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A Tale of Two Phantom Whistlers

Darcie spends her free time going down research rabbit holes and occasionally writing down what she finds.

Imagine you're all alone. It's near midnight and pitch black outside. Suddenly, you hear an eerie whistle. It sounds like it's coming from nearby, but there doesn't appear to be anyone around. Creepy, right?

For the people in the stories below, this was reality.


Wolf Whistles

It was the year 1950 in Paradis, Louisiana, and 18-year-old Jacqueline Cadow was being stalked by a mysterious person wolf whistling outside of the house that she shared with her mother. This went on for some time, with the women hearing the whistling at night but never seeing the person who was making the noise. Once, their house was broken into, and this was assumed to also be the work of the whistler.

This situation was already creepy, to say the least, but after Jacqueline announced her engagement to a state trooper named Herbert Belsom, it escalated in a sinister way.

The wolf whistles turned into a funeral dirge.


The Harassment Escalates

In an article the September 20, 1950 issue of the Madera Tribune titled "Phantom Whistler Fills Nights With Terror For Bride to Be," it was written, "Jacqueline had been trying to escape the night-roaming whistler since she first heard his mournful notes outside her home in Paradis, La., last February. As the last strains of the funeral march faded, she said, her tormentor uttered a blood-curdling moan."

Understandably, the Cadow family was growing increasingly concerned for Jacqueline's safety, especially as the harassment escalated to threatening phone calls. In one call, the voice of a man told Mrs. Cadow that if Jacqueline married Herbert, he would "stick a knife in her." According to the Madera Tribune, the caller continued: "Your daughter will never marry Herbert. I'm going to kill her."

Other newspapers eventually began to take notice of all this, and once when a reporter was at the Cadow residence, they, along with Jacqueline, Mrs. Cadow, and Jacqueline's aunt, heard the whistler. Jacqueline would suffer a nervous breakdown afterward.

According to the Madera Tribune, "Only once did anyone catch sight of him. That was the night Mrs. Cadow ran to the window in time to see a stocky man with matted hair fleeing across the moonlit lawn."

Both the state police and the sheriff's office were unable to find anything that could lead to the whistler's identification, despite searching the yard and conducting "further investigations" that go unspecified in news reports of the time.

Jacqueline went to stay with Herbert Belsom's parents for a time, but that didn't stop the whistler from harassing Mrs. Cadow. She reported that after Jacqueline's move she received a phone call from a man who said, "Tell Jackie I know she's at Herbert's house."

Eventually, Jacqueline and Herbert were married, and despite fears that there would be an attack on their wedding day, nothing of note seems to have occurred. The harassment mysteriously stopped after this point.

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The Whistler's Identity

Although the local sheriff initially told reporters that he believed this whole thing to be a hoax, it was later announced that the whistler had been caught. However, no names were released to the public, and there did not seem to be any charges filed in relation to the incidents. According to a newspaper report at the time, the sheriff "refused to disclose the final chapter of the mystery, explaining that he did not wish to 'embarrass' the persons involved."

Given that this case is decades old and the sheriff did not outright name the "persons involved" speculation has persisted, with some theorists suggesting it might even have been ghosts who haunted the Cadow home.

However, the most likely explanation, especially given the sheriff's insistence that this was an "inside job" and his wish to not cause embarrassment to the perpetrator, is that the sheriff's office ultimately concluded that the entire affair was a bid for attention put on by the family.

It's a rather unsatisfactory end, to be sure, made all the more frustrating by the fact that no one outside of those involved will ever know why this all happened in the first place.


The AskReddit Post

It started with a thread on AskReddit titled "[Serious]What is the creepiest thing that has ever ACTUALLY happened to you?" Amongst the other stories was one by user bingbong1234, who claimed that when they were eight years old and living in Lansing, Michigan, they were out late with their mother and walking their dog when they heard a strange whistling.

According to bingbong1234, "It sounded sort of like a bird, but each whistle was different enough where the lack of consistency made it human-like."

Due to their mother's unusual reaction, the poster became frightened. They wrote, "My mom had a concerned, slightly terrified look on her face and grabbed my hand and said that we should go inside quickly." They would encounter the noise again during another late-night dog walk two years later.

The memories of these bizarre encounters faded, and the next time bingbong1234 heard the noise, they were 24 years old and living in South Dakota with their girlfriend. While watching a Fourth of July fireworks show by the Missouri River, the poster was temporarily left alone when their girlfriend went to the car to get more beer. It was during this time when the poster "saw a figure steering a canoe about 20m off shore."

This figure in the canoe was noteworthy for two reasons. The first was that police had already cleared this area of the river. The second was more frightening.

According to bingbong1234, as they stared at the figure, "they whistled at me. My entire body was frozen and covered in goosebumps. It was the exact same whistler from my childhood, more than a decade earlier." They were able to capture video of the figure, but by this point the canoe was nearly out of sight.

Some time later, bingbong1234 updated, saying that they had asked their mother about the original incident, but that she didn't remember anything.

Another Encounter

This post generated quite a bit of attention, and so naturally some other users added stories of their own similar experiences. One of these posts was on r/Thetruthishere, which describes itself as "A database for personal encounters with the unknown. We archive non-fiction stories dealing with spirits, paranormal, strange happenings, and unexplained sightings."

A user going by atclubsilencio claimed they heard the whistling late at night, some time around 10 or 11, putting this encounter at roughly the same time as in bingbong1234's original post. They were watching a movie with their mother and "for some reason or another, The Whistler popped into my head. Then I remembered the actual whistler with it's [sic] inexplicably chilling distinct tone."

Both atclubsilencio and their mother heard the whistles, loud enough that it sounded as if the sound was coming from right next to a nearby open window.

Photo By María Auxiliadora Ramírez Prato

Photo By María Auxiliadora Ramírez Prato

Possible Explanations

Unsurprisingly, multiple Reddit users popped in with explanations for both of these posts. One commenter going by Gaashura compared the original story with of El Silbón, a Venezuelan legend translating to "The Whistler."

Gaashura explained that according to this legend, a man's wife was killed by his father, and so the man killed his father in revenge. The poster continued: "After this event, his grandfather had him tied to a pole in the middle of a field and whipped him, had his wounds cleaned with 'aguardiente' [drinking alcohol] and released him with two rabid and hungry dogs but before release he cursed him to carry his father's bones for the rest of eternity." Gaashura also included this ominous detail: "It's said that when the whistling is heard closely there's no danger, because he is really far, but when the whistling sounds far he is really close. It's also said that the whistling announces the death of those who hear it."

This is not the only version of the El Silbón legend, though in this case it's not particularly relevant, as there is a much more likely explanation: a bird called the black-capped chickadee.

The black-capped chickadee sometimes has an inconsistent-sounding call matching what the original poster described, and even seems to somewhat match with the whistling on the video. Some commenters suggested that the person in the canoe might have been a bird watcher imitating bird calls – though why this person might have decided to look for birds while on a river that had been cleared of boats during a fireworks show is still a mystery.

This bird call explanation would also account for why other commenters claimed to have similar experiences. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to suggest that these people had all heard the same bird.

Though one of these stories may have been a hoax and the other might have just been a bird, it undoubtedly would still be incredibly unsettling to hear a whistling in the middle of the night and not immediately have an explanation for it.

If this happens to you, hopefully it is merely the call of the black-capped chickadee and not something more ominous.

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