We interrupt this funk with some noise

By Mir
February 5, 2013

I do my best stressing-out in bed. It’s my gift. Also, it makes me pretty much the greatest spouse ever, because what is sexier than a person who gets into bed at night and immediately begins crying and/or agonizing over a variety of unfixable and unhappy life circumstances? Nothing! ROAWR! Otto is a lucky, lucky man.

Fortunately for me, Otto is also a patient, patient man. Why, in the last year or so of… uh, challenges… Otto has even relented somewhat on his position about bedtime snuggling, now pretty much reflexively pulling me into a cuddle the moment I start fretting after the lights are out. (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, before, but if you don’t have yourself an Otto, you should get one. They are SWELL.)

So last night it was kind of par for the course: We got into bed, I called the dog up (she was hiding underneath, as she does), and as Licorice settled between us and Otto took my hand, two things happened. First, my brain began to race, because YAY FOR BEDTIME ANXIETY. Second, we heard a bizarre noise in the distance.

“What IS that?” I asked Otto, because Otto knows everything. (Also because he was the only other person there, and Licorice rarely answers me when I ask her stuff.)

Otto listened for a moment, then declared, “It’s just an owl.” We lay there, listening, and although it didn’t sound like a completely classic “WHO WHOOOO” kind of thing, that seemed logical. And it was kind of repetitive and soothing, if a little weird.

My favorite thing about where we live, actually, is that in the summer all of the frogs come up from the pond and have a massive frog orgy on our property every night. It’s like a white noise machine MADE OF FROGS. I find it very soothing, and I love falling asleep to the chirping and ribbiting when it’s frog season. But right now it’s February and generally in February the only outdoor symphony we get is the neighborhood feral cats fighting each other for dominance.

My point is that a weird little owl calling in the distance in February is kind of a nice distraction from the soundtrack of OH GOD THE SKY IS FALLING running through my head.

So that was all fine and dandy, and the dog snurfled one of those doggie-sigh-sounds she makes as she stretched out between us, and Otto was holding my hand and I was trying to relax…

… when the most horrifying noise I’ve ever heard came from RIGHT UNDER MY WINDOW (it seemed), about three feet from my head.

Otto and I both jumped, and the dog scrambled upright and cocked her head.

Now, that particular window faces the driveway of a neighbor’s house. That particular house is… how shall I put this? … not entirely drama-free, let’s say. It is not uncommon for us to be jolted awake in the wee hours as car doors slam and verbal altercations begin. So, you know, noise from that direction is normal. But this noise WAS NOT NORMAL.

I can’t even describe it. Imagine a turkey gobbling, a baby screaming, and the death moan of a wounded animal all wrapped up into one, warbling-shrieking-howling cacophony.

“WHAT IS THAT???” I scream-whispered to Otto. “THAT IS NOT AN OWL.” We continued listening, while Licorice began to whine. The noise paused, then resumed. It sounded close enough to be in the room with us. Have you ever heard cats fighting? It’s horrible and screechy, and also something with which we are very familiar. This was WORSE than that.

“I don’t know,” said Otto. “Maybe the neighbors are really drunk?” We giggled at this, as I would not put it past the neighbors to be really drunk, but still, this noise could not possibly be coming from a human.

“Is it a goose? A turkey?” I said, petting Licorice, who was still on high alert. “A drunk turkey??”

“A DRUNK CLOWN!” Otto declared, and we continued laughing, even though—I mean, I can’t speak for Otto, here, but I was REALLY freaked out.

“A drunk clown wrestling a cat that caught a turkey?” We continued speculating until the noise moved across the wall of the house towards the woods, and finally (blessedly!) stopped.

About three seconds later, Otto began to snore. But I stayed awake for another several hours to make sure no mutant screaming turkeys were coming to eat our faces off, because I CARE. (Ahem.)

This morning I did the only logical thing, which is that I drank several cups of coffee while wasting approximately two hours on Google searching for things like weird bird call sounds like cat yowling and Georgia animal noises nocturnal dying cat. I was making real inroads, too, and that’s important, because I knew that if I don’t figure out what it was I MAY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.

