Warning: These stories aren't for the squeamish. These brave men and women were the first to handle some of the worst crimes of humanity. But everything can change in an instant, and these people encountered some genuinely shocking twists in each case. Content has been edited for clarity.
“He Was A Pale-Faced Train Wreck”
“I took 911 cals in this very small town of five thousand people while I was in college. This was an extremely rural area nestled in the Appalachian mountains , with an all volunteer fire department. We had a local hospital, but all it was really good for was getting a band-aid put on a scrape. So this was a typical weekday night. There was absolutely nothing exciting going on. I kicked back half asleep, watching the hours tick by. I had a guy with me who was fresh out of training for this service. We shall call him Luke for this story. Luke was nervous yet terrible bored. Sometime around two in the morning, he finally uttered the magical words that would make any experienced first responder want to punch things. He uttered, ‘Is it always this slow?!’
Well, roughly thirty minutes later, Luke got his answer. The phone rang, calling about a barn fire, so I dispatched the fired department. The phone quickly rings again, and this time it is the police line. There had been an active stabbing. The woman on the phone was the victim’s mother, and Luke was having a time trying to get a specific location. I dispatched the police and EMS to that general area. Luke stayed on the phone with that caller. Immediately another call comes in, this time it is a three-car pileup. There was a trapped driver and a vehicle fire. I dispatched the fire department, EMS, and the sheriff, and I called the state police for mutual aid. The fire chief from the first call radioed in. The barn had collapsed and injured a fireman. I have no available EMS units at this point in the area, so I called in mutual aid from a neighboring county. Luke’s call has now become increasingly frantic, and he cannot cope with it. Police are still not on the scene yet. That victim was bleeding out, and Luke was telling the woman basic first aid. Luke was staring at me for guidance, even though I was trying my best to juggle my own calls. Choppers were now in the air, but they would take twenty minutes to arrive. The police arrive on scene of stabbing victim. EMS is on scene too, but they cannot enter an active crime scene without police clearing the scene and walking them in. They immediately request air medic. I now have three helicopters coming in. Poor Luke at this point is a pale-faced train wreck, and he is listening to somebody being stabbed in the background on his first night. He has lost all comms discipline and is just saying what needs to be said.
Nobody died that night. I honestly have no idea how that worked out. That knife victim had something like thirty-seven stab wounds! The fireman suffered pretty extensive burns from the collapse, but he is still serving today. The vehicle crash broke that person’s pelvis, and they ended up having to amputate a leg. Luke never again mentioned anything about it being slow for as long as we worked together.”
A Gruesome Explanation For the Weird Voice
911 call taker here. I answered a call with a male on the other end, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I remember thinking at the time it sounded like he was trying to talk with a mouth full of marshmallows. All I could make out was when he would muffle ‘help’ loudly. He called from a cell phone, so I didn’t immediately know where he was. I sent police to search the area based on the cell tower his call hit off of. I asked only yes/no questions because I could understand his answers and got all I could. I knew he needed aid and he was injured and he was not sick. Over the course of trying to get more from him, he got more and more quiet, even a few times hanging up on me, but he always answered when I called back. He sounded more and more desperate, and eventually he stopped responding. While on the phone with him, I had a coworker call his cell phone provider and got his subscriber address, and he had an alternate phone number on his account. His address was WAY outside of our service area. It was unlikely he was at that address, but I had the correct jurisdiction do a welfare check anyway. I called the alternate phone number and reached another male, who was extremely belligerent with me the entire time. I tried to explain the situation to him and found out I was talking to my caller’s son. He refused to give me information on where his dad could be, saying he didn’t believe I was with 911. It took me telling him to hang up and calling 911 back and asking for my operator number before I could move forward. But the son didn’t call 911 back, it was the original caller’s wife. So much time was wasted. But I did find out from the wife that her husband left for work earlier that morning. I got his work address and asked what kind of vehicle he drives to work. She said she had to go check which vehicle he drove that morning and set the phone down. A few seconds pass and I hear the wife yelling frantically. She runs back to the phone and tells me he is UNDERNEATH his car in the driveway.
