The tell-tale beep

By Mir
September 8, 2009

I don’t recall when it started, or who noticed it first, but the fact remains that our house is currently possessed. Oh, I guess I’m exaggerating. Not our entire house. Just our kitchen. Or maybe my office. Possibly the garage. OKAY, the entire first floor is suspect. But really, that’s only half the house. So yes, half our house is currently possessed.

Or just kind of… beepy.

It’s a sneaky beep. It doesn’t happen at regular intervals, it doesn’t seem. You’ll just be puttering around in the kitchen, packing lunches or sneaking some of your kid’s jelly beans (what?) and there’s this faint, muffled *beep* that comes from… somewhere.

I think it’s in the kitchen. Or under the kitchen.

Or in the garage. Or my office. Really, it’s a wonder we haven’t found it yet.

My strategy is simple: I commit to singular denial until I actually hear a beep, and then my annoyance level is immediately amped up to eleven. “THERE IT IS AGAIN!” I’ll cry. “WHERE IS IT COMING FROM? MAKE IT STOP!” But then I won’t hear it again and I’ll just continue on with my day. Tra la la! What beep? I hear no beep.

Otto, on the other hand, periodically goes on the hunt. Why, just yesterday he got up super-early even though he didn’t have to work, and he spent half an hour trying to find the source of the sound. He was unsuccessful. And this may be because we have no idea what we’re looking for.

Is it a child’s toy? A watch? A malfunctioning kitchen appliance? A gremlin whose deepest desire is to one day join Blue Man Group? The possibilities are nearly endless. Whatever it is, it clearly hates us. Because one you decide to search for the beeping thing, it stops. And then when you give up, as you leave the kitchen, it does the equivalent of a rude gesture at your back.


The kids hear it occasionally, so at least I know it’s not a joint hallucination my husband and I are having, or anything.

It’s not a smoke detector with a dying battery. It’s not any of the kitchen electrics. No one is missing a watch, and if it’s a toy belonging to the kids—setting aside how it came to be buried in a kitchen cabinet or under the floor or whatever—the children are not fessing up.

It’s just a mystery.


A mystery that is slowly driving me insane. A mystery that has become the punch line to everything that’s ever made me grumpy. I have cellulite and something in the kitchen won’t stop beeping! The kids overslept and there’s that beep again! The dog I wanted to went to another family and OHMYGODMAKEITSTOP. You get the idea.

Forget waterboarding. I suggest judicious usage of the PHANTOM BEEP to bring people to their knees. It’s working pretty well over here.


(If you need me, I’ll just be curled up under my desk, here.)


  1. Moira

    It happened to me and was an old cellphone my daughter was hanging onto (just to prove she could…she’s lobbying for a phone herself at the ripe old age of 9…ha!). It happened to us in the middle of the night, though. Irritating as all get-out. But we finally found it and shut it off. I did think I was going to go insane myself.

  2. Em

    Dude, that sucks. And you will never find it until you happen to be standing right next to it when it does beep. I think you should move. At least you still have those boxes packed.

  3. Kim

    My parents had that problem. It was the carbon monoxide detector. And it beeped even when they took the battery out. Seriously. I held the battery in my hand it still beeped. And it was random.

  4. Beverly

    what about the new washer or dryer? The sneaky beep would be muffled with the door closed.

  5. Megan

    Aliens. It’s always aliens.

  6. Sara

    It’s a vast whatever-wing conspiracy. Those **&% politicians. You can always blame them for everything.

  7. Diane

    Been there, been driven crazy. It was an old, cheap stopwatch buried in a dresser drawer.

    Took weeks to find.

  8. Kristie

    Awww, I’m sorry your dog got adopted by another family. Was it the Shih-Poo?

    No idea on the beeping. For us it’s always a dying battery in a smoke detector but you said you checked those…unless there’s one hiding in a place you didn’t know about.

  9. Lori N

    Vote two for a stop watch – it seems my son delights in hiding it around the house so that I can be driven crazy by it occasionally. Okay, so he’s only 5 and it’s just his nature to not pick up his toys – but it feels deliberate.


    Then there is the mystery smoke detector battery beep – which by it’s very nature occurs at 2am and is not locatable until both you and your spouse are standing directly under different detectors listening for it.


    And finally, the one time, short fire detector-like sound that went off at 3am last week. 1 time only. No smoke or fire in the entire house – believe me, I checked everything multiple times. Not a low-battery alarm either – I checked them all.


