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The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House

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The killer was on their LAN!

"Jess, the caller is in the house. The calls are coming from the house!"
Sergeant Nash, Black Christmas (1974)

This is a classic urban legend horror scenario: a young woman who is home alone. Often she is a babysitter. She gets a creepy phone call asking "Have you checked the kids?" She calls the police. They trace it and they tell her "The calls are coming from inside the house."

A Discredited Trope from the early days when residences had only one phone line. The terror comes from the fact that the "caller inside the house" would presumably have to be using the house phone line, so most people couldn't call someone else in the house – inside the house was the last place expected.

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 modern variant, see I Can See You. See also Short-Distance Phone Call, Evil Phone, Disconnected by Death, It Was There the Whole Time. Not to be confused with The Call Knows Where You Live.


    open/close all folders 

  • Anheuser-Busch spoofed this trope with ads for its Bud Ice beer brand, showing penguins calling some guy from upstairs and asking him how his Bud Ice is. Beware of the penguins.
  • A tagline from one of the Chiller channel's promotional ads is: "The tweets are coming from inside the house".
  • Papa Murphy's likewise made a TV spot for its Jack-O pizza parodying this trope.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one series of Calvin and Hobbes strips, Calvin begins receiving coded Cut-and-Paste Notes that, when decoded, turn out to be insults. His mom eventually notices that someone's been cutting up her magazines and confronts Calvin about it, causing him to realise it was Hobbes sending the letters the whole time.
    Calvin: Wait a minute! These are coming from our house??

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: Discussed in "What if they were caught during their first mission?", where Temrash 114 compares his discovery that Jake (his host's brother) was one of the kids who got the morphing power at the construction site to this story.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Best Seller. Cleve talks to his former employer via the school speaker system, just when he's about to call the police. Cleve uses an extension, which also cuts off the call.
  • Black Christmas (1974) was the first horror film to use this line. The cast has been receiving disturbing phone calls throughout the movie, and when the police with the help of the phone company investigate the matter, this is the conclusion. It's explained by the killer using the sorority house mother's phone to make the calls, which is on a separate line.
  • A variation in Blown Away. Mad Bomber Ryan Gaerity is on the phone to cop Jimmy Dove, then says he has to hang up now because he's calling from Dove's house and Dove's wife and daughter have just come home.
  • Used as foreshadowing in Carry On Spying. When the villain threatens MI6 in a phone call, the Chief of Police makes his secretary trace the call, who discovers that the phone number is identical to theirs, making the two men assume that their technology wasn't strong enough for the signal. It's revealed that the villain's lair is directly underneath MI6 and can be easily accessed through the wardrobe in the Chief's office.
  • In Eyes of a Stranger the serial killer is in the habit of placing harassing phone calls to his victims before he kills them. In one case he is waiting to ambush a victim in her parking garage and terrorizes her by calling the elevator she's riding down in.
  • In F/X: Murder by Illusion, a phone call is traced to the lobby of the same government building where the call is being taken. Turns out that two pay phones have been taped together earpiece-to-mouthpiece so tracing the call wouldn't work.
  • Played for laughs in the second The Beatles movie, Help!. John uses this to prank the other Beatles with an alarm clock.
  • Played for laughs in Hopscotch. CIA Pointy-Haired Boss Myerson is doing a phone trace to find Rogue Agent Miles Kendig, only to be told he's hiding out in Myerson's summer house. When the FBI go to arrest Kendig, he tricks them into shooting up the house.
  • Downplayed in the Disney Channel Original Movie Hounded; the calls are coming from the pool house of the Van Dusens' mansion as they seek out the person responsible for dognapping their prize show dog, Camille. While the police are in the main house, Jay and Mike sneak Camille into the pool house and frame Ronny for her disappearance, planting the voice disguiser they used for further incrimination. The plan works.
  • Inverted in Lost Highway: "I'm there right now. Call me."
  • In The Mechanic (2011), 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.
  • 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.
  • Near the end of Open House, the killer's call is traced to the very radio station whose show he is phoning in to.
  • Another variation happens in Red (2010), where after capturing the female lead, the antagonist receives a phone call at work. It's the protagonist, telling him of how bad one can feel when their loved ones are threatened, and how he'd be capable of anything if she ever gets hurt. When his colleague announces he has traced the call, the antagonist learns to his horror that it came from his own house, giving him a taste of "how bad one feels".
  • Spoofed in the first Scary Movie. The killer boasts that he is calling from inside the house, but Cindy can see his feet sticking out from behind the couch.
  • Used loosely in the first Scream (1996). In the age of cell phones and caller ID, however, the trope was lost in the sequels.
  • Spoofed in Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th when the killer stumbles into the backyard pool while menacing a girl over the phone.
  • Sinners and Saints (2010). The Big Bad is torturing a cop, but gets a call from The Dragon. When he answers the phone, it goes dead. So he rings him back, only to be surprised to hear the ringtone from inside the house. Then the cop's partner chucks a flash-bang grenade into the room, having killed The Dragon earlier and taken his phone.
  • 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."
  • When a Stranger Calls is built around this.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In CSI a murder victim had been receiving harassing phone calls which all originated from her house. The team eventually found the killer had tapped into her second phone line in the attic.
  • Criminal Minds: in the episode "Somebody's Watching." Justified because the caller was using a cell phone.
  • Spoofed during The Daily Show, when Jon announces his Rally to Restore Sanity only to have it be interrupted by Colbert over the phone. It takes Jon a minute or two to realize that Colbert is, in fact, calling from inside the studio. The punchline? They were talking on an aluminum can walky-talky the entire time.
    • Also used after the 2012 election, when pointing out that many of the lines of attack Barack Obama used against Mitt Romney were first used by Romney's Republican rivals during the primaries.
  • Also Played for Laughs in Drop the Dead Donkey. Damien has received death threats from a South American drug cartel after doing a story on them. He gets a phone call from a heavily-accented man claiming to be looking at him through a telescopic sight, but halfway through the call his colleague Dave turns round and we see it's him on the phone.
  • Friends: In one episode Joey receives a letter from a Loony Fan of his character on Days of Our Lives. While reading it Monica points out that the letter doesn't have a stamp which means the woman must have come to the building to deliver it in person.
  • Non-threatening game show examples: He Said, She Said and It's Your Bet (as well as its original version I'll Bet) used telephones to communicate with the players in some manner.
  • Parodied on How I Met Your Mother. Ted, working out of his home, gets a call from his personal assistant saying he's sick and won't be coming in. Ted accepts it, but then notices on his cell phone's caller ID that the call came from INSIDE HIS HOME. The assistant is in the next room sleeping with his roommate Robin.

