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Creepy Van

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Kidnappers always use vans

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on Dec 13th 2018 at 5:20:01 AM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on Jan 14th 2019 at 8:17:26 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

In fiction, unmarked, usually all-white vans are the go-to tool for kidnappers and sexual predators. They're large enough to store a body and generic enough that they can be easily dumped. When asked why they have such a large van, they can have various alibis, such as it being work-related. Vans are also cheap and easy to customize, soundproof, and otherwise secure. While they've become commonly associated with the stranger in the park luring kids with candy, they're also pretty popular among Serial Killers and run-of-the-mill stalkers. Even if the driver never kidnaps anyone, watching someone from a van is always creepy, except on those occasions when the Spies in a Van happen to be the good guys.

Not all of these vans are necessarily unmarked, however. Ice-cream vans are often used for this purpose. You may see a creepy-looking older man trying to rent an ice-cream truck "for some private reasons". Sometimes they even actually are an official ice-cream man who uses their job as a way to get close to kids.

As a result of this trope, characters who have generic-looking vans and caravans often have jokes where they're Mistaken for Pedophile.

Super Trope to Bad Humor Truck (ice-cream trucks being used by creeps). Contrast Punk in the Trunk, as vans don't typically have trunks, and not to be confused with Van in Black.


Examples:

Advertising

  • A commercial for Volkswagen had a man walking to his new Passat when a van pulls up behind him, some men jump out, and they kidnap him. A few seconds later, they return and drop him off. The announcer then says "The new Passat. It only looks expensive."

Comic Books

Live-Action TV

  • In the second season premiere of NCIS, Team Gibbs must rescue a blind child. When they find her, she remarks that she was in a vehicle with no windows, since she couldn't feel the sun on her face. After looking at security tapes, DiNozzo says they found a white van with no windows and that the plates came back as stolen.
  • Alluded to on The Big Bang Theory when the guys decide to start their own comic book shop. One of the guys says that when he was growing up, he couldn't get to the local comic book shop and suggests they get a van to pick up local kids and bring them there. Only Leonard realizes the implications.
    Leonard: Are we going to lure them in with candy?
Raj: We are now!

Fan Works

  • In How To Break A Family, 4-year old D.W. was lured into an unmarked van by a strangers using sweets. She was kidnapped and remained missing for over a decade.
  • In the Jem fic Our Time Is Now, Jerrica is kidnapped and placed in an unmarked black van.

Film — Live Action

  • The two villains from Nick of Time kidnap Gene Watson's young daughter, and issue him an ultimatum: assassinate Governor Grant, or little Lynn dies. The villains keep poor Lynn in an unmarked van near the site of the Governor's campaign speech.

Webcomics

  • The men who tried to kidnap Max in the "How Do I" arc of Ennui GO! were driving a black van with black paper taped over the windows and "Free Candy" spray painted on the side (he wasn't stupid enough to get in, they physically dragged him).

Feedback: 37 replies

Dec 13th 2018 at 5:20:43 AM

It was noted in Trope Finder that there's no trope for kidnappers using vans.

Dec 13th 2018 at 6:47:25 AM

Contrast Punk In The Trunk, as vans don't typically have trunks.

Dec 13th 2018 at 7:28:38 AM

Parodied in Crossing The Line Twice style in the Hack Slash short "Rape Van". (It's a demonic literal van that rapes cars and crushes the occupants to death.)

Dec 13th 2018 at 9:02:55 AM

Advertising

  • A commercial for Volkswagen had a man walking to his new Passat when a van pulls up behind him, some men jump out, and they kidnap him. A few seconds later, they return and drop him off. The announcer then says "The new Passat. It only looks expensive."

Dec 13th 2018 at 10:31:50 PM

Vans are also cheap and easy to customize, soundproof, and otherwise secure. While they've become commonly associated with the stranger in the park luring kids with candy, they're also pretty popular among Serial Killers and run-of-the-mill stalkers. Even if the driver never kidnaps anyone, watching someone from a van is always creepy, except on those occasions when the Spies In A Van happen to be the good guys.

Not to be confused with Van In Black.


Speaking of which, actually, there's probably another (sub)trope here for when a bunch of goons in black sweaters and balaclavas snatch someone (usually a businessman, politician, top scientist or engineer, or just The Hero) in the middle of the street and stuff them in the back of a van. I mention it because that's probably not the kind of kidnapper we want for this, so it might be worth ruling that out in the description if we did want to make that its own TLP later.
Creepy Van? Stalker Van? Creepy Stalker Van? Unmarked White Van would still make a good redirect if it's too specific for the actual name.

