"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Mystery of the Meowing House

All stories via Newspapers.com

In 1957, a family in Glendora, California discovered that their newly-completed "dream home" had one unwanted surprise feature: a mysterious cat, obviously wailing in great distress. The "San Bernardino County Sun," January 25, 1957:

Vincent Carta's new home is really the cat's meow.

Somewhere in the house there is a cat. Day and night it meows. It has been doing that for 18 days.

The mystery cat is somewhere inside the walls or pipes. Mrs. Eunice Carta said policemen, firemen, veterinarians, friends and strangers have tried to locate the feline.

"Look what they've done to our brand new bathroom." She pointed to big holes in the bathroom wall.

"The meows seemed to center here, she said, "so carpenters sawed into the walls all around the bathtub but couldn't find anything. Then they took some siding off the house, but still no cat."

Mrs. Carta said sound technicians brought in electronic devices but had no luck. "The sound is deceptive," said Mrs. Carta. "You can hear it all over the house. It seems to travel along the pipes. But each day it gets weaker. It can't be long now." She said there are theories that the cat got into a vent somewhere and became trapped in the walls, pipes or possibly a dry well near the underground septic tank in the front yard.
The Elwood "Call-Leader," January 26:
Occupants of a new $20,000 home--labeled as the "cat's meow''--today vowed to move out unless a cat which has been haunting the dwelling for the past 20 days with around-the-clock wails is found "dead or alive."

The cat is believed to be trapped somewhere within the walls of the new home and Friday workmen partially dismantled sections of walls in a futile attempt to find the feline.

"We can't stand it any longer," said Vincent Carta, who along with his wife and two children moved into the house last month. "The meowing is driving us crazy."

But the Cartas weren't the only ones with cat troubles. The home is still in escrow and building contractor H.C. Elliott won't get his money for constructing the dwelling until the cat mystery is cleared up.

The Cartas can't legally tear out a wall but Elliott can. So piece by piece, section by section, walls of the newly furnished home are being ripped out.

Cartas's wife, Eunice, who is expecting a baby in three months, Friday watched workers rip gaping holes in her newly decorated bathroom. Workmen heard meowing but found no cat.

"That cat must have 99 lives," a worker said. "But it's a cinch the animal can't survive much longer without food."

Mrs. Carta said the meows are growing weaker. She said the cat still meows "off and on" all the time and especially "when I call, 'Here kitty kitty.'"
By this point, the Carta's home was a nationwide media sensation. Newspapers all over the country were carrying stories about the poor cat's miserable plight and all the futile efforts to rescue the prisoner. You might say it was the feline Baby Jessica down the well.

On January 27, the "Los Angeles Times" carried a front-page story about the unfolding tragedy:
The cat's meow is weakening. But not the jangled nerves of the Vincent Carta family of 363 S. Glenwood Ave., Glendora.

Yesterday was the 21st day the cat trapped in the Cartas' new $16,000 home has meowed day and night.

Even scientific sleuthing by Los Angeles Police Department detectives failed to turn up any trace of the phantom pussy cat.

Dets. D. A. Wolfer and M. J. Lee used a portable fluoroscope and a miniature amplifier with earphones but were unable to pinpoint faint noises believed to be those of the dying cat.

A Pasadena veterinarian, one of scores who have tried to solve the trapped cat mystery at the Carta home during the last three weeks, said yesterday that after 21 days without food the animal surely couldn't live much longer.

"It's obviously a fat cat or at least it was when it was trapped to have survived this long," he commented.

The generally accepted theory of those most concerned with the perplexing problem--that is the Cartas, policemen, firemen, veterinarians, humane society people, plumbers, carpenters and the contractor, who have been trying to find the animal--is that it got into the structure through roof vents. But where the cat went from there is anybody's guess.

And guesses have been written, wired and phoned to the Carta family around the clock from all parts of the nation.

"Have you checked behind the tub . . . how about the pipes, the attic, under the house, in the rafters?"

Carta, H. C. Elliott, the Pasadena contractor who built the house, and the scores of others searching for the source of the sound have looked everywhere. They have done everything but tear the house down. They have even considered that.

Then there are the other offers. Like the woman who telephoned from Washington, D.C., and offered her dog, "the one that hates cats. He'll find your cat, Mrs. Carta." There have been many offers of tomcats and dogs.

One woman from San Bernardino called yesterday with the information that her family lost their cat at Apple Valley a while back. She thought the cat might have mistaken Glendora for San Bernardino, climbed into the wrong house and...you know the rest.

To the Cartas--Vincent, a retired Navy lieutenant, and his wife Eunice, who is expecting a baby in two months; Vincent Jr., 11. and Sandra, 9--the experience has been trying, to say the least. Have you ever lived 21 days and nights with a crying cat?

When Carta left the Navy eight months ago, he told his wife and children their years of moving from one place to another were at an end. They set out to find a home, their first where they could settle in peace and quiet. After 8000 miles of looking, in Florida, New England, throughout the Midwest and West, the Cartas found their dream home in Glendora.

Last August they paid the down payment on their home. Carta got a job with the Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles. "It's a 25-mile drive each day, but I don't mind," he said. "We live at the foot of the mountains in a nice neighborhood and love our new home, that is, until the cat incident."

