Answering calls all day might seem like a boring job, but when you’re working as a 911 operator or other form of dispatcher, you are bound to have some of the scariest and most unsettling conversations, as you will see in this collection of stories from real life 911 and emergency dispatchers, who shared their personal accounts of nightmare calls on Reddit.
Here are the most disturbing and frightening calls operators and dispatchers have received while on the job. It is clear from every story here that working dispatch and helping people in life-threatening situations is one of the toughest careers a person can have.
Suicidal Man Carries Through with Plan
“My mom is a dispatcher for Phoenix. She had a call where a guy was calling in advance because he was going to kill himself. Well, he did, but he didn’t hang up, and legally you’re not allowed to hang up unless there’s some very specific circumstances, so she had to sit there and listen to him die.”
Screams Like No Other
“I was a 911 dispatcher, and a volunteer firefighter in the town that I dispatched for. To set the story up, the way 911 works in the state I lived in at the time was your call will first go to a 911 call center, where an operator pulled up all the electronic information, GPS location if cell phone and then determines the location, usually by asking the caller, before forwarding the call to the proper fire department dispatcher (me) in the area of the call who will get the location (again) and the emergency information and dispatch the fire department and/or the ambulance. The 911 operator will stay on the line, while the caller talks to the dispatcher, but they usually don’t say anything and let us talk to the caller. If we need additional location info, they sometimes chime in with additional info.
So, I’ll first say that I wasn’t dispatching the night of this particular call – I was actually one of the first on scene with the fire engine for the call because I was with the volunteer FD that night. Two cars full of girls that had just come from a soccer team pasta dinner decided to go ghost hunting in our town late one night because we had an old abandoned mental hospital in our area. We also have very windy, unlit back roads. The girls were going way too fast, and one of the cars didn’t negotiate a sharp corner very well. The vehicle rolled, and two girls were ejected from the vehicle before the car rolled on top of them. Those two girls did not make it.
The eerie part about the call was the next dispatch shift I worked. I talked to the dispatcher who was on that night, and we reviewed the tapes of the call. Even though I was on scene for that call, listening to the recording of the call was terrifying. I heard our dispatcher answer the call, but all that could be heard on the other end was screaming. Screams of horror from teenage girls as they try to help their friends. Sheer terror. I’ve never heard screaming like that before.
That’s when the 911 operator spoke up over the screams to the dispatcher, “Hey, I have no idea what is going on. I wasn’t able to get any info from anybody. The call comes up on GPS in the area of 123 [Street]. That’s all I have.” Luckily the dispatcher was smart and realized that there was a true emergency, so he not only dispatched my department, but the next closest department as well for extra personnel.
Listening to that playback was one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever had to listen to.”
Girl Calls from Closet When Stalkers Breaks In
“The creepiest phone call I ever took was while dispatching for my university while I was still in school. A girl called saying she was hiding in her dorm room closet because the girl that had been “stalking” her had just broken into her room. The caller claimed that the intruder simply sat down on her bed and stared at the wall until the police showed up.
It was eerie because it was just so abnormal. Not normal person behavior at all.”
Frantic Wife Needs Help with Suicidal Husband
“A lady calls in hysterics. I spend a solid two minutes on the phone, trying to get her to calm down enough that I can understand her, and the whole time I hear someone screaming in a language I can’t recognize in the room with her. It sounds like some fanatic speaking in tongues. I finally get her calmed down enough to understand what she’s saying.
“My husband shot himself in the head! You’ve got to help him! He’s talking to me, but I don’t understand what he’s saying! Please, please, please, you’ve got to come help him!”
The husband and wife were arguing; the husband was drunk. He gets his .45 and shoots himself in the head. The incoherent yelling I was hearing was his broken brain trying to… Scream? Cry? Ask for help?
He was still alive when they got to the hospital, but was taken off life support the next morning.”
A Routine Call Takes a Horrific Turn
“A friend of mine who used to dispatch has the worst story I’ve ever heard.