When he left for work that morning, he noticed an issue with his car and he decided to jack up his car and take a look under it. While under, the jack failed and the front driver side tire went down right on his head, pinning his head between the vehicle’s weight and the pavement. He was able to take his cell out of his pocket and dial 911, but I couldn’t understand him because his face was smushed under the tire. It was a frustrating call, working with his family to get his whereabouts, but thankfully it had a favorable outcome. He was okay after a stay in the hospital, but I was seriously surprised that he actually survived that experience!”
A Hilarious Disaster
“I’m not a first responder anymore, but one of my first arson cases was an absolutely hilarious disaster. This husband and wife hated each other but didn’t want to get divorced. What they did want was a new house. What did they decide to do? They poured kerosene on approximately sixty rags and stuffed them under the end table next to the couch. They placed an empty kerosene lamp on the end table. They took a five gallon can full of gas, removed the spout, and placed it near their master bedroom closet. They then opened all of their safes in the house and emptied them in the middle of the bedroom. They replaced all the photos in their house with random ones they printed off of the internet. They removed the televisions and replaced them with older versions. Then they pour a clear trail of gasoline down the hallway, lit a match, and watched the chaos erupt before their eyes.
This couple’s alibi was that on the day of the fire, they were trying to sell their canoe. They had found a buyer, but the only time they could meet that supposed buyer was at three in the morning. They drove two hours away to sell their canoe at the time that their house caught on fire. Then they tried to claim that the unlit kerosene lamp had exploded. They also claimed that their nasty neighbors were trying to frame them for arson. Then the husband claimed that his wife was trying to frame him for arson because he believed the Native Americans she descended from were notorious for not wanting to work. Finally, he claimed that the company Sears was trying to frame him for arson, because they were tired of paying his settlement after a work-related injury at one of their stores twenty-five years prior. It was a good time.
Believe it or not, this couple probably didn’t charged for clearly setting their house on fire, especially based on the area of the country they were in. Prosecutors are normally terrified of going after arson charges, unless the person is basically caught on camera setting the fire. For quite a while, fire investigation had a really bad reputation. There are far too many cases mishandled and completely glossed over by investigators. Also, just by the nature of the fire, all of the evidence is destroyed. Many fire investigators are quite bad at presenting any remaining evidence in a way that makes sense to a jury. But handling the 911 call that set off this entire case was completely insane. I wonder if that crazy couple ended up getting that new house after all!”
A Startling Basement Surprise
“I have worked as a 911 dispatcher in the midwest for eight long years. I once got a call for a welfare check from a woman who had not heard from her middle-aged dad in a week or two. She told me that they talk almost every other day. She was outside his house when she called me, in order to see if a spare key was hidden nearby. She found one, but she also wanted to call me just in case. She noted that the porch light was on as she opened the front door. She called out for her dad repeatedly while I finished getting her information. She noticed that the kitchen and hallway lights were on too, which seemed weird to her. Her dad wouldn’t just leave the lights on like that. I continued with protocols and got he dad’s description as she moved through the house. Noting particular was going on, no health issues or anything like that. He just suddenly stopped responding to calls and texts. Eventually she tells me he must not be home, but she would continue checking the house, coming to the basement stairs and noting again how strange it was that more lights were on with the basement stairs. She started downstairs, and I knew this situation was going to take a turn somehow. It is just a feeling you get as a dispatcher, I’m not sure how to explain it.
Then she got very cold and it was like something clicked with her. She kept exclaiming, ‘Oh my god!’ in disbelief. I asked what was going on and she said that her dad was hanging from the ceiling in the basement, a note apparently taped to his chest. I won’t go further into morbid details, but the protocol is then to instruct the caller to get the victim down and untie them. She ultimately refused to perform CPR because he was clearly beyond help, but it took a good five minutes to get to that point. Her sobbing cries were awful and I can still recall them perfectly, while I tried to maintain calm to guide her through what to do. The police arrived after another five minutes or so after that.Dad had left the lights in in such a way as to guide her to the basement and to his hanging corpse. I had nightmares about that one for years. I can’t imagine being led to your hanging dad like that. I was with her the whole time, as if I was walking through the house too. You can’t shake that sort of thing off.”
