Urban Legend of the Crying Baby Lure

Is a serial killer luring women?

Woman looking through peephole
Monalyn Gracia/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images

An email rumor circulating since January 2003 claims that a serial killer may be using recordings of a crying baby to coax unsuspecting women into inviting him into their home. This much-forwarded hoax is determined to be false.

Analysis of the Crying Baby Legend

This message originated in or around Baton Rouge, LA, where a serial killer eluded capture for nearly two years, hunted by authorities for the murders of at least four women since September 2001 (see news sources below).

Rumors fly when a community is gripped by fear, and officers at both the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office and the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force in charge of capturing the murderer confirmed that the allegations in this email are just that: rumors.

"We've gotten the email a dozen times over ourselves," said Task Force detective Sonny Stutes. "This information is not coming from us. We have no indication that it's true."

Still, authorities recommended that women who live in the area take extra precautions to stay out of harm's way, including locking doors and avoiding going out alone, until the killer was apprehended.

Variations on the Crying Baby Rumor

Additional variants of this rumor in February 2003 claimed the crying baby trick was being used by serial killers in other U.S. cities, including Houston and Little Rock.

In May of 2003, suspected serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was arrested without incident in Atlanta, May 28, 2003. Later that year in October 2003, new variants of the hoax appeared in southeastern Australia, alleging that a serial killer using recordings of a baby's cries to lure victims had murdered two women in Sydney and moved on to Melbourne.

Good Samaritan Rumor

Another rumor circulating at roughly the same time alleged that a man posing as a good samaritan (possibly the serial killer) had attempted to gain entry to a Louisiana woman's vehicle by appearing at her window holding up a $5 bill which he claimed she had dropped.

Here's sample text about the crying baby rumor contributed by T. Saia on Jan. 17, 2003:

I don't know how true this is... but with BR's serial killer on the loose.. no chances should be taken.
-----Original Message-----
This message came to me directly from a friend of mine who lives in Abbeville. Normally I try not to alarm people with things such because you never know how true it is. But because it came from such a close and trusted friend, I wanted to pass it on.
Subject: Crying Baby
Joan just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her "whatever you do, do NOT open the door." The lady then said that the baby had crawled near a window and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The police said, "We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door." He told her that they think the serial killer has a baby's cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby. He said they have not verified it but have had several calls by women saying that they hear babies' cries outside of their doors when they're home alone at night.
Please pass this on! And do not open the door for a crying baby.

Sources and further reading

Baton Rouge Serial Killer - Rumor Control
Rumors debunked by Multi-Agency Task Force

Could the Sound of a Crying Baby Actually Kill You?
KARK-TV, Little Rock - February 14, 2003

Suspect Arrested in Baton Rouge Serial Killings
The Advocate, May 28, 2003