  10. dad

    Have you checked to see if there is a smoke detector in the crawl space under your house?

    I like that possibility way better than a landing party for an alien invasion.

  11. MaryP

    Hate that. Those electronic noises are so hard to place. Even when it’s a steady noise. Like, say, my timer, which clips onto my belt so to remind me of things on the stove/in the oven, but which sometimes I STUPIDLY unclip and set down (WHY do I do this?)… if I don’t recall where I set the damned thing down, it can take waaaay too long to find it, and it’s emitting a steady and incredibly annoying beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep the whole time.

    Something intermittent? God knows how long it’ll take to track down.

  12. steff

    Ours was a dead battery in the security system behind the secret panel in the master bedroom closet.

  13. Mom

    Goblins. Be nice to them or they will exact revenge.

  14. Amy

    Had that recently..for weeks, drove me completely nuts until one of the kids pointed out that it was our computer every time it went to “sleep” mode..not sure why it started all of the sudden but all I care about is that it is gone!!

  15. Leandra

    Ours was a dying battery in a smoke detector that was packed away in a box in a closet. Took us WEEKS to find it and by then we were all insane.

  16. Ani

    Perhaps an undiscovered feature in one of your fancy new appliances?

    (filter replacement? timer? whosawhatsit thingimajyggy tracker?)

  17. Rachel

    Reminds me of a story about my grandpa (thanks for bringing me great memories of him, his 98th bday would have been Sunday & boy do I miss him!) anyway… His smoke detector was beeping randomly & my dad told him he would run to the store to get him a new battery. My grandpa replied, “That’s ok, I don’t use that smoke detector anyway.” = ) Thank goodness he didn’t need it! = )

  18. Debbi

    LOL!! Ours was a cheap toy from Burger king that was stuffed into a drawer so occasionally something would push on the buttons. It took a month to find that one!! Good luck.

  19. Katie in MA

    Well now I want you to figure out what it is just because the curiosity is killing me! (And I’m sure you care VERY MUCH about that!)

  20. Randi

    I know how you can find it! Let the kids have a bunch of friends over – maybe you can pit boys against girls to make it really fun to watch – and send them on a hunt for the beep. The ones who find it get a fun prize. It’d ensure that your beeping noise was found!

  21. Beth

    Our “beep” turned out to be a tall branch of a crape myrtle tree scratching on the gutter when the wind blew slightly. I still don’t know how it managed to sound electronic, but it did.

  22. Darcie

    Ours ended up being the dishwasher. Some indicator that we did not ever turn on but somehow got pushed by random. It took us weeks to figure it out and I was twitching at random by then. Not a proud moment.

  23. Crisanne

    Wow, you are certainly not alone in the phantom beep department!

    Sorry about the dog. Wasn’t the right one. Your patience will surely be rewarded.

  24. Lori

    Recently I stayed in a hotel and was awoken in the middle of the night by a “beep”. It turned out to be the MICROWAVE of all things! I never heard of a microwave beeping like that, but once I unplugged it, all was quiet!

  25. Kate

    My car makes it’s dinging noise sometimes when I turn it off, and not other times, and even though I know it’s my car obviously, it drives me CRAZY that I never know why it’s beeping. What it’s trying to tell me.

  26. Amelia

    That reminds me of a can opener my exhusband got from his sister. It was supposed to make noise when it was used, something to do with the bottle top completing the electrical connection. It malfunctioned in the middle of the night once, and I woke up to the sounds of Homer Simpson moaning, “Mmmm…beeeeeer! Glug, glug, glug…” over and over again. My ex was Very Angry Indeed to discover the next morning that I had immediately trashed it. Good luck with your beep!

  27. Jess

    Think Geek makes a device called the Annoyatron, which involves random beeps. Not that I suspect anyone in your house of doing that, but I gave one to my mother to take to her work. ;)

    Our washing machine goes PING (not unlike the Monty Python skit) and it took me the longest time to figure out what was pinging.

  28. Karen P

    We have an Ernie doll that will randomly speak out and say “I feel great.” I can’t stand it when my cell phone beeps! Hope you figure it out soon.

  29. Chris

    We have some kind of super duper surge protector on our office equipment and entertainment center. After the power has gone out they beep until you hit the reset button (even though the power, when restored, starts to work immediately). My husband also had a timer set on his cell phone (accidentally) that went of twice each morning. It tooks weeks to figure that one out.
    Good luck finding the beep.

