December 12, 2012

Ghostly Hitchhikers: Urban Legends

On a dark lonely road, dense fog covers the pavement. You’re driving listening to your favorite radio station. You spot a figure in your headlights. As you speed by, you notice it is a young female looking for a ride. It’s dark and cold, and as the wipers clear the light mist that coats your windshield, you pull over.

She opens the door and gets in the back seat. You ask her where she is going. After she tells you, you drive on down the highway. The whole time you keep glancing in your mirror. Her face is covered in sadness. No words are spoken after the initial conversation. Finally you arrive to where she asked you to take her. You stop and as you say we have arrived, you look in the mirror and the young woman has vanished.

This of course was just a short story. But there is a legend behind it. All over the country and around the world, the legend of a vanishing hitchhiker is told. Around campfires, parties, and anywhere a good scare is needed, similar stories are reported.

I have gathered information on the different variations of the legend. Although the tales differ in content, they all have same outcome. The hitchhiker is nowhere to be found and has died years before.

Many tales have the hitchhiker either borrowing a garment, or leaving an item in the vehicle. And when the driver returns he/she is informed that the person in question had died on that same night years before. One instance, a man loaned his coat to the woman. When he was told she had died and was buried in the grave yard, he found his coat draped over her gravestone.

Study of this phenomenon was conducted in 1942-43 by folklorists “Richard Beardsley and Rosalie Hankey.” They collected 79 written accounts of different hitchhikers from all across the country.

Their Findings:

49 Accounts where the driver took the hitchhiker to a specific address and was told the hitchhiker was deceased. This was in 16 different states.

9 Elderly women telling pending disasters and the end of WWII. 8 Of these reports where near Chicago.

In some stories the woman is picked up at a restaurant or dance hall and borrows a coat which is later found on her gravestone.

Other claims that an item is left in the car and when it is returned the driver finds out the woman is deceased.

April 13, 1975 on the German border of Austria, a 43 year old man drove his car off the road in fright after the nun he picked up vanished. In Milan, 1977, almost a dozen accounts of a disappearing nun. She would tell of a pending earthquake, which never happened.

Most of the accounts happened between the early 30’s to mid 40’s.

California, 1935, a man picked up a girl walking. She was on her way to her brothers house, which was three miles ahead. She had vanished before they arrived, and the brother said his sister had died two years before. He also informed the man that he was the 7th person to give her a ride.

Chicago, 1941, two men met a young woman in a bar. She asked if they could give her a ride home and borrow a jacket because she was cold. When they passed a cemetery, she asked if they could stop. She got out but did not return. When they searched for her they found the coat draped over a gravestone.

Joliet Illinois, 1933, A cab driver gave a nun a ride to a convent. When he opened the door, she was gone. He went and knocked on the door. No nun had left he was told. He noticed a picture on the wall and said that was her. The sisters told him that she had been dead ten years.

I have only written on a few accounts of the legend. There have been at least 1000 stories of a vanishing hitchhiker. As you can see they all have basically the same outcome. Even as a child, I heard stories of people who knew someone or they themselves had similar experiences. Every legend has some form of truth to it, but what that is, is as much of a mystery as the legend itself.

Join me next time for another Supernatural endeavor.






Image Credit: Photos.com

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