E-mail this page E-mail this



The Killer in the Backseat

Claim:   A good samaritan warns a female driver about the armed and dangerous man hiding in the back seat of her car.

LEGEND


Examples:

[Collected on the Internet, 1998]

It was a dark and foggy night. Denise was having trouble staying awake and the road was slick. Her anxiety level was not helped by the fact that she was running low on gas and didn't know where the next town was. Finally, just as she thought she would have to pull over and sleep till morning on the side of the road, a tiny gas station appeared — very rundown, but a gas station nonetheless. She pulled in. The attendant made his way around the car and seemed to be very distracted as she asked him to fill it up, and even seemed to be making faces at her. He finally agreed to get the gas, but then asked her to pop the hood of the car because it "smelled like trouble." Her anxiety from being on the road was starting to flare up again, she was all alone in a creepy gas station out in the middle of nowhere and an attendant was finding reasons to keep her there. He asked her to come look at the engine, he had to "show her something". Not knowing what else to do, almost as if in a daze, she did as he asked, all the while wondering why she didn't scream. As she rounded the front of the car he grabbed her arm and said, "This car needs a tow, you'll have to come with me into the office." Then he put his hand over her mouth and forced her into the office. She began to bite his hand once they were inside and he let her go and said, "I'm sorry, but there is a man crouched down in the backseat of your car and I didn't want him to know that I'd seen him."

They called the police who came to arrest the serial killer who, unbeknownst to Denise, had stowed away in her car and was waiting for the opportune moment to add her to his list of victims. Denise and the gas attendant now own the station and their three kids help them with the chores. Isn't that sweet?
 

[Brunvand, 1981]

A woman living in the city [Salt Lake] was visiting some friends in Ogden. When she got into her car in front of this friend's house, she noticed that a car started up right behind her car. It was about 2:00 in the morning, and there weren't any other cars on the road. After she had driven to the highway, she began to think that this car was following her. Some of the time he would drive up real close to her car, but he wouldn't ever pass. She was really scared to death and kept speeding to try to get away from him.

When she got to Salt Lake, she started running stop lights to get away from him, but he would run right through them too. So when she got to her driveway she pulled in really fast, and this guy pulled in right behind her. She just laid on the horn, and her husband came running out. Just then, the guy jumped out of the car, and her husband ran over and said, "What the hell's goin' on here?" So he grabbed the guy, and his wife said, "This man's followed me all the way from Ogden." The man said, "I followed your wife because I was going to work, and as I got into my car, I noticed when I turned my lights on, a man's head bob down in her back seat." So the husband went over to her backseat, opened the door, and pulled this guy from out of the backseat.
 

[Collected on the Internet, 1999]

I am passing this along because I know of a incident similar to this. My girlfriend was getting some gas and when she attempted to return to her car the gas station attendant starting yelling at her and telling her she did not pay yet. When she went back in to argue about having already paid the attendant told her he just wanted to get her back in because he saw someone crawl in the backseat of her car, and that he had already called the police. So it's worth taking to heart.

This is a true story. it has been "ritual" of gang members to take one body part from women as an initiation into gangs. the rule is that it has to be in a well lit area and at a gas station, so be careful. they tend to lay under the car, and slash females' ankles when she goes to get in her car, causing her to fall and then they cut off a body part and roll and run. they are known to hide behind the gas pumps too, so be careful. It might sound bizarre and gross, but the bigger the body part the higher the initiation they receive.

This was commmunicated by a person who works in law enforcement in the south. She has investigated and been called to a number of these scenes. She has also confirmed the following statement below as true and not an internet "hoax."

Please pass these on to as many people you know... mothers, sisters, grandparents, daughters, nieces and friends. It seems the world has become a crazy place to live in, but let's be careful out there and make stuff like this known so we are better protected.
 

[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

A FRIEND OF MINE SENT THIS TO ME AND ASK THAT IT BE PASSED ALONG. BE AWARE OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES AT ALL TIMES . . . THIS IS A TRUE STORY.

This actually happened to my friend's niece last week right here near downtown. It was after dark and she stopped to get gas at a Quik Trip. She filled her tank and walked into the store to pay for her gas. The cashier told her "don't pay for your gas yet . . . walk around the store a while and act as if you're picking up some other things to buy. A man just got into the back of your car. I've called the police and they're on their way."

