to the one before. Some of these locations are over a hundred miles apart.
The household also begins to receive a different type of phone call, chiefly from the proprietors of local businesses such as takeaway restaurants and taxi firms.
They all have the same request: ‘Please stop contacting us, Mr Baines, or we’ll go to the police’.
Apparently these businesses have themselves been receiving numerous nuisance calls, and when Denton Baines asks them who they have spoken to, they all give him the same answer.
In the past few days, the phone has only been used to dial out to the phone company.
It is possible that it all this was simply an elaborate hoax. But how could these hoaxers co-ordinate a series of mass prank calls made from phones all across the country, and also impersonate Mr Baines’ voice accurately enough to fool his own family? And more importantly, to what end?
I put forward the theory that some unknown agency was having a great deal of fun at the expense of Mr Baines and his family. Indeed, these events appear to be a modern update of classic poltergeist behaviour, with garbled and nonsensical telephone calls replacing moving objects and notes written by an unknown hand.
However, this does not explain the appearance of the pale-skinned men on the aeroplane and at the airport, nor their puzzling behaviour.
The phone calls to the Baines’ household end a week after they begin, almost to the hour.
However, the final call is different to the others. It consists of a series of rapid squeaks and high-pitched babbling sounds.
This call is also recorded and I send the tape to an associate of mine who specialises in sound manipulation and analysis.
The tape is returned to me a few days later, along with a note that simply reads ‘very funny, Thomas’.
Perplexed, I follow this note up the next day. Apparently the tape I sent to my colleague consisted of nothing more than the sped-up audio track of an old episode of Scooby Doo.
If there is a great celestial prankster, it seems that he or she has learnt how to use the telephone.
Dr Thomas Gotobed