All the rooms where I work are rigged up with PA speakers; there are no doubt hundreds of them throughout the place. They’re relatively unobtrusive affairs, external and boxy but color-coordinated to each office. (The newer and/or fancier offices have in-wall versions.) Mostly, they behave themselves, staying silent through the live-long day. Occasionally they announce drills (fire, emergency, disaster-preparedness), or that an alarm is being investigated somewhere in the building. More frequently, and usually during less-busy hours, there will be a looped message indicating that there’s a system test underway. At these times, somebody is or somebodies are touring the building and making sure that each speaker is operational. Finally, early in the mornings during mid- and late-December they will broadcast holiday music. No mysteries so far.

However, sometimes when I’m working late there are whispering voices emanating from these speakers. No, I’m not kidding and no, I’m not crazy. Well okay, I’m probably a little bit crazy, but not in the voices-in-my-head way. Nor do I suffer from aural hallucinations (link A | link B) due to any neurological conditions. Besides, these voices are indistinct and convey no information, no Son-of-Sam messages, no nefarious post-hypnotic-suggestion-sleeper-agent-type directives (à la Telefon).

So what’s going on? Obviously, it’s one or more people in the Security control room producing these not-discernibly-sweet nothings. It seems to me there are two possibilities: intentional or unintentional. Either engenders a mystery.

  • If it’s unintentional, does that mean there’s a way to accidentally leave the microphone on? Are people having a conversation on the far side of the room? I tend not to think that someone is putting their hand over the microphone while speaking to someone else because there aren’t any scuffly sounds and there is never an actual announcement before or after these whispers.
  • If it’s intentional, why is the culprit doing this? To distract employees? To get them to question their sanity? Or is it some sort of intrinsic compulsive behavior without any intended goals?