The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs (also known as The Baby-sitter or The Sitter) is an urban legend that dates back to at least the 1960s about a teenage girl babysitting children while being telephoned by a mysterious man who continually asks her to “check the children”. It has been adapted for several movies, including Black Christmas, When a Stranger Calls, When a Stranger Calls Back, Foster’s Release, The Baby Sitter, and Amusement. It has also been covered in the television programs Freaky Stories and Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed.
A teenage girl is babysitting at night. The children have been put to bed upstairs and the babysitter is downstairs, busying herself with homework. The phone rings, and she hears at the end of the line either silence, a strange voice laughing, or heavy breathing. She at first dismisses the calls as a practical joke, but as she prepares to hang up, a sinister voice asks her to “check the children.” When she asks who it is, the caller hangs up. Rather than checking on the children, the teenager decides to ignore the call and goes back to her reading. The stranger calls back several times, each time becoming more aggressive.
Eventually the girl becomes worried and calls the police, who ask her to wait for the man to call again, and they will trace the call. When he calls again, she manages to keep him talking for a few minutes, and when the police call back, they tell her that the call is coming from a second line inside the house, and to get out immediately, as they have already sent some officers over.
As she runs to the door she sees a man with a bloody axe running down the stairs, and just manages to avoid his blow. She runs outside into the waiting arms of police, who quickly arrest the man. They then search upstairs and find out that he had already killed the children. He was waiting on the girl coming upstairs, as she was his next target.
- In some tellings, the babysitter does not receive any phone calls but is disturbed by a hideous clown doll (sometimes it’s an angel doll). During the night, the babysitter repeatedly leaves the room and returns, and the clown always seems to be in a different position than before. The babysitter calls her employers asking for her permission to remove the doll from the bedroom, and the mother tells her they do not have a clown doll. This version has made its way into the annals of internet “creepypasta.” This is most likely a version inspired by the movie Poltergeist. The film Amusement also includes a babysitter troubled by a sinister clown doll.
- The number of children varies in different versions; sometimes one, other times, two or three. Also the children rarely survive in the story, sometimes having been murdered by the man before he called the babysitter.
- Sometimes in the story, the killer gives a certain time that he’ll kill the children and when he’ll come for the sitter.
- Often when the killer makes the phone call, he asks the sitter if she’s “checked the children”, screams, or very deeply and slowly breathes into the phone.
- Sometimes the killer is described as having a weapon like an axe or a sharp knife, while in other versions the killer just has something to tie the people in the house down with. Also, the killer is (sometimes) described as being covered in blood; in darker versions he tore the children apart with his bare hands.
- There are even versions where the sitter herself turns out to have a split personality with one half wanting to kill the children and the other half wanting to save them.
- In other versions of the story, the children don’t get killed. Instead they are bound and gagged or are threatened by the killer to keep silent.
- In lighter versions of the story the killer turns out to be a prank by the children using a tape recorder and there’s no killer at all.
- In some versions the killer turns out to be a crazy relative or the estranged parent who’s not supposed to be with the children or even on the grounds of the house.
- In most versions of the story, the sitter calls the police and they put a tracer on the line. In some versions of the story they arrive just in time to save the sitter (and sometimes the children), but in others they are too late. Another element is that in some forms of the tale, no call is ever made and the child/children are just heard crying or whimpering in sheer terror.
- There have also been versions where the killer gets away, but the children (and sometimes the sitter) are never seen again.
- Some versions include the babysitter checking the rooms the caller tells her to go to, for example, the caller says to her, “check on the children, check (bathroom, bedroom, playroom etc.)” In this version, the caller always says “check on the children” three times. Endings vary, one version which doesn’t seem to be widely regarded, in which the children consist of one boy and one girl, is that the babysitter discovers the boy hanged by his neck in the wardrobe; the girl dead under the bed. Some versions say the girl or boy escapes.
- In one, rare, slightly lighter version, the caller calls ‘check on the baby’, and she does, but sees blood and guts leading out of the window. The baby hiccups, and has blood coming out of its mouth. In this bizarre version the baby has killed and eaten the killer.
- In one version, after the children are killed, the story cuts to several years later. The babysitter is now married with her own children, and she is out for dinner with her husband having hired a babysitter. During the meal in the restaurant, the waiter advises that there is a phone call for her. When she says “hello?”, a sinister voice says “check the children, check the children now…”.
- In a more humorous and lighter version the “killer” is someone calling from his workplace/house wanting to do a simple task such as clean the windows.