  30. Krista

    Yep. Smoke detector packed away in a junk drawer. Good luck.

  31. Mom

    Kate: My car beeps at me if I take off my seat belt before I turn off the car. Turn off the car _first_ and the car is happy and stays quiet.

  32. Anna Marie

    OH GAWD – the random beep. Makes me want to stab my brain with a fork on your behalf.

  33. Chris

    Filters. Refrigerator drinking water filter? Coffeemaker water filter? Air filter on something? Any filter that needs to be changed for any reason will beep until you figure out what it is, unless it doesn’t. My guess would be the drinking water filter on the fridge since yours should be about due.

  34. natasha the exile on Mom Street

    I like Randi’s scavenger hunt idea!

    The kids would likely have a blast, and you could discover the source of the beep and go back to being driven crazy by other things.

  35. Burgh Baby

    Shhhh . . . don’t tell my husband or the small child. There is a beep in our kitchen that seems to be random and annoying and weird. I totally know what it is, but I refuse to share my knowledge with the perps. Our fridge beeps once, a very short little beep, if you leave the door open too long. Every time it happens, my husband goes on a rampage looking for the smoke detector that needs its battery changed. Since he closes the fridge door on his way to tear the house apart, I just let it be.


  36. Nelson's Mama

    That would drive me INSANE.

    One of my girls had a pop-up toy piano – it played in our attic for over four months (Pop Goes the Weasel).

    You could only hear it when you went into our closet, took me FOREVER to figure out what it was, then it became a joke to see how long it would last.

  37. Jamie

    Wow, lots of great ideas of what it could be based on other people’s experiences! I hope you find it soon.

  38. Dawn

    My dishwasher beeps sometimes. Which I discovered just before it drove me mad. It was also a random beep that would only happen once so you couldn’t trace it.

  39. Sheila

    The gremlin who left that mystery puddle on your kitchen floor must have a teeny tiny vehicle that he locks with a teeny tiny key fob.

  40. Kathie

    Ours is the cordless phone. If it gets left off the cradle too long and the battery starts to die it’ll beep and then stop. And then beep a couple of hours later and then stop.

  41. Kerry

    I would suggest timing the beeps. If they are at regular intervals, then it’s something that needs attention. If not, you could be dealing with a prankster. They sell these really neat random beeping devices that are almost impossible to locate. I thought about buying one to drive my husband nuts, which would only be payback of course! :P

  42. Melissa

    We had an experience with that device you can buy that randomly beeps – one of the partners in our office hid it in another partners’ desk…and then feigned deafness when asked to “come in here and listen to this weird beeping!” The instigator held out for WEEKS, until the victim was dismantling his laptop to remove the battery (after taking APART his entire desk!), then fessed up. The rest of us thought it was funny!

  43. Annie

    We had a mystery beep in our office for 2 years. TWO YEARS. It turned out to be an old battery back up for someone’s computer, that wasn’t hooked up to the computer at all. It just sat in the corner beeping occasionally like an orphaned R2D2.

    We killed it.

  44. Heather

    I gave my 5-year-old an old stopwatch that I’d received from a giveaway from Discovery Health Network. The batteries were dying and she had hit some magic combination of buttons to make the alarm go off every 8 minutes. It was buried in the bottom of some toy bins near the kitchen. The very weak beep took us about 2 weeks to find. It drove my husband and I nuts!

  45. Kat

    We had a mystery beep for over two years. We got used to it, until…One day, it started shrieking instead of beeping. We narrowed down the sound (easier with a constant shriek as opposed to a random beep) and went through the ceiling. Apparently, the previous owners of our house lowered the ceiling in the hallway and left a smoke alarm attached to the original ceiling. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh. We didn’t miss the beep once we ripped that smoke alarm down and tore the dying battery out of it.

  46. Pepper

    Have you checked all of the breakers in your house?

    something like this happened at my nieces daycare and it turned out that it was a breaker that got switched on and it wasnt supposed to be because of some wiring issue. The beep was a warning that there was a problem – nothing major would have happened had they never found the beep (other than the daycare workers going insane).

    If all else fails blame the ailens, its usually their fault.

  47. Kai

    The EXACT same thing happened to me. It ended up being and OLD watch of my dad’s that fell behind a bookcase that was set to beep on the hour, but the time was wrong. Drove us nearly batty until we found out what it was.

