The Devil You Know – A classic urban legend

The Devil You Know features one of the best known urban legends out there – the killer in the backseat. You know the one – a woman is either driving home late at night when a truck appears to start chasing her, flashing their lights, or she is at a gas station when the attendant rather forcefully insists she comes inside with him. The conclusion to both is the same, the person she was initially afraid of turns out to be her knight in shining armour, protecting her from the killer in her backseat. In fact, this is such a popular urban legend that it formed the opening sequence of the ‘90’s film Urban Legend.

I think it is easy to forget, particularly with such an infamous legend as this, that people really do believe urban legends to be true. And yes, many people believe, or at the very least, have believed the one about the killer in the backseat.

Here is a humorous interview with Jan Harold Brunvand on Letterman in 1987. If you don’t know him, Brunvand is the foremost academic expert on urban legends, and if you’ve ever bought a book of urban legends, turf it out and I bet you’ll see his name. When talking of the backseat killer legend in 1982 for the first time with Brunvand, Letterman remarked

Now this one, up until the time I read your book, I believed.
JB: You believed it?
DL: Someone had told me that they were working in a store, working late one night, and that very thing happened. But more than likely, again, it never happened anywhere.
— Brunvand, 2014, p. 100
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