The Urban Legend Phone Call of Death

A man afraid talking on the phone
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Many people get some strange and disconcerting emails from time to time. One day, Jeff, an Urban Legends writer, found a creepier-than-usual message in his inbox from a reader named Anna. Little did he suspect that it would come to seem even creepier as the day wore on. Discover what Anna said to Jeff and how he became involved with "The Phone Call of Death."

Anna wrote to Jeff,

"I just got a call from 999-999-9999 on my cell phone. Called it back and got my Nextel directory assistance who say they can't call out. I looked it up on Google and there was reference to a Thai movie that had a similar plot to The Ring, except you actually call the number and something horrible happens to you. Any news on this one?"

Jeff Researched the Spooky Phone Number

Jeff Googled the number himself and, sure enough, found hundreds of results confirming that many other people have received mysterious calls from the same number. Jeff also found a website hawking DVDs of a movie called 999-9999. The plot is described as a transfer student who becomes the center of attention at school when she shares stories about mysterious deaths at her old school. The plot continues to go on about how reports of the deaths are linked to an evil phone number, 999-999-9999.

Naturally, after reading the plot, Jeff had to try this himself. He dialed the number, heard a click, and a recorded message followed. "Your call cannot be completed as dialed," it said. Feeling no ill effects, Jeff made a mental note to look into it further and went back to reading his email.

The Phone Rang

Several hours later, Jeff's phone rang. He was busy at the time and didn't pick up, but curiosity got the best of him when he saw the "New Message" light come on. Jeff checked the caller ID, and it said, "Unknown Name. 999-999-9999." While Jeff considered this as being a coincidence, he wondered about the odds. Jeff then punched in his voicemail password and heard the following message:

"Hello. This is a friendly reminder from Blockbuster. Our records show that as of Thursday, November 17th, Jeff has some items that have not been returned by the due date listed on his receipt."

Mystery Solved

Jeff survived the phone call of death, and it was merely a Blockbuster Video. They were using the same caller ID spoofing technology employed by collection agencies, unscrupulous telemarketers, and a few con artists, to prevent recipients of their calls from knowing who's on the other end of the line. The mundane explanation is true, and the practice is becoming increasingly common.

Similar Legends Exist All Around the World

In April 2007, panic erupted in Pakistan, the Middle East, and Africa after forwarded emails circulated worldwide. These emails warned mobile phone users not to accept calls from certain numbers because they were known to trigger a high-frequency signal causing brain hemorrhaging and death.​ Authorities ruled the warnings a hoax, and several similar hoaxes circulate today.