Identify this thing (Cape Cod home)

My friend went on vacation in Cape Cod this summer. Stayed in an old house on the beach. In every room in the house, high on the wall in the corner, was this weird thing.


  • Round thing, shaped like a smoke alarm
  • Made of plastic
  • White
  • Inside is a retractable string, which extends to about 6 feet
  • The string comes out the bottom
  • Found in all bedrooms, some hallways. Not in the kitchen, main living area, bathrooms, etc.
  • Always found in a corner and near the ceiling.


It is NOT a clothes line, like you’d find in a hotel. The position of the thing would make it too high and too far away from any other wall that might have a receptical for the other end of the string. Plus, the hotel clothes lines are smaller and the string comes out the middle.

No one, out of a large group of people staying at the house, could figure out what it is. If Dopers don’t know…they might call the house rental people and see if they know.

One of those stick on lights? With dead batteries?

The photos are low resolution and are from a distance. I can’t tell what it is from those.

Lights, fire alarm, 1960’s panic button or maybe a badly disguised TARDIS.

it could still be a clothes line, just a badly placed and therefore useless one, and nobody ever bothered to take it down.

Well, there really isn’t anything to see. It’s a round plastic thingy with a string coming out of the bottom, placed high up on the wall in the corner.

It’s possible that maybe there was some sort of text somewhere on the item but when you send non-dopers out into the world they do not come back with such pertinent information, nor do they come back having dismantled the thing, nor do they bring pie.

My friend is pretty bright - I would have imagined he could tell if it was a light or a fire alarm of some kind.

Looks like some sort of emergency lighting to me, especially being in multiple rooms.

In other news, I feel a lot better about the quality of my digital camera now.

If it’s in all the bedrooms, it might be some kinky sex thing.

Did a lullabye start playing when you pulled the string?

Hell, maybe it’s a string dispenser.

In every bedroom?

For the record the pics were taken from a phone. So, yaknow, flash and megapixels are limited :slight_smile:

So long as we’re guessing, I’m going to say it’s so that a bedroom can be subdivided, so as to get a tiny bit more privacy. In these beach houses, you’ll typically pack people in like sardines, with air mattresses on every horizontal surface. By providing a retractable line, you can throw up a curtain to partition a room, somewhere between the air mattresses.

Does anything happen when you pull the string, aside from more string spooling out?
Perhaps it’s some sort of modern-ish version of the pull bells rich people would use to summon the maid/butler back in the day.


Was there a receptacle on the opposite wall to hold the end of the line stretched out across the room? That would help support Sal Ammoniac’s theory.

The string is only 6 feet long. Maybe it’s nothing, it was just put up to keep people busy. It seems to be working about as well as a cat toy.

I have one of these, but I haven’t installed it in my house. What it does is let allow outside air into the room (especially if the room is negatively pressurized). You pull the string to open/close the mechanism. If closed, no air will flow. When opened, the round plastic thing you see should protrude about another inch from the wall surface.

I bought it to install in my bedroom, which is on the small (10’x12’). With me and my wife sleeping all night, it got rather humid in the morning, resulting in a lot of condensation on the window and walls, which are on the cold side of the house. I installed a very quiet, low-volume bathroom type fan in the closet, which did wonders, as did replacing the old aluminum framed window with a vinyl framed one. So I didn’t feel the need to drill a three inch hole in my wall to install this thing.

I tried to find a link to this thing online, but failed.

Found it:


Not at all what I was expecting!

Ya! I was reading along and was baffled.
Ignorance faught!

Welcome to the SDMB, Dickerman!

Good job, Dickerman, and welcome indeed.

Gee, I wonder if anyone in a Cape Cod home ever got the bends.