Viral Rumor Warns of "Skinned Tom"

Once-handsome Lothario now haunts lovers' lanes, says urban legend

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A viral rumor has been circulating since at least 2000, alleging the existence of a Freddy Krueger-like character called "Skinned Tom." Kreuger was a knife-wielding serial killer portrayed in a series of popular "A Nightmare on Elm Street" films. "Skinned Tom" is said to have similar qualities, according to emails and social media postings. Read on to find out about the rumor, how it got started, and the facts of the matter.

Example Email

This email, which appeared on July 9, 2000, is fairly representative of the rumor:

Where I live (semi-rural east Tennessee) we have our very own version of Freddy Krueger. He's known as "Skinned Tom."

In life, Tom was a good-looking guy who liked the ladies. Once he'd dated all the available girls in the area, he started seeing a girl in the next town -- not knowing she was married. Eventually her husband got wind of what was going on and vowed revenge on the two of them. He told his wife he was going out of town for the weekend, then hid in the woods behind their house. As he'd guessed, that evening Tom showed up to take the lady out. The husband followed them to the nearby Lovers' Lane.

Things were getting pretty hot and heavy (if you know what I mean) when all of a sudden the car door was jerked open and Tom came face-to-face with one very huge, very angry-looking dude wielding a hunting knife.

"Oh no!" screamed the girl who had started all the trouble in the first place. "It's my husband!"

"That's right, you cheating @#%&*!" yelled her husband. "And I'm about to teach you a lesson you'll never forget!" He pulled her off Tom, rammed the knife into her stomach once, and tossed her aside. Then he turned back to Tom, grinning maniacally.

"Don't hurt me!" Tom begged. "I swear to God I didn't know she was married!" But the wronged husband didn't listen. He dragged Tom out of the car and skinned him alive with the hunting knife. Then he went to town and turned himself in to the police.

When the police arrived at the crime scene, they found the woman, who was miraculously still alive. But Tom was nowhere to be found.

They say he's still hanging around Lovers' Lane, waiting to catch a couple and "teach" them the same lesson his girlfriend's husband taught him. He's described as a bloody skeleton in '20s clothes, carrying the knife he himself was skinned with. All the teenagers around here grow up hearing "Don't go to Lovers' Lane if you don't want to be Skinned Tom's next victim!"

To me, it sounds like a crock, like something parents and cops made up to keep their kids from going parking. But still, you won't catch me around there.

Analysis: Not a Typical Urban Legend

Unlike most lovers' lane urban legends, which typically revolve around a pair of necking teens who experience a close call with a random murderer but live to tell the tale (or at least one of them does), "Skinned Tom" is a tale of betrayal revenge, pure and simple.

Here, the killer is a scorned husband; the victims are his cheating wife and her lover, who pays the most horrific price imaginable for sleeping with another man's wife. She, of course, survives to rue her infidelity and the carnage that ensued.

Two-Part Moral

The moral of the story is impossible to miss: Actually, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Legends" — which devoted a couple of pages to the "Skinned Tom" tale — says there are two morals: Gentlemen should stick to local women, "because it's easier to determine with accuracy whether they're attached to violent, jealous males," and women should be wary of handsome, fast-talking out-of-towners "because they're probably a lot ​more dangerous than they appear."