What Ever Happened to the
During the 1980s I heard from a friend about a mysterious phone number, (904)241-1080, that when dialed, would answer you with a bizarre sounding electronic noise that repeated for as long as you’d care to listen. So of course I had to call it. What I heard on the other end was a long, drawn out tone, sweeping in modulation from low to high and back again and then it would repeat. Again. And again. And it just went on and on. Wow. Weird indeed. I mentioned it to a few friends but no one I talked to knew what it was. It didn't seem to be an answering machine but perhaps some sort of ghost in the machine? It was a local number, Jacksonville Beach, but I could find no address for it.
I wrote the number down and would call it from time to time out of curiosity and it was always that same sweeping tone, like a Theremin stuck in a loop. Occasionally there would be a busy signal (remember those?) which meant that someone else was calling the mysterious number. At some point a local weekly magazine featured a column on the mysterious number and they even had a name for it: The Whistling Pickle. Why a pickle? Why was it whistling? Nobody knew the answers to these questions but a few people had some ideas. Government mind control. Ghosts. Time travelers. Aliens. A test tone generated for telephone repairmen to test their equipment on. Okay, now that one made sense. The repairman needs to check if the phone is processing its incoming audio correctly, so he dials the number. If he hears the tone then everything is working just fine. That had to be it—right? I would call from time to time and was always greeted without fail with the now familiar sweeping tones. If you stayed on the phone long enough you could hear voices bleeding in from the other lines. Ghostly conversations from the electronic ether.
I called it a few months back and instead of the now reassuring tone, I was greeted with the AT&T generic female robotic voice informing me that the number I had dialed was “no longer in service.” Hmm. What had happened to the Whistling Pickle? Did the time travelers go home? Had the government finally controlled enough minds? (Unlikely, thought I.)
An Internet search revealed several people using this number as their own on the Florida voter rolls and more than one website has it on a list of phone numbers for people to use when they don't want to give out their real number. (867-5309 anyone?) There were several pages dealing with paranormal phenomena that implied that if you called the number and listened to it for too long you could go crazy, or it would make you violently nauseous, or that it was a portal to another dimension. A person on another forum called the number the “Screaming Tomato” but had no other information on it.
I sent a few emails to the media contact of the local AT&T office but never heard back from them. So the Whistling Pickle is no more and apparently no one else cares. If anyone has any information on the mysterious and now extinct Whistling Pickle send me a message at drpeak(at)gmail.com, especially if you have actual audio of it!
2019 Roy Peak