It was one of her first solo 911 calls, and the caller is requesting medical help with slurred speech. My friend was under the impression it was an elderly gentlemen experiencing a stroke.
When units arrived on scene, however, they discovered that the caller was a 17-year-old who had been shot in the face by his mother. He bled out and died while my friend was on the phone with him.”
Wife Injures Husband During His Birthday
“I answered a call from a woman who had run over her husband in a speed boat and chopped off his legs. Their children were with her in the boat. It was the husband’s 40th birthday, and he wanted to go water skiing. She didn’t want to because she wasn’t comfortable driving the boat.
Unnerving Call from an Inconsolable Man
“I worked as a police dispatcher/911 call taker for a while. There are many different types of disturbing calls such as calls from mentally disturbed people and calls that leave you shaking afterwards.
My most terrifying call was from a guy who was on the verge of committing suicide. I actually don’t mind suicide calls because the calls are usually made by friends, family, or after the fact, so you can usually get information and send out the call. However in this case, the actual guy called. He was extremely high or drunk, sobbing uncontrollably (heavy emphasis), and was using an old deactivated cell phone, so I could only find the general area of where he was calling from; he had a knife to his throat and was on the roof of a high-rise.
I could not get through to him because he was out of his mind and refused to tell me where he was while crying the whole time. I was on the phone with him for 10 minutes trying to figure out where he was and using everything I had in my arsenal to get him to not go through with it. During all this time, I was only able to get his name. He then hung up, but 10 minutes later called back and I got him again.
For the next 20 minutes, it was the same unresponsive threats to kill himself, but I pinged his cell and saw that he was near some apartment complexes, so I said, “F*ck it,” and sent cruisers to every apartment complex in the area and told them to find a crying guy with a knife. I was on the phone with this guy for about 20 more minutes while the cops searched the area and finally found him hiding under a staircase in an apartment complex with a knife.
I found out later they shipped him to a hospital and that he was f*cked up on something. I was shaking afterwards, and my next call was from a tow guy, but I could barely type.”
Sickening Call from Deranged Husband
“A man locks his two toddlers in the bathroom, shoots his pregnant wife, calls 911, and says, “Call my father and send police. I killed my wife and I’m going to kill myself.” He hangs up and kills himself.
The police get there and hear the toddlers crying in the bathroom, so they kick in the door.”
The Wolf Finally Arrives
“One night, the wife calls in with slurred speech, telling the operator that her husband is in the corner of the kitchen in a chair with a shotgun. In the background, you can hear the man verbally harassing the woman on the phone, telling her that she’s a b*tch, c*nt, and she ruined his life. The wife just keeps telling him to shut up and tells the operator that he pushed her into a wall earlier which left a hole in the drywall. She wants him to spend a night in jail to sleep it off because now he’s carrying the shotgun around, and she’s worried he’ll “f*ck things up in the neighborhood.” There is a sound of struggle and then she hangs up.
She calls back a few minutes later. The man is yelling so loudly that the woman is hard to understand. He still has the shotgun and says he’s done with this life. She says he went down to the basement. She gives the operator her information and repeats, “He just needs to sleep this off.” 10 minutes go by, and the woman is still on the phone with the operator talking about her husband’s drinking habits, threats of suicide all the time, and her bruises throughout the years from him.
The operator tells the woman to check on the husband. She agrees, but with an attitude that shows she could be rolling her eyes, like it’s the same crap every other night.
A shot is heard. The woman makes a strange “Oh?” noise, and she walks down the steps. Incoherent words. The woman then starts yelling, “Why! Why! Why! Why!” and the phone drops to the ground. The operator asks what has happened. No answer. All you can here is the woman yelling at someone. She then picks up the phone and tells the operator that he shot himself in the head, and blood is everywhere. The operator tells her to calm down and to let the officers in.
The husband shot himself in the temple, shattering his entire skull.”
Man Comes Home to a Blood-Curdling Scene
“I’m a dispatcher for an agency in the Midwest. In my first six months of dispatching, I had taken every kind of call from car wrecks to stabbings and shootings to childbirth.