  48. elizabeth

    we’ve had the same kind of random beeping things too. always turns out to be a smoke detector with a low battery. I’m with your dad on this one – check the crawl space under the kitchen (I’m assuming you’ve got one since he mentioned it)

  49. emily

    So just to add to the pile of things, the same thing has happened before to us. I think Elizabeth is right, and it’s a smoke detector with a low battery. Good luck!

  50. Jenny

    We live in a townhouse and the one next door has been abandoned for about a year now. I started hearing very regular beeps coming through the joint wall that no one else could hear. My husband would come home and I would have my head pressed against the wall, whispering, “Did you hear that?” I thought I was crazy until my sister was over one day and heard it too. The good news…I think the battery finally died completely. Your story made me realize we’ve been beep free for a while around here! Yay! I hope you find the culprit in your house!

  51. Jen B

    Burgh Baby! Oh my! LOL!!!

    our “random beep” is usually when one of the kids opens the dishwasher before it’s completely done cycling, and doesn’t start it again. It wants to be reset, and tells us with a random quiet “beep” … but it’s not consistent, and it’s very annoying!

    good luck finding your beep!

  52. Karen


  53. jules

    Gotta door bell? That happens when the battery in my doorbell is going …

  54. carolyn

    Same thing happened to me at work. It was a dying cell phone someone had left in an old desk. It took us months to figure it out and it was maddening.

  55. mamalang

    Karen took my comment…lol.

  56. Laura D.

    mine was a stopwatch, hidden somewhere in my classroom. It did go off every hour, but so softly I usually didn’t hear it.

  57. just beaux

    That’s annoying. I remember one evening right around midnight while I was settling in because I worked the following morning, we had that annoying chirp from a fire alarm start to happen. We pulled one alarm and replaced the batteries and it continued. We did this over and over again until we ran out of 9 volt batteries and my wife ran to the store and picked up some more. Eventually we had replaced every battery in the house and it still continued. I told my wife, “It sounds like it’s right here!” Looking down I noticed the carbon monoxide detector that was plugged in the hallway had an orange and red light slowly blinking. It was after 1:00 in the morning and I had to get up at 5:30. I think it’s coming from one of the drawers in your kitchen. I’d have the kids find it.

  58. MyFaithandJoy

    I’m glad to hear that everyone else seemed to eventually find the source of their irksome beeps…I’m in your shoes, and still haven’t rooted it out. Only ours only beeps once every few weeks. Just enough to remind me that I’ve yet to solve the mystery.

  59. The Other Leanne

    I dunno. I’ve lived in this house for 15 years, and I have no explanation for the “How the West Was Won” type soundtrack I hear when lying in bed at night. I thought it was the neighbor’s TV, but they moved and, besides, nobody else (*giggle*) can hear it.
    Oh yeah, and a loaf of bread jumped off the top of the refrigerator.

    Look under your appliances.

  60. Dayna

    I had a random honk this weekend. I flew up to Sonoma to visit my family and rented a car. Whenever we’d go out somewhere and then return home, we’d park the car and I’d lock it. Then every so often, the car would honk. But it didn’t happen every time, oh no, that would have been too easy. Just occasionally. Randomly. Like at three o’clock in the morning. Just a honk. Honk.

  61. Cele

    My eldest got her father a beeper for his keys. Of course he put the batteries in it then left the blasted thing next to my normal seat in the living room. Everytime I laughed it went bloody beep beep beep. And no my witches cackle maybe annoying, but the beep beep beeping was way worse. So I shoved it in the back of the most used drawer in the kitchen. At least I know what is causing the beep.

  62. becky

    The Annoyatron was the first thing that popped into my head. My husband has threatened me with it, because he knows I will TEAR THE HOUSE APART to find a noise like that. And once I found it, I would quickly be divorced. Or a widow. I won’t know which until I’m faced with that situation.

  63. Jodi

    Completely unrelated to this post, but last night I dreamed you got a fuzzy little dog and named her Hazel. Yeah, I dream weird.

  64. Ladybug Crossing

    Our beep turned out to be the digital meat thermometer in a drawer. Sometimes something bumped up against it just enough to set it off, but then when you walked over there, there must have been just enough vibrations to make it stop. Took me quite a while to find it…

  65. MomCat

    I recommend a tinfoil hat.

    The water filter in our fridge would quietly beep its displeasure when it was replacement time. I only found it when I happened to have the fridge open during a beep.

  66. Nancy R

    Man, who knew there were so many sources for random beeps?