  • Spoofed in a monologue from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that referenced an incident where Donald Trump accused the media of spreading rumors that he was thinking about firing his chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, despite a Politico article claiming otherwise.
    Colbert: But here's the thing. Trump was very upset by rumors that he was about to fire Kelly, "...even though there appeared to be no such reporting by the national media." Oh my God, the fake news is coming from inside his head! Get out of there!
  • Parodied on Modern Family, Phil sees several creepy things while he is holding an open house on Halloween night and believes it is his wife trying to scare him. When she calls from their home to ask when he'll be home he ominously says "So you're telling me, the call isn't coming from inside the house".
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries Slasher Movie pastiche Halloween Episode, "I Know What You Did Last Autumn", Constable Crabtree is working alone late at night when he gets a phone call with the Creepy Circus Music that precedes the Monster Clown Serial Killer. He grabs the phone from another desk and asks the operator where the call she just connected originated from. Inevitably, her reply is "Constable, the call came from inside the station house."
  • Frequently spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, usually when a character in the movie being skewered is holding a phone and looking worried about what they are hearing. For example, in the movie The Giant Spider Invasion, when a NASA scientist is answering a phone call about giant alien spiders invading northern Wisconsin:
    Tom Servo: The calls are coming from inside NASA!
    • Kevin Murphy continues this joke on RiffTrax, as in this quote from one of Alien's many cat-seeking scenes.
      Kevin: The cat noises are coming from INSIDE THE CAT!!!
    • ...and in When a Stranger Calls Back.
      Kevin: The steam is coming from INSIDE THE KETTLE!!!
      Kevin: The tea is coming from INSIDE THE TEABAG!!!
      Kevin: The ennui is coming from INSIDE THE TEENAGE GIRL!!!
  • Used in the Only Fools and Horses episode "Modern Man" where Rodney, annoyed with Del Boy, calls an ad in the local paper to apply for another job, not realising that the ad has been placed by Del who is taking the call in the other room. Although Rodney is ignorant to this Del is fully aware of who he is talking to and milks the situation to optimal comic effect.
  • Parodied in Psych. In one episode, Shawn and Gus investigate possible ghosts at the house of Gus’ boss and when a phone call comes from the attic, they quote this classic line directly. It turns out that it was Shawn messing around the whole time.
  • One of Al Franken's "Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley" segments on Saturday Night Live tells a scary story in a Halloween Episode based on this. The mysterious caller was completely incomprehensible and mumbling and the big, scary reveal comes from the phone operator responding to one of the mysterious calls to warn the girl "The caller is inside the house! It's your father, and he's been drinking!"
    • SNL also did a short sketch using only close-ups of the ringing phone handset and the worried face of the woman getting the threatening calls. Eventually the police call to warn her that the calls are coming from inside the car! and the camera pulls back to show her sitting in a parked car. The operator advises her to get out of the car, so she does so and opens the hood, revealing an attacker, and then a plainclothes police officer climbs out of the trunk and saves her.
  • Spoofed on The State, with the call "coming from inside your pants. YOU'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF YOUR PANTS!!!".
  • Played straight in the The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Living Doll", when a man receives a phone call from his daughter's evil doll, who threatens to kill him.

  • Aqua's song "Halloween"

  • 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 that, 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.

