Nights in my house can be pretty eventful. As a parent of two young children, I try to sleep with one ear open, so to speak. A crying child will usually have me out of bed and on the way to the child’s room before I am even fully conscious and usually a pat on the bum and a soothing word is enough to solve the problem. Sometimes more effort is required; such as if one of the kids is sick or needs comforting after a night terror, but it’s all part of parenting. One night this spring, however, things went in a completely unexpected direction.

It was the week of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the suspects were still at large, so I was on edge (like everyone in the area), but it had been a quiet night. My daughter started crying at about 2:30am, so I hopped out of bed and made my way into her bedroom. She was standing up, but when she saw me come into the room she flopped back down into the crib. I pulled some blankets over her and rubbed her back for a minute or two until I heard her breathing fall into the measured pattern of sleep.

I carefully closed her door and took one step toward my bedroom when I heard a loud noise from downstairs in my house. I stopped in my tracks and listened carefully – our refrigerator’s ice maker will sometimes make loud noises (a fact that was a bit disconcerting when we first moved in), but I was pretty sure I had turned the ice maker off. My dog, lying at the bottom of the stairs, didn’t begin barking maniacally, so I took that as a good sign. I had a couple of issues as a child when I got spooked and called the police for things that turned out to be nothing (and got some fun poked at me by my siblings), so I wanted to see if I could hear anything more. I moved to the top of the stairs and held my breath in anticipation.

BANG!

That one I heard and felt. It was no ice maker. The noise woke my wife, who turned on her bedside lamp and looked at me with concern. I didn’t hesitate, “Call 911 and tell them that it sounds like someone is trying to kick in our door.” I stayed at the top of the stairs and kept watch while she talked to the 911 operator. Luckily, the children did not wake up (my daughter has been known to sleep through the noise of blaring smoke alarms).

The police showed up more quickly than I could have hoped, and I scrambled downstairs and let an officer in the front door while another officer walked around the back of the house. The officer outside reported that he did not see any footprints on the back porch (it was raining slightly, leaving a film of rain). He continued to look in the back yard, but did not see anything.

A third officer came into the house and together we made sure that the rooms on the first floor were clear and that nothing appeared to be missing. One of the officers then went into the basement (honestly, imagine a job where you have to walk into a strange basement to see if some desperate soul is hiding there) while I waited nervously in the kitchen. He called up that everything was clear, but that the basement door was unlocked. I went downstairs and told him that everything seemed in order (after opening every closet and looking in every nook). I seemed to remember leaving the door unlocked earlier that day – and if someone had come in through that door I can’t imagine that they would have wanted to make any loud noises by banging things around.

Once we determined that there was no one in my house I was relieved, but a little embarrassed to have wasted the officers’ time. They reassured me that it was all in a day’s work and promised to roll by more often that night. I thanked them for their time and felt honestly grateful to have such a responsive, professional, and thorough police force protecting my family. The officers then left me to wonder what had made that noise.

I may never know. I’d prefer not to think that someone tripped over something in my basement, and my dog never started barking (and she has been known to bark fanatically at people three blocks away). I looked around for anything that might have fallen, but there was nothing – certainly nothing that would have made that kind of noise. The house is new enough that I doubt that it could really be haunted (yes, I considered that). I double-checked the ice maker and it was still off. It wasn’t especially windy outside, so it’s not like something was blown into the side of the house.
So, maybe it was the house settling. For my own sanity, I’m going to go with that –but now every time I am summoned to one of my children’s rooms I pause and listen at the top of the stairs.