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Evil Phone

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"That's not my ringtone..."

The phone is ringing. Dear God, THE PHONE IS RINGING! The camera slowly closes in on the phone. The noise is deafening. Cut to the protagonist, who has terror in her eyes. She answers the phone. "Hello?!"

Roughly half the time, the call is not from who she thought it would be (instead being, say, someone who wants to switch her long distance or some equivalent of a Cat Scare).

This guarantees the second call, immediately afterward. She picks up the phone and says, "I'M HAPPY WITH MY LONG DISTANCE, DAMMIT".

Then she hears the voice of evil on the other end of the line.

If upon answering the phone, she hears dead air, she is required to say, "It's dead," and someone else is then required to say, "Could you please not put it that way?"

One specific variant of this trope that now lives in Urban Legend territory is The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House.

The phone might also be a Supernatural Phone. Sometimes it will continue to receive calls even after being disconnected or turned off. Compare and contrast Harassing Phone Call and Mistaken for Prank Call. May overlap with Phone Call from the Dead.


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  • A faux horror movie had the obligatory pretty young things relating an Urban Legend (accompanied by creepy music) about the advertised Samsung flip phone that compels you to switch to it the moment you lay eyes on it. One scoffs at the idea only to immediately fall under its power, so the others flee while trying to shield their eyes from all the other Samsung flip phones. They make it to their car and drive off...only to discover the jacket they used to cover their eyes had a Samsung phone in the pocket!

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Monster House DJ gets a phone call from the house across the street the night after he saw its sole inhabitant suffer an apparently-fatal heart attack. All he hears on the line is spooky creaking and groaning noises.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The hotel room phone in 1408. Not only did it talk in a nightmarishly calm and pleasing woman's voice, it also melted for some reason.
    "Five. This is five. Ignore the sirens. Even if you leave this room, you can never leave this room. Eight. This is eight. We have killed your friends. Every friend is now dead. Six. This is six."
  • The Thai film 999-9999 and its Cambodian rip-off The Killing Phone are both about a telephone number that will grant the wishes of whoever calls it, but with deadly consequences.
  • Black Christmas (1974) practically started this trope, and was the first film to use the urban legend-based trope of the killer being in the house with his victims, which was pretty cutting edge back then.
  • In One Missed Call, all its sequels and the remake, young people receive voicemail messages that detail their final moments, complete with Ironic Nursery Rhyme ringtone.
  • Played with a little bit of actual creepiness in the intentionally cheesy Doom House. Determined to defuse the creepiness by any means necessary, Reginald picks up the phone with a goofy hand gesture, then discovers that the aforementioned voice of evil sounds utterly ridiculous. The gratuitous presence of his cat doesn't hurt, either.
  • The Fifth Element reveals that Corrupt Corporate Executive Zorg is allied with the Eldritch Abomination who calls him over the phone using the moniker "Mister Shadow". Zorg is terrified when those calls come. Not the least because Mister Shadow can make people bleed out of their foreheads over the phone.
    • Also the phones made by Zorg's company appear to have semtex installed, as standard, ready to be detonated whenever Zorg is disappointed.
