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Upon Reflection

Claim:   Wet footprints behind the sofa prove that a teen babysitter barely escaped from a knife-wielding intruder.

LEGEND


Examples:

[Collected via e-mail, June 2013]

A 15 year old girl was babysitting her little sister while her parents went out to a party. She sent her sister off to bed around 9:30 while she stayed up to watch her favorite T.V. show. She sat in her recliner with a blanket and watched until it went off at around 10:30, after it went off she turned around in her seat to face the big glass door and watch the snow fall. She sat there for about 5 minutes or so when she noticed a strange man walking toward the glass from outside. She sat there staring as he stared at her back. He started to pull a shiny object out from his coat. Thinking it was a knife she immediately pulled the covers over her head. After about 10 minutes she removed the covers and saw that he was gone. She then called 911 and they rushed over.

They examined outside for any footprints in the snow, but there were none to be found. Two cops walked into her house to tell her the bad news and they noticed a trail of big wet footprints leading up to the chair where she was sitting.

The cops came to their conclusion and immediately told the girl she was very lucky because the man she saw staring at her was not standing outside, but he was standing behind her and what she saw was his reflection.
 

[Collected via e-mail, June 2002]

there was this young girl 15 or so, anyway one night she was home alone while her parents were working late.

in the girls living room was a sliding glass door and the tv was next to it while the couch was opposite the tv about 4 feet or so.

the sliding door had no blinds and it was cold dark and windy outside. the girl was watching tv and listening to her walkman at the same time, she was sitting on the couch, during the night she was horrified to see a mans face in the window, he was all scraggly looking and he was holding a meat cleaver, his mouth was etched in a angry look and his eyes were fixed on the girl.

she was so scared she grabbed the blanket next to her and covered herself so he couldnt see her then she grabbed the phone and called the police. she left the blanket on and didnt look up until the police came.

eventually they knocked on the door and she answered it.

she told the two officers what had happened and they searched the house. it had been snowing that day so one officer looked outside the glass door, he was baffled to find no footprints in the snow.

one officer searched the living room he looked behind the couch and froze. the officer called the girl and his partner over to where he was.

the officer said to the young girl, ms ur extremly lucky, she asked why and he pointed behind the couch, the girl almost fainted by what she saw behind the couch on the carpet was wet footprints and a meat clever.

the officer then said "the man wasn't looking in the window from outside, he was standing behind u and the couch and what u saw in the window was his reflection!!!"
 

[Collected via e-mail, November 2000]

A girl was home alone at night (of course!) and watching T.V. on a couch by a glass sliding door. It was cold, and at winter time. She glanced into the glass, and saw the hazy figure of a tall man. She grabed the portable phone and dove under a blanket and called 911, hoping the man hadn't seen her. The police finally came, and conducted an investigation. They didn't find any foot prints in the fresh snow, but instead waterey footprints behind the couch.

"You are very lucky to be alive, young lady!" the policeman said.

"Why?" replied the confused girl.

"Beacuse the man was behind the couch, that was his reflection you saw in the glass."
 

Origins:   Our oldest sighting of this urban legend about a teenage girl spotting her putative killer's reflection in the glass of a door or window dates to 2000, yet this campfire tale may be older still. This yarn of grisly murder barely averted always takes place on a snowy or rainy night when the teen girl is either on her own or has a younger sibling or two in the house with her. When armed, the would-be attacker is wielding a knife or a meat cleaver, implements sure to produce a gruesome end to anyone they're used on. When she spots the menacing face in the window, the girl attempts to shield herself from the man's gaze by hiding under a blanket. Depending on how the story is told, she either telephones the police while under there or does so after emerging from her protective covering.

The true gravity of the imperiled teen's situation is revealed only after police arrive and discover the wet footprints behind where she'd been cowering. The danger she'd hid herself from was closer than it appeared.

While this is a tale meant to speed icy fingers down one's spine, it's likely pure fiction. A real knife-wielding attacker probably wouldn't halt in his tracks just because his intended victim pulled a blanket over her head, nor would he just vanish from the house without a sound.
(He'd either still be there when the police arrived, or the girl would have heard him moving about as he left.)

In all the variations we've so far encountered, only once does the frightened teen do anything to protect herself other than hide under a blanket and call police: in one lone 2005 version, after summoning the gendarmes, she runs upstairs to her room and locks herself in.

In common with all "murdering madmen" legends, the prey is female and the stalker male. This probably has less to do with out and out sexism than it does with employing a folkloric shorthand to communicate the victim's vulnerability in contrast to the killer's omnipotence.

Why the shorthand, the exaggeration of the imbalance? Upon hearing any of these legends, we mentally cast ourselves in the role of the person it happened to. By making the mythical victim appear both especially at risk and not all that capable of protecting herself, we more clearly express our own fears of the world around us and our personal sense of being vulnerable to attack.

This legend about wet footprints behind the sofa shares a key theme with some other urban legends, notably The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, wherein a teenage babysitter eludes a killer hiding upstairs, and The Clown Statue, wherein another teen babysitter barely escapes a killer masquerading as a clown statue in one of the children's rooms. In each of these legends, a teen girl only just avoids being horribly massacred by a stranger lurking in the house.

Barbara "funeral flowers in the attic" Mikkelson

Last updated:   11 June 2013

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