In no particular order, I diagnosed our visitor with: being a peacock having a bad day, a combination of somewhat rare owls, several ruffed grouses, and then there was some weird kind of waterfowl that I was almost convinced HAD to be it, until I learned that said animal was both endangered and only native to Western Canada. Nothing was EXACTLY right, though.

And then I figured it out, somehow. I think it was on a page where someone was asking WHAT KIND OF HORRIBLE BIRD IS THIS and someone pointed out that it probably wasn’t a bird at all. In fact, now that I’ve shared my find with Otto, he agrees that the original “owl” probably wasn’t an owl, either.

It turns out that our howling-moaning-dying friend was most likely a fox (or maybe several foxes). If you listen to “strange fox sound” on that page, you’ll hear what made me think it had to be a turkey or a goose. The yips, distress call and “beautiful howl-like crying” (BEAUTIFUL??) match up with what we heard, too. I don’t know if it was one fox or several foxes, but I am relieved to know that we don’t have any drunken zombie turkeys.

In conclusion: nature is loud, confusing and also creepy.


  1. Amy

    Do you know what I love more than anything from this post? That when you go to the soundboard, you can PURCHASE the sounds of foxes. Who would even need recordings of animal sounds permanently?

  2. Mir

    C’mon now, Amy. Maybe you’re making a mix-CD for someone you really, really hate!

  3. JennyA

    Maybe this is my mystery animal too! Late the other night I had let the dog out and gone back inside for a minute with the door cracked a bit, and then I heard this HORRIBLE UNEARTHLY NOISE that was NOT a cat, because I am unfortunately intimately familiar what the cats sound like. My dog is epileptic and my first thought was that she was having some kind of new, horrible kind of seizure and I acquired several lovely bruises running into and tripping over the furniture on my mad dash back outside. I flipped on the flood lights as I went out, and was just in time to see Mabel standing there all bristled up and *something* furry disappearing around the back of the garage. I would have thought I live to close into town for foxes, but… maybe?

  4. JennyA

    *ahem* “too close”

    Gaaaahrrgh, I hate typos.

  5. Amy

    Also, RE: having an Otto of one’s own. I am a fan of the palindrome, and of course Otto backwards is also Otto. But Otto inside out is Toot, and that is actually my nickname for Jeremy. So basically I have an inside out Otto. And yep, my Toot is pretty awesome!

  6. Nelson's Mama

    Ahem. I didn’t listen to the recordings, but we live in a similar setting and hear owls, see fox sometimes, have deer that chomp down all of my hostas,

    I also grew up in the country and think that you probably heard coyotes! There are active packs in back of our subdivision and we hear them at night.

    They also sashay through on occasion…

  7. Summer

    Alas, there’s no such thing as “too close to town” for foxes. When I lived in the heart of Washington, DC, I regularly saw foxes in my backyard. Luckily I never heard them, or perhaps they were drowned out by the sounds of my not-drama-free neighbors. And they’re pretty.

    Now that I live in paradise, I get to be woken by the screams of sandhill cranes. Those things are FREAKY.

  8. Corey

    Ok, so I would have *had* to get up and see what was making the noise. I’m so glad you figured it out, or I would not sleep tonight wondering about it. However, since I just 2 days ago saw a red fox skitter across the street, scamper through my side and back yard, and disappear between my neighbors’ houses, I probably won’t sleep because I’ll be wondering if it’s going to scare the crap outta me in the middle of the night. At least I’ll know what it is if it happens.

  9. Kristi

    We had a shrieking coyote wake us one night. I cannot even tell you how piercing and murderous and savage and shrilling and tortuous and spine-chilling and unearthly and insanely screeching it was. And don’t even think I just did explain with all those adjectives. Because that doesn’t even come close.

  10. Kristi

    Oh, and my husband would tell you, that yes, foxes are all that terrifying and more as well. He was leaving the house one dark morning for his run when he startled a fox that was on our stoop. It screamed and jumped, he screamed and jumped back inside and called that adrenalin rush good enough for his daily exercise.

  11. Julie

    We definitely have a fox (or three) on our side of town…maybe they have made a move! It’s pretty incredible to be out running and come face to face with a fox!

  12. Otto

    Other option: Something Squatchy.


