Things That Go Bump in the Night


We’ve become quite good at detective work since moving to the Mallorcan countryside; you have to be when you live in an old finca like ours. Strange things happen from time to time and, if we didn’t work out the reason for them, we’d probably go mad. And there is always an explanation eventually.

All manner of things have piqued our curiosity. One of the earliest mysteries was the occasional pile of empty almond shells found around the terraces and garden. Who was eating our almonds and shedding shells in neat little heaps around the place? A Mallorcan neighbour gave us the answer: it was what’s known here as (wait for it) . . .  an almond-eater. These cute-looking little rodents – with facial markings that make them look as though they are wearing bandit masks, and a tail topped with something like a pom-pom – certainly live up to their name. They’re incredibly shy and we seldom see them . . . just evidence of their presence.

Then we had the incident with the vanishing *butano. In the course of a week, The Boss had to replace the butane bottle that powers our shower room water heater three times. No, we hadn’t suddenly become super-obsessive about showering every hour. It took some considerable thought, mess, and money, to sort that little mystery out. I’ll tell you about it in a future episode on this blog.

The latest in many strange occurrences happened just this last Thursday evening. I was working at the computer, and The Boss was watching TV when, suddenly, we heard the strangest rumbling noise from outside. It was like nothing we’d ever heard before – and most evenings in winter there’s nothing much to hear except a generator somewhere.

My immediate fear was that someone driving down the lane had swerved to avoid one of the cats that have adopted us, and driven into one of the old dry stone walls. It might have explained the noise. But, as The Boss pointed out, we hadn’t actually heard a car (few pass this way in the winter once darkness has fallen). Nevertheless, we rushed outside, armed with a torch probably powerful enough to confusing incoming aeroplane pilots, to scan the lane. Nada. Satisfied that neither human or feline had been injured, I returned to the warmth of the house, while The Boss scoured the terraces around the house, finding nothing out of order.

It was only this afternoon, having been out all day yesterday and this morning, that we worked out what had made the mysterious noise we’d heard. At the bottom of our field is an old abandoned finca, which was where one of our Mallorcan neighbours had been born. It’s been empty for years and, over the past year in particular, the roof had become rather dilapidated. See for an image of what it used to look like. Every time the wind was strong or we had heavy rain, a tile or two would fall to the ground.

Now, there is no roof at all. The entire thing has collapsed into the upper floor of the old house, and only the four walls remain standing. The strange rumbling noise we’d heard suddenly made sense: it had been the sound of roof tiles and old beams crashing down.

I’m just hoping that the next strange noise we hear isn’t the rest of the place finally falling to the ground.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2013

16 thoughts on “Things That Go Bump in the Night

  1. We have also had mysterious sounds in the night. At one of the first times we spent at our newly acquired finca we woke up to the sound of a car alarm. We said that it will switch off in a few minutes but it kept on. I went outside to try to locate the source of the noise. This is in the countryside so I took the car and drove down our lane. It was still difficult to locate it! When I came back I suddenly realized that the noise came from a place behind our house. I went round the house and realized that it came from a pine tree. I threw a handful of gravel up in the tree and a bird flew away. I later learned that this bird was an owl. We hear it regularly now, but don’t mind when we know who it is.

    • It was probably a Scops Owl – their repetitive call is rather like a car alarm. You can read about them, if you haven’t already, in my post of August 6th: What measures 20cm and keeps us awake at night . . .

      You’re right. If you know what the strange sound is, it doesn’t seem as worrying!

  2. Another question. We have also seen these piles of empty almond shells but no almond-eater.Do you or anyone else reading this know the proper name for this rodent?
    Looking forward to see the solution of the the “vanishing butano mystery”.
    We were also happy to hear the news of the frozen butano prices!

    • Our neighbour gave us the Mallorcan name but, as with many Mallorcan words, I couldn’t really make out how it would be written. And our neighbour doesn’t read or write in Mallorcan – only castellano, as that was the language of his education, during the Franco era. Hopefully someone will be able to tell us what these little creatures are called. I refer to them often as ‘comedy gerbils’ as they look rather like gerbils, but with facial markings and that funny tail feature.

  3. Thanks for the news about the butano prices…the almond eater is a new one on me though…Are you sure the neighbour isn’t pulling your leg? The rats that inevitably inhabit the dry stone walls around the land will happily eat your almonds and leave neat little heaps of shells each with a little hole, that always seems to me to be too small to get at the nut…but rats are are creepy and cunning bunch.I’ve just today been cleaning out an old casa de aperos that was littered with shells and the denizens withing were definitely not cute almond eaters, but worryingly tame and unconcerned rats.

    • We’ve actually seen these little ‘comedy gerbils’! On two occasions we’ve found one quaking with fear between
      our inner and outer front doors (the outer ones have huge gaps at the top and bottom), having escaped from the
      various cats around here. Trying to catch them, to release them somewhere safer, was quite a task – but
      we managed it with the aid of a large Tupperware box. They do look quite cute – unlike rats, as you say. Just thinking about them makes me shudder – though I might recall a couple of ratty episodes in my next post! Thanks for visiting my blog
      and for commenting, Steve. I hope your cleaning out job wasn’t too arduous!

  4. I wonder if they could be what we call “pack rats?” They, too, are cute but very annoying and seemingly dirty, leaving their calling cards all over things stored in the barn.

    • Isn’t it interesting that there are so many different types of rodents? I must say our ‘comedy gerbils’ seem fairly solitary, but heaven knows what they get up to once darkness falls!

    • Well done, Anders. Mystery solved, I would think. Will read up on these little creatures using the links you’ve found. Our Mallorcan neighbour didn’t know the castellano name for it, so I’ll be able to tell him now! Thanks for that.

  5. Pingback: Shorty takes an awayday « Living in rural Mallorca

  6. hi, we are looking for a finca to get married in, me and my fiancee. she would prefer one that is kind of run down or old on the outside that we can decorate on the inside, even like an old barn/hall. I wondered since you discovered one if you knew of any others that we could contact, we of course would pay for rental for a few days to decorate etc, if you have a hall or know of something could you be so kind as to let me know please? we both live here in mallorca. thanks 🙂

    • Hi! Yes, old fincas make a romantic setting for weddings and other occasions. We went to a Christening in one near Petra and that was lovely, and I officiated at a wedding last September at Finca Son Tugores – beautiful. The following link might help you – I don’t personally know anyone who has a finca they rent out (and ours doesn’t have a suitable space).

  7. Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
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