I’m sure you’ve heard this one, woman driving a car has a car behind her continuously flashing their high beams. She races to safety terrified that the car behind her is up to something nefarious, only to find that the car behind her saved her life from the killer hiding in her backseat. It’s a popular urban legend that makes the rounds fairly often. Since the 1990s, it’s been told with a variation that the killer in the back seat is a gang member and killing an innocent victim is his gang initiation.
However, it might not be a totally made up story. Remove the lone female driver and the car chasing while flashing their high beams and the bare bones of the killer in the backseat did happen. In 1964 in New York, however this killer picked the absolute worst car he could have to hide in.
The real story is that an escaped convict (murderer) made his way to a small town in upstate New York and climbed into the back of a car at a gas station. Upon returning to the car, the owner shot the convict to death. The convict had unknowingly climbed into the backseat of a car owned by an off duty police officer, who recognized him as the escaped convict.
The man was found to be in possession of a knife and police suspected he intended to steal the car from the owner once they left the gas station. The convict whose name I was unable to find was said to have been convicted of murdering his wife in the 1950s.
Most urban legends do have a real story behind them. Often they are embellished to make them scarier. And they often serve as warning tales, don’t drive alone in this place because this happened. However, it’s also a bit like the game “telephone.” By the time its three or four people removed from the source, the original story has changed quite a bit.