Celliars's Tapes

I’ve been a radio disc jockey for about four or five years now, but I worked at the radio station since I was sixteen. I answered a lot of mail, and delivered a lot of messages to the various employees that made up the tiny building they ran out of. I was like their pet that they watched grow up to become a DJ himself.

However, back when I was first hired, I was always a bit shaken up by a man who was known as Mr. Celliars. He was not the boss by any means, but he was supposedly very vital to the production of the radio. They gave him an office with no windows, and they gave him a title like the ‘Creative Director’ or something that I am sure was not a real title at all. You did not have to know much about him, he was an eccentric man. His family constantly worried about him, and therefore he had his own ‘personal assistant’ who was actually a psychiatric nurse hired by his rich family to make sure he did not hurt himself or something. Mr. Celliars was always paranoid. He spoke of governmental spies, recording devices, and surveillance. He trusted no one, and could hardly look me in the eyes even though I was just a teenager then. He had an eight-millimeter camera and a cassette tape recorder within arm's reach at all time. In meetings he would lie his head down and play the loud tape that sounded like heavily degraded lo-fi music right to his ear. I could be across the room and still get a headache from it, but the man seemed immune. In fact, it calmed him down. He was seriously mentally ill, but he had some fantastic ideas. They kept him on because it would cost them more to replace him, or to lose him.

Now, if you think this is some story about some ‘psycho’ who ends up killing his family and wearing their skin or are wrong. This is not some awful depiction of the unfortunate mental illness. This is just something that happened to me that sends chills up and down my spine when I think about.

So, anyway. I worked for quite sometime answering mail, but even though I was usually in a quiet room full of envelopes, I was not to far away from the daily drama of Mr. Celliars. He had many different moods. Sometimes he would not leave his office, and not let anyone in. He would write out his daily contribution out on notebook paper and slide it under the door. Other times he was all over the building. He recorded on his camera and laughed a lot. It was like everyday situations made him laugh and laugh. He could ask “What time is it?” Someone could have replied “two-thirty.”

He would have been on the floor laughing as if it where the best joke in history.

There were times where he would refuse food because he thought it was rotten when it was not. He would sometimes refuse to drink water because he thought that ‘they’ were pumping gasoline into the water system. He would not sleep for days because he thought people videotaped him while he was asleep. He collapsed of exhaustion three times, and of dehydration once. Twice was he escorted out of the building by police kicking and screaming, then was unseen while he was staying in a mental hospital for six weeks at a time. He was not creepy, he was just some guy who we all sort of pitied.

However, will all the talk of surveillance and elaborate conspiracies about loss of privacy, people in the office felt ill at ease. It did not help that Mr. Celliars waved his camera around all the time. Not always was it like that, only when it was quiet. The times that Mr. Celliars was away at his hospital, or when he was refusing to leave his office; that was when it felt like one was not alone.

Then one day, we started having broadcasting errors. We would be on air, and then suddenly cut out. We would have very low quality sound from either minutes, or hours. Then there would be silence, a loud long beep, and perfect sound once again. This began happening frequently, but no one could identify the problem. Someone suggested that it was possible that there was two things trying to be broadcasted at once, but no one was running anything other than our programmes. It would happen so frequently, that listeners would begin noticing it. We began having the reputation that we had low quality broadcasting, when that was not true at all.

After about three months of being in the dark as to what the problem was, one evening at around three forty-seven in the morning, it happened again. Rich, one of our disk jockies of the time who usually ran the late nights and early mornings, was playing music. No one usually listened at that time of morning, so we ran few advertisements and a heavy amount of ‘cheap’ music. Then, all of a sudden, the sound became distorted. Rich had no idea, but Mrs. Jennings, who was listening to it, could hear the sound cut into a loud static. The static had a high pitch to it, and an eerie undertone. If you listened closely, you could hear a man talking in a low emotionless voice. Mrs. Jennings made everyone who was present listen (including the janitor), and they all could not understand where it was coming from. No one was at the office at all, and everyone who was stood in the room listening to the weird transmission. Mrs. Jennings started recording it onto a blank tape. She was not recording when it first came on, but afterwards she did. The voice stopped, cleared his throat, and then went silent. There was no voice, just static. Then there was a very faint “Uuh ahh!” and then another “Oh.” (That part was only heard after the recorded tape was played back.) The static stopped and went to solid silence. Then, after the sound of a telephone dial, and a click, the music began playing.

When I came in that night, they made me listen to the tape, and they told me what happened. They made our tech specialist listen to it, and he began to suspect that someone could be hijacking the broadcast signal. He said it was possible that whoever was doing it could be causing the problems we have been having, and that this person was unsuccessful before. Still, it was a big deal. Even if it was at three in the morning, it was illegal, and it was causing us a lot of problems. We decided to see if it would persist.

