Tag Archive: condo

The Mysterious Malfunction

(Submitted by reader Trevor N)

This is the story of the haunted elevators in my DC condo. I’m a CFI member and a proud skeptic but my dispassion has been tested.

My condo front door is near the elevator lobby on the fourth floor. Shortly after moving in, I soon noticed that as I left my home for work and walked toward the elevators, every few days an elevator door would open for me before I pressed any buttons. It’s always empty and it takes me to the floor I press without any problems.

Same thing began happening every few days when I get home – elevator door in the lobby will open as I walk toward it.

This has been going on for years and I had no idea how an elevator would know I was approaching. Others reported the same phenomenon but no one knew why or how. The property manager was stumped. The popular conclusion was that the elevators are haunted.

Eventually, it was time for major elevator work. They had begun acting erratically and we called in an elevator consultant. I told him the story of the haunted elevators and he investigated.

What he found was illuminating. Elevator banks have home stations – floors to which the elevators return and wait when there’s no demand for them. Our home stations are the lobby and the fourth floor – my floor.

One of the control problems the consultant found is that the doors are malfunctioning and will sometimes open upon return to home station. So, every few days, an elevator will return to its fourth floor home station, cooincidentally,  just as I’m leaving my condo. Sometimes the malfunctioning doors will then open as I walk toward them.

Same thing in the lobby in the evening when I come home – another period of high elevator use.

So, the haunting was explained by statistics – the odds that an elevator would return at exactly the right time and the doors would then malfunction to open for me as if by magic.

The good news is that the mystery is solved. The bad news is the size of owners’ special assessment for elevator repairs.

[EDITOR: The other bad news is the owner can’t get away with trying to collect tourist money for the building being haunted. Unless, of course, the owner just makes something up like most haunted house owners resort to.

This story personally reminds me of a situation I ran into in my last house. The master bedroom’s ceiling fan was also the main light source, and there was a nice control panel by the door that let me adjust the state and intensity of each. But shortly after moving in we began to notice the light would randomly turn itself on or off at unexpected times. Some were innocuous, such as during the day, but occasionally I was awakened in the middle of the night, cast into darkness while working, or a couple of times at some truly hilarious moments (best left to speculation). I assumed a fault in the wiring, but it was quite a few months in before I realized how many people would instead jump to assume a supernatural cause. The details were all there, and it was only my knowledge of confirmation bias and basic understanding of electrical wiring that made one answer more obvious than the others.

Eventually upon moving out of the house I spoke to my landlord (who lived in his own addition off the side of the house, strangely enough), and learned that he had the same system installed in his place and that apparently the two control panels were on the same channel and would occasionally miscommunicate and control the neighbor’s device. He had simply never gotten around to fixing it. So apparently there WAS an intelligence behind the actions, but it was merely my landlord.]

Musical Condos

(Submitted by reader Dave R)

In about 1985 I got tired of dealing with the apartment manager where I was living in Santa Ana, and moved into a nicer condo across town.

Shortly after that I was invited to join an organization. I won’t name it because it isn’t important, but it’s a national social organization that has local chapters. I’ll call it the ABC Club. The local chapters often have parties at the members’ homes. So I joined the ABC Club and went to my first event, a party at someone’s house not far from where I lived. At the event I was introduced to several of the local members, including a man who was identified as the President of the local chapter of the ABC Club, I’ll call him Richard Barry (obviously not his real name, but the point is we shared some common feature of our names, a first matching a last, or something similar).

A couple of days went by, and then I received a letter at my new home, addressed to Richard Barry, ABC Club Orange County, (with my address of course). So I looked at this letter, trying to wrap my head around the situation, trying to figure out whether they had sent me some membership materials and perhaps put the wrong name on the envelope, since our names were similar. I think I eventually opened the letter to see if it was for me, and found it was some kind of bank statement, or treasurer’s report, etc.  for the ABC Club, clearly not intended for me.  So I decided to call Richard Barry. As a new member I think I got a roster of all the local members with their contact information, or I may have looked up the number in the phone book. Anyway I called him up and after exchanging hellos, I said “Richard, I think there’s something screwed up in the roster or the addresses for the organization, because I just received some correspondence for the group, with my address but at my condo, but it has your name on it.” He asked me,  “What’s your address?”  I said “110 Brookline.” He said, “Oh, I used to live there, I just moved out last month.”

So yeah, what are the odds? I wouldn’t even know how to begin calculating them for a situation like this!

[EDITOR: The final question seems pretty valid to me. With all the factors of addresses, location, timing, moves, people involved, this one seems all but incalculable. Extremely impressive.]