The Cartas don't want to leave the house. It's due to come out of escrow in a few days and the damage the cat has caused is considerable. To make sure the cat isn't lodged in a pipe, all pipes were cut and wires were pushed through them from roof to foundation. Siding has been removed. Plaster paralleling pipes and beams has been knocked out. And Mrs. Carta's doctor has said if she doesn't start getting some rest, she may lose her baby.

"But," cried Mrs. Carta, "if that cat isn't found, dead or alive, we are going to move!"

It seems apparent that by today the cat may well die.

Meanwhile, Glendora Police Chief Dan Fay pleaded to both cat lovers and the curious to refrain from calling or visiting the Carta home. Those who persist in calling should relay their offers to help through the Police Department rather than the Cartas, he said.

While workmen continue the job of trying to run down the faint cries--which when louder resounded through the place--the Cartas leave their dream home during the day to find quiet elsewhere.
On the 28th, it was the sad duty of the "New York Daily News" to report that not much had changed.
Vincent Carta had his new house fluoroscoped last night in a desperate "last resort" to find the cat that has been meowing in the walls for three weeks, but it didn't do any good. There was more meowing and purring today.

A police X-ray technician went over every inch of every wall, without picking up the telltale image of a cat's skeleton. He heard the meowing and purring, though.

Even crime experts were baffled by the "case of the meowing house." In addition to a fluoroscope, they tried setting up microphones throughout the house, thinking they might discover the noises were mechanical in origin. But every time technicians said "here kitty, kitty, kitty," a meow came from the walls.

The interloper apparently crawled into the dark recesses of the $20,000 house just 21 days ago, when a telephone man cut a hole in a wall. The cat has been meowing and purring off and on, night and day, ever since. The purrs grew weaker today, indicating the time was growing short for the cat and possibly for the Carta family. Animal authorities said a cat could not live much more than three weeks without food. Living amid incessant purring is bad enough, Carta said, but a dead cat in the walls would make the house unbearable.

Carta, his pregnant wife, Eunice, and their two young children went to church this morning to pray for a way out of their plight. "We can't stand it any more," he said. "The meowing is driving us crazy."
Also on the 28th, the "Oshkosh Northwestern" reported that, like Superman or the U.S. Marines, a construction company was offering to ride in to save the day.
A construction firm offered today to put 21 of its men on the job of trying to find a "ghost cat" whose meowing has haunted the $20,000 home of Vincent Carta for three weeks..

Will Barnaby. head of the Barnaby Construction Co., said he would put his workmen on the job at no cost to the Carta family and that they would "tear down and rebuild the whole house, if necessary" to find the cat.

Barnaby's offer came as Carta said he was being driven "crazy" by the fuss caused over the cat, which is believed trapped in the walls of the house and on the verge of dying from hunger. A futile search has been conducted so far by plumbers, carpenters, police, firemen, technicians, veterinarians. Humane Society workers and others.
"Clovis News Journal," January 28, 1957

However, the Saga of the Trapped Cat was about to come to an end...albeit not in the way anyone was anticipating. On January 29, the "Santa Rosa Press Telegram" reported the dramatic climax to our little cliffhanger:
The "dying cat" in the walls of Vincent Carta's house turned out today to be a squeaky water meter. That was the conclusion of sound engineer Roger Adams.

Equipped with sensitive sound detectors, Adams listened to the walls, traced the "meowing" to the meter, removed the meter and ended the mewing that has plagued the Cartas for 22 days and brought a flood of telegrams, letters, and telephone calls from across the nation with suggestions on how to free the "cat" from its supposed entombment.

"When we got to the meter with Adams' equipment it sounded better than a real cat," chuckled Carta, whose house walls have been ripped into by construction crews seeking the "lost kitty." "They took out the meter, put in the new one and the meowing ceased," he said.

Adams was called into the case yesterday as a last-ditch at tempt to locate the "poor cat" before its nine lives starved to death in the walls of the Carta's brand-new $16,000 home. "We're positive there's no cat in there." said Adams. "It was the meter. But we'll know for certain, with no reservation, in 40 davs. No cat could live that long."

Carta's wife, Eunice, expecting a baby soon, had been frantic at the thought of a cat living or dead within the walls and had threatened to move out. Police, cupping drinking glasses to the walls as "sound detectors," had sworn they believed the cries of the kitten were growing fainter. Firemen and police had to throw up rope liner, to cordon off crowds of curiosity seekers and well-wishers at the house. The telephone buzzed at all hours. Mrs. Carta had told authorities, "I can't stand it much longer."

"It looks like we'll be able to return to living normal lives," Carta grinned.
Don't count on that, Vince. I'm betting your friends and neighbors did not allow you to forget this episode for quite some time.

And, of course, little did you know you would eventually be immortalized in the hallowed pages of Strange Company.

"Mansfield News Journal," February 3, 1957


  1. Thank goodness it was only a water-meter, though it's funny no one could have found it before three weeks had elapsed. Veterinary medicine seems to have evolved since 1957: vets then implied that the cat would die of starvation after so long - no talk of fatty liver disease after just a few days...

    1. Water meters apparently used to wander much more than they do today.

  2. For their willingness to not open the walls to let the 'cat'sescape I hope they were plagued by mice.

  3. i htought it would die and they'd find it by the smell.


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