Legends
Narrative

Always Check the Backseat

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“So there is this story about a girl at a gas station filling up and she sees [a gas station attendant] and this person is being really odd and waving and trying to get her to come to him and stuff so she gets scared and gets in her car and drives off. But apparently the attendant was trying to get her to leave the car because the attendant saw someone hiding in her backseat. And I think I heard this from my sister or something and apparently it might have been inspired by something that might have been true. And that’s why my sister tells me to always look in the backseat before I climb into my car because she’s scared someone will try to kidnap me. Either that or kill me, but I think I don’t know.”


The informants sister told her this piece of folklore. I have heard this piece of folklore many times. From what I can gather, there are two main versions of this piece of folklore. There is a version with a gas station attendant and a version with a motorist. Usually, in the gas station version, the attendant sees a would-be killer hide in the backseat of the woman’s car. The attendant then finds a reason to call the woman over to his office. The reason can vary a lot ranging from claiming the woman provided him with counterfeit money to telling her that her car needs an oil change. When the woman enters the attendant’s office and the woman is told discreetly that there is someone hiding in her backseat while the attendant locks the door and calls the police.

In the motorist version, a passing driver sees the killer rise out of the back seat while the woman is driving. This prompts the driver to flash his lights at the woman, trying to warn her. However, all the woman sees is that there is a car following her flashing its lights and panics. Eventually she stops somewhere in a panic, calling for police and the driver of the other car points out the would-be killer.

In both of these stories, the almost victim is always a woman. Perhaps this is popular because as a society we believe women to be vulnerable and in need of saving. Additionally, both versions hit home the idea that things are not always what they seem. In both cases, the strangers trying to help the women both seem like they represent trouble of some kind. When, in reality they were trying to save the woman. This piece of folklore also serves as a warning to women to be cautious when out and about alone, as the woman would have been murdered had a stranger not intervened.


Both versions and more information can be found in the following:

Brunvand, Jan H. Encyclopedia of urban legends. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2012. Print. 358-351

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