Interviewer: So tell me this scary story you’ve heard of.
Subject: Okay so… there’s this girl and she’s home alone. She goes into the attic and she finds a puzzle that she hasn’t seen before… she has no idea where it comes from. She’s bord so she’s like “okay, I’ll make this puzzle.” So she goes down to her kitchen and she starts making this puzzle. There’s no picture on the box or anything! It’s just in like an old box. She has no clue what’s up. But she starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together she realizes that it is her kitchen. And as she goes around the edges she realizes that she is also in the puzzle. Finally she completes the puzzle… except for one last piece. And on the last piece is her kitchen window with a horrifying twisted demonic face… in the window. And slowly she puts the piece into place… and then the window slams open!
Interviewer: Wow that is terrifying. Where did you hear this story?
Subject: A friend. A friend and I were trying to tell each other scary stories to scare the other out of falling asleep.
Interviewer: And did it work?
Context: The subject is my 17-year-old younger brother who is in his senior year of high school. We have been quarantined together due to the Coronavirus pandemic and staying at our home in Charleston, South Carolina. After dinner, we were sitting in the dark in the living room and I asked him to tell me the scariest story he had ever heard. He was ready to accept that challenge, particularly because he was riddled with boredom.
Interpretation: This legend scared me in a deeply unsettling way. I think it is the slow build of the story, how it starts with something as seemingly trivial as a girl finding a puzzle, then escalates into terror. I had never heard this scary story before, and upon doing some research, I found out this is a fairly popular internet urban legend. Different renderings of it were featured in a number of anthologies of scary stories, as well as in a few pieces of authored literature, like the movie “The Dead Poet’s Society”. I could not find a tie to the legend of any specific culture, heritage, or nationality beyond varying internet groups.