“There are two calls that really stand out to me. The first one was a call by a woman who said her husband was depressed lately, but that day had been worse than the others. She was walking into the bedroom to hand the phone off to her husband, but that was when she uttered a horrifying scream. Then I heard the shot. She rushed over to her husband screaming. I asked her where the wound was, but at first she couldn’t tell. She set the phone down while she was looking because that was the only thing she could focus on at the time. She could the wound behind his right ear, and I tried to talk her through everything that I could before EMS got there. That was the day that I had to listen to a man die.
The second call happened with a man who didn’t speak much English. What I was able to understand was that he was walking near his home when he was attacked by someone, and he had blacked out. He woke up in a basement, found a random cell phone, and dialed 911. He had no idea where he was or how long he had been there. The battery on the cell phone was only going to lat so long, and I couldn’t get his location from the old-fashioned cell-phone. I got an interpreter on the phone with him, and I tried to piece together where he might be. That was when the phone died. You can’t call back that sort of cell phone or trace it through a phone provider. That call was six years ago, and I have no idea to this day what happened to him or if he was every found.”
Why Wasn’t Anyone Warned About This?
“I had to listen to a young woman get strangled to death by a crazy religious guy. She kept struggling for her cell phone, and I could hear this guy yelling truly crazy stuff about religion and about her being a woman of the night. Because of the constant gasps and the phone being thrown around, it was initially quite hard to make out what was going on. She was using a pay as you go phone, so it was hard to figure out exactly where this woman was located. Eventually, her noises stopped, and the guy who killed her could be heard huffing and puffing. Keeping an open line as I am supposed to, I heard a strangle twinkling noise after the heavy breathing.It turned out that this man was urinating on her corpse. The craziest part of this entire thing was that it didn’t even make the news! This woman was young, about nineteen. I don’t do 911 calls anymore, but whenever people ask me what the worst one was, I always tell them about that one.
The other call that has haunted me was when this guy called us threatening to kill everyone in his apartment with a loaded weapon. He told me over the phone that I had five minutes to convince him not do it. needless to say, it was a very stressful experience. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but this guy had severe mental problems and needed to be taken away. I simply transferred him to the police, who quickly took over the scene and apprehended the man. I’m not quite sure what the outcome of that was to be honest. Court cases can take a very long time, and I’m not privy to that information. Sometimes, us call takers are called in as witnesses in court, but I was not. This being Canada, I am sure it wasn’t a substantial punishment, but I’ll never know what happened to that man.”
Sit Back And Wait For The Carnage To Unfold
“So this guy called in to report another man was breaking into a neighbor’s vehicle across the street. It only took a few minutes before that creepy dude broke into my caller’s vehicle. A few minutes after that, the terrifying man spotted my caller and broke into his house from the window. I notified the police and had to spend ten minutes listening to a physical fight before they finally arrived. Once they did, I heard an officer say, ‘there’s blood everywhere.’ Both the caller and the intruder had died. Apparently another 911 dispatcher had been talking to my caller’s wife and kids, whop had been hiding upstairs and heard every gruesome detail.
I have talked to a lot of people who have been shot, stabbed, or beaten and are in the final moments of their lives. But usually you talk to them on these calls after the situation had occurred. This caller was simply trying to look out for his neighbor, and I spent a good twenty minutes getting to know him while waiting for these incompetent officers to arrive. Getting to joke around and get to know someone’s personality before they violently die hit a lot different than the typical extreme cases I have had to deal with. I don’t know the entire story, but the two of them killed each other. One was DOA, and the other one passed away at the hospital. Both of them had multiple stab wounds and injuries from hitting the stairs. Sitting by while things get horrible on the other line is unfortunately far too common. I have sat on active domestic calls for over forty-five minutes at a time! The system needs some major repairs to it.”
