I know, we’ve all been there… being single and down to mingle usually presents an social minefield for all but the bravest of us, and while online dating apps are often helpful for folks whose social circles are a bit… well, smaller than most (guilty), there’s always some risk involved in letting your guard down.
Sure, hookup apps like Tinder can be awesome — in theory, anyway — for people looking for a nothing more than a one-nighter. But with the ease and convenience of these methods comes even greater risk — and by that, I mean the odds are slightly higher of crossing virtual paths with an unhinged predator.
Such may be the case with this terrifying story, which has become so virally-ingrained over the past year that I almost put it in my creepypasta column… but at this point, the subject matter has grown beyond the boundaries of a nightmarish “believe-it-or-not” meme, and into the realm of urban legend.
Since it first reached social consciousness, “Tinder Terror” has spawned multiple variations — but the most commonly-shared version is related by a young woman who recently moved to Boston to attend graduate school, temporarily residing in a house owned by her aunt who was vacationing in Europe at the time.
A few days after settling in, the woman reportedly began to hear noises in the house at night — and while she initially dismissed it as the sound of the old house’s foundation settling, she still called 911, so the police would file an incident report at the very least.
The dispatcher then told her a patrol would be sent to her address to make a quick security check on the area, and that it would take about 40 minutes for them to arrive. To ease her distress, the dispatcher offered to stay on the line until then.
To her surprise, the police arrived less than five minutes later… and it wasn’t just a single patrol car, but several support units, and multiple officers with guns drawn. The officers confirmed that the woman was safe, then made a room-to-room sweep of the entire house.
That’s when they found the man in the basement.
The young man had apparently been camped out there for some time, and had set up what appeared to be a hellish DIY torture chamber — complete with a variety of handmade surgical tools and other more brutal implements.
When the woman laid eyes on the man being taken into custody, her heart nearly leaped out of her chest as she immediately recognized him: she’d previously met him via Tinder, and they had actually met in person for a single date… an outing she described as “odd,” but otherwise uneventful. Nothing about the man had triggered any suspicions; the two just didn’t seem compatible.
As it turns out, the dispatcher had deliberately kept the woman on the line — after hearing sounds that suggested someone was listening in from another phone in the house. The 40-minute wait was a deception, to convince the eavesdropper he had more time to escape.
Sure, the story has all the earmarks of an urban legend, and the “call from inside the house” trope isn’t exactly original, especially in the age of smartphones. But according to writer Madeleine Davies of Jezebel, the alleged source of the story might have been telling the truth, and was planning to publish her account of these events in an essay for Seventeen magazine. The plot thickened when Jezebel deputy editor Kate Dries received a text from a friend claiming to have heard a similar version of the story — from an entirely different source.
Davies is still not ready to relegate the tale to the domain of folklore just yet — anyone with verifiable information about the identity of the woman in the story can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.