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Valley of Shadows

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Valley of Shadows

A lie told a thousand times does not make it the truth. Fact or fiction part 1


While researching this column—which began life a number of years ago as a book of area ghost stories and unusual phenomena—some questionable reports have also surfaced. Some are rumors, some are folklore, some may be real and some are... probably made up, though not by me. Some are fairly recent while some go back years. A couple appear to be reporting stories that I have already related on this page, only from a different perspective, such as my Careywood encounter of a year or so ago. 

I do not vouch for the veracity of these accounts and will point out what is likely wrong with them due to, possibly, having very few details.


Early twentieth century phone numbers, especially in rural areas like North Idaho, were something like SP947 or whatever and required a third party, an operator, to make the connection. In the old movies or period pieces set in cities, you often see a character picking up a phone and saying, “Connect me with Underwood 235” or something similar.

This brings up a fourth-party account that someone within the last decade, an acquaintance of a friend of a relative of the person I talked to (yes, not very reliable, but I did warn you) supposedly received a phone call with only an eerie sound coming through the small speaker of their cell phone. Over the next few days, the person reportedly received several more calls of the same nature. Finally, they thought to hit *69. The first time, the recording came back that the last call was either out of the area or marked private and could not be handled by the service. On the third try, however, the recording stated: “The last call came to you from...” and then there was an unusually long pause until a different female voice said, “Sandpoint 947.” 

No more crank calls came to the person’s cell and they forgot about it until relaying it to the person I heard it from. Now, while I cannot vouch for this number (don’t call me), these types of numbers, from what I’ve gathered, were used in the period of time from pre-World War I to the late ‘20s, when some direct dial began appearing in the ‘30s.

Editor’s note: one reason to question this story is simply that *69 is not a service available on a cell phone.

Ghost Whisperers and the Northern Lights

For a number of years, one ghost hunter’s research tool has been an old-fashioned tape or cassette recorder. Perhaps more recently there is more modern equipment used in a graveyard to allegedly record the voices of spirits if left running on or near a grave.

A pair of former... friends, for lack of a better term, were out watching the Northern Lights one summer night in August of ‘98 when they decided to go up to Pinecrest Cemetery for a better view, where the lights of town wouldn’t wash out the natural spectacle. The other suggested that while they were there, why not try recording the voices of ghosts as he had heard on the late night radio program, “Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell.”

Arriving about 9 pm, they started their battery-powered cassette deck, placed it on one of the older graves, and then stood leaning against their car for an hour watching the Northern Lights until the tape ran out. Playing the tape once they got home, they claimed they could make out phrases such as, “Where am I?”, “Help me,” and the like. A week later, one of them played it for me, but mostly what I heard was the sound of the breeze hissing, with what did sound like faint, scratchy voices heard from several rooms away, but I was unable to make out words. Knowing these characters, concocted is most likely what it was.

I have healthy skepticism and believe what I heard was for my benefit. As for others claiming recordings such as these are valid, they are too easily manufactured and, in my mind, of no use in exploring the other side, if one exists.

The Strange Car

Finally, straight out of an old “Andy Griffith” episode, a tale of a likely paranoid Sandpoint in the 1950s during the Cold War that hit its peak this decade and spawned a number of psychological phenomena. The fear of nuclear war triggered an interest in UFOs, ghost rocket sightings in northern Europe and movies of the period such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Like the old “Andy Griffith” episode, where a shoe salesman, a stranger in town, morphed into anything from a Russian agent to a being from another dimension, something like that happened here in town, according to an old acquaintance of my family. Though in this case, no person was seen.

My parents, who married in the early ‘50s, were preoccupied with their new marriage, after which my brother and I came along over the next several years and they paid no attention to this matter.

I heard the story in my mid-teens, and do not put it out of the realm of possibility. But while entertaining, it is likely a tall tale.

The highlights are that in 1954, a black Lincoln drove through town. While not unheard of, this was unusual in that the windows were heavily tinted so that you could only see the silhouette of occupant(s) with something light-colored behind them. Another odd feature was that while the vehicle criss-crossed town any number of times, it never stopped, at least not in daylight. It was as if whomever was driving was surveilling the area.

The car was seen only one day, but over the following week or so, some store owners allegedly reported that there were signs of break-ins. The odd thing, though, is that nothing was stolen.

My neighbor couldn’t tell me if anyone had checked the car’s plates, but my guess is that it was a tourist just interested in the town, possibly as a place to live, and they were merely getting the lay of the land. I hardly suspect Russian agents, or a being from the netherworld, was scoping out the then-booming timber industry, or one of the many corner grocery stores.

As for the break-ins, who knows, but they could easily be explained by thrill-seeking kids who, at that period in history, were less malicious than many are now and wouldn’t think of actually stealing or doing damage.

On the other hand, it is reminiscent of my account “An Unusual Day in April” from last year.

More “Fact or Fiction” along with “The Vampire Doctor of Page Hospital” coming up through the rest of the year, along with another “Shadow Science.”


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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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ghosts, northern lights, telephone

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