There Was Absolutely Nothing She Could Do For Them
“I worked for a non-emergency medical line, but I still got emergencies sometimes. There were a few haunting calls where it sounded like the person died on the other end, but I couldn’t be sure. One of them was a heart attack and the other was a suicide. There was this one where the person stopped responding and started snoring. I was working nights, so maybe this person just happened to be tired. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about that except to inform the already en-route ambulance crew about it. One terrible call I received from a whispered call from a caregiver whose elderly patient suffered from dementia. This old man had become so disoriented and confused that he didn’t know where he ws or who his wife and caregiver were. He had attacked both of them with a large stick. The caregiver was locked in the bathroom and didn’t know where the wife was. I could hear the old man shouting in the background, crashing around the house. At one point the caregiver told me, ‘He just saw himself in the mirror and didn’t recognize himself, so now he is breaking the mirror.’ I stayed on the phone until the police and an ambulance arrived. The wife and caregiver were thankfully both fine, and the old man would receive the help he so desperately needed. The caregiver remained remarkably calm, but I remember feeling so awful for everyone involved in that situation.
I also remember a bunch of calls where people had slipped through so many social safety nets. This would include the elderly who needed more continuous care. This would be people dealing with extreme social isolation and terrible poverty. This would be repeat callers with chronic mental health problems, who would call us because they knew we would talk to them nicely when no one else would. That was the stuff that really bothered me because there wasn’t much I could actually do for them. I could send emergency services if needed or I could report stuff to social services, but I couldn’t really help them with their big picture, just piecemeal problems. Some of the repeat callers could recognize me by voice and knew my name. It seemed like our service was the only place they knew to go for someone who would listen to them, and we still had to push through the call to a clinical outcome in the end. It made me so sad.”
This Call Destroyed Him
“I’m a 911 operator. The hardest call I’ve ever gotten was a seven year old boy who drowned at the local lake we had in town. He was in the state’s custody, and his sister had taken him and his five year old brother out for the day to spend time together. The boy was in the water, and all of a sudden the sister couldn’t find him. A bystander called 911 while she ran into the water to find the boy. I ordered the caller to get all the children out of the water and to have all the adults get in, form a line, and start searching for the boy. I stayed on the line until the fire department got there and they found the boy about 1ten minutes later. That was about twenty minutes after the initial call. They were able to get a pulse after they got the boy into the ambulance and drove to the hospital. Unfortunately, he was later pronounced dead that night, and the hospital called us to let us know, which usually never happens. I was nineteen years old at the time and had a seven year old brother. I held it together, but as soon as I got into my car after my shift, I cried so hard. All I could imagine was that it could have been my brother, and I NEVER get emotional on my calls. I’m able to keep calm because it’s not my emergency, but this one hit me right in the stomach. I’m lucky to have had such a good partner to help me through it, because I really would have struggled doing that alone. I will never ever forget that day, I remember everything that happened like it was yesterday, and it’s been two and a half years now.”
A Shocking Survival
“My father used to be a 911 dispatcher. He was also an EMT for five years and a fire fighter for over thirty years. The worst call that he ever took was a woman calling him to say that her house was on fire. She was completely trapped in the burning house and could not get out. Unfortunately, the first responders did not make it to the house in time. My dad had to stay on the line with her and listen as she literally burned to death. He once responded to an ATV rollover that involved one of his friend’s kids. The ATV landed on the kid’s face and did some serious damage to his skull. They had to transport the kid to the nearest hospital, which was over forty-five minutes away. Believe it or not, the kid actually survived.
My dad is one of the greatest men I have ever met, and he has dedicated his life to serving other people. He is my hero and my personal inspiration to be the best human being I can be. He has lived a very active and interesting life. I forgot to mention he also served in the US military as a radio operation specialist and an artillery man. I could list his accomplishments, but the list is too long. He has since been promoted from a dispatcher and now oversees the entire radio network for our county. This involves making sure that all Fire, EMS, police, DOT, and various other departments have active and clear radio signals. He also oversees that neighboring counties have clear communication into our county. He also oversees the phone system at our county’s 911 center, so that those within the county can dial 911 hassle free and can get the aid they need. He is an extremely busy man who will do anything he can to help those in need.”