For the longest time, it did not. We continued as normal and the problems stopped. This continued for months, until one day, just around noon, the signal cut out and became a clear, near staticless sound unlike before. This time, it sounded like a tape recorder of someone speaking being played backwards. There were different sounds, faint voices, and a familiar sounding one that sometimes whispered, and sometimes spoke in a concerning tone. It was all played backwards, so he had no idea what it said. We were able to catch most of it on our own recording, and when we played it backwards (thus making it played normally) we were shocked to hear that the familiar voice was Mr. Celliars, and the other voices were snippets of conversations with him, recordings of past broadcastings, and what sounded like the recording device being set next to a television set during a film. Mr. Celliars was immediately questioned about the incident, and without blinking, he admitted to broadcast signal intrusion. It was never reported, mostly because everyone felt bad for him, and the next day he was fired. He went off to live with his mother or something, I did not hear much about it. His office was emptied, but he left a ton of tapes behind. I listened to a few of them out of curiosity. Some was the awful, heavily degraded music, others were sounds of conversations, TV, radio, and single records. It was eerie, like some sci-fi movie material. I nicked a few of the tapes for myself. They were just going to throw them in the dumpster out back anyway. I took two, and I still have them.

Anyway, I eventually became a DJ a year or two after Mr. Celliars was fired. It was a great gig. I started working the early mornings, and later on moved up to time slots with more listeners. Without Mr. Celliars, the place was quiet, and it was normal. However, we were lacking creatively, and were all pushed to our creative limits. Television was much more popular that radio, and we needed to give people a reason to listen.

I was working one morning, it happened again. It was between five and six in the morning and I was drinking coffee to keep me awake during the end of my shift. I spoke occasionally on air, mostly introducing songs to the few listeners at the time. Some were getting up for their early paper route, or were trucking. I knew my possible audience. I played the best rock n’ roll I could find for them. I was listening to what was being broadcast through headphones and they began to click. It cut out the sound every other second and then stopped, playing just dead air. I was tired and on a caffeine high. Every ghost story and horror movie I knew played through my mind. My heard started pounding and I took my feet off of the table. Suddenly it went to what sounded like a tape recording. I heard a chair squeak like someone was sitting at a table. It sounded like someone had simply leaned forward in a chair. Of course, I almost had a meltdown. I did not even think to hit the record button. Then, it came back. There was a second of dead air, and the sound of rock n’ roll once more. I was on edge until my shift ended. Then the sun was beginning to rise and I calmed down the second I was out of that eerie station. There is just something about radio stations. With all of the recording and broadcasting devices around you, one feels watched when they are alone—paranoid. Maybe it was just all of the energy. I heard that some kind of energy can make people feel on edge.

I reported the problem, but no one really cared. After about a day, neither did I.

The last time I heard it happen, it was probably the worst time. Once again, during my first year of being on air, I sat in the morning, playing music. The second the sound cut out, I pressed ‘record’. It was cutting in and cutting out. I heard faint talking, in with every cut. Then, there was about five seconds of a tape played backwards. I could actually hear the stop button being pressed and snapping upwards. Then I heard a chair squeak very faintly (once again, I only heard it the second time around). The last thing I heard was something that made me feel watched for weeks. I heard (what I have later decided to be Mr. Celliar’s voice say) ‘It still works, Davie’. Then it came back a few clicking sounds later. I was stunned. If you did not already guess, ‘Davie’ is what I have always been known by and called at the station by co-workers. I called myself ‘DJ Dee’ on air because it seemed hip (at the time) and catchy. I played the recording over and over again, each time it sent chills down my spine. I once played it while I was going to bed. It was next to another musical tape of mine, and I popped it into the stereo just for kicks. Even then, it freaked me out.

About half a year after that last incident, I saw Mr. Celliars’s obituary in the papers. He had fallen off of his mother’s rooftop. I was sure it was suicide, but then later I heard through the grapevine that he had gone up there one day in search for ‘governmental satellites’, and had slipped off. His mother’s gardener had found him dead a few hours after his mother had yelled at him for trying to cut open part of the wall in search for recording devices. She said he went outside in a terrible state of mind, and then he was dead. (All just what I heard around the station, of course.) Just like that, the man was dead.

I listened to the other tapes that he had left behind many times. It was rather interesting to listen to the odd snippets of his life. I even kept it with my music. However, the ‘It still works’ tape is something I had gotten rid of long ago, not on purpose, but it was probably for the better. I have no idea what he meant by what he said, and still don’t, but, no, it did not mysteriously stop working, or disappear. I was just so upset and bothered by the sound of him calling me out on air, that I did not keep it with my music. I moved from one apartment to the other, and ended up putting a few boxes in storage during the process. I emptied the content of my unit except for a couple of boxes I did not care about. I stuffed the tape into a box of old scarves from my cousin, and unused bed sheets from my dead grandmother. Then, I realized that I did not pay my storage bill one day, and I did not care. I truly did not care that I lost the tape.

So, either the owner of the rental place threw out the boxes, or they auctioned them off. Even if some stranger listened to the tape, they would have no background. They would not be freaked out like I was. The only result of all of this was that I never feel alone while recording. Sometimes the sudden memory of the damned voice of Mr. Celliars will pop into my head and will send chills up my spine. Every accidental click broadcasted on the radio makes me jump. I love being on air, but sometimes, especially in the early morning, it is simply nightmarish.

I am not sure if I am going mad myself, but one time just a few months ago, I swear to the heavens I heard the faint voice of Mr. Celliars saying ‘It still works, Davie’ underneath a low quality transition to a prerecorded advertisement. I always listen for it now, and that only makes me more likely to hear it.

Maybe it is just me, but broadcast signal intrusion freaks me out.

Written by D.Dee
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