Things That Go Beep In The Night

Published 19 years, 5 months past

A couple of nights ago, Kat and I watched most of Toy Story 2 before going to bed.  In subsequent nights, we watched the rest of the movie, and also the original Toy Story, but that’s not important right now.  It was interesting to compare the technical differences between the two, from rendering to animation, but that’s also not important right now.

A few minutes before 5:00am on the morning after we’d watched most of TS2, we were awakened by a cry from Carolyn.  She settled back down within a minute, and as we lay there dropping back off to sleep ourselves, we very clearly heard, coming from somewhere in the house, a quick series of three beeps.

My first thought was the carbon monoxide detector, but it wasn’t loud enough or the right tone pattern (the CO detector just wails in one long earsplitting tone).  My second thought was a fire detector running low on batteries, but again, wrong tone pattern.  The interval between these two thoughts was probably a couple of minutes, because it was very early in the morning and I was stumbling around the house trying to figure out what had produced the sound.

After a tour of the first floor and a quick peek into Carolyn’s room, I went back to bed.  It took a while, since I’d shifted into sentry mode, but I eventually fell back asleep.  We haven’t heard any mysterious beeps since then.

It’s hard to shake the suspicion that our electronic gadgets have started talking to each other at night.  I’m not sure what they’d talk about; how much would a VCR really have to say to a cell phone?  Maybe they discuss difficult philosophcal questions and further illuminate the nature of existence.  Maybe our technosphere has gotten sophisticated enough that a collective awareness has emerged.  If that’s true, then it’s little wonder we wouldn’t have heard about it.  What interest would a global intelligence have in talking to any of us?

Then again, maybe a short-circuit or other unexpected condition triggered some beeps, and that was that.

Comments (27)

  1. I wonder if someone is doing some serious research on the fact that fire detectors and cell phones always run out of batteries at some time between 2 and 5 in the morning.

  2. There is something in a drawer or cupboard in my kitchen that chirps 3 times every morning at 7AM. I haven’t been able to locate it in 4 years. Usually I’m just going to bed, or forget to go listen to it.

    I think it may be a Pokemon Tamagochi.

  3. When we moved into our new rented house over a year ago, we were startled by three beeps at 7:00 sunday morning. It happened again at 7:00 the following sunday. Over several months I got a bit closer to the source each week, and finally discovered that it was a smoke detector in the basement – but it’s not a battery-low noise. Apparently it beeps once a week to let us know “Hey, I’m OK down here, in case you were curious. Batteries are fine. Nothing’s on fire.”

    Every time the power goes out, it resets to a new random time during the week to keep us on our toes.

  4. Man, “Toy Story 2” is a great movie. I have nothing to add to the beeping thing, but jeez I really admire Pixar’s ability to make sequel that is in every single way superior to its already excellent predecessor.

  5. Besides the fact that it happens to me too, this reminds of a cartoon by Gary Larson in which a scientist has found a way to translate barks from dogs into English. Appearently all a dog ever says is “Hey! Hey hey! Heeeeeeeey!” – maybe that was what your phone was saying (global intelligence, you say?)

    Oh, and I hear a really loud and insistant beeping noise every morning around 6am, and every morning I struggle to find out what the heck is going on… until I discover that it’s my alarm clock, and I’m late… interestingly enough, if the buzzer in my otherwise muted phone goes off in another room, THEN I wake up… go figure

  6. Trackback ::


    Haunting Technology
    Seems Eric Meyer’s technology has started talking amoung itself. Well, with such a luminary owning it is was bound to happen. I always suspected something like that, even before Toy Story, but I also included the bloody furniture in the…

  7. The first time we watched ToyStory we had too turn it off, the kids were very young and got scared from the kid that mutalated his toys, that kid kinda scared me too………..if our gadgets have a collective awareness it might be called the Uni-Mind……..

  8. Since I moved into my unit a few months ago, there’s been strange beeps that happen at irregular intevals. It took me a while to figure out that it was actually coming from something outside the building, but every time I heard it, it always sounded as though it were coming from another room inside. I was checking fridge, washing machine, heater, computer, and any other electical appliance I could find. That was hard since I never knew when it was going to beep. It wasn’t till one day that I heard it from outside that I realised it was none of my appliances. To this day, I still have no idea what is, or when it will beep again.

  9. Scary…


    Reminds me of the fire detector we had when I was little… I wasn’t aware we had such a thing, and at some points the batteries needed replacement and the thing started to beep, in the middle of the night, right above my bedroom door… Beep… (long silence)… Beep…

    I have never been so scared in my life.

    Well ok, maybe that’s not true, but fact is that once I found out what it was, I hated the thing and wanted it gone before would start to beep in the middle of the night again :). Alas, no go. Obviously mom and pop thought it rediculous. ^_^

    p.s. what about receiving a phonecall in the middle of the night occasionally, only on the telephone in my room (seperate number) which only gives a beep, and nothing else? My theory is that it is some fax or modem doing a routine job (though I don’t see much routine in it), and that our telephone number snuck in their dial list accidentally? Who knows. I should get myself a number recognizer display sometime.


  10. I always used to be puzzled by the fact that my phone would chirp at a fairly predictable time every evening. Usually between 10:30 and 10:45. Just one chirp, not even a full ring, and that was it. It took me some time to learn that it has to do with the phone company’s switching equipment running routine line tests. My particular phone was just so sensitive to voltage changes on the line that this test caused it to chirp. Most phones don’t even react at all… As it turns out, I almost preferred it when it was a mysterious phenomenon. Finding out the rather boring truth gave me less reason to sit there pondering possible explanations every night. :-)

  11. When my wife and I first bought our place a few years ago, we used to hear what we thought was someone’s doorbell going off randomly throughout the day and night. It was fairly quiet, so we usually only heard it when we were in bed. Took us at least 6 months to work out it was the "buzzer" on the entrance to the mini supermarket 100m down the road.