When the police arrived, they found the man in the back seat of the girl's car and asked him what he was doing. He replied, he was joining a gang and the initiation to join is to kidnap a woman and bring her back to the gang to be raped.

According to the police that night, there is a new gang forming here originating from Chicago. Part of the scary part of this is because the guy didn't have a weapon on him the police could only charge him with trespassing ... he's back on the streets and free to try again.

Please be aware of what's going on around you, ladies. This could happen to any one. Please forward this on to anyone you care about!
 

[Collected on the Internet, 2001]

THIS IS TOO SERIOUS.....DO NOT DELETE. PLEASE PASS IT ON!!

A friend stopped at a pay-at-the-pump gas station to get gas.

Once she filled her gas tank and after paying at the pump and starting to leave, the voice of the attendant inside came over the speaker. He told her that something happened with her card and that she needed to come inside to pay. The lady was confused because the transaction showed complete and approved.

She relayed that to him and was getting ready to leave but the attendant, once again, urged her to come in to pay or there'd be trouble. She proceeded to go inside and started arguing with the attendant about his threat. He told her to calm down and listen carefully: He said that while she was pumping gas, a guy slipped into the back seat of her car on the other side and the attendant had already called the police. She became frightened and looked out in time to see her car door open and the guy slip out.

The report is that the new gang initiation thing is to bring back a woman's body part. One way they are doing this is crawling under girls/women's cars while they're pumping gas or at grocery stores in the night time. Then they are cutting the lady's ankles to disable them in order to kidnap them, kill, and dismember them.

The other way is slipping into unattended cars and kidnapping the women to kill and dismember them.

Please pass this on to other women, young and old alike. Be extra careful going to and from your car at night. If at all possible, don't go alone! This is real!!

The message:
1. ALWAYS lock your car doors, even if you're gone for just a second.

2. Check underneath your car when approaching it for reentry, and check in the back before getting in.

3. Always be aware of your surroundings and of other individuals in your general vicinity, particularly at night!

Send this to everyone so your friend will not be the next one.

AND GUYS...YOU TELL ANY WOMEN YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS Barbara Baker, Secretary Directorate of Training U.S. Army Military Police School
 

[Collected on the Internet, 2004]

The Dublin criminal gang - The Westies are having an initiation ceremony at the moment for new members.

It's aimed at women driving alone. They hang around garages and when a woman alone goes into the garage to pay for her petrol, a guy gets into the car and hides in the back seat. When the woman gets into her car the guy holds her at knifepoint and takes her to be gang-raped.

This is a serious message that came to me by my Father. He was talking to his friend who is a Detective in Garda H.Q in Harcourt Street. The Detective told Dad to pass this on to women. One incident has happened in Dublin but luckily the woman got away. The petrol attendant saw a guy getting into her car and hiding in the back seat. He called her back pretending there was a problem with her credit card. They called the police and they took the guy to Blanch station to be questioned.

Please, please pass this on and be careful. LOCK YOUR CAR when you are paying for petrol and just be careful.
 

[Collected via e-mail, October 2008]

Hess Gas Station on Timberlake Rd

To those of you who are AREVA employees - you may have already heard this but I have some more information to pass along.

Some time over the weekend, an AREVA employee's (Kent Hancock) daughter and a friend of hers (both in separate cars), stopped at a Hess Gas Station on Timberlake Rd to get gas. One pulled up on one side of the pumps and the other pulled up on the other side and when they were finished, they walked into the store together to pay. When they went inside, the male cashier asked the friend if she was aware that a guy had gotten into the back seat of her car. The 2 of them looked outside and said no that they were not with anyone else and riding alone. They called the Police and within 2 - 3 minutes they showed up, found the guy in the back seat with a gun and arrested him. When they interrogated him, he admitted that it was part of a gang initiation to rape and kill a white girl to get into the gang. Thank goodness the cashier was paying attention!

Most of you have seen emails before about stories like this. I've never heard of it actually happening in Lynchburg. This a true story. Last I heard, Kent's son James (also an employee) is supposed to make a Near Miss out of it to send to all employees. Please tell everyone you know to lock their car while they are pumping gas - even if they are paying at the pump and standing beside the car.