  13. Nelson's Mama


  14. ac

    I’m in London and we are overrun with foxes and yes they make the most ungodly sounds at night ALL THE TIME. If you talk to the local council about possibly culling them they tell you that foxes aren’t a problem as they are shy, nocturnal creatures who stay away from humans. Yeah right. I’ve had young ones walk up to me in broad daylight and they have even entered a friend’s house during the day.

    I hate foxes.

  15. el-e-e

    I’m not sure I’d feel relieved to know that it’s a fox. Ew. No thank you. “Beautiful” voice notwithstanding. *shiver*

  16. Arnebya

    Oh, Nature. She so fickle, throwing y’all demon nonbird foxes and us random turkey vultures, possessed possum, and raccoons that stand on hind legs and say, “I dare you.” Glad to have an Otto of my own (even though his name is not Otto and he ran from the raccoon in the trash can the other night while squealing like fighting feral cats. We at least still giggle about it deep in the night when my hand wringing makes its most unwelcome appearance.)

  17. suburbancorrespondent

    Lying down to go to sleep – definitely the worst part of the day…no distractions…

  18. Midj

    I am beyond impressed that you could find the sound. Sound googling is amazingly hard. Hopefully, the fox will let you sleep tonight!

  19. Christine

    Not that long ago my husband and neighbors ran out into our street in the middle of the night armed with various bats, golf clubs and rolling pins to defend the honor of what they were all certain was a woman in distress… only to discover a fox vixen sashaying down the road “calling” to her boyfriend. Terrifying and oh so amusing!!

  20. susan

    I’m voting coyotes. We had this happen to us a couple of months ago. Woke us from a dead sleep. Even though we live in suburbia we have a lot of displaced deer and coyotes around. We think the coyotes had a deer surrounded and when they heard us open our back door to look around, they all fled. I like to think we saved bambi that night.

  21. Jenn

    We have an owl that likes to perch on top of our chimney and hoot. The noise travels down the chimney and straight into my bedroom like a freight train. The first couple of times we heard it, I was all “wow, wonder of nature” and “so charming, living in the country.” Now, after the 323rd time he’s woken me up in the middle of the night, I’ve embarked on a full scale plan to teach my very tiny, very lazy cat to hunt owls. . . no luck yet.

  22. Avie

    Mating raccoons sound like the world is ending AND they go at it for hours at a time, in the darkest depths of night. I’m glad your nighttime visitor yelled a bit and went home. :-)

  23. Jenn

    P.S. I LOVE the word “squatchy”

  24. Anna

    I have an Otto. Poor guy has been through his share of late-night fretting recently.
    I saw a video on facebook once with a “pet fox.” (I think if you look on youtube for “Chuckles the Red Fox” it was one of those.) Lots of those weird-fox noises. My mentor wants a pet fox, which I thought was kinda cool, until I saw (HEARD) this video. ACK. No, no, no… not even cute. BAD.

  25. Sheila

    Listen to the fox distress call then amplify it a thousand times. Sounds like a woman being murdered. This sound was our introduction to the neighborhood foxes at our last house. My husband and I were looking (very cautiously because we didn’t want to be seen!) out the window and wondering if we needed to call 911. Our current place has no foxes that I know of (though I have heard rumors of coyotes and bobcats) but it does have a very persistant owl that likes to sit outside our window and who-who-whooooo all night long. Much more relaxing than the woman-being-murdered sounds right outside the window!

  26. Amber

    In Japanese folklore foxes will transform into demon women, which I didn’t really get until I lived in rural Japan where there were lots of foxes. They sound just like a woman screaming in the woods – very unnerving.

  27. addy

    Nope. Might have had to sell the house and move after that….. creeepppppyyyyyy……….

  28. 12tequilas

    Yep, picked it right up from your description, we got them cute lil’ redheaded foxes here in Maryland (D.C. metro area). We walk our dogs right next to the woods and if the foxes decide to make the noises while we are out there, I always jump/scream but the dogs are NOT FAZED in the slightest. In fact, if one ever came out, the dogs would probably try to make friends (although I would discourage this).

    We like the frog orgy choice on our sound machine (for some reason it isn’t called that, though).