Just Another Bizarre And Disturbing Day On The Job
“I’ve got three experiences that really stick out to me for being unforgettable. I’ll try to change some details for privacy’s sake. The first one was a local police officer who was killed in a car accident, after a pickup truck slid on the ice and struck his patrol vehicle. The engine block had been pushed from the engine compartment into the passenger compartment, completely flattening the officer’s torso. The person that hit him was physically fine, but she was in shock once she realized she had killed him. I attended the officer’s funeral a few weeks later.
The second one was a canoe full of boy scouts that tipped over in a river in our area. Because of the current and a downed tree, the six boys, one girl, and the father of two of the kids were clinging to the tree and unable to move to shore. While most of the kids and the dad were above water, the girl had gotten trapped between the overturned canoe and the tree, pinning her underwater. We had two divers in the water within a minute or so of their arrival, and they eventually got the dad and the boys to shore with an inflatable boat. The divers had to spend another ten minutes trying to free the girl. They eventually pulled her to shore and performed CPR until they could get her onto the stretcher and get her to the hospital, where they pronounced her dead. What stuck with me the most is that, while I didn’t know her personally, a lot of people I went to school with did, and there were a lot of memorial services held in her honor.
The third one was a call for a guy who fell off of his roof at two in the morning in the pouring rain. When people got over to the man’s place, the guy was lying on his deck. Apparently he had been trying to fix his television dish. Apparently the guy muttered something about that being his ex’s house and that she was inside, which was especially strange. A few years later, I ran into that very same guy on the street. He stopped and asked me if I remembered him. I told him I could never forget that call! He told me how he had to be in a cast for a while since he broke his wrist, but he was back with his ex and things were going well. I still had no idea what the backstory to that whole event was though!”
The Worst Part Of The Call
“Someone called in, stating how they had seen a man on a small island on the lake hours ago, but now the man was gone and his boat is still out there.
An older woman called in a half hour later stating that her husband had gone missing, and he was last seen taking his boat out on the lake sometime overnight. You can put two and two together. The increasing tension in her voice as she noticed sheriff’s deputies were already dredging the lake was something else. She was calm but clearly actively dealing with the fact her husband was likely dead. They found his body not long after I hung up with her.
Sometimes it’s the people screaming that get to you, sometimes it’s the quiet acceptance of a horrible truth that stays with you longer. I believe he drowned, at the time I think the impression was he attempted to swim to shore after an issue with his boat and didn’t make it across. I don’t know anything beyond that though.”
“Everything Was Oozing Out”
“Ugh, there are way too many experiences to tell. But the one that comes to mind first happened when I was dispatching for the local county. I answered the 911 line and just listened to ear-splitting shrieks and screams. I tried to get the person to calm down, but nothing seemed to work. The person hung up several times and would sometimes answer when I called back, but all I really gathered was that something very bad was happening, and someone had a weapon. I send my deputies in blind and called EMS, because I assumed that somebody was injured. The deputies arrived on the scene, only to find a man killed with a shot to the head. This man was a semi-prominent political figure in our small town, and he had just lost the election for mayor. Apparently, he shot himself in front of his girlfriend in the living room. This all took place at six-thirty in the morning. I was definitely not expecting any of that.
Other unforgettable calls include the murder-suicide of two brothers. The first brother shot the second brother and then shot himself. The dad got home to find the second brother was still alive, but his brains were literally everywhere. CPR instruction was not possible because everything was oozing out. I could hear the second brother moaning in the background of the call. The second brother eventually died, and that father was ruined for life. There was also the kid who shot his dad and buried him near the house. I took a call requesting a welfare check on the father, but a much more gruesome discovery was made there.
Finally, there was the man who had killed his girlfriend and left her dead in the bath tub. This man had gone on the run with his ex-girlfriend, and the girlfriend had called about a welfare check for him before her death. She said that she talked to the girlfriend at 10:33 p.m., which struck me as quite odd. That was oyr code for an emergency. When the man was arrested and sent to prison, the inmates called the guy ‘BTK’, or the ‘Bath Tub Killer’. I would not trade my time at that job for anything, but there is not nearly enough mental health support for people in that agency. I wanted to do a debriefing after one of those incidents, but I was denied. I’m still bitter about that organization.”