I don't know which Hess gas station it was and I also don't know what time of day it happened. Just please be careful and tell everyone you know that lives in this area to also be careful and aware of their surroundings.
 

[Collected via e-mail, August 2013]

An important message from the Police - please pass this along to all the women you know.....

This actually happened a few weeks ago on the M3 FLEET SERVICES!!!

It was early evening, and a young girl stopped to get petrol. She filled her tank and walked into the store to pay for her petrol.. The cashier told her, 'Don't pay for your petrol yet... walk around the store for a while, and act as if you're picking up some other things to buy. A man just got into the back of your car. I've called the police, and they're on their way'.

When the police arrived, they found the man in the back seat of the girl's car and asked him what he was doing. He replied, he was joining a gang, and the initiation to join is to kidnap a woman and bring her back to the gang to be raped by every member of the gang. If the woman was still alive by the time they finish with her then they let her go. According to the police that night, there is a new gang forming here, originating from London . The scary part of this is, because the guy didn't have a weapon on him, the police could only charge him with trespassing....

He's back on the street and free to try again. Something similar to this happened at the Tesco garage on Cardiff Road in Newport recently, but luckily the cashier saw the man get into her car. Please be aware of what's going on around you, and warn your family and friends.

LADIES, you or one of your family or friends could be the next victim. Please forward this on to everyone you know. Please do not discard this message; it is very important that everyone knows what is happening. Please be careful when leaving your vehicle, and make sure it is ALWAYS LOCKED to prevent this from happening to you.
 

Variations:
  • The woman is either drawn into safety by a gas station attendant when she stops to fill up, or she is pursued (and ultimately warned) by a male motorist whom she mistakes for an assailant. In common with all "murdering madmen" legends, the intended victim is female, and both the evil fiend and the rescuer are male.
  • Sometimes the fiend is discovered to have a knife, a hatchet, or a meat cleaver in his possession; other times there's no mention of a weapon. If he does have a weapon, it will be sharp-edged rather than blunt.
  • In versions where the woman drives to safety, the pursuer (rescuer) is often said to be a burly truck driver or a tough-looking character. Barring that, he's often said to be black. (Both varieties clearly show white, middle class fears of minorities or of groups believed to be socially inferior, according to Brunvand.)
  • The pursuer sometimes periodically flashes his lights as he chases the woman's car. It's later revealed that his doing so kept the fiend from attacking the woman while she drove: every time the bad guy rose up in the back seat to assault her, the pursuer would bathe him with his high beams and prevent him from striking.
  • A hybrid of the "gas station" version crossed with the Lights Out! legend appeared in 1993. In this variation, the man hiding in the back seat confesses that as part of a gang initiation he has to sneak into the cars of two women in order to rape and murder them. The gang initiation theme surfaced again in 1999, with bad guys looking to join a gang lurking at gas stations in hopes of severing a body part off a woman as a trophy (Example 3), and in 2000 with them lurking in the same venue, looking to kidnap a woman for the gang to rape (Example 4).
Origins:   This legend first appeared at least as far back as 1967 and Cartoon of the legend quickly caught on, becoming one of the favorite scary legends of that period. In addition to circulating orally, it showed up in Ann Landers' column in 1982, presented as a harrowing experience that had befallen the letter writer's friend.

Despite the legend's many incarnations and long history, there's little or no record of its ever playing out in real life. It's merely a cautionary tale warning us to be vigilant of our surroundings — there just aren't that many bad guys lurking in backseats to get worried about.

Though there have been rapes wherein the attacker hid in the back seat of an automobile, they are rather rare occurrences (one example of which took place in the Chicago area in March 2013). As for carjackings, in the overwhelming majority of them the assailant opens the door and gets into the car while the driver is behind the wheel; there's little of this "lurking in the backseat" bit.

The legend might originally have been prompted by a real news story:
Research shows that one true case of "The Killer in the Backseat" did occur in 1964 in New York City, when an escaped murderer hid in the backseat of a car. The car, ironically, belonged to a police detective who shot the man. Though the differences between the legend and the true occurrence are vast (the real occurrence did not feature a lone female; it didn't necessarily happen at night; and no third person was involved), the legend may have sprung out of this real incident:
Even as a horror legend, this one is sexist to the core. As mentioned earlier, the prey is always female and both the evil fiend and the rescuer are male — there are no exceptions to this typecasting (even though men are far more often the victims of killing by strangers than women are). Both male figures are seen as powerful: the fiend for his evilness and mad intent, the rescuer for his coolness in knowing what to do and his ease in dispatching the fiend:
The warnings that the woman misunderstood as aggression lead to a surprising turn of events: her fear was misdirected and the danger came from somewhere much closer than she realized, the backseat of her own car!
The woman, by contrast, is portrayed as completely and irredeemably ineffective. In none of the tellings does she catch on to the source of her peril; she always needs a man to set the record straight. (The task of rescuing her from a dangerous situation also falls to a guy; the woman is never involved in either containing the bad guy until the police arrive or in tussling with him if he tries to escape.) Her inability to take care of herself is further driven home by her resolutely acting on the assumption that the man either chasing after her or trying to lure her into the gas station means her harm. Unaided, she can't tell friend from
foe.

In those recountings where anyone's race is mentioned, the man hiding in the car or the rescuer is invariably black. It's easy to see those versions as a racist reaction to anxiety about being attacked by a member of a feared group: the lurking black man represents the perceived menace of his race, waiting for the proper moment when a back is turned to strike; the rescuer's attempt to warn the victim is ignored because his color marks him as more likely to be an attacker than a protector.

Update:   In late 1999 through early 2002, versions circulating on the Internet which involved prospective gang members looking to kidnap a woman for rape reappeared with surprising frequency. These morphing e-mails contained specific city names (such as Chicago or Boston) and names of local chains of gas stations/convenience stores (such as "Quik Trip," "Quick Trip," "Quick Stop," "Kwik Trip," "Kwikfill," and "Citgo"). Later versions incorporated the ankle slasher motif from another horror legend and posited that the gang initation required prospective members to bring in dismembered body parts from female victims.

Barbara "backseat diver" Mikkelson

Sightings:   This legend shows up in the 1983 film Nightmares, the 1984 film Mr. Wrong and the 1998 film Urban Legend. You'll also spot the "gas station" version worked into the plot of an episode of TV's Homicide ("Thrill of the Kill"; originally aired 10 November 1995) and Millennium ("The Pest House," original air date 27 February 1998). It was also made into a short film titled Suspicious in 1995.

Last updated:   30 August 2013

Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2014 by snopes.com.
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.

Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Choking Doberman.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.   ISBN 0-393-30321-7   (p. 214).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Mexican Pet.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.   ISBN 0-393-30542-2   (pp. 58-59).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 97-100).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Vanishing Hitchhiker.
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.   ISBN 0-393-95169-3   (pp. 52-53).

    Campbell, Don.   "Bodysnatcher Myth Gets Boost."
    Ottawa Citizen.   26 September 2003.

    de Vos, Gail.   Tales, Rumors and Gossip.
    Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1996.   ISBN 1-56308-190-3   (pp. 289, 311-313).

    Drake, Carlos.   "The Killer in the Back Seat."
    Indiana Folklore.   No. 1; 1968   (pp. 107-109).

    Emrich, Duncan.   Folklore on the American Land.
    Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972   (p. 338).

    Smith, Jack.   "Modern-Day Fables Never Die."
    Los Angeles Times.   15 October 1986   (p. E1).

    Smith, Paul.   The Book of Nasty Legends.
    London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.   ISBN 0-00-636856-5   (pp. 95-96).

    Thalji, Jamal.   "Accused Rapist Retrial Starts."
    St. Petersburg Times.   19 August 1997   (p. 5).

    FOAFTale News.   "The Killer in the Backseat."
    November 1993   (p. 6).

Also told in:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.
    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (p. 6).

    Holt, David and Bill Mooney.   Spiders in the Hairdo.
    Little Rock: August House, 1999.   ISBN 0-87483-525-9   (pp. 65-66).

    Schwartz, Alvin.   Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
    New York: HarperCollins, 1981.   ISBN 0-397-31927-4   (pp. 66-68).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 11).