  29. CuriousCat

    my first thought was coyote, too. are you sure it wasn’t? (i hate to be wrong. just hate it.)
    either way, best keep an eye on your chickens and such…including Licorice.

    Christine @ #19 cracked me up. THAT is an image in my mind that will provide hours of giggles. I’d love to know which man took the rolling pin!

  30. Peggy Fry

    I live in the middle of a city and see foxes all the time. I was amazed because I thought it was a dog, just trotting along, checkin’ it out…..never heard that noise and don’t want to! I had a pool that had been closed for a few years and had regular tree frog orgies. Man, those guys were LOUD!!!! Tiny little frogs, major bellowing NOISE. grump grump… I used to dump them in the local creek and the owner thought I was being so ecological… used to think, “Let them keep YOU up all night!”

  31. Aimee

    Well, I guess at the very least, this: Yay for no drunken zombie turkeys? I think I might have that embroidered on a pillow.

  32. Angela

    LOL at Otto – “squatchy” as in, “Yep, it’s looking pretty Squatchy out here tonight!” That show is beyond ridiculous! But funny!
    I have an “Otto” but his name is Joe, and yes, he is awesome. He is sweet and considerate and brings me things he knows I will love, but also tough and manly when he should be! :-)

  33. Katie in MA

    Be glad it isn’t a Fisher cat. (Do not google that. Suffice it to say it’s a cross between fox yowling and the Blair Witch.)

    So, um….have fun with that! ;-)

  34. Deanna

    We get foxes all the time in our ” hundred acre wood”. I’m a city girl and the first time I heard one I called the police to report that someone was OBVIOUSLY killing a baby in my back yard. The officer who responded was not pleased, though he also seemed a bit amused. :).

  35. Heather

    Guess there are lots of us with experiences with foxes in the DC Metro area. I was out walking the dog about 5AM one morning and had my cellphone out, about the call 911 as I was sure the horrendous sound was some child or woman being beaten. Nope, it was the little fox who then ran across the street in front of me. Cute little animal, big scary noise.

  36. Stephanie

    Too funny! We have a TON of coyotes in the woods near our house and it’s pretty common for us to year them yipping and yelping (I prefer hootin and hollerin, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what coyotes do). ANYWAY…i had gone to bed early Saturday night and woke up about 1:00 am convinced that they were IN OUR ROOM. Turns out DH was just downstairs watching one of the Twilight movies with the surround sound turned up as loud as it would go. Scared the bejeebers out of me, though.

  37. Daisy

    Rabbits. If you really had an owl, it could have hunted down a rabbit. Rabbits make a horrible sound when they’re dying or fear they’re about to die – or so I’ve been told.

  38. bryan

    My former BIL is an ornitholo. . .bird dude. I called him to have him identify birds over the phone.

    I wonder if I could get ring tones out of those sounds on the sound board?

  39. Connie

    Oh God– I am not posting on the first post because OMG so relate, but late to the game.. But LOL– Funny– foxes! Lately– we have something in our wall– I think it is a possum, but last night it sounded like a rat. Yay for 1923 houses. Ugh. They don’t seem to be in the house.

  40. Brigitte

    Heh, my first thought for freaky night sounds was a fox (and ours also sometimes sound like a woman being murdered), but raccoons or ‘possums were also possibilities in my brain. I’ll have to Google the fishers, because we have those here too.

    Though I almost hate the distant sounds more, because hubby is usually snoring and I can’t figure out what it is over/between the snores. It is most vexing.

  41. Deborah (aka Tawanda Bee)

    I am just glad to know someone else knows google has all the answers!

  42. karen

    Have you ever heard of a Fisher cat? The sound they make is hideous.. like a baby something screaming at the top of it’s lungs while being murdered, no kidding. It’s absolutely horrible. I wonder if you have them down there too.. although drunken turkey would not describe the sound…lol…

  43. Heather

    soooo….I totally love this post. I read the first paragraph out loud to MY Otto and he goes, “Dude, is this lady your long-lost twin or what? You DO that!”

  44. Kate

    “Nature is loud.” Your conclusion made me snort coffee through my nose! Better than a Netti!!

  45. Brenda

    Tod never made any sounds like this in “The Fox and the Hound.” I’m kind of dying laughing over here at the bizarreness of those sounds.

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