Previously: 15 Creepy Phone Numbers That Actually Work In 2021.
Urban legends based around the telephone have been a fixture of our cultural landscape for decades — but as time has gone on, something curious has happened: These legends have become less what I’d call “stories with phones in them” and more “phone numbers with scary stories attached to them.” Whereas the phone was once merely a detail of the stories, now, the phone — or, more accurately, specific, often haunted phone numbers — have become the crux of the stories, the point of them, the whole thing around which they revolve.
The phone numbers are what’s important to the stories — not simply the presence of a phone. The phone numbers, and what’s meant to happen if you call them… or if they call you.
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Most of these stories are just that, of course — stories. Additionally, many urban legends about phone numbers center around phone numbers that don’t actually exist. With that in mind, a caveat: Despite the fact that many of the numbers we’re about to look at regularly appear on lists of cursed, haunted, or scary phone numbers you can supposedly actually call, that’s not truly the case for a lot of them. If you’re interested in scary phone numbers that work — that is, creepy phone numbers you can call, and actually hear something back on the other end — head here or here.
But even when the numbers don’t work, or aren’t real… the stories are still fun.
Are you seated comfortably? Good. Let’s begin.
000: Dialing The Dead
Rather a lot of spooky stories and legends exist about phone numbers made up primarily or entirely of zeroes. Based mainly in Asian countries – I’ve seen the stories repeated in Korean and Indonesian, among other languages – these legends typically connect the phone numbers with death in some way, shape, or form.
One of the most frequently-repeated stories states that if you call one of the numbers — usually 000-0000-0000, 1-000-0000-0000, or 1-000-000-000 — you’ll hear a man answer on the other end; once he picks up, he’ll tell you that you must call 15 more people and convince them, too, to dial the number. If you fail in this task, you’ll die. Functionally, this tale turns the phone number into a slightly more modern version of a chain letter.
Other, slightly less detailed legends exist as well, though. According to one Japanese story, if you call 0000-00-0000, you’ll hear mysterious footsteps on the other end — or you’ll just die, end of story. Another version posit that numbers made up entirely of zeroes belong to the dead – and that if you receive a call from one, then it’s likely someone you’ve lost who is trying to get back in touch with you from beyond the grave.
One other story I found – only in Korean, for whatever it’s worth – took death out of the equation and spun it more like scam: If you answer a call from 000-000-0000, then three million won (about $2,500 USD) would immediately be withdrawn from your bank account.
20202020: “Help Me, Susie’s Dying”
Talk to someone who grew up in the UK during the 1970s or ‘80s, and they might — if they were into ghost stories or other spooky subjects back then — tell you about something odd and unsettling that happened if you entered a public phone booth and dialed a certain number, often identified as 20202020: Upon connecting, you’d supposedly hear a woman’s voice on the other end repeating the message, “Help me, help me, Susie’s dying.” Occasionally, the story states that the message wasn’t “Susie’s dying,” but “Susie’s drowning” — but no matter the manner of death specified, the voice is typically described as emotionless and monotone.
It’s worth pointing out that 20202020 is only one possible number you might find connected with this legend; in recent years, it’s emerged as the most repeated one, but some folks recall the number consisting not simply of twos and zeroes, but of other combinations: Ones, twos, and zeroes; twos and threes; and so on and so forth. What is clear, though, is that the digits involved are pretty much always between the numbers zero and three, inclusive.
How the legend initially began remains to be seen; interestingly, though, it seems to have been based primarily in the north of England: Most of the stories I’ve seen came out of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Just, y’know… for whatever that’s worth.
777-7777: Calling Mr. Gepeng
Here’s one that’s stood the test of time for people who grew up in Indonesia: In the ‘90s, a legend circulated about a figure called Mr. Gepeng — the spirit of a wealthy man who was crushed either by an elevator or a bulldozer, depending on who you talk to, and who you could get in touch with if you dialed the haunted phone number 777-7777.
Exactly why you want to call him varies, though. According to one version of the story recounted by Adi Renaldi at Vice in 2018, Mr. Gepeng was carrying a briefcase full of money when he died; if you call him, a stack of cash — presumably from the briefcase he was carrying — would magically appear in your toilet.