Dec 13th 2018 at 10:09:21 AM

I have a character who is a kidnapper and has a van, but his van wasn't white and the kidnapping was just a small part of his villainy (+ the kidnappee was a teen). I'm mentioning this to confirm that he isn't going to fit the trope because the connections are only tangential. Right?

Dec 14th 2018 at 10:56:17 AM

Live-Action TV

  • In the second season premiere of NCIS, Team Gibbs must rescue a blind child. When they find her, she remarks that she was in a vehicle with no windows, since she couldn't feel the sun on her face. After looking at security tapes, DiNozzo says they found a white van with no windows and that the plates came back as stolen.

Dec 13th 2018 at 1:40:24 PM

Tried to look for what Unsung said and... strange, we don't have that one right now.

I'd like the draft maker to work that into the description as it's a "kidnapping van" too.

Dec 13th 2018 at 7:08:55 PM

  • The men who tried to kidnap Max in the "How Do I" arc of Ennui Go were driving a black van with black paper taped over the windows and "Free Candy" spray painted on the side (he wasn't stupid enough to get in, they physically dragged him).

Dec 15th 2018 at 5:44:42 AM

This is a bit too close to Van In Black for me- yes, that trope seems to be about government conspiracies using unmarked vans, but I think it could be broadened to any conspiracy, which would cover kidnappings.

Dec 15th 2018 at 6:01:07 AM

Film

  • The two villains from Nick Of Time kidnap Gene Watson's young daughter, and issue him an ultimatum: assassinate Governor Grant, or little Lynn dies. The villains keep poor Lynn in an unmarked van near the site of the Governor's campaign speech.

Dec 16th 2018 at 5:47:46 PM

^^ Van In Black is more of a supertrope here, I think, for this TLP, Spies In A Van, and a separate page for the "goons stuff someone in a van" scenario I mentioned before. I think there are more than enough examples of all three to justify the split, not to mention the tone of each one being pretty different.

Dec 15th 2018 at 8:41:16 PM

Live Action Television

  • Alluded to on The Big Bang Theory when the guys decide to start their own comic book shop. One of the guys says that when he was growing up, he couldn't get to the local comic book shop and suggests they get a van to pick up local kids and bring them there. Only Leonard realizes the implications.
    Leonard: Are we going to lure them in with candy?
    Raj: We are now!

Jan 2nd 2019 at 10:26:33 PM

  • The villains of the Midnight Caller episode "With Malice Towards One" drive a windowless blue van. They use it to kidnap Billy and beat him almost to death, and later to try to run down Jack.

Jan 3rd 2019 at 12:11:52 AM

Comic Books

  • Invoked in Runaways with Chase's nondescript white van, which he acquired precisely because of vans' reputations for blending in.

Jan 3rd 2019 at 6:17:08 AM

So now it's just "creepy van"?

Jan 3rd 2019 at 11:14:24 AM

  • After Hours: One episode was about unintentionally creepy sit-com characters, and a running joke was referring to Cody from Step By Step as being incredibly creepy, primarily because he lives in a van. Even moreso that than his constant flirtations with his not-quite-cousin.

Jan 3rd 2019 at 4:23:14 PM

Film Live Action

  • Wyatt Frame from Josie And The Pussycats discovers a cynical girl in the record store that seems immune to Mega Records' brainwashing. Wyatt none too subtly intones "Smells like teen spirit" into his jacket sleeve. Moments later, an overhead door flies open, and the cynical girl gets grabbed and tossed into a waiting van, then driven away. She's not seen or heard again in the film.

Jan 3rd 2019 at 6:17:11 PM

Jan 3rd 2019 at 9:11:05 PM

<edit>As mentioned further upthread,</edit> I think this works better if it's specifically about the isolated lurking Serial Killer, Stalker With A Crush, pedophile, etc, so I've made a separate draft for when a van full of goons drives up and snatches someone as part of a larger agenda.

^^ Okay if I add that example?

Jan 3rd 2019 at 8:34:15 PM

  • House Of Cards US: Political "fixer" Doug Stamper is assigned the task of cleaning up the Rachael Posner loose end, resolving it by kidnapping her in a van, driving her out into the middle of nowhere and murdering her.

