crazy stuff

The Great Heater Mystery

inspecting old heater

We have a mystery in our house. Our wall heater is very old and the clasp that holds the little trap door to the pilot light at the bottom is broken. As a stop-gap fix we have taped it shut with a piece of masking tape. This works pretty well for about a month and then it mysteriously falls open with a loud boom as the metal door hits the carpet. We’re used to it but it still startles us.

The heater rarely works so we hardly use it. The pilot light refuses to stay lit. We aren’t using it right now of course since it’s almost warm enough to leave the windows open even at night. So the startling boom sound happens very rarely since the trap door is shut tight and not opened all summer. (In the winter it happens all the time since the tape is stuck and unstuck every time we have to re-light the pilot light.)

Last night I heard the boom sound. I thought it strange but I was sleepy so I didn’t bother getting up to investigate. Then this morning I woke up to find the wiring mechanism to the heater laying outside of the trap door. The trap door was shut and a small coiled piece of wire with a burnt end was just sitting there on the carpet. I figured Toby had gotten up in the night and taken the wire out and left it on the floor. Maybe to remind himself to fix it the next morning.

This morning after my usual morning chores I finally asked Toby about it. What wire he asks. He didn’t touch the heater last night. He recognized the wire. Its an old mechanism from years back that a repair man had just stashed in the wall when he replaced it with a new one.

How could the coiled wire be outside of the heater and the door shut? Do we have a ghost? Did one of the cats stick their paw up underneath the heater trying to catch a mouse or a silverfish or something, snag the wire and pull it out? If so, then what was the loud bang? Cats surely cannot open and shut the trap door.


Also there are dried drip marks around the heater in an arc like pattern…something splattered when the trap door fell. They are faint orange, reddish maybe brown… Could it be blood? Did our landlord come in the night and mess with it? They are weird like that but Toby swears our front door was locked. I’ve inspected our cats and there are no signs of any scratches or bites. It’s possible the drips could be old from something else (our carpet is a million years old) but I don’t remember them at all.

mysterious drips

It’s a complete mystery. I think we have a ghost.


  • a chris

    Verrry strange. You will, I trust, let us know when you uncover the mystery?

    We had a thing that would startle us every once in a while when it came un-velcroed. It was a ventilated piece of wood that covers the gap between the oven and the cupboard over it (our oven is in the wall and our stovetop is over a different cupboard). We stopped sticking it back up. Except when we had a mouse which I thought was a rat and I didn’t want it to get near the baby while we slept, so I duct-taped it on as well as duct-taping all the cupboards shut! Ah, good memories.

    I suppose we should just get some new velcro tape and make it nice again.

  • Madge

    Maybe you stayed at my place long enough to take my ghost home with you. She must like a warm room, while she smokes her cigarettes. Come to think of it, I haven’t had to argue with my kitchen light for a while so maybe she IS with you. EEP.

  • Jeremy Howard

    Looking at the last photo I submit that Bug got up late with a cup of red juice, was curious about the wall heater and the rest is history. :)

  • dori

    Hmmmmm… very mysterious. Maybe there was an little electrical explosion inside there, and it blew out the wire and some moisture. I would be a little afraid of turning that thing on next time. You should scrape up the drips and take them to a lab to be analyzed. You are Secret Agent Josephine after all.

  • silver

    I’m confused. If the pilot light goes out, wouldn’t that cause a gas leak? Because don’t pilot lights run on very slow gas lines?

  • Denise

    I would guess that the mystery spots are rusty sprinkles from when the door opened and the thermocouple fell out.


    That is seriously weird!! I’d be a bit freaked out… but then I’ve watched Ghost hunters way too much!!

  • BeachMama

    That is a mystery! I say a mouse fell out with the coil and scampered away. And the spots have been there for a while, but you only noticed them because of the mystery. I don’t believe in ghosts, Angels yes, ghosts no.

  • Kuky

    That is very very strange. I had a dream the other night that Nathan stood up. It was sooo very startling that I woke up. So maybe you were dreaming. Oh wait. The wire. Maybe your landlord did come in the middle of the night. Do they have a key?

  • Jen

    Not a believer in ghosts… Thinking it may be rust – not blood (hopefully). Hope you unravel the mystery!

  • Beth B

    wow – very mysterious. i’m hoping that the answer will come to you in the next few days/weeks. hope you share with us when it comes to light! :-)

  • Kate

    I have the same heater and receive the same startle every month or so when the door slams open for no reason! It really never gets un-startling.

    No insights about the cable, sadly, so I submit this scenario:

    Door slammed open because tape grew less sticky over time. Intrigued cat went over to investigate noise and found the loose cable to play with just inside the heater door. Cat swatted at it for a while until the wire fell out and startled the cat, who ran across the room. Cat went back to sleep and the cable stayed put until you woke up and found it.

    Or a ghost, but I think you would have noticed it already :)

  • gingermog

    Wow what a weird mystery? The wire could have possibly sprung out when the door opened but how did the metal door get back into the right place again? Doubtful Bug could do it and definately not the cats? Hmm an odd occurance to put at the back of your mind me thinks. A few years back when we lived in an old house that hadn’t been touched since the 50’s a lot of weird things happened, mainly odd objects apperaing in the wrong place

  • gingermog

    Sorry I pressed the wrong button and it posted by mistake.

    We blamed our odd stuff on the cat bu we did joke about friendly house ghosts :) I am a bit worried about your old heater though. Does it get checked once a year?

  • carrien (she laughs at the days)

    This is only vaguely related but I know you hate your carpet. Why don’t you tear it up and just paint the floor underneath with porch paint or something? Assuming the landlord will let you.

    That’s what I’m planning on doing. I hate carpets. :)