April 21, 2004


I first heard of phone phreaking in the book Travels With Dr. Death and Other Unusual Investigations, a collection of articles written by Esquire journalist Ron Rosenbaum. Phone Phreakers are the original computer hackers. They pre-date personal computers and got their entertainment from hacking public phone systems. Free long distance calls is a perquisite of being a phone phreaker, but the draw is probably the challenge of it. Back when phone systems were less governed by fancy computers, some tricks were as easy to pull as using a whistle found in a Captain Crunch box to take control of a telephone trunk line. Nowadays it is not so easy.

It appears that a modern-day phreak has been harassing the Fairhaven Police Department.

The calls to Fairhaven police started on Jan. 31, when a resident on New Boston Road received a call from someone claiming to represent a financial company. The caller, calling himself “Mark Davis,” told the resident he owed $27, and gave the resident a 1-800 number to call with questions. […]

At one point, the caller obtained the home address of a Fairhaven police sergeant and kept demanding that police respond to that address. “It was a little unsettling,” Lt. Joseph said. “One dispatcher, who has been here quite a while, said this was the first guy who really got to her.” After receiving a number of threatening calls without knowing where they were coming from, Fairhaven police placed a trap on the line. But the caller knew that was coming, and the number on the trap kept coming back to the business line for the Fairhaven police.

They may have caught the guy in L.A. I suppose time will tell. But the barrage of harassment really got to these folks. You have to figure that they’re used to some level of abuse, being in law enforcement.

The telephone is an interesting tool. Partly in our control, but partly under the control of whoever wishes to call us. When a phreak has seized even more control, that alone is unsettling enough. But I think this case also points to the creepiness of phones in general, which must be why they figure in so many horror and suspense films. Dial ‘M’ For Murder, Scream, The Ring, When A Stranger Calls and others.

Posted by James at April 21, 2004 3:20 AM
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I vaguely remember our house receiving harrassing phone calls when I was a kid. My dad blew a whistle into the phone to get rid of them at one point.

I think his secretary may have been involved, but I'm not sure. I was really little at the time. She had a thing for my dad.

Thankfully, my dad started his own business when I was about 7, so that put an end to that, whatever "that" was.

Posted by: Patti M. at April 22, 2004 1:35 PM

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