The call that sticks out in my mind though is one from a guy named Brady. I answer with the standard “911, where is your emergency?” He just kept repeating, “I don’t know what to do. Oh, God, I don’t know what to do!”
At this point, I know this is going to be unpleasant. I get him calmed down, and he tells me that he just came home from work and found his house ransacked. While checking out the house, he found his girlfriend in the bedroom, naked and tied to the bed – she had been raped.
My partner sends the calvary as I give Brady some instructions. The sh*tty thing was that because he lived way out in the county, he only had cell service outside his house. He had to leave his girlfriend alone inside to get help. I stayed on the phone until help got there, which luckily was only about 10 minutes.
I’m not sure why, but that call stuck with me. It came in right at the end of my shift, and I’ve never bolted from that room so fast in my life.”
Terrified Kid Needs Help with His Crazed Father
“I got a call from a crying child – a little boy – saying his mom and dad were fighting, and his dad said he was going to throw the mom out of the window. I could hear a terrible fight going on in the background – woman screaming, things breaking, man yelling, etc. The poor kid didn’t know his address. We didn’t have the technology for caller ID, so we would have to use reverse telephone books. A trace would take forever.
Anyway, while I’m trying to get the address, I hear a horrific scream and glass breaking. A few seconds later, the other operators in the room are getting calls about a woman lying in the courtyard who came out of a window. Very sad. Worst of all, I am sure someone else in this apartment building must have heard this fight, but no one called for help until it was too late.
A Gutting Call During Hurricane Katrina
“I was a 911 operator in Mobile, AL the day Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. We started getting lots of calls from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast for some reason. I guess they started routing to us after all the 911 centers to the west of us started going down.
Anyway, I got a call from a woman who said she was trapped in her house on Gordon Street between Florida and Law. I was confused at first because we have a Florida Street in Mobile, and after double checking and not being able to find her address, I asked her what city she was calling from; she said, “I’m in New Orleans.”
I tried to route her to New Orleans 911 and the New Orleans Fire Department but could not get through. She started screaming and said the water was coming up into the attic where she was. I told her to find something heavy and break the attic vent out, so she could get out on to her roof, but the vent was too small for her to crawl through. She sat down and started crying. I told her I would stay on the line with her for as long as she wanted me to.
I stayed on the line and listened as she cried, prayed, cussed, and prayed some more. A little while later, I could hear her struggling to keep her head and phone above water, then the phone went dead. To this day, I don’t know if she lived or died.
I quit 911 three months after Katrina.”
Woman Wakes up to Find Her Boyfriend Missing
“On Christmas Eve, I answered 911 for a hysterical lady who was crying so hard she couldn’t breathe. I asked her what was going on, and she told me these exact words: “My boyfriend and I….we were watching a movie. I fell asleep. I woke up, and he wasn’t here.”
I thought this was a little odd, so I said, “Okay, ma’am. Do you know where he may have went?” She wasn’t done.
“I found him in our closet – he hung himself with our bed sheets.” I walked her through cutting him down and starting CPR, when he started making this long raspy exhale that sounds exactly like something from a horror movie – it’s the rest of his air leaving his lungs. She starts getting hysterical again begging, “Oh my God, he’s breathing. Please breathe, baby, please breathe.” But I knew that’s not what he was doing.
Police/fire/ambulance got there and of course, the guy was way dead. I felt so bad for that woman. That’s really the only call that has ever stuck with me.”
Little Girl Helps Her Unconscious Mother
“I answered a call at 3 am from a 7-year-old girl who found her mom unconscious on the couch and not breathing. The child knew her address, and it was in the middle of nowhere – 25-minute response at best.
I had to talk the kid through getting her mom off the couch one arm and one leg at a time because she was too small to just pull her to the floor. Then, we started CPR instructions. The kid did great. There were no neighbors, and she did not know a phone number for her dad (divorced).
We ended up getting her mom breathing again just as the ambulance pulled up. I cried like a baby when that was over; I was so relieved for that child.”