The Laundry Room Killer

From the Urban Legends Mailbag

Laundy Room Killer with Knife
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Dear Urban Legends:

My name is Todd and I currently reside in London, England, though I grew up in various regions of Canada (mainly the east coast). I am fascinated by urban legends and the manner in which they seem to breed. The reason for this email is to inquire whether or not you have encountered the story I am about to reveal. I wish to know if it holds any roots of fact or if it's simply a story passed on to frighten babysitters around the world.

When I was about 14 and living in Ottawa, Canada there was a story circulating about a babysitter who, after putting the children to bed, heard the washing machine or dryer turn on for a brief period and then turn off again.

Now, the laundry room was situated on the ground floor of this split-level home. At first, she thought nothing of it, until it turned on again and then off again. She thought perhaps it was just a strange washing cycle and the parents had forgotten to turn it off.

She proceeded down the stairs to investigate when suddenly the washer/dryer turned on again. She paused on the stairs until it turned off. She was now overcome with fear and decided to go wake the children upstairs, afterward proceeding out the back patio door over to the neighbors' house.

The neighbors thought she was over-reacting but they called the police anyway. The police arrived to investigate and discovered a man standing in the laundry room holding a knife. Apparently, he was waiting for the babysitter to investigate the noises.

Okay, now that I've actually told the story it seems absurd that it might be based on truth, but I would like to know if you have heard this before, or variations of it. Thank you very much for your time.

Dear Reader:

Your story bears more than a passing resemblance to "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs," an urban legend in which a teen babysitter receives threatening phone calls from a man who, come to find out, is calling her from inside the house she's babysitting in. The main difference between them is that in the upstairs version the intruder taunts his intended victim as a prelude to attacking her; in the downstairs version, the intruder makes noises to lure his intended victim into the basement.

"The Laundry Room Killer" isn't as well known as "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs," but there are several variants of it in circulation. In the oldest one I've found so far, dated 1997, the babysitter hears a tapping noise coming from the basement which turns out to be the serial killer tapping his knife on the dryer. In a 2011 variant, the babysitter supposedly hears "the dryer ding bell thing" go off in the basement and calls the kids' parents to ask if they left any laundry in the dryer -- which, of course, they hadn't. Another version posted online in 2012 says the would-be killer "had been putting rocks in the dryer to try to lure someone downstairs."

Like most urban legends about babysitters — and there are many — "The Laundry Room Killer" emphasizes the vulnerability not only of the young, inexperienced females we typically picture doing this job but of their charges, the children, as well. It's a cautionary tale aimed at parents, not just teenage girls.

Last updated 07/30/15