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The CRT Hum

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Everybody remembers CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions and computer monitors, and many people still have them, but they've become increasingly uncommon these days. You know, the old, fat sets that weighed a ton? They've been mostly phased out by the thinner, lighter HDTV sets, but surely you still remember lugging those things out from Best Buy and dumping them in your car, dragging them home, and then slamming them into the entertainment center and screwing in that stupid-ass tiny co-axial cable screw into the back of the hulking mass, struggling to get a good grip on it.

You remember standing up against or touching the screen while it was powered on, or right after shutting it off, and feeling the static electricity. But most of all, you may remember the sound that those TVs made. Or maybe not. After all, not everyone can hear it since it's so high-pitched, but to those who can, it's a constant high "hum" or "whine" that the TV emits the entire time that it's on. But the high frequency of the sound means not all people can hear it, especially as you get older and your hearing fades. I, however, hear it clear as day. And I dread it. I'll tell you why.

It all started a year ago. I began to notice that the humming noise coming from my old television was getting louder. I'd heard that TVs do that as they age so I thought nothing of it at first. But then it kept getting louder. And louder. And louder. It became so distracting that I couldn't even watch the news without the bloody sound forcing me to angrily shut off the ol' idiot box. It seemed apparent that it was Old Reliable's time to go, so I began shopping for a new TV.

It didn't end there, however. The next day, whenever I attempted to watch the set, the channel began to fuzz in and out. I thought it was an issue with my cable service, so I called Comcast, but they said everything checked out OK on my end, and that they weren't having any problems on their end, so I figured it was, again, the damn television. I fiddled with all the hookups, all the options, all the buttons. Nothing changed. The problem got worse. The humming got louder. And then, one day, things got really freaky.

Instead of fuzzing out, it seemed as though 2 signals were both trying to send themselves to the TV at the same time. Horizontal bars ran down the screen. Every other bar was a piece of the regular channel, and the rest were...black. Then the next day they'd be red, and the next day dark blue, and the next day black again, and etc. etc. Each time the color changed, the humming got even louder. Intrigued, I turned the TV on each day to see (and hear) any new developments.

One day, however, the channel actually came in normally. I was surprised. Then, the screen started flickering to black at random intervals. And then it just went black, and stayed that way. The audio didn't come in, either. And the humming was so loud that my ears were actually in pain, so I shut off the television. That's when I really jolted back.

Instead of the normal white burst of light that comes from a TV when you turn it off, I got a red burst of light. And in the fraction of a second between the light going out and the TV powering off, I thought I saw...a face. Yes, it was very distorted, and was gone literally as soon as it appeared, but I am sure it was a face.

Now, that really freaked me out. My heart was racing, I was afraid to breathe. But I calmed myself. I kept telling myself, "The TV's off now. No need to worry," and then I went out to run some errands. The day progressed as normal, until I went to bed.

Now, I'm not a heavy sleeper. And so when I heard an odd sound coming from the living room, I woke up immediately. I listened.

It was the CRT hum.

My heart skipped a beat at the realization. Cautiously, I peeked outside my bedroom door, down the hallway of my little apartment. A faint glow came from around the corner, where the living room was. Where the TV was.

I had no choice. I had to go out and get to the bottom of this. So I tiptoed down the hallway, my heart pounding, pounding, pounding. I didn't know why I tiptoed. I lived alone, so it didn't really matter. Yet somehow I felt like I wasn't alone. It was terrifying.

Tv-with-static

I looked around the corner, very, very cautiously, just enough to see what should've been a dark, blank TV screen. Instead, I saw a bright, blazing TV screen, lighting up the room like a beacon. Even though it was connected to cable, and the green light on the cable box signaled that it was getting a signal, all the TV showed was static, which made it all the more scary.

The fact of the matter was, the TV turned on, completely on its own, without me even touching it. While I was asleep. In the dead of night. In a panic, I ran over and yanked the plug right out of the wall. The hum ceased and the room went dark. I breathed heavily, and finally dared to glance one more time at the now blank screen.

Now, another thing about tube TVs is that if you're in a dark room, and your eyes have adjusted to the darkness, you may see your screen faintly glowing. Not giving off light, but just sort of very faintly glowing a very distant green. These TVs use a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass, which illuminates when the electrons inside the tube hit the phosphors, producing the image on the screen. Phosphors are the same things used in glow-in-the-dark watches and such, which work by absorbing ambient light and then re-emitting it. The phosphors on a tube display behave similarly, absorbing ambient light and holding residual energy from when the TV was on. Thus, the very faint glow-in-the-dark effect.

But in this case, when I looked over at that screen, I saw more than a faint glow.

I saw the faint glow of a face.

The face I saw before.

And very faintly, I could still hear the horrible sound of the CRT hum.

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