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The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs is an urban legend about a teenage girl babysitting the children of a doctor while being telephoned from a mysterious man that dates back to at least the 1960s.[1] It was the inspiration for several movies including When a Stranger Calls, Foster's Release,The Sitter and Amusement.[2][3]


The legend

A teenage girl is babysitting one evening. The children have been put to bed and the babysitter is in the living room watching TV. The phone rings, and she hears either silence, a man laughing, or heavy breathing. A man asks her to "check the children". When she asks who he is, he hangs up. Rather than checking on the children, the teenager decides to ignore the call. The stranger calls back several times, and the babysitter becomes frightened and calls the operator. She asks him to trace the call. When the stranger calls back again, the babysitter manages to keep him talking for several minutes; afterward, the operator calls to say that the calls are coming from the other telephone line inside the house and the police are on their way. As the terrified babysitter races toward the door, she sees a shadowy figure coming down the stairs; she runs from the house into the arms of the awaiting police. They arrest and/or kill a madman wielding a bloody butcher knife. The children are all dead, silently hacked to pieces by the madman, who had gotten into the house through an upstairs window, murdering the children as they slept in their beds.

Notable variations

  • In some tellings,[4] the babysitter does not receive any phone calls but the youngest child is crying, scared by a life-sized clown doll. The babysitter goes up repeatedly during the night, and the clown always seeming to be in a different position than before. The babysitter calls her employers asking for her permission to remove the doll from the bedroom, and the mother tells her they do not have a giant clown doll. This version has made its way into the annals of internet "copypasta" with the babysitter calling the parents to ask if she may cover the clown (or sometimes angel) statue with a sheet while watching television in the parents' bedroom after the children are asleep. This is most likely a version inspired by the movie Poltergeist.
  • In some lighter versions, it is revealed to be only the children, playing a prank, the overly protective father, who happens to have a scratchy voice, or the killer is stopped, before managing to kill anyone.
  • In some darker versions, the killer manages to kill the sitter, as well, the sitter seeing the children's bloody heads, while fleeing, or the sitter has two personalties, with one half of her personality wanting to kill the children, while the other half wanting to save them.

Critical analysis

Academics have considered the legend in the context of 20th century western sexual politics, suggesting it served as a caution and admonition to young women: Miriam Forman-Brunell construes it as part of a 20th century American rhetorical tradition in which (young, female) obedience to orders was emphasized,[1] and folklorist Sue Samuelson has suggested that the legend's symbolic positioning of the man "upstairs" - physically above, or on top of the female babysitter - reflected a current within the story intended to socialize young women as future mothers and wives.[5]


External links

The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs at



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