Arrrgghhhh and groan–This is another of those stories that I cannot trace back to its ultimate source, but, as a fan of writer Daniel Cohen’s books of true supernatural stories, I’ll take his word for it. Cohen takes this account of a very strange telephone call from one written in 1955 by none other than the great film director Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock told it in a 1955 magazine article called “My Five Greatest Mysteries”; Cohen summarizes the story in his 1988 book Phone Call from a Ghost: Strange Tales from Modern America.
Arnie Gandy, a twenty-year-old New Yorker, was just a boy who wanted to see the big wide world, and to that end, he signed onto a cruise ship as a “mess boy”–I reckon that means he worked in the kitchen–to sail around the world. When he reached San Francisco, in January of 1934, he wrote a letter to his parents, in which he said cheerfully that all was well and he was going ashore and would call them before he shipped out again.
One night, his parents’ phone rang, back in New York. The call came from San Francisco, all right, but the voice that began talking when Mrs. Gandy answered at 3:00 AM EST (dead on midnight in San Francisco) wasn’t Arnie’s; it was a rather hoarse gruff older man’s voice, with a very odd message.
The kid is here and for God’s sake forgive him and give him another chance. What I said about him in my letter is all true. He’s a fine kid. (Cohen, page 17)
Mrs. Gandy, startled, asked “Who’s this?” but the caller refused to give a name. She then asked “Are you sure you don’t have a wrong number?” The caller insisted that he had the right one, and repeated the number–which impressed Mrs. Gandy because their number was unlisted.
“Where’s Arnie?” she asked next.
Your son is in a hospital in San Francisco. He’s in bad shape. But never mind. He’s on his way home now. (Cohen, page 18)
Then, Mrs. Gandy later reported, she heard laughter and other voices in the background, and then, finally and eerily, Arnie’s voice, weak and distant.
I’m helpless. Here I lie propped up on pillows. I can’t move.
But the phone went dead. Mrs. Gandy called the operator, who assured her that yes, the call had come from San Francisco. Her husband, awake and also worried, called the police, but they were never able to trace the call back to its source.
In any case, the Gandys got horrible news the next morning, from police in San Francisco. Arnie Gandy had been found dead.
But he wasn’t in a hospital, the police said. His body had been pulled out of San Francisco Bay’s chilly waters. He had, their medical examiner (or 1934 equivalent) estimated, been dead at least two days.
The ship had docked six days before the odd phone call, and Arnie, it was reported, had written a letter to his parents, then gone ashore. He took none of his personal effects with him, which suggests that he had planned to return to the ship in a very short time.
None of his shipmates ever saw him again. What happened between that day and the discovery of his body floating in the bay six days later has, according to Hitchcock, never been determined.
Arnie Gandy had apparently drowned, but whether by suicide, accident, or murder, was never determined, either.
The letter the mysterious caller–who was, of course, never identified–had mentioned writing, in which he said what I said. . .about the kid is all true, never arrived at the Gandys’ home.
Hitchcock attested to the truth of this strange story, according to Cohen.
Not only that, Hitchcock added, but he could never have used it in one of his movies. It was too unbelievable.
Which reminds me of a quip from Mark Twain–
Of course truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
Which, in my estimation, the story of Arnie Gandy affirmatively does not.
But it’s told for true. . . (^_^)