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It's Al's Turn: Terrifying shrieks in the middle of the night

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Our turn
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At 3 a.m. on a recent Tuesday night, my wife, Celeste, and I abruptly awoke to a piercing, loud, agonizing scream.

We both bolted upright, simultaneously. “What in the heck is that?!” we both said at the same time.

It was a sound that was unrecognizable – a shrilling shriek that chilled us to the bone.

“Is it human?” Celeste said, echoing exactly what I was thinking.

The tortuous screech continued. It sounded so close to us that I thought whatever creature made the noise was actually in the house. We hesitatingly left the bedroom to go investigate.

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In the dining room, the screech was even louder. That’s when we realized we had left the windows open because it was unusually warm that night.

The “thing” making the noise sounded like it was just a few feet away.

I felt like a complete wimp, being so scared that I really didn’t want to see whatever it was that was making that ungodly noise. Celeste was braver. She shined her phone flashlight out the screen window, trying to get a glimpse of what it was but the night was inky black and we couldn’t see a thing.

The shrieking continued. The creepiest part: There was a human feel to it.

“Could it be a child?” Celeste asked.

“Possibly, or maybe some kind of huge bird?” I said.

“A dog?” Celeste said.

“A wounded cat?” I guessed.

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“Should I call the sheriff’s office?” Celeste asked.

We live just outside the city limits so the sheriff’s office would be the one to call but we didn’t want to come across as scaredy cats or bother them if it was some common animal noise. We waited just a few seconds and the sound gradually faded, leaving us in silence except for throwing out more guesses as to what on earth – or not on earth – had made those weird screams.

We’ve seen a lot of critters on our property through the years – dobermans on the loose, cats, deer and rabbits, scores of rabbits. And that got me to thinking. Back when I was 10 or 12 in Parkers Prairie, a big dog in our neighborhood got into a rabbit hutch and the sounds those rabbits made were eerily similar to what Celeste and I had heard.

“I’m betting it’s a rabbit,” I said.

“Could be,” Celeste said. “Maybe we’ll find out in the morning.”

We actually were able to get back to sleep that night but when we looked all over our yard the next day, we found nothing – no dead animal, no blood, no signs of anything amiss.

I Googled “rabbit sounds” on my phone and found a clip of a rabbit screaming, which they do if they’re under attack or are dying. The scream sounded a lot like what we had heard. Celeste agreed.

But we were wrong.

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Celeste happened to get a phone call later that day from Police Chief Scott Kent about a story she was working on and the conversation strayed into the otherworldly shrieks we heard. He instantly knew what we were talking about and told us to Google “vixen fox calls.” This led us to a YouTube video and sure enough, the noise we heard last night was exactly the same as a vixen fox mating call. It all fits because we have seen a few red foxes exploring our yard every now and then.

Remember that song from years ago – “What Does the Fox Say?” Remember how it would stick in your head for hours? I’d listen to that annoying verse anytime instead of that blood-curdling screech in the middle of the night.

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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