  • The Gate: The protagonists are not sure what the hell (literally) is up with the huge hole in the backyard. Evidence comes when the phone rings. It seems to be Mom, checking up on the boys, but then 'Mom' screams 'You've been BAAAD!' and the phone melts. Nightmare fuel indeed.
  • Ghost in the Machine: The digitized killer harasses the heroine over the phone, at first by making her a target of call advertisements, until he directly talks to her.
  • In Halloween (1978), Michael strangles Lydia to death with a phone cord just as she calls Laurie. Michael then picks up the phone to listen to Laurie's frantic cries, before calmly hanging up.
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene: The suggested reason why Martha disconnected the phone is because the call was from someone at the cult who would seek to get her back in.
  • Inverted in The Matrix. Neo receives a FedEx package. There's a phone inside, and it starts freaking ringing the moment he pulls it out. Neo's eyes bug out and he answers it. Turns out it was Morpheus, exactly who Neo expected it to be.
  • In the film vaguely inspired by The Mothman Prophecies, Richard Gere gets phone calls from someone who is either Indrid Cold or the Mothman. Not quite evil, but thoroughly creepy, since his voice patterns were "outside of human vocal range".
    • Also, the phone calls that may be from Klein's dead wife, although you never know due to him refusing to answer the phone and that even come through when the phone is unplugged.
  • Nancy in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) tries to call her boyfriend, Glen Lantz, to warn him not to go to sleep. Then the phone rings. She picks it up. It's the sound of Freddy's claws being sharpened. She (understandably) freaks out, tears the phone out of the plug, and throws it across the room. Then, despite being unplugged, it starts ringing again. This time, it's Freddy again, telling her that "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy," - and then he sticks his tongue out of the phone and wags it at her.
  • In Ousama Game, the eponymous King Curse uses cell phones as its sole method of communication, including for giving death orders and announcing its executions.
  • Averted in Red Eye, where the phone call is the police saying that they're right on their way. Though the phone calls Rippner wants her to make for him are fairly sinister themselves.
  • An unconventional example shows up in The Ruins. The phone itself isn't evil or used by a villain to menace somebody, but the sadistic Man-Eating Plant lures its prey by imitating a cellphone's ringtone.
  • And then spoofed to hell in Scary Movie 3. Aside from the Evil Phone getting dragged into actual conversations, it tries to contact the female protagonist's son and gets her instead, gets hung up on, calls back and poses as a solicitor, and then finally asks her to take a message for him.
  • The killers from the Scream series were quite fond of messing with their victims over the phone.
  • The Silence of the Lambs: "Well, Clarice, have the little lambs stopped screaming?" The book has Lecter send Clarice a letter instead.
  • Steps Trodden Black briefly toys with this: we get a long, scary push it on Ryan's bloody phone before Oliver picks it up to check if it has service.
  • In Satsujin Net, the eponymous Web of Death service is a supernatural web mainly distributed through the cell phones and kills anyone whose name gets sent there.
  • When a Stranger Calls plays with the urban legend of The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs.
  • In When Evil Calls, the evil wishes are spread via text message. Every time 'new message' sound occurs, it means someone is about to make a wish which will destroy their life.

