Phantoms haunt the pages of history. Strange, unsolved occurrences where a faceless attacker tormented a community for days, weeks, or even months before disappearing as suddenly as they came. Many cases of phantom attackers, such as that of the Halifax Slasher, are instances of collective delusion, where the idea of a threat takes hold in a community and becomes part of the shared reality of that community. Other instances, such as the Phantom Barber of Pascagoula, are less clear cut, more likely the work of a stranger on a rampage.
Perhaps the strangest phantoms to lurk in the night struck not with razors or scissors, but with sound. The sleepy town of Paradis, Louisiana, was haunted in 1950 by a musical stranger who focused his attentions on one resident in particular: 18 year old Jacquelyn Cadow. For months, the man known as the Phantom Whistler allegedly whistled wolf calls beneath her bedroom window. But when the young beauty decided to wed the love of her life, 26 year old Louisiana State Trooper Herbert Belsom, the phantom changed his tune, whistling a funeral dirge. Even more frightening, young Jacquelyn received phone calls from the whistler, filled with threats. One such phone call, quoted by Jacquelyn’s mother, said:
“I’ll kill her. I’ll stick a knife in her. Your daughter will never marry Herbert.”
Louisiana State Police and the local sheriff’s department investigated the strange reports, but little progress was made in finding the stalker. The drama caught the attention of the entire village, not to mention a lot of attention from outside. Police chafed at the unwanted attention, thinking the press and villagers would only egg on the stalker and make the investigation more difficult. Police stationed at the house could find no evidence of the whistler. No officer ever reported even hearing the whistling, though members of the Cadow family still claimed the whistler was outside.
Even with the threats, Jacquelyn went ahead with her wedding, marrying Herbert Belsom on October 1, 1950. The phantom whistler did not make good on his threats, and was never heard from again. Still, the mystery remains. Who was the Phantom Whistler? A jilted ex lover? A stalker? A prankster?
The truth may never be known for certain, but it is good to note that the Sheriff of St. Charles Parish thought the whistler was nothing more than a hoax, going so far as to call the case “an inside job.” The sheriff never went on to elaborate on what he meant in saying the incident was a hoax, and he never explained who he thought had perpetrated the hoax, or why. Could the Cadow family have been the perpetrators? Or, perhaps, the whole incident was a small outbreak of collective delusion among the Cadow household, brought on by pre-wedding jitters? Without more information, it is impossible to tell for sure. The identity of the Phantom Whistler will remain an enigma.
“Bride-to-Be Threatened By ‘Phantom’ Whistler.” The Pittsburgh Press. September 21, 1950. Pg 5. Retrieved from: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=yXgbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZU0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=2592,2112053&hl=en
“Phantom Whistler Just Myth, Inside Job, Sheriff Declares,” Herald-Journal. September 24, 1950. Retrieved from: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=KlgsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=N8sEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1686,2528107&hl=en
“Phantom Whistler Keeps Bride-To-Be, Villagers On Edge in Lousiana,” Times Daily. September 20, 1950. Retrieved from: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1842&dat=19500920&id=HxEsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=sMYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2817,5959779&hl=en