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The Childish Voice


The phantom voice of a child on the radio. Was it real?

On 7/7/05 I was listening to the morning news on Radio 4. between seven and eight am there was an interruption by a tiny childish voice which simply said, "Hello"...

Hearing voices.

A sign of madness? A supernatural intervention? According to the Mental Health Foundation, it is estimated that between 5% and 28% of the general population hears voices that other people do not. Freud spoke of hearing his name called out multiple times in a day by a ‘beloved voice’ when no one was with him. Parents hear phantom babies in the night, and many people have reported hearing the voices of their departed loved ones calling to them in empty houses (Psychology Today)

The brain has an incredible capacity for finding patterns in the everyday, this is the reason we see faces in clouds and hear voices, singing or even music amongst the hubbub of life. To make matters more complicated we were looking into this case many years after it happened, and as we found with The Case of the Missing Ham, memory can be very difficult to trust.

However, our client was adamant that he had heard the childish voice saying “Hello” on the radio. He even had specific details about exactly when it was:

...the voice was in between pieces [...] by John Humphreys and James Naughty. I am in danger of confabulating but I think it was John Humphreys as he has a habit of making frequent time-checks. Having listened to radio while waking for many years I was very aware of the peculiarity of the interruption in such a formal programme. 

7:00 Radio On
[waking, ablutions]
7:50 Breakfast
8:05 Leave house
8:20 Catch bus

We concluded that the only way to find out for sure was to try and dig up the recording of the programme from that morning all those years ago. An added layer of significance is that this happened on the day of the tragic London bombings – one of the reasons why our client had remembered the date so clearly. It felt strange to be looking into events that occurred only hours before the attacks that unfolded.

A contact at the BBC archives came back to us with this:

[I] had a look and the programme was missing... It’s weird, Random programmes are often missing, but that was the day of the 07/07 attacks, so I would have thought they would keep everything. The whole programme from that morning isn’t there, but the part covering the time you need is.

Putting aside the mystery of the missing programmes, we set to listening to the radio fragments expectantly, but still with doubts as to whether the voice would really be there.

But after about forty five minutes – making us jump with its sudden intrusion – we heard it. The voice, clear and without doubt, the time signature giving us the exact moment it happened.


How did it get there? The programme hosts don’t seem to react to it. There are no apologies offered or any humorous reflections during the rest of the show. We also speculated that the voice may not be the sound of a child but of a older woman, of Scottish origin, the kind of ‘hello’ one calls out as you enter a room, or are looking to see if someone is there.

The case continues as we search out a team member who may have been present that day.

Penny Farthing – MRBDA