/var/run/utmp is apparently a binary data file, not text. If you try to output a binary to your screen you'll get nothing but randomish strings of bytes that the shell will attempt to interpret as text. Some of these bytes will be equivalent to the ascii system-bell character, which is why you get beeping.
Run the command file on the filename to see what kind of file you're dealing with. If it says something like "data" or "ELF" executable or such, then it's not readable as text.
Last edited by David the H.; 08-11-2011 at 11:30 AM.
Reason: added second part