Are bad guys really hiding in the back seat of cars?

I was browsing a forum talking about safety, and I noted a repeated theme of, “check the back seat before you get in the car, as someone might be hiding back there.”

I can’t recall ever hearing of this happening outside of movies or urban legends. I’m sure that, at some point, it probably has, but is it really something to be concerned about? I’d be more worried about something happening on the trip to the car.

Snopes notes that it is rare but has happened (including a link to a 2013 incident):

I can’t believe I forgot to check Snopes first. :smack:

In that case, the jump into the back seat happened between pumping gas and paying, which means the criminal saw the driver was a woman alone, and knew he wouldn’t have to spend hours staking out some random car and wondering whether someone would walk by and see him there. I usually hear these “OMG check your car backseat!!1” warnings related to parking in mall parking lots and the like.

It’s rare, but it does happen. I can think of at least one case I prosecuted where it happened: the offender hid in the back seat of the victim’s car in the mall parking lot and raped her at knifepoint when she got in the car. Can’t recall any others off of the top of my head, though.

I would expect these forums would also stress you should keep your car doors locked–and if the car doors are locked how would the criminal get into them?

I should probably add that I can think of more cases where the offender followed the victim to their car and forced or attempted to force them into their car, so I would advise to be as at least as aware of who is around or behind you as you are who may be in your back seat.

My guess is that the likeliest reason that a criminal would hide in the back seat of a car is because they’ve already committed a crime. Say, for example, a convenience store robbery went bad and one of the robbers got left behind. The robber now needs a means to flee the area. But he doesn’t want to stay out on the street, knowing that police patrols are driving around the area looking for him. So he might hide in the back of a car where he’s out of sight to wait for the owner to come back so he can force them to drive him away from the area.

I recall advice about checking the back seat of your car from this list circulating the internet.

It’s a mix of practical advice…combined with what to do if you are attacked by a bad guy from a Jason Statham movie.

Older cars - 50’s and prewar - often had larger back seats and bench seats in front, someone could hide or at least be less conspicuous in the back, especially in the dark.

It’s -21º right now here.
Anyone hiding in the back seat of my car will be too frozen to jump me or anyone else.

Check out one of the first entries in Roger Ebert’s list of movie cliches.(I sent it to him via email years ago and he published it!)

This is finally a demonstration of why an anecdote does sometimes equal data.

This exact scenario happened to my father in 1968 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He went into a convenience store, got back into his car and drove away only have a man rise out of the back seat and put a knife to his throat. He told him just start driving as part of a premeditated plan.

It was a case of mistaken identity. He thought my father was having an affair with is fiance even though they had never met and decided he wanted to execute them both together. They drove around all night with the man trying to arrange the dual execution with no success. At about 6 am, things were getting desperate. They stopped at a pay phone to make another call to the fiance. No one answered but my father pretended she did. He faked a conversation and then just quickly bashed the man in the nose with the pay phone (they were 60’s style and heavy). A fight ensued and my father broke away and ran. He was so mad that he turned around and beat him even more for good measure incapacitating him.

In the meantime, people witnessed the initial kidnapping and reported it so there were police cars on the lookout all over. He ran to one and the man was arrested. He had a long list of charges on top of that one and got sentenced to life in prison for that stunt among many other things. He should still be in prison but after all these years but I am not sure about that.

I do know that he promised my father that the first thing he would do if he ever got out would be to hunt him down and kill him so my father is always armed to this day. It sounds rare and barely believable but it can happen.

Do people not lock their car doors? :confused:

That’s not really the “exact scenario” of the urban legend, since the bad guy was trying to ambush a specific person rather than some random victim. In such a case, hiding in the target’s car would make more sense.

This eventuality is easily prevented. My chauffeurs have standing instructions that upon entering a car they must press a button which activates sliding metal shutter windows to isolate the back seats and then releases a heavy rolling narcotic gas into the compartment.
Five minutes later the doors are opened and the fumes dissipate harmlessly and we travellers enter, ignoring the evidence if present; fifteen minutes later any untoward occupants are left in a ditch by the side of the road.

Does it really matter? A madman hid in the back of the car trying to kill someone (or two people in this case). It was just a random incident because my father didn’t have any prior knowledge of him or his fiance. It could have happened to anyone that roughly fit who the man’s imagined target was. I am sure that all back seat killers have their reasons but that doesn’t mean that they are sane ones.

c. 1980s those who locked their doors in certain parts of the country were told, “Oh! You must be from the city!”. Suburbs actually, ma’am.

I rarely do. Living in the country, I usually leave the car unlocked and often the key is on the passengers seat. When I go to the city I try to remember to lock the car doors.

In the CJ-2A the soft top has doors, but no locks. When I had a convertible, replacing the top was way more expensive then anything in the car.

I have to say, someone hiding in the backseat of my car is not high on my worries list.

You said it fits the “exact scenario,” which it doesn’t. I’m just saying that it doesn’t fit the standard form of the urban legend, which is that a robber or rapist hides in the backseat of a random vehicle in hopes that a victim will get in without noticing him.