  • A very common trope for Stephen King:
    • His original idea for the phone in 1408 was actually more disturbing than that used on film — the voice, as described in the original short story, doesn't so much resemble a human being as an electric razor that has learned to talk. His performance of it in the audiobook is memorable, to say the least.
      Phone: This is nine! Nine! This is nine! Nine! This is ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is six! Six! ... Eighteen! This is now eighteen! Take cover when the siren sounds! This is four! Four! ... Five! This is five! Ignore the siren! Even if you leave this room, you can never leave this room! Eight! This is eight! ... Six, this is six! This is goddamn fucking six!
    • In The Regulators (one of King's works published as Richard Bachman) we have the Tak phone, which is not easily described but may well be the most subtly frightening example of the trope ever.
    • There is "Sorry, Right Number", in which the phone isn't precisely evil, but creepy.
      INT. THE PHONE It lies on the carpet, looking both bland and somehow ominous. CAMERA MOVES IN TO ECU- the holes in the receiver once more look like huge dark chasms. We HOLD, then FADE TO BLACK.
    • Then we have Cell, in which cell phones initiate a Zombie Apocalypse.
    • In "Mr. Harrigan's Phone", Craig, a teen, befriends an old man, the Mr. Harrigan of the title, and eventually gives him his first iPhone. When Craig finds Mr. Harrigan dead, he takes his phone out of some strange instinct, then feels guilty about it and slips the phone into Harrigan's pocket at his funeral. He soon starts calling the phone just to listen to Mr. Harrigan's outgoing message and leave voicemails about whatever's on his mind... then he starts getting cryptic text messages back... Then he leaves a message on the phone about being bullied, and his bully is found dead under mysterious circumstances the next day.
  • Subverted in the 20th Century Ghosts short story "The Black Phone" (ironically enough, given that the author is the above King's son), in which a kidnapping victim receives calls from dead children on the titular phone who give him advice on how to escape his captor.
  • In Girls With Sharp Sticks, the phone that the students use to contact their families is actually connected to a computer at the school, where an AI system poses as their parents' housekeeper while relaying information about the calls to the administration. All other calls go straight to voicemail, which lets the school know that a student is trying to contact the outside world. Mena eventually steals Guardian Bose's Cell Phone in order to get around this.
  • In Phantoms, the titular phantom likes doing this to the protagonists.
  • Anthony Horowitz's short story "The Phone Goes Dead" has a woman struck by lightning and killed while using her mobile phone. The phone's next owner, a teenage boy, soon starts receiving calls on it from beyond the grave.
  • The Ring has the phone call that always follows someone watching the haunted tape, warning them that their days are numbered. ("Seven days!") Both the 1998 and 2002 film adaptations also pull the "first call is fake" variant, as the first victim tells her tale of the tape, and then receives a call from her mother just to unnerve the audience. Unfortunately, the 2002 film also takes the edge off the horror by having one of the real calls intercepted... by Rachel's voicemail, which she then deletes.
  • The classic anthology Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark features a story called "The Viper", which subverts this trope. A woman working late in her office receives a series of mysterious phone calls from a man with a strange voice who refers to himself as "The Viper", and tells her that he is getting progressively closer to her, and will be there soon. Finally, he arrives with a bucket of soapy water, and announces that he has come to vipe the office vindows. All the more unexpected and effective because it comes immediately after a fairly straightforward and effective "The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House"-type story.
  • In Spellbent, Jessie's cellphone briefly behaves this way while she's in close proximity to a Hellgate.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? had the "Phone Police" and their insane prisoner Billy Baxter.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This appears quite often in the classic series. For instance, in "The War Machines", the First Doctor is attacked with a sort of hypnotizing beam sent via phone. One of the Master's very first attempts to kill the Doctor is carried out with an Auton-plastic phone cord that attempts to strangle Three in "Terror of the Autons".
    • "Father's Day": Rose, and later others, get creepy, cryptic phone calls ... that turned out to be the first phone call ever. It was the first sign that they officially broke time.
    • Throughout "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", the Child demonstrates the ability to control things like radios, telephones and even typewriters. When he takes over the TARDIS' police box telephone (long before the Doctor patched an actual phone through it), the Doctor is perturbed and notes, "Ringing? What's that about, ringing? You're not even a real phone and you're ringing?!"
    • In "The Impossible Planet", Rose gets a call from Satan himself on her mobile, which understandably freaks her out a bit.
  • Spoofed in The Kids in the Hall. A guy refuses to answer the phone. Reasoning it must be a wrong number. But as the phone keeps on ringing, it causes increasing hysteria in his friends. They convince themselves that something sinister about the call. "Or it's a very wrong number. 42 rings? What kind of FREAK is sitting there by that phone?"
  • The TV adaptation of Scream, much like the films, has the killer taunting victims through their phones, though here, it's more through text messages and videos.
  • Tales from the Darkside featured an episode, "Sorry, Right Number" cited above in Literature, written by Stephen King, in which a woman receives an unsettling phone call from a frantic woman, which turns out to be herself in the future, after her husband has suddenly died.
    • Tales also had an episode where a woman is annoyed by a constantly ringing phone in the apartment next to hers. Later this escalates to what sounds like someone in the apartment trying to break through her bedroom wall. Finally she steels her nerves and goes over there...