    I’ll offer up the paranoid suggestion: surveillance cameras…Chickie and Monkey are keeping tabs on you while they’re out of the room, making sure you truly don’t have wild parties after they’ve gone to bed for the night.

  67. Greg

    3 words

    PC Load Letter

    you could be out of paper?

  68. Aimee

    That happened to us once, and it ended up being one of our old cell phones — we’d recently gotten new ones, and the battery for the old one held out far longer than we would have thought possible. We also have a random beeping out behind our apartment, but we have yet to find the source of that one yet. There’s too much vegetation, and too many gigantic spiders and potential rattlesnakes to make that search worthwhile.

  69. Crissy

    My parents have a muffled *beep* under their cabin where their RO (reverse osmosis) water purification system lives. It is yet another filter that beeps when it needs to be changed. My mom really did think she was going crazy because my dad couldn’t hear it but she could. He can’t hear that frequency any more. But I CAN and she’s NOT CRAZY.

  70. Laura

    Could you have imagined so many people being haunted by the random BEEP? Ours was a stopwatch. Once we found it, an easy fix. I did whack the cr@p out of a smoke alarm once to make it stop.

  71. Erin

    My cellphone battery almost always starts to die at about 3 am. The really awesome part? My dog (who takes medicine for anxiety) FREAKS out every time my cellphone starts to beep because it sounds exactly (to him) like the “you’re over your boundary, bub” warning from his Invisible Fence collar. So we wake up to the dog jumping on the bed, pacing and panting because my cellphone battery is dying. And then there was the one time (at band camp) that it wasn’t the cell phone. It was a CO detector downstairs. I got out of bed and wandered closer to where I heard the beep and waited. And heard it again. And moved closer. And heard it again. And so on until I was downstairs and it went off right next to my head. And then I had to clean up the pee and let go of the rafters, because I was totally NOT expecting it to be that loud.

    I hope you find your beep. And your dog. The perfect dog for you is out there somewhere. And he/she will be … well, I won’t say super. How’s great? :)

  72. Erin

    Whoops. Forgot to turn off the italics. Sorry.

  73. Dick Richards

    It took a month after we moved into our house to figure out that the music I sometimes heard while sitting on the toilet was band practice from a high school a half-mile away pouring down the vent pipe.

  74. daysgoby

    Is there a smoke alarm in the basement or crawlspace?

  75. jen

    so the most unreachable smoke alarm starts beeping last night around 1:30 am. Husband goes to try to fix, only half awake. I find him suspended high over the stairs. he doesn’t fall and I think, “great, no problem.” and then he falls off the futon. Boom. And he already has a bad back.

    Also, living in a duplex has disadvantages. Like when your neighbor’s alarm goes off right on the other side of the wall and wakes you up 2 hours before your alarm, nearly every day.

  76. Jeanne

    Mine took MONTHS to find.

    It was a smoke detector, but one packed in boxes in another tenant’s things, in storage, in the basement. We had the first floor apartment and could just barely hear it… sometimes… for two months. torture.

  77. getsheila

    Did you find it? My phantom beep was a smoke detector at my mom’s house that needed its battery changed. The twist was it was not mounted up on the wall or ceiling, where you would expect to find a smoke detector. No, it was stuffed in the back of a drawer where someone had put it after taking it down and neglecting to take out the battery.


  78. Eric Mycroft

    Could be a cat-flap battery needs replacing, happened to me once. Or something similar?

  79. Dawn

    Coming a little late to the party but I wanted to suggest something else: take the kitchen drawers out of their tracks and see if something fell down behind/under them. Our junk drawer overflows regularly and I have to get down there and retrieve stuff. Good luck.

  80. Jeff

    After two days of chirping driving me and the dog crazy I read this post and responses and went home armed with new batteries in search of a chirping smoke detector, old smoke detector in a box, refrigerator filter, dishwasher or abandoned pet toy to no avail. I stood in each room and closet waiting for the minute between chirps. I finally discovered it loudest on the building patio! Not coming from my unit but from the building next door, with the cavernous concrete area between the buildings as an echo chamber. I called the tenant who’s phone number I had due to becoming friends via my dog during walks, and he said “Hi, I’m out-of -town”. I told him about the smoke alarm and he sent his brother over to fix the problem. I said I had a battery if needed. He asked how late I would be up and I said ” Until the beeping stops” : ) Problem solved. Thanks all

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