The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House
Classic urban legend
horror scenario: Someone, usually a young woman who is home alone, often a baby sitter, gets a creepy phone call
. The police trace it but learn that the calls are coming from inside the house.
This is a partly Discredited Trope
, because the whole urban legend relies on a myth about old analog land lines: the idea that you could, by tapping the receiver button carefully, manage to dial the telephone number of the building/home you were occupying at the time. *
However, in at least some areas of the U.S., it has been and still is possible to dial your home phone number, hang up on the busy signal and get a ring to your own line. The reason the phone company allows this isn't clear, however it has been used by some as a poor-man's home intercom. On a line which does not have caller ID, it could be used to pretend to be calling from outside the house while actually calling from another room.
The sense of dread that a phone call is coming from the very building you are occupying may be lost on people who are used to being able to call anyone from anywhere at any time. However, learning that instead of being safe in your home, you're actually locked in the building with the psycho who's been making threatening calls, can still be pretty scary, cell phone or not.
This trope predates the adoption of 911 services, (as well as Caller ID and Call Waiting,) especially as the original version of the legend usually highlights that the victim has to "call the operator".
For the more modern variant, see I Can See You
. See also Short Distance Phone Call
, Evil Phone
open/close all folders
- The page image comes from the Budweiser ads which spoofed this trope with penguins calling some guy from upstairs and asking him how his Bud Ice is. Beware of the penguins.
- Played for laughs in the second Beatles movie, Help! John uses this to prank the other Beatles with an alarm clock.
- The plot of the movie When a Stranger Calls.
- Inverted in Lost Highway: "I'm there right now. Call me."
- Black Christmas 1974 was the first known film to use this line.
- Used in the first Urban Legend movie. A character gets a call in his house during a party, checks the ID and proclaims it's this trope. He starts up the stairs when the killer on the phone corrects him with: "Wrong legend. This is the one about the old lady who dries her wet dog in the microwave."
- Spoofed in the first Scary Movie.
- Spoofed in Wet Hot American Summer.
- In the 2011 remake of The Mechanic, the hitman uses this to get the mark out of the building, by making him think the call is coming from a room above — in actuality the hitman has rigged the switchboard to give a false signal.
- Spoofed in Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth when the killer stumbles into the backyard pool while menacing a girl over the phone.
- Used loosely in the first Scream 1996. In the age of cell phones and caller ID, however, the trope was lost in the sequels.
- Near the end of Open House, the killer's call is traced to the very radio station whose show he is phonning into.
- North By Northwest has a variant of this. Thornhill gets a call from the bad guys while casing "Kaplan"'s room at the Plaza Hotel. He then finds out from the hotel's switchboard operator that the call came from the lobby.
- An episode of Suspense, "Sorry, Wrong Number", starring Agnes Moorehead. Probably the oldest use of this trope in the media, it was so popular when it aired, the next week a new episode was preempted so that the radio play could be rebroadcasted. Eventually, it was made into a feature length movie.
- Hydrophobia has a variant where the hack is coming from inside the ship.
- Happens with The Reveal in Metal Gear Solid 2, when Raiden finds out that the Codec calls from his two mission contacts are coming from inside the Big Shell, since they're actually both AIs put there to manipulate him. Everything becomes clear when he tries to crash the Big Shell's computers with a virus, and his contacts suddenly start blurting out random gobbledegook ("I need scissors! 61!").
- Happened in Metal Gear Solid too, when it's revealed Master Miller actually Liquid Snake in disguise is calling Snake from inside Shadow Moses.
- Spoofed in a mock Creepypasta where a babysitter calls the parents to ask if she can browse /b/ on their computer. They say yes, and she asks if she can look at the original content. The parents respond with "GET OUT OF THE HOUSE... /B/ HAS NO ORIGINAL CONTENT!"
- The Simpsons: At the beginning of the first "Treehouse of Horror" episode, Lisa is seen wrapping up the original story with Bart in the treehouse, but Bart is less than impressed.
- Spoofed by Brak on Cartoon Planet. The operator had made a mistake.
- "THE MANIAC IS IN THE MAILBOX!"
- The episode "Octi-gone" of The Powerpuff Girls included this trope, but any horror was pretty much passed over for a gasping gag; plus, occurrences like villains breaking into your house and pretending to hold a stuffed octopus hostage are pretty normal in Townsville.
- In one episode of Archer, Pam gets kidnapped in place of Cheryl, and the kidnappers, with a voice modulator, contact ISIS to discuss the ransom. Later on, Cyril kidnaps Cheryl in order to get her to repay her debt to him, and stuffs her in a random room at ISIS. He then contacts Mallory from his own office, again with a voice modulator, demanding the rather specific amount of $32,000. Mallory freaks out that the caller is calling from ISIS.