Sunday, June 24, 2012


We had the first of the scorcher days of August a bit early this past week, so at midnight as I sat at my computer in my work alcove on the top floor of my historic rowhouse where the bedrooms are, I couldn’t escape a chill, hearing faint scratching outside the screened window that looks out over the garden. I have a non-working clock hung on the wall in front of me whose face depicts Edgar Allen Poe at HIS desk, quill pen in hand, as a bird (raven, I presume) swoops down at his head. Me, I don’t fear ravens, it’s the bats I keep a weather eye out for.

Since moving into this homestead in Downtown Albany four years ago, I have single-handedly captured and expelled nine bats. They come on sweltering nights, and never before midnight, I swear. I hear the scratching for not quite a full minute, then feel the air disturbed by his passage above my head as I sit at my desk composing. I say “his” but don’t really know bat sex. It’s always just one bat; and he always takes the same flight path: from the corner by the window straight down the darkened hallway to its end by the bedroom door, which, as fate would have it, is always closed, for the sake of a/c in summer and heat in winter. A woman friend wasn’t so lucky, two bats entered her bedroom and did aerial loops till she was awakened by the flapping of their wings. She couldn’t tell the medicos with certainty that she had not been bitten so she underwent a series of rabie shots. Scary? You bet, but I’m not (so long as they stay out of our bedroom).

I have not been hesitant to speak of my prowess in capturing bats; in fact, one neighbor consulted me on my technique. I’m a dustmop man, I explained, knock ‘em down then throw a towel over the stunned creature, then fling him out the window or the front door, easiey-peasey. Lucky thing, the bat is more afraid of me than vice versa. He’s one remarkable bird (he’s a bird, right?); his sonar prolongs our match for some minutes till I can tire him, then fell him. He’ll fly right at my face, then veer away before collision (I don’t think he’s aiming) He never makes a sound. Except for once, early on, when I was a novice at this, and having felled him, but without towel, I held him fast to the floor with the handle of the mop, hearing tiny squeaks as he died. That was my first bat, and out-of-character since I discovered him on our mid- or parlor floor. I thought he was a swallow till he alighted on the ceiling and hung upside down from a cornice.

After the ninth bat last year, I threw in the towel and called in the pros, Bat Control of Greater New York. Two young fellows showed up with ladders and rock-climbing gear. First, they plugged up all the holes in the attic, then rappelled down the back of the house to check for entry points, finally setting a trap in the attic that let out any bat inside while barring reentry. Apparently, bats in the attic were suffering like us from the insufferable heat, and dropped down to my cooler work space; bats can fold themselves up to get through the smallest openings. On occasion, the bat would be taken out by the oscillating ceiling fan over my desk.

August is Bat Month in my house. As I compose in the dark of night in my alcove, I’ll think of Fearless Poe in my clock, but retire before midnight, just to be on the safe side.

Robert Knightly


  1. Wow!!! I'm terrified!!! you are scarier than Poe Himself!!!Hope you can use this somewhere in a novel!!! But be sure to warn readers to keep the lights on and the doors locked!!!

  2. Wonderful! I'm not scared at all, but I am 120 miles away! I'd wear a hat if I were you.