    Tabletop Games 
  • The Unbidden gives us the Fear-Powered Cell Phone, a phone that has Awakened and which draws charge from paranoia. It sends itself text messages that attempt to scare its current owner; however, it also sends itself texts that give very good advice, so that the owner comes to trust it.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Ghost Trick; Sissel can possess phones and use the phone lines for transportation, but cannot talk to people through them, even if they're holding the receiver or calling the phone he's possessing.
  • The Silent Hill series has had several Evil Phones, and a few merely spooky ones.
  • The Suffering: Sometimes nearby phones ring. Don't answer. Don't even pick up the non-ringing ones. On rare occasions, you need to pick them up anyway to advance the story, and on even rarer occasions, they're helpful. Granted, the help comes from Doctor Killjoy, and usually only in the "Good" morality; but those rare bits of necessity can unfortunately instill a similar response for every other phone...
  • Eternal Darkness has this as one of the Sanity-based freak outs. "Remember me, Alex?"
  • Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh, when you call yourself or your murdered coworkers.
  • In Shivers Two: Harvest of Souls, the villain often calls to gloat and give you unsettling messages whenever you move to a different room or building. Extra creepiness comes from the implication that he must be watching you (or following you) very closely to know where to call each time.
  • Deus Ex: Shortly after arriving in Paris, JC Denton enters an empty office with the phone ringing. Upon answering the phone, he has a short, cryptic conversation with Icarus. The use of the phone can be assumed to be pure Mind Screw on Icarus' part since he can (and does) message directly to JC in other points of the game.
  • Max Payne:
    • In the prologue of the first game, Max gets home and notices his house has been broken into. Then the phone rings, and he picks up only to hear some scratchy voice going "Is this the Payne residence?" — when he tries to get help there, all the voice says is "Good. I'm afraid I cannot help you," and hangs up. Max heads into the house and finds some drugged-up addicts having a psychotic episode who kill his wife Michelle and daughter Rose. The voice on the phone turns out to be the Big Bad Nicole Horne, CEO of the Aesir Corporation, who's been peddling the drugs to get massively rich and had sent the druggies to kill Michelle after she accidentally found incriminating evidence of Horne's involvement while working as an office clerk.
    • The sequel's Show Within a Show Address Unknown has this at the end of the series:
      Phone: John Mirra?
      John: Yes, this is he.
      Phone: This is John Mirra. Welcome to the next level.
  • You can be one, briefly, in Geist, in order to scare a janitor so you can possess him.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon: Answering a certain phone in F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point will result in an Alma scream that shakes the room.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Victor Zsasz begins a series of serial killings in which he calls random payphones and kills whomever answers them. In Batman's case he makes him track down another payphone somewhere else or else he kills innocents.
  • In Cry of Fear, your phone is mainly used as a flashlight in the game (which is always night). However, it's also used to lure Simon into the dark, abomination filled apartments through a series of text messages.
  • Watch_Dogs: "Knock-Knock." "Who's there?" "A smartphone hacking the local media art to play your betrayal over and over and over..."
    Bedbug: panicked] WHAT YOU WANT?! STOP IT! WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME?!
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game has a Cursed Artifact called "Asmodeus' Hotline," a glowing red telephone whose busy signal is accompanied by screams and evil laughter.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, there's an old-fashioned home phone that can be found in Miroku Mansion. It appears in a room that Akira already searched, and when he answers it he's hit with intense nausea. After that point, the chapter's spirit continues to harass him through his own mobile and home phones.
  • A variant in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, when Phoenix gets angry at (by then revealed to be the big villain) Matt for phoning him.
    (Phoenix's phone rings)
    Phoenix: (Auugh! It's that Engarde again!) (Answers) Would you stop calling me already?!
    Gumshoe: ...You're kinda mean, pal...
    Phoenix: GAH! Detective Gumshoe! I'm really, really sorry!
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • At the end of the first arc, Natsuhi, Battler, George, and Jessica are holed up in Kinzo's study. The phone lines have been cut, as they discovered some time before when attempting to contact the police. While they're all sitting there in tense silence, all of a sudden, the phone rings. One of them goes over and picks it up... and all they hear is Maria singing creepily in the distance.
    • Also near the end of the fourth arc, after Jessica, George, and Maria are sent off, the phone rings, and greets Battler with... "Congratulations."
    • In the fifth arc, Natsuhi receives calls from 'the man from nineteen years ago', who blackmails her into incriminating behaviors. He continues to call even after the mainland lines are down. There are no other clues regarding him in any other arc, so it can't be certain that he is who he claims, or that he wasn't just Natsuhi's lie or delusion.

