The Knife and the Grave

myths and memes 2014

I don’t think that this is a terribly obscure urban legend, but I don’t see mentioned in heavy rotation either. We were actually just talking about this story at work the other day, and I haven’t covered it here.


Sue lived on the edge of the graveyard that the angry old man was buried in. The girls at her high school swore that he was so mean, nothing could keep him down-even death.

They told her that if you went to his grave at midnight on a dark, the old man would reach up out of the grave and grab your ankle. However, they also teased her mercilessly, knowing that she was not the bravest of souls.

Eventually the teasing got too much and she agreed to a dare-since she lived so close to the graveyard, she would sneak out of the house one night when it was dark. At midnight she was to go to the grave and leave a knife in the ground as proof she had actually gone.

Knowing that she was backed into a corner, Sue waited until a moonless night and crept out among the graves, clutching a steak knife her mother wouldn’t miss. She walked through the graves, growing bolder as she went. She found the old man’s grave, and seeing nothing wrong, knelt and put the knife into the soft ground.

However, Sue was in for the shock of her life when she turned around! Something was clutching her down to the grave. Struggling, she realized that was trapped-and became so frightened that she literally died of fright.

The scene that Sue’s friends found the next morning was a sad one-Sue, lying dead of fright, her skirts pinned to the grave by her own mother’s steak knife.


The story varies wildly from telling to telling, but the basic story remains the same-an old man in a grave who supposedly won’t stay dead, a dare to go to the grave against a person who everyone ‘knows’ won’t go, and a girl who dies of fright after pinning herself to the ground. Sometimes she stakes her skirts down, and sometimes it’s another article of clothing. Snopes dates the legend as far back as the European Middle Ages.

If the story seems like it should be told in black and white, the Twilight Zone featured an episode that pulled heavily from this legend.


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