Other stories, however, are much darker: It’s a challenge to call him — something you do if you’re feeling daring, or like you want to prove yourself. Because if you do, it’s said that you, too, will soon die from being crushed by an elevator… if you believe in that kind of thing, of course.
“Gepeng,” by the way, translates into English as “flat.” Mr. Gepeng? Crushed to death? Get it?
Beginning in 2004, strange stories began emerging out of Nigeria: It was said that if you received a phone call from certain numbers, and if you dared to answer that call, you would die, a victim of a brain hemorrhage triggered by the frequencies of the sound waves transmitted over the phone. They were called, accordingly, red numbers — not because they displayed as red (or at least, not at first), but as a reflection of their murderous nature.
In the nearly two decades since, the legend has evolved somewhat; these days, for example, it’s said that the numbers are, in fact, displayed in red when they come up on your phone. The scary story has also moved around, popping up in India, Afghanistan, Ghana, and finally Pakistan—the country with which the legend is most frequently associated today. Numbers connected with the legend over the years have included the following: 0802 311 1999; 0802 222 5999; 7888308001; 9316048121; 9876266211; 9888854137; 9876715587; and 9888308001.
It’s not true, of course; it would be nearly impossible for a phone to be turned into a sonic weapon in the way described by these stories. Some still believe, though. Be careful when you answer the phone.
999-9999: The Death Wish Number
If you’re based in Thailand, and there’s something you really want — something you’d give anything to have — there’s allegedly a phone number you can call to make it happen: 999-9999. Wait until midnight; then dial it, and whisper your wish into the receiver. Soon — perhaps even the next day — you’ll get your wish.
But soon after that, you’ll pay the price for it. By dialing the number, you see — by speaking your desire to it — you’ve made a literal death wish. And the cost for receiving your greatest desire is nothing short of your life.
Or at least, that’s what the stories say. It’s not clear how long this legend has been circulating, but the 2002 Thai movie with the “cursed” death wish number at its center — titled, of course, 999-9999 — has cemented it within the cultural landscape. The real question is whether the legend inspired the movie, or whether the movie is responsible for the legend.
Either way: Be careful what you wish for.
777888999: The Exploding WhatsApp Number
In 2017, a piece of copypasta began making the rounds on WhatsApp in India: If you receive a phone call on the widely-used communication app from the number 777888999, don’t answer it, the copypasta said; if you do, it might set your phone on fire, or even make it explode, killing you along with it. Alternatively, a slightly different story connected to the same number insisted that, if you answered, a woman on the other end would tell you it’s the last call you’ll ever receive — and, again, you’d die shortly after.
The story was quickly proven to be a hoax: The phone number 777888999 is only nine digits long, whereas a typical mobile phone number in India has 10. The nine-digit number 777888999 simply doesn’t exist.
This one is interesting to me, though, in that it looks like it might be a variation on the Red Numbers legend — so much so that it might even be a more recent version of that specific tale. True, the number in this case isn’t said to display as red, and what’s said to happen if you answer a call from it is slightly different; however, the basic format is the same: Don’t pick up if it calls you, or it’ll cause something to happen to your phone that will result in your death.
Legends never truly die. They simply… evolve.
088-8888-888: The Cursed Bulgarian Phone Number
Unlike many entries on this list, 088-8888-888 is an actual phone number. What’s more, it has been associated with a number of actual deaths — three of them, to be precise. Each of these people were assigned the mobile number 088-8888-888. And each of them died in odd, unexplained, or unusual ways — all within just a handful of years of each other.
The first was Vladimir Grashov, a mobile phone company executive who died on Oct. 9, 2001 at the relatively young age of 48. The next was 33-year-old organized crime boss Konstantin Dimitrov; he was gunned down in front of a diamond shop in the Netherlands on Dec. 6, 2003. And then there was 28-year-old Konstantin Dishiliev, who may or may not have trafficked drugs, who was shot death in front of a restaurant in Sofia on May 14, 2005.
In 2010, an article in the Telegraph claimed that the phone number had been taken out of service following these three deaths (although it’s worth noting that the phone company that operates it neither confirmed nor denied that this was the case) — and after that, stories soon began circulating that the phone number was cursed. That was why it had been taken out of service, it was said; it had killed everyone who had had it, the story claimed.
