The mystery of unexpected noises and images

Posted2/4/2023 6:00 AM

Have you ever heard a strange or unexpected noise the middle of the night, or even during the day? I have.

True, sometimes it's just one of my kitties prowling and jumping about, occasionally tipping over a dining room chair on her way down. But not always.


As you may know, I have written about "signs" before. Signs are signals from a loved one whose spirit is near you, offering support. You may repeatedly find a certain object in your house, or in your path (such as a coin or a feather), or see or hear something else you recognize as connected with your loved one who died -- something that has special meaning to you.

Well, there is a particular occurrence that happens to many people -- and it's those unexplained noises that happen in the night, or early morning, or after you wake up and think you are fully awake. This has happened to me and I've heard many such stories. (I don't mean crackling floors in old houses!)

My most recent "noise" was a phone ring, once, at 3 a.m., when my actual phone was not ringing. Other times, it has always been a knock on the window or roof, or something dropping on the floor in the room above me. A couple times I found next morning that something fell off a bookshelf up in Baheej's office, but usually there is no evidence what caused the sound, inside or outside.

There is a saying -- "What goes bump in the night." The word bump has it's origin in Early Modern English or North Germanic language and means -- "to make a heavy hollow sound." It implied something mysterious or other worldly.

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Well, I've been hearing stories of such happenings recently, so I thought I'd look into it, and did some research.

I found that from a medical and neurological perspective, there is a special cognitive state while falling asleep or waking up that is a short time when one sometimes hears noises or sees images that aren't really there. Images may be patterns, moving or fixed shadows, or image of a face/figure/person. It's considered a perfectly normal phenomenon having to do with the transition from wakefulness to sleep, or vice versa.

These brief periods even have medical names:

• Hypnagogia -- is the brief state of transition from being awake and falling sleep.

• Hypnopompia -- is the brief state from being asleep to being awake.

This is all considered in the realm of normal life and behavior. (It's not a psychiatric condition; that's a different matter.)

But as a layman, I'm not sure sleep transition explains all of it, based on my own experience and stories I've been told by others over the last several years. (That is, since I started writing about "signs"). Perhaps those sleep and wake transitional periods are just one of the conditions, times or reasons we are open to the experience. And the medical explanation assumes we are not fully awake when the noise or image happens.

The point is: I still wonder about it happening while seemingly fully awake. I know of many people who have had the experience of noises, voices or images while they are certain they were awake, including myself.


This seems like a form of communication. That doesn't prove anything of course, and I'm a sociologist, not a medical doctor or neurology specialist, nor a psychic.

But I'm still wondering.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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