    Video Games 
  • The Curse of Monkey Island lets Guybrush call out this trope by name as one of the ineffective lines to get Rottingham out of the barber chair. The fact that phones probably haven't been invented yet might be part of why it is so ineffective.
  • Hydrophobia has a variant where the hack is coming from inside the ship.
  • In Judgment, when Yagami is informed that Shintani has suddenly gone missing, he decides to make a call on the hopes for an answer. Then, he happens to hear a phone-rumbling inside his closet, and a quick opening reveals Shintani's dead corpse.
  • Layton Brothers: Mystery Room has a threatening fax that was sent from inside the studio.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, when it's revealed Master Miller, who is actually Liquid Snake in disguise, is calling Snake from inside Shadow Moses.
    Campbell: Master Miller's body was just discovered at his home. He's been dead for at least three days. I didn't know because my Codec link with Master was cut off. But Mei Ling said his transmission signal was coming from inside the base!
  • Referenced by... Peasant's Quest. If you try to "scare horse" without the maskus, the game says "You tell Gary the "THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!" one but he doesn't act very scared. He's probably heard it before."
  • Near the end of The Suicide of Rachel Foster, it turns out that Irving is calling Nicole from inside the hotel.

    Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry takes place on an island cut off from the mainland by a typhoon, both passage and communications. So when a stranger calls, they know it can only come from one of the few occupied buildings, probably the one they're in...

    Web Comics 
  • Spoofed in Basic Instructions, when Scott tries this on Rick while the later is out of the house. It wasn't very effective.
  • Chopping Block: Butch tried this once. Caller ID foiled him.
  • Referenced by the title of this Commander Kitty strip, where it turns out that the recent weirdness has been caused by Zenith being uploaded to the ship's computer.
  • Referenced in Grrl Power: Sydney manages to convince Heatwave that the call originates from inside the phone. (And then two of her teammates get sympathy shoulder pats, from the General no less, for the fact that they have to work with her...)
  • Mulberry had a variation during a story where Straw Feminist Jezebel slandered Jack on her website. Eventually, she starts replying to Jack's text messages before he sends them, causing Mulberry to exclaim that Jezebel's posts are coming from inside the house.
  • Referenced in Precocious.
  • Variations on this theme are a Running Gag in Sent From The Moon.
  • xkcd uses a modernized version as part of a ghost story: the IP address is from the 192.168/16 blocknote , which means the killer is on their internal network! The Alt Text quips that 100 years from now, Technology Marches On means that the killer using the outdated IPv4 will be scary in its own way.note 

    Web Original 
  • 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!"

    Web Video 
  • Board James: "Dream Phone". The calls are coming from inside the house. But not from the phone line. It's the phone itself.
  • In the Halloween episode of Rooster Teeth Shorts, Griffon gets a call from something growling and snarling that's coming from inside the office. Turns out it was just Burnie, who had fallen asleep at his desk with the speaker phone on.
  • SEC Shorts: In "LSU calls up Alabama in horror film style", LSU is hiding in Alabama's kitchen when first calling them. LSU then sneaks out of the house after telling Alabama to look outside their window. They later tell Alabama to look outside it again, where they appear.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Spoofed by Brak on Cartoon Planet. The operator had made a mistake.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy references this in one of the opening gags.
  • Comedic effect: The Looney Tunes short Daffy Duck In Hollywood has studio head I.M. Stupendous and director Von Hamburger talking on the phone...each phone is connected to a line immediately across Mr. Stupendous' desk.
  • 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.
  • Parodied at the beginning of the Regular Show episode "Terror Tales from the Park III". In it, Thomas totally botches telling a horror story, ending it with "...and the maniac was calling from outside the house! Wait, is that right? I mean, I mean, inside the house!" The other Park workers are not impressed by this at all, and vote it as the worst, which means that Thomas has to wear his Halloween costume until Thanksgiving.
  • Rick and Morty: When Rick & Morty are on the run from the Council of Ricks after being framed for several multiverse murders, Jerry suddenly gets a call from Rick and is told he and Morty are planning to dive into a black hole with Jerry screaming in hysterics, until one of the Guard Ricks informs him that the transmission came from inside the house and it turned out to be an elaborate prank on Jerry.
  • 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 with this trope, but Bart is less than impressed.
    Lisa: We have traced the call. It's coming from the floor below you. Get out of the house! ... But it was too late. End of story.
    Bart: Yawn. I heard that one when I was in the third grade. It's not scary.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Hall Monitor", SpongeBob begins hunting down a maniac that has been terrorizing the town, unaware that the "maniac" is actually him. This leads to a bizarre scene where Patrick is using a walkie-talkie to report on the maniac's location and somehow, SpongeBob just can't run away from him!
    "The maniac's IN THE MAILBOX!!!"


Video Example(s):


LSU Calls Alabama

LSU calls Alabama from inside their home to taunt them about the latter's weak position in the power rankings prior to their 2019 game against one another.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheCallsAreComingFromInsideTheHouse

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