  • Sleepless Domain: At the beginning of Chapter 10, Kokoro receives a phone call, and is threatened by the seemingly inhuman presence that had previously been stalking Undine. At first, she assumes it's some kind of joke — until the voice mentions her mother. This unsettles Kokoro, as her mother was killed in a monster attack shortly after she was born, and the CDD forced Kokoro to cover up their connection. Shortly after hanging up, she receives another phone call, which turns out to be from Undine herself; Kokoro decides to invite her to discuss what just happened in person.

    Web Originals 
  • Tribe Twelve features the video titled "Unknown Caller", where protagonist Noah Maxwell receives a call from the Observer in his dead cousin's broken phone. Scared by the first one, Noah ends the call, just to be called again. After listening to the message, Noah panics and completely destroys the phone.
  • The Board James review of Dream Phone features James receiving creepy, threatening calls through the game's toy phone even after he removes the batteries. Then people start dying. Turns out to be a literal Evil Phone as the toy phone itself was making the calls and committing the murders... or so it seems.
  • In the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse episode "A Spooky Sleepover", a scary story Nikki tells during Barbie's Slumber Party gets interrupted by Raquelle's phone ringing. When Raquelle answers it, she learns that her hair appointment was cancelled!
  • The SCP Foundation has a chilling example in the form of SCP-145, otherwise known as the "Man-Absorbing Phone". It constantly rings despite not being plugged to anything. Picking the phone up results in conversation with a woman pleading for help as she details gruesome acts of torture performed on unknown victims - and if you just so happen to be alone when you pick up the phone, you're going to be joining the victims yourself.
    • Another SCP example is SCP-2315, otherwise known as "The Mother Always Knows". It's an iPhone 6 that rings whenever a person below the age of 30 with their mother alive is present in the same place with it, with the call being identified from "Mother". Picking it up results in a conversation with the person's 'mother', but while the voice is the same, the entity is not the subject's mother. At the first day, the voice acts supportive yet disapproving. The next day, the voice becomes more hostile and starts bringing up the subjects that distress the person calling. And at the final day, it goes full Abusive Parents mode, with it giving the person verbal breakdowns and forcing them to commit horrible activities, most of the time involving self-mutilation, until the person either hangs up or dies. And if it gets really pissed off, it gives the person's real mother a life-threatening brain tumor.

    Western Animation 
  • Personified: the revolution of London's appliances and electrical devices in the Danger Mouse episode "Mechanised Mayhem" is staged by the phone on DM's living room table top.
  • Spoofed in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy. In "Sorry, Wrong Ed", Eddy gets a phone that Rolf desperately wants to get rid of. As soon as Eddy gets the phone, it starts ringing... without being plugged in, and every time he (or anyone else!) picks up the receiver, something bad happens to him.
  • In an episode of Tales From The Cryptkeeper a crank caller, in a form of karmic comeuppance, ends up crank-calling a seemingly kindly old lady who turns his phone into one. No matter what he does to his phone she'll just keep calling him over and over insisting "but you called me", and if he goes elsewhere any phone he comes within range of will ring for him with her on the other end. Needless to say, things get a hell of a lot worse when he goes to her home to apologise.


Video Example(s):


Shadow Moth on the line.

Ayla and Marinette gradually become aware that something is wrong when the phone rings and rings in the background and nobody picks up. When Alya finally does, it's Shadow Moth.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / EvilPhone

Media sources: