Attack of the Back(seat)-Stabbing Driver!

It’s like a scene out of a horror movie: an unsuspecting woman pumps gas into her car, only to be summoned inside by a gas attendant who informs her that — horrors! — a knife wielding lunatic is lurking in the backseat.

In truth, it is a scene from a horror movie — the horror movie Urban Legend in fact — and it far from being a horrifying new trend, this old tale’s been with us for decades.

Here’s the urban legend:

Date Collected: 5/27/2008

A woman 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 and/or her car… One way they are doing this is crawling under women’s cars while they’re pumping gas or at grocery stores in the nighttime The other way is slipping into unattended cars and kidnapping the women.
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 friends can take precaution.

Barbara Baker, Secretary Directorate of Training U.S. Army Military Police School.


I’ve been collecting urban legends for years, but there are only a handful that I’ve heard in person. The knife-wielding lunatic in the backseat is one of them; I first heard this story in college (round about 1993), but it’s actually much older than that.

Urban folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand debunks the legend in his Colossal Book of Urban Legends (“The Killer in the Back Seat”, p. 97), explaining that the legend dates back to the 1960s. Amusingly, he also recounts how David Letterman told him this story on several different occasions.

This legend has spawned a few variants, including the “ankle slashing murderer hiding under the car” (also debunked by Brunvand in The Colossal Book of Urban Legends.

It was also one of several bloody urban legends featured in the 1998 film Urban Legend.


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