Naturally, it’s all just a matter of coincidence. In fact, the number had been reassigned the last time I checked — and as far as I’m aware, its owner is still around.
For now, at least.
090-4444-4444: Sadako’s Number
If you find a weird VHS tape somewhere, and you watch it, you’re aware that you have seven days left before you die, right? Well, did you also know that the same thing might happen if you dial the phone number 090-4444-444 in Japan? It’s the same story: Seven days, then you die. And in both cases, the architect of your death is said to be Sadako Yamamura — the long-haired, white-clad ghost of the Ring franchise.
Here’s the fun thing: Although the story is just that — a story — the phone number does exist. What’s more, if you dial it correctly — again, it’s a Japanese number, so you either have to call it from within Japan to dial it as is, or you have to add the correct digits to dial out from your own country and into Japan if you’re based somewhere else — you will actually hear some weird sounds. But that’s because it’s not a number that’s actually meant to be dialed: It’s a sort of test line or access number — so calling it is, as I noted in 2018, kind of like calling the number associated with a fax machine.
Exactly how the phone number came to be associated with Sadako is unclear to me. But the legend has proven to be surprisingly resilient; it’s been making the rounds for more than 20 years.
For several years in the late 2010s, a nebulously horrifying entity called “Momo” became the bogeyman on which parents, caregivers, and other authority figures hung all their anxieties about children and mental health. It didn’t matter that the images purporting to depict “Momo” were really just photographs of a sculpture by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa titled “Ubume,” or “Mother Bird”; the creature seen in these images looked frightening enough that it quickly became associated with a variety of weird stories and urban legends perpetuated across multiple social media platforms and throughout various online communities.
But originally, Momo didn’t arise on Twitter, or on Instagram, or on Facebook, or even on YouTube, where she achieved her final form, so to speak. When Momo first arrived on the scene, she was on WhatsApp.
She also spoke mainly Spanish, and the numbers she could be reached at reflected this fact: Early on, three possible numbers WhatsApp users could text in the hopes that they’d get some kind of response were +573135292569 and +5226681734379 — numbers which feature the country codes for Colombia and Mexico, respectively. A third, however, hinted at Momo’s true origins: +81345102539, which uses the country code for Japan. When texted, these “haunted” phone numbers would occasionally respond with rude or insulting messages; the truly horrible stuff didn’t kick up until later on.
I’m not sure what happens if you text these numbers these days, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you could always give it a shot. Just remember: Momo isn’t real. And neither are most of the weird “challenges” that have been associated with her.
666: The Number Of The Beast
Depending on who you talk to, the number in question here might be 666-666-6666; it might be 666-6666; or it might just be 666. Whatever the case, all of these phone numbers — any that are made up entirely of sixes — belong to the Devil himself; after all, the Bible very clearly identifies 666 as the Number of the Beast. Never call any of them, because if you do, you’re dialing Satan. And if you receive a call from any of them, don’t pick it up — again, because it’s Satan calling you. (Judging by the format of the number, Satan, apparently, is American.)
I won’t lie: I find this story a little silly. It’s very on the nose, and to be perfectly frank, Christian theology just doesn’t do it for me in the spook department. It’s also very easily debunked; 666 is not an area code assigned in the United States, and if you try to call 666-666-6666, you’ll just hear a standard “Your cannot be completed at this time. Please try again later” message. (Source: Me; I called it. Listen to the fruits of my labor here. The string of letters and numbers at the end is simply a code that, again, corresponds to the fact that the call cannot be completed.)
Also, people are jerks: In 2013, someone repeatedly prank called texted a random person in Colorado while she was feeding her baby, sending her a whopping 48 messages reading “SATAN” over and over again, from a number spoofed to appear as if it were the 666 number in question. Don’t do that, folks. It’s mean and annoying.
669-444-1925: Yotteno Wants To Call You
First there was Momo; then there was Yotteno, a similarly horrifying, female-presenting creature that swept the internet around 2020. Unlike Momo, however, Yotteno never really made it to English-speaking audiences; she’s to be found primarily at Indonesian sources.
From what I gather, Yotteno originally made her debut on Facebook, where she presented herself as a strangely kawaii illustration of a white-faced young person with long, red hair and black pits for eyes. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to locate the original Yotteno profile these days; there are so many copycats on the platform that the “real” one — insofar as there is a real one — has been lost in the shuffle. Regardless, though, she seems to have been designed to appear as some kind of ghost who might curse you to die depending on how she’s feeling on any given day.
Eventually, she made her way to other venues — and as the Twitter account @rivaldiabdul_ reported in May of 2020, these venues included WhatsApp, where she could be reached at the allegedly haunted phone number 669-444-1925. She seemed to want to play a game of some sort: She’d initially send you a puzzle or code over text that you needed to decipher. If you didn’t manage to provide her with the correct answer, then she would write, “I see you,” “I want to call you,” and “You are dead.” After that, she’d try to video call you — and if you actually answered the call, you’d see a monstrous version of the person depicted in the kawaii profile illustration.
No one has yet determined who is behind the Yotteno phenomenon, although it’s been proposed that it’s all some sort of identity-stealing hacking scheme. (This is probably not actually the case.) But here’s the really interesting thing: Although Yotteno has spread primarily across Indonesian social media, her WhatsApp number is not, as Indonesian gaming and e-sports website GGWP pointed out in June of 2020, an Indonesian number.
In fact, it appears to be a U.S. number.
Another Japanese legend, so-called “doppelganger numbers” might give you a bit of a fright if you call them: Should you choose to speak into the line when connected, you’ll hear your own voice echoed back at you — as if you’re speaking to your own double.
You’re not, of course — you’re literally hearing a recording of what you just said played back to you. “Doppelganger numbers” are invariably test lines performing echo tests in order to provide information about the quality of your phone’s audio. These kinds of test lines exist outside of Japan, too; you can find a few that work in North America and the UK here.
But they’re still eerie to listen to, and part of a long line of folklore based in doppelgangers and doubling. For the curious, I’ve located at least five Japanese phone numbers associated with the “doppelganger number” legend, the oldest of which date back to 2004: 073-499-9999, 090- 2048-1972, 090-2048-1975, 090-1199-1563, and 017-299-9999.
Just… be warned: It’s sometimes said that people who meet their own doubles suffer terrible fates not long after.
407-734-0254: You’ve Reached Wrinkles The Clown
In 2014, stickers and fliers began appearing around Naples, Fla. advertising a unique service: If you called 407-734-0254, you could speak to a nightmarish clown who called himself Wrinkles and engage him to visit your home and scare your children into behaving.
This number works, by the way. You’ll usually just get Wrinkles’ voicemail if you call it — but you can leave a message, if you like. Sometimes he calls back. And sometimes, he even actually answers it when it rings.
The story quickly went viral, with Wrinkles receiving coverage in news outlets as big as the Washington Post. He also quickly gained a reputation among children, who treated him — rightly, I would argue — as a bogeyman. As far as many of them were concerned, the threat of, “Eat your vegetables or Wrinkles will get you” was real—and, indeed, was often presented as, “Eat your vegetables or I’ll call Wrinkles.”
Wrinkles never revealed his true identity; he described himself only as a retiree in his 60s who was originally from Rhode Island. And for a time, all of this seemed real.
But the release of the 2019 documentary Wrinkles The Clown threw everything we thought we knew about Wrinkles into question. Wrinkles might, in fact, be an entirely manufactured legend…
…But then again, maybe he isn’t.
The stories remain, though — as does the phone number.
Have you seen Wrinkles?
278-1964: The Ticking Clock And The Midnight Scream
Lastly, we’ve got one number that I… honestly don’t know much about.
I’m not even sure if it ever actually existed.
All I know is that, in a post on the AT&T Community Forums from December 2018, a user going by the name AndyR65 identified 278-1964 as a spooky phone number at the center of an American urban legend in the 1970s. If you called it, wrote Andy, “all you would hear was a ticking clock” — although they continued that if you called at midnight, “supposedly you would hear screams!” Andy never heard the screams themself, and alas, no one else responding to the thread remembered the number, either. A few folks did point out that the U.S. Naval Observatory used to have a few numbers you could call to hear the time which reportedly also included the ticking of a clock — but they were different numbers, and they’re no longer in operation, anyway.
It’s interesting, though.
What about you, Dear Readers?
Do you recall such a number?
And if so… what do you think it was?
You never know who you might reach on the other end.
Follow The Ghost In My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And for more games, don’t forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!