Monster Sounds

I love this time of the year. September in New York is beautiful. Yes, it does rain and there’s the usual hurricane threats and the unusual tornado watches, but… The heat and humidity of summer in the city is replaced by blue skies, moderate temperatures and an entirely different set of city sounds…

Sounds? Yes.

The ever-present hum of air conditioners is suddenly gone. I’m not a big fan of air conditioning. It’s not that I actually like the horrible heat of August; it’s more that I don’t like the cycle of freezing and sweating that is impossible to escape when going places in the city. Now that the temperatures are cooler, the ever present, white noise of mechanical humming is gone. It’s also still warm enough for open windows. That means a new awareness of sounds.

I’m a big fan of Orson Welles, especially his film version of “Othello“ and his masterpiece “Citizen Kane.” In both of those films he used sound like a radio play to add texture and depth to empty rooms. It’s mesmerizing. I’ve often wondered what a Frankenstein or Dracula movie would have been like had he directed it with that radio sensibility adding to the drama, dread and horror.

My apartment faces a courtyard so the origin of sounds is often mysterious, with echoes that make it almost impossible to pinpoint locations. It’s fun to fantasize the meaning of a strange birdcall or the thud of a hammer falling on a distant construction site.

When the cold weather hits, and the windows are closed the focus switches inward — to the sounds inside buildings. I live in an “overbuilt” 19th century industrial loft building, so I’m pretty well insulated against my neighbors. In my kitchen I can hear anything in the hallway, but in my living room I’m protected from all but an extremely loud party upstairs.

But noise sneaks in. The bathroom has a vent and sound, as well as aromas, travel up and down my line of apartments. For a while, I was aware of a neighbor smoking cigars in the bathtub on Sunday afternoons. I never identified which neighbor and the Sunday bather must have moved out. Still, just the memory gets me thinking. What monstrous thing could I over hear?

Lots to think about. Lots to listen for!


  1. Wow. I would definitely use the cigar smoking bather in a novel. What if you smelled the smell for weeks only to discover the guy had been murdered?

    And what if the smell was still creeping up after he was dead? Sort of a paranomral mystery.

    Okay, so I write mystery, but it does make me think.

    • Candy

      I write mysteries too!

      Had fun with a short story a few years back about an agoraphobic freelance writers becoming acutely aware of all the sounds from neighboring apartments until she actually hears the murder upstairs. So many mysteries focus on eye witnesses, but the “ear” witness can take in a great deal of information.

      As for the “nose” witness… LOL cigar smoke can only cover the smell of death for so long, but it’s a great nugget, isn’t it?

  2. Hi Candy
    I’m new to this blog and blogging in general and began wondering about having a blog myself. Believe it or not I had never actually seen one. I looked at a couple that are posted on Authors and Writers and was astonished at how professional-looking and complex they were. My computer skills are appropriate to my age (77) and it seemed to me that to have a blog like those I would have to hire a blog master full time. Then I found yours and see that it is something I can relate to.

    I don ‘t have any topic or cause. Just the particles of daily life that seem to stick to me. I’ve written novels and short stories, like most of us have, but I seem to have started too late to have much marketing velocity.I had an agent but he was offended by the topic of the book I gave him to market, (which was the ever-deepening spiritual life of a 19th century Ohio farm boy during the Civil War), so he fired me.

    Plus I have a couple of neat diseases that slow without stopping me. I’m going to self publish a couple of things just for the pleasure of seeing them in print (and EBook), and of giving them to people I can hope won’t be appalled by the obligation to read them. You seem to have a lot of interests and the positive and joyful energy to make them attractive to others. I wish you continued health and success. And happiness. You seem to be very happy!
    Howard Bott

    • Candy


      I don’t think you should let any lack of computer savvy hold you down. I’m using a program called WORDPRESS. It’s one of the platforms for blogs that, once it’s up and running, is easy to maintain. If you have something to share (and it seems that you do) and something to promote (ebook version of your work) go for it. You can hire “experts” to set it up and then it’s easy. I’m not a tech-head. Fortunately, my social circle is top-loaded with them. Of course they can’t write so…. the world is in balance!


      Back to listening to the world outside my window and getting outside and away from my computer for a few hours.

      • Hi Howard! As Candy said, blogging is easier than you think and it sounds like you have a wealth of interesting things to say so say them! will get you started. Just take your time and keep things simple until you’re ready to learn more. If you get stuck I’m sure someone here or on my blog will help you out.
        Just do it! 🙂

        • Candy

          In the long run, writers have an advantage in blogging — they WRITE. A lot of people start blogs because they enjoy the technology and wind up with posts that are no more interesting than Facebook pages. The discipline of continually blogging is the “writer” part of the equation. I think I hear something in the courtyard… gotta go!
          (Monster Sounds)

    • Howard, I’m a silver surfer too and agree with Candy and Andrea about wordpress. It’s quite straightforward and easy to follow and there are plenty of designs to choose from. The main advantage is it’s FREE.
      I’ve found a new lease of life on the internet since I started writing and though I hate marketing I’m learning many tricks.
      Give it a go and enjoy yourself.As with the others, I’m only a message away if you need help.

  3. Hello Candy!
    I love to hear the good sounds of the birds chirping early in the morning or late over in the day, before the creepy and crickity sounds of the night takes over my bedroom. The knocks and bumps and creaking of the walls and eerie shadows that seem to slip and slide or glide fast across the bedroom or hall floor are all monstrous things that gets me thinking if I have a mytholical creature or a monster somewhere waiting to jump out and get to me inside my home. And then, there’s the creepy sounds coming from the neighbors apartment next door; the tv sounds like a ghost moaning with pleasure and then a minute later it sounds as if a child ghost is crying because, I don’t know, maybe it’s lost? All in all at dark and in the middle of the night, there are creepy sounds and strange lurking shadows and weird movement that gives me the jeepers creepers until I fall alseep.

    • Candy

      Sounds like you’ve got the start of an excellent ghost story!

      Ambiguous sounds open to interpretation are a great way to start… Boo!

  4. Hi Candy, your posts are always fun. After seeing this one I was thinking I wondered if the cigar smoking bather ever made his way into a book. I’m guessing not yet, but a memory like that sticks around and one day…….
    I’ve put The Mary Shelley Game on my Pinterest books board and on one of the larger shared ones with a link to your AMAZON PAGE. I hope it gets you lots of new fans.

    • Candy

      Thanks you thank you thank you… for the PINTEREST plug!

      So far the cigar/bather is just a funny story. He made it into a short story a while back, but not in an essential, plot-forwarding manner. He’s resurface, although I’m glad the real one moved out.


  5. Patrick Ottuso

    The interesting thing about sound is that even the lack of sound is a wonderful thing. You would be surprised at the impact that the sound of silence has…check out John Cage and his 4 minute, 33 second piano piece. It is verrrryyyy strange and thought provoking! Go to YouTube.

    • Candy

      I will check out that out on YouTube.

      Silence…….. even empty space as indicated with an ellipsis on a page — is very powerful and sometimes very scary. How about THE END…. It leaves a question mark hanging in the emptiness. Also, someplace that is too quiet (at least for this city girl) can be very disconcerting. How about for you?

  6. I feel that any piece of writing, whether it is a short story, a full-length novel or a blog, can only be truly enhanced by using all the senses. Otherwise the writing would lack colour, atmosphere and sparkle. The description of sounds can make a difference in any situation. Take a thunder storm for example: without the vivid description of a flash of lightning or the ear-splitting noise of thunder, your writing doesn’t come to life at all. The glory of autumn (or the fall) can be described in vivid colours of orange, green, brown and red – you can picture it. The sense of smell, can make you hungry if the writer is describing the smell of a beautiful flower, or a favourite food. Yes,the senses are all important in writing.

    • Candy

      Very insightful!

      Because of my grandmother’s and my father’s hearing loss, I think I’m particularly aware of the impact of loss of hearing. It causes a specific kind of isolation and, to a certain extent, a peculiar paranoia. “I can’t hear what you’re saying so you must be saying something terrible about me.” Not so much fun in real life, but very useful in a story.

      In my fiction, I try to use all the available tools to enhance atmosphere. The senses are ALL really good ones.