Urban Legends: The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs

The urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs tells the story of a babysitter who receives threatening phone calls from a stranger while she is babysitting. The caller tells her that he can see her and is watching her every move. The babysitter eventually calls the police, who trace the call and reveal that the calls were coming from inside the house all along. This legend has become a staple of horror storytelling and has been referenced in numerous movies and TV shows. 

Join us as we discuss the urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs.

This urban legend has become a staple of horror storytelling because it plays into our fear of being watched. It creates a sense of vulnerability and helplessness in the victim, as she is alone in the house with kids and not able to escape. The fear of being watched in the privacy of one's home is a fear that many people can relate to. It touches on the uncomfortable uncertainty that is the hallmark of good horror stories. Additionally, the twist ending, where the calls are revealed to have been originating from inside the house all along is a classic trope seen in many movies. The combination of fear, vulnerability, and suspense make the urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs a perfect horror story.

The Origin

The origin of the legend is uncertain, as it's been passed down through oral tradition. The earliest known reference to the legend can be found in a 1950s advice column in a paper. A worried mother writes in to ask if she should be concerned about her daughter babysitting for a family that has received threatening phone calls. The columnist reassures her that calls like that are often just pranks, but does advise her to be cautious. From there, the legend began to spread and evolved through retellings and adaptations, ultimately becoming a staple of horror storytelling.

Pop Culture References

You may recognize the legend from its many references and adaptations in popular culture. A few examples are:

  • In the 1979 movie "When a Stranger Calls," the babysitter receives threatening phone calls from a man who is revealed to be inside the house.
  • The 1996 horror movie "Scream" features a scene in which a character retells the legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs.
  • The 2006 horror movie "Black Christmas" centers around a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and killed by a man who is hiding in their attic.
  • The 2019 TV series "What We Do in the Shadows" has an episode titled "The Man" that features the legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs as a central plot point.
The legend has become a popular and enduring trope in horror storytelling and it's likely to continue to do so for many years to come.

Similar Legends

There are a few other urban legends that have a similar feel to the legend of the babysitter. These other legends usually involve a mysterious unseen stranger. Preying on someone vulnerable and often unaware. Someone being watched. A few similar urban legends are:
  • The Killer in the Backseat: In this legend, a woman is driving alone at night when she notices a car following her. She becomes increasingly frightened, but when she pulls into a gas station or parking lot, a stranger informs her that there is a man hiding in her backseat, ready to attack her.
  • The Hook: In this legend, a young couple is parked in a secluded area when they hear a news report about an escaped convict with a hook for a hand. Suddenly, they hear a scraping sound on the side of the car and become convinced that the convict has found them.
  • The Vanishing Hitchhiker: In this legend, a driver picks up a hitchhiker who disappears from the car without a trace. When the driver investigates, they learn that the hitchhiker was killed in a car accident years ago.


In conclusion, the urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs has endured as a classic horror tale for decades. Its popularity can be attributed to the way it taps into our primal fears of being vulnerable and alone in a dangerous situation. This legend has been adapted and referenced in various forms of pop culture from movies to TV shows.

Urban legends, in general, hold significant cultural significance in horror storytelling. They provide a glimpse into the collective fears and anxieties of a society, and they continue to evolve and adapt to fit changing cultural norms and technologies. As we've seen the shift from the stranger calling a landline phone to now calling a cell phone. AS new fears emerge, so do new legends that reflect them.

Overall, urban legends remain a fascinating aspect of horror storytelling. They allow us to explore the deepest fears and anxieties of human existence while also serving as a form of cultural commentary. The legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs is just one example of the enduring power and influence of these tales.

What is your favorite adaptation of the legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs?

Let us know in the comments!