And we really need to know—is it just an urban myth or is it based on a true story?
The legend begins with an old house in the middle of nowhere, a stranger lurking in the shadows, a landline and a Tinder account.
The tale has all the elements of an urban legend—it happened to a ‘friend of a friend’, the location changes depending on who’s telling it, and there’s no factual evidence to back it up.
But it's compelling, and it's plausible, and it's pretty much the worst nightmare of any woman who's ever found themselves alone in an unfamiliar place.
I first heard about it when a listener submitted a version of the story to the My Favorite Murder podcast. In this version the story was set in the Adirondacks, at a family cabin where the woman was spending a weekend to clear her head.
The legend always follows the same general story line. A twenty-something woman finds herself staying alone in a isolated house/cabin/ranch somewhere in the United States.
Not long after she moves in, the woman begins to hear odd noises, but chalks it up to being the standard 'settling' of the older house. Still, her unease persists and at this point she calls a relative—maybe her father, maybe an aunt, maybe her sister, for some piece of mind. They agree that it's probably nothing, but encourage her to call the police to check it out, just in case.
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So the woman, still alone in the creepy old house, calls 911 and explains her situation to the dispatcher, all while admitting that it's 'probably nothing'. The dispatcher asks if she's alone in the house, she answers yes, and the dispatcher agrees that it's probably paranoia, but promises to send an officer to the house to check it out. She says that it's a very busy night and it will probably be around 40 minutes before the officer arrives. In the meantime, the dispatcher agrees to stay on the line with the woman in case of an emergency.
Within three minutes, a squadron of police cars screech onto the front lawn. The police search the house and find a man in the basement, along with an intricate lay out of sinister tools that could be used to torture or dismember a human body (in some versions of the story he has also built a cage to put her in).
Upon seeing the man, the woman immediately recognises him as a recent Tinder date who learned she was staying alone in the house after dropping her off following an odd-but-not-alarming date.
According to the legend, the dispatcher had been bluffing during the woman's 911 call, after hearing someone listening in to the woman's phone call. By saying that the police would arrive in 40 minutes, the dispatcher hoped to take the intruder by surprise—and before he could do anything violent.
It makes sense that this is a story that people would latch onto and pass along to their friends. It has all the markings of a great tale—an attractive woman alone in an isolated area finds herself in grave danger, only to be rescued at the last minute.
Remove the Tinder element and this story would feel right at home in the horror movies of the eighties and nineties.
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Although it sounds like a story that has been ripped from the pages of an internet forum, Madeleine Davies from Jezebel, in her own investigation into the legend, found nothing on Reddit and creepypasta. It seems like until now, the legend has only been shared by word of mouth.
And here's the thing, most urban legends are based on a element of truth. An event happens and people start talking about it. Over time that story evolves and other elements are added in. This is how we, as humans, make sense of the world.
Maybe there was never a basement full of sinister tools, maybe there was never a cage, but there's every possibility that somewhere, right now, a twenty-something woman is being stalked by a man she met on a popular dating app.
And she may not even realise.