  12. My sister has some sort of talking bird that has learned to mimic the sound of her phone ringing perfectly. It’s a bit disconcerting…

  13. A couple of years ago, I and my cousin spent an entire night trying to figure out where an incessant beeping came from. Sometime round the next day afternoon, we found the culprit. It was his UPS which had not been unpacked after his shifting.

  14. Eh, our old computer started itself up at approximately 2 or so in the morning almost every night. (not exactly, and it varies by about an hour or so. hmm) There may be a sane explanation that someone who knows about computers can tell, but..
    I’ve been near it when it happened once, too. *tick! whirrrr…* “Hm?!”

  15. It could become even more scary when all these are able to communicate over the internet, and combine their CPU-power to find all possible combinations of bits in 2KB. Then they would eventually have, by example, all paragraphs of the yet to be written book on the Grand Unified Theory, or a summary of the book on The Meaning of Life.

  16. Not that this has a lot to do with what you said, but after I moved into my girlfriend’s apartment we were laying in bed one night and we heard the front door open, close, and keys land on the glass table in the living room. We figure it’s just the roommate finally home after a night of bar hopping, but when we go out to the living room, there are no keys on the table and the door is completely locked. To top it off, at random intervals doors that were left open will suddenly close, and I know it’s not the cats closing them cause they usually are sitting next to me on the couch, or next to the keyboard to the computer. Try that for spooky.

  17. Daniel – that so happens to me (or used to in the days when i worked for someone else and set an alarm) the thing would go off, and somehow it would always be part of my dream

    Eric – my flatmates girlfriend has this really irritating mobile phone – everytime she gets a missed call or text message, the thin will make one sharp beep, this continues somewhat randomly (probably every couple of minutes) until she reads the message.

    When this first started happening (she’d leave it here and i’d be working all on my own in the office) i was totally siked out – like you i first thought it was one of the smoke detectors but nope.

    This went on for weeks, hunting in draws etc until i finally found the damm thing.

    Now when i goes off, i turn the thing off and hide it in a draw so she can’t find it ;)

  18. Okay that’s it! No more Toy Story for you! That’s what you get for staying up and watching cartoons late at night…

  19. Try this for infuriating – small toys left on the floor in ‘sentinel mode’, so that their motion-sensing devices pick you up when you’re going for a glass of water in the middle of the night. Godzilla toys. That roar.
    I’ve never jumped so high in my life.

  20. Trackback ::


    A Mind of Their Own
    I’m glad to know my family and I are not the only ones that experience this sorta thing. Eric Meyer shares his story of the mysterious beeping noise he and his wife recently heard in the middle of the night, he suspects his electronic gadgets have sta…

  21. I have near my bed a small radio controlled clock (styled like the first iMac) that beeps softly for two times at exactly 3 a.m. I imagine that has something to do with some time synchronisation.

  22. Fire alarms and so forth always require new batteries at 2 am because that’s how long the battery lasts after you change it. If you change it at noon and the battery life is, say, 36 hours, it’ll go off in the middle of the night.



  24. This is great – I got here from google with: “smoke detector beeps once a day”

    …and it really does – about once a day at about the same time for about a week, then it shuts up for a few months, then does it again.

    House wired, battery backup unit (replaced batteries when this first started so I know it’s not that).

    Wonder if anyone has strong radio equipment around me?

  25. I got this information from my brother, who has a friend that works at the NSA.

    In 1974 President Richard Nixon signed Executive Order 11785 which, in part, authorized a certain department of the U.S. government to require manufacturers of electronic equipment to include sub-assemblies on their PCB’s to acquire, store and transmit said stored data to this certain government department.

    Fortunately for us, at the time President Nixon signed the order, the technology of the day was unable to meet this obligation. Sadly technology finally caught up with this insidious executive order and, for the last decade or so, all electrical devices available to the average consumer HAVE included the necessary components.

    The beeping noises you THINK you hear are, in fact, the result of flaws in the microcode contained in these devices, and that both mathematical probability and “Chaos Theory” tells us are inevitable, that cause the odd transient electrical flow to be sent to the “beeper” circuit in whatever device may contain them.

    These devices have their data upload functions triggered by stealth UAV’s flying over the country at regular intervals, almost always at night. Stealth aircraft are required as the small size and low power requirements necessary to hide the sub-assemblies within most devices preclude direct data transmission to satellite receivers in low earth orbits.

    No effective means have yet been found, save not owning ANY electrical devices or appliances, by which the public can stop this acquisition and transmission of their highly personal information. The average citizen remains totally unaware of this government intrusion into their lives and would be justifiably outraged if they were.

  26. Beeping noise that lasts for 30 minutes starting at 3:30 and ending at 4:00 am.

    Any ideas (other than an alarm clock, cell phone, fire alarm or CO2 detector). We live in a mansion (large appartments in Japan) and have the entire 3rd floor so I know its not the neighbors to my side (possible beneath us?) I can isolate the sound to the master bedroom in a corner but cant find its exact location….driving my wife nuts…she woke me up to hear it and now guess what…driving me nuts…thanks honey!

    Driving us crazy. Send replies to if you have any ideas.

  27. Have intermittent alarm always between 1:30 & 5 am a series of 3 beeps 5 times. I have replaced all my first alert combo smoke/co alarms. It’s not my ADT alarm system as the system shows no alarms nucience or burglar. Not an alarm clock, not microwave or refrig. Any help in trouble shooting is appreciated.

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