Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

I have been in the stone business for nearly 40 years, and most of the time I think I’ve seen and heard it all, but every once in a while I get surprised – and today would be one of those surprises.  

I was sitting in my favorite greasy spoon, sipping my cup of joe when my phone rang. The lady on the other end was frantic. She was almost in tears. She said every morning at 2 a.m. “I hear this music coming from my kitchen. When I go to the kitchen to investigate, it sounds like it’s coming from my granite countertop!”

 Now, my first reaction was to think she was drunk or just off her rocker, but I was polite and let her continue. She said it was driving her crazy. She went on to tell me that it only lasts for a few minutes and then it stops. The first thing I thought of is that there was a radio alarm clock nearby that was echoing off the stone. She assured me that she checked all over the kitchen and there was no clock, no radio or anything in the kitchen or nearby that played music. She asked if I could come take a look.  I told her I could look but If it’s only singing to her at 2 a.m., I’m not sure I could help unless I was there when it apparently sang. She said I really needed to hear it myself. Well, I’m getting old, and really, my days of nighttime work are over, but this case had my curiosity so I told her I would be there around 1:30 a.m.. I almost told her I would bring my guitar and we could have a sing-a-long, but I held back. In the meantime, I thought I would do a little research. I finished my coffee, gave Flo a flirtatious wink and headed to the office for a date with Google. 

I sat down at my old computer, logged on and started a Google search for Singing Rocks. Lo and behold, I found several interesting search results. The first thing I discovered is that there are rocks that will emit “a tone when struck.” These “singing rocks” can be found in Pennsylvania, California, and a few other places. I discovered that singing rocks are made of basalt and iron. The singing is not the direct product of the minerals, but the built-up tension in the rock. In other words, the rock’s mineral content is so tight that when they are struck it causes it to make a sound. Depending on the size of the rock etc., a different tone would be emitted. Now I was thinking, could this lady’s countertop be made with this type of rock? After a little more thought, I doubted this would be the answer since no one was striking the stone, unless she had a mouse band banging or chewing on the countertop. This theory was an interesting rabbit hole, but didn’t help much with this case.  I continued my search and only found bands including the name stone, such as the Rolling Stones, and song titles like Bob Dylan’s, Like a Rolling Stone. So, although entertaining, I really didn’t find anything helpful. Thanks a lot, Google.

I spent the rest of the day in the office, went to bed early and set my alarm clock for midnight.  When it went off a few short hours later, I got dressed and was on my way to the crazy lady’s house. The entire time I’m still thinking that she was crazy, and I was wasting my time. But I had to see it – or should I say hear it –  for myself.

I pulled up to the address and this middle-aged lady was sitting on the front porch. As soon as I opened the door to my old Woody she got up and ran down the steps to greet me. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she had heavy bags under her eyes. My first thought was that she was drunk, and this singing was probably a hallucination. 

She grabbed me by the hand. “Hurry,” she said. “It’s almost time.” I was really beginning to worry, since she was very aggressive. She pulled me into her kitchen and motioned me to be quiet. We sat there for about ten minutes, and heard a clock in her living room chime twice. A second, later I heard this faint tone coming from the countertop. Holy cow, I thought, she is not crazy. I stood up and placed my ear on the countertop. The singing was very faint, but it sounded like it was playing that song by Hall and Oats called Rich Girl.  I was totally perplexed. After a few minutes it stopped.

I opened her kitchen under-cabinets to see if anything was coming from in there. I saw nothing out of the ordinary.  I shined my flashlight around and found several pieces of Teflon tape and a PVC pipe connector.  I asked if she recently had some plumbing work done, and she told me about a month ago she had a leak, and had a plumber come in and fix it.  I then asked how long the countertop had been singing and she told me only about a month. All of a sudden, a light bulb went off in my head. This can’t be a coincidence, I thought.

I asked if I could empty the cabinet. She told me, “As long as you put it back in a neat fashion,” and I started removing every jar, bottle of cleaner, etc. Tucked in the back was a round, white plastic container with holes in the lid. Looked like a container you would put worms in, for fish bait. I picked it up and it felt light. I asked If I could open the lid, and inside it I found a cheap digital watch –just like one I used to have. I looked at the display and the time on it read 2:15. I pushed a few buttons and discovered that the alarm was set for 2 a.m.. Bingo, I was sure this was the source of the mystery music. I asked her if this was her watch and she said with a frown, “No. Never seen it before.” I asked her if she still had the plumber’s contact info. She gave me a funny look, but supplied his name and phone number. I left and headed straight to my motel room, to finish my interrupted beauty sleep.

The next morning, I called the plumber, told him who I was and what I had found, and he began to laugh hysterically. After he stopped laughing, he told me he had set the watch to go off at 2 a.m. every morning because this lady was a royal pain who kept calling him out, but wouldn’t pay him for “just a little bit of tape and plastic.” So he thought he would get some payback by leaving her a wake-up call every day at 2 a.m.. Man, that’s cold, even for a plumber.

I didn’t know what to say, but I had to admit it was pretty ruthless and inventive. I told him thanks for the info and hung up. Boy, I sure hope her check clears, I thought. Another case solved, and like a rolling stone, I’m out of here.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Fred has also been writing for the
Slippery Rock Gazette for over 20 years. 

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