Killer in the backseat

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Killer in the Backseat (also known as High Beams) is a common, car-crime urban legend well known mostly in the United States and United Kingdom. It was first noted by folklorist Carlos Drake in 1968 in texts collected by Indiana University students.[1]


The legend involves a woman who is driving and being followed by a strange car or truck. The mysterious pursuer flashes his high beams, tailgates her, and sometimes even rams her vehicle. When she finally makes it home, she realizes that the driver was trying to warn her that there was a man (a murderer, rapist, or escaped mental patient) hiding in her back seat. Each time the man sat up to attack her, the driver behind had used his high beams to scare the killer.

In some versions the woman stops for gas, and the attendant asks her to come inside to sort out a problem with her credit card. Inside the station, he asks if she knows there's a man in her back seat. In another she sees a doll on the road in the moors, stops, and then the man gets in the back.

The story is often told with a moral. The attendant is often a lumberjack, a trucker, or a scary-looking man; someone the driver mistrusts without reason. She assumes it is the attendant who wants to do her harm, when in reality it is he who saves her life.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The 1998 film Urban Legend begins with this scenario.
  • The 1st segment, Terror in Topanga, of the 1983 film Nightmares is a depiction of this legend.
  • An episode of Jonathan Creek begins with a version of this legend, except instead of a killer inside the car the pursuing driver was trying to alert that there was a body tied to the back of the car.
  • In a 1998 episode of Millennium, "The Pest House", Frank Black chases a doctor from a mental hospital after one of its patients escapes into the back of her car and tries to kill her. When she pulls over at a gas station, the attendant saves her by taking her inside.
  • The 2003 Tamil Film from India, Whistle also begins with this scenario
  • The story is featured in the television show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction.
  • The story is featured in an episode of The Simpsons when Otto tells Lisa the legend as a bedtime story. In his version, the victim is chased by another car that keeps ramming her vehicle, and she drives off the road into the woods and loses the other car. She is then killed by an axe-wielding maniac who had been hiding in her backseat.
  • In the 2006 horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, the victim, Chrissie (played by actress Jordana Brewster) is driving and sees a sheriff and a citizen . She puts a smile on her face. But that fades away when she sees Leatherface (played by actor, Andrew Bryniarski) appear in the back seat. Instead of someone trying to warn her and her surviving, Chrissie is stabbed by Leatherface's chainsaw. She is killed and crashes in the sheriff and citizen (who dies too) and Leatherface gets out of the car and leaves the dead Chrissie.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carlos Drake. The Killer in the Backseat Indiana Folklore 1 (1968), 107-109.