The Backseat Murderer
A good urban legend is like a good movie. It unfolds perfectly and it appeals to the audience’s hopes, fears, and anxieties. The urban legend I am about to describe was told by a first year female biology major at the University. She is of Indian descent and both her parents work in the biotechnology field. I collected this story on a Sunday night in the dorm. The fact that it was nighttime helped create the proper mood for the story. It was told in a dimly lit dorm room. The story was told with an eerie tone of voice, with emphasis and excitement during certain parts. The final part of the story was told in a mysterious fashion, which helped with the delivery of the ending.
I heard this story a while ago from a friend. It starts out with a woman who is driving late at night in the middle of nowhere, trying to get home from a long road trip. She is exhausted and is having trouble staying awake and paying attention to the road. Next, the “low gas” light on her car comes on and the car needs gas. The woman doesn’t know where the nearest town or gas station is, but she keeps driving. Eventually she comes upon an old rundown gas station. She doesn’t want to stop there since it’s so quiet and she feels unsafe, but the car needs gas so she decides to pull in. An attendant walks out to help fill her car up with gas. He is very shady looking and creeps her out. She did not like the whole situation at all and felt very uncomfortable. As soon as he is done filling her car with gas, she pays him. Next, the attendant tells her he needs to talk to her inside. She refuses, but he keeps on insisting that it is very important. When she refuses again, he grabs her arm in an attempt to get her to come inside, but the woman knows self defense and kicks the attendant, temporarily incapacitating him. She then runs back to her car and drives away.
The next morning, the woman’s car is found on the side of the road in a ditch by a passing driver. He pulls over to investigate, and the woman is found dead and stabbed multiple times. It was a gruesome site. The police are called in and they decide to investigate by asking the locals if they knew anything. When the gas attendant was interviewed, he claimed that he heard about an escaped serial killer on the radio and said that he saw the killer in the backseat of her car crouching down. When he told the woman to come inside he was really trying to warn her that the killer was in the backseat of the car without alerting him.
This story is a popular urban legend. A story similar to this one also was related in Ann Landers’ column in 1982 (Joyce). There are many variations to this story. In one version, instead of pulling into a gas station, the woman keeps driving the car and is followed very closely by another motorist. She mistakes the motorist as an assailant, but the motorist is really trying to warn her...