Jan 3rd 2019 at 11:18:40 PM

^^ Oh, since there's now Goons In A Van That Snatch Victims running on the TLP, the Film.Josie And The Pussycats example fits there. These were nameless mooks that pounced on the cynical girl; Wyatt merely gave the signal, and never laid a hand on her.

Jan 4th 2019 at 8:37:27 AM

Thanks, oneuglybunny. Added your example and arbiter099's to the Thrown In The Back Of A Van draft.

Web Original

  • The SCP Foundation makes use of vans and could be argued to be fairly creepy in their own right, but these are also often used by those dealing in or affected by anomalous items or individuals. In some cases, the vehicle is itself anomalous, as with SCP-1386, a Good Humor van which dispenses various frozen "treats", some of which don't exist in our world, are inedible or even poisonous, or even have anomalous properties on their own. It won't open to anyone who doesn't feign happiness and have at least twenty dollars in cash on their person (if the latter isn't true, the van will emit a ear-piercing siren until the person leaves). Prices seem to be set on a whim, and if someone attempts to leave without paying, they're dragged into the truck by some manner of rusty metal trap.

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:27:50 AM

Dunno if this one fits overall, but in the Western Animation series of The Littles, Dr. Hunter (a Canon Foreigner Agent Mulder recurring foe that constantly tries to expose the existence of the Littles) and his assistant Petersen constantly drive around in a black van full of high-tech Little-detecting gear, and several times the heroes notice that the van is rolling or parked nearby and go Oh Crap.

Jan 12th 2019 at 8:41:00 AM

I was considering launching the Vehicular Kidnapping TLP, but didn't want to jump the gun or seem like I was stepping past this TLP. Any thoughts, anyone?

Jan 13th 2019 at 9:11:17 AM

I think this draft works best a broad supertrope for any menacing use of a van, as it already includes multiple uses. Kidnapping someone for a political murder, raping someone in a van, and some of the other things in the examples, seem as distinct from each other as they are from Spies In A Van, Van In Black, etc which are already separate tropes excluded from this draft.

In that case, Creepy Van would be a supertrope covering any examples that don't fit in

Example that wouldn't fit subtropes (Live-action TV):

  • In Season 3 of Twin Peaks hitmen Hutch and Charlene drive around in a white van which they use to store bodies of people they kill as well as their extensive arsenal. Much of their storyline involves them driving to Las Vegas in the van in order to find and kill Dougie.

Jan 13th 2019 at 9:51:02 AM

I'd say Van In Black would work better the supertrope, as it's already fairly broad, really just any suspicious van, whereas this one is narrower, focusing on the stranger-with-candy/creepy stalker archetype.

Jan 13th 2019 at 10:00:55 AM

^ I guess that's ok too, but the name and description need to more more clear about that then. Pedophile Van? Van Full Of Candy?

Jan 13th 2019 at 10:12:41 AM

It also covers serial killers and kidnapper-rapists. I was suggesting Creepy Stalker Van? Maybe this is something of a character trope rather than a vehicle trope? The van is creepy, but the important part is that there's a really nasty sort of criminal inside.

Jan 13th 2019 at 11:26:13 AM

If it's about the character... Creepers Use Vans maybe>

Jan 13th 2019 at 10:16:55 PM

Creep In A Van, or The Creep In The Van? I mentioned Stalker Van before, which I think narrows it down somewhat.

Jan 13th 2019 at 11:14:16 PM

Maybe "Ominous Van" if we want it to be a supertrope.

Jan 13th 2019 at 11:46:46 PM

Tony Hawks Underground 2 bam and tony use a van to kidnap the main character.

Jan 14th 2019 at 7:00:59 AM

@ Unsung, 4tell0life4: Stalker Van narrows it down a bit. I could go with that. I do think political kidnappings/kidnappings to achieve some broader objective are distinct from kidnappings with some sexual undertone (i.e. to rape them) and have more to do with Spies In A Van than with the sexual kidnappings.

There is also a missing supertrope here.

Jan 14th 2019 at 8:17:26 AM

I do think it's a relatively easy fix to make Van In Black the supertrope for all of these. And while I think the potential for kidnapping is an important part of this trope, I don't think the kidnapping itself is necessary. Just somebody creepily watching others — taking pictures for their own gratification through a telephoto lens, for example — would count as well, I'd say.

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