Phantom Hitchhikers

Everybody has likely heard some variation of phantom hitchhiker story. It is likely one of the most well-known and most universal so-called urban legends. Here’s recap to help set the mood for today’s episode.

A salesman or some college student is driving down a lonely country road late one rainy evening when he is surprised to see a lovely young woman walking down the shoulder. He pulls over, leans over to open the passenger seat door, and asks if she needs a ride. She seems dazed and soaked to the bone. With a mumbled thanks, she gets inside. The man reaches behind the seat and pulls out a sweater, and offers it to the hitchhiker. In the glow of the dashboard lights, he can see that she is quite lovely. She smiles her thanks and puts the sweater around her shoulders, letting him know that she has to get home to her parents. For the first time, the driver sees that her face and hands are scratched and bleeding. He asks what happened. She tells him her car slid off the road and into a ditch. She had been standing at the side of the road for what seemed like hours, hoping for help, before she decided to walk the rest of the way.

He lets her know that he will gladly take her right to her parents’. She thanks him, and gestures ahead and says that the house is just a few miles away. As he is trying to find the nerve to ask her name, she points to the lights of a house down a short lane. She asks him to stop, and she gets out. He protests, saying he would be happy to take her the rest of the way, but she is already rushing into the night. As he drives on, he berates himself for not having asked her name, but then he remembers that she still has his sweater. That’ll be the excuse he uses to head back to her parents and formally introduce himself.

Two days later, the student drives back to the house and knocks. He is surprised when an elderly woman opens the doors and invites him in As he looks the house over, he sees a picture of a pretty young girl, and he asks the old woman if her granddaughter is home. Following the man’s gaze, the woman starts to cry. Her darling daughter, she explains, is still trying to make her way home. The man listens as he is told that her daughter had been killed in a car accident on a dark and rainy night nearly 40 years ago.

Some version of that story has been told and retold with variations since the days of horse and buggy. It seems that most ghostly hitchhikers are women, maybe because women seem more harmless to offer a ride to. The stories of these phantom hitchhikers translate easily from one culture to the next. For years, taxi drivers in Naha, Okinawa, Japan have claimed that an attractive women in her 20s, with short hair and dressed in black slacks, often hails them for a ride on the road to the US Marine camp. When the driver asks for specific directions, she disappears. They have dubbed her “Nightwalker of Nago,” because she most often appears on the mountain road that leads from the village of Nago to the Marine camp.

With that in mind, let’s meet some of these phantom hitchhikers.

In Vermont, you can visit the Weeping Bride of Stowe. Ask any of the older people of the region and they will tell you that a ghost haunts the covered bridge on Hollow Road. That ghost belongs to a young bride who was left at the altar. She raced out of the church, heading for her lover’s home near the bridge on Hollow Road. As she crossed the bridge, something startled her horse, causing it to bolt and toss her down to the rocks under the bridge, where she died.

During the wee hours of the morning, the upset bride returns to search for the man her betrayed and humiliated her. Motorists that travel the area late at night have reported seeing a young woman dressed in a bridal gown driving her carriage towards the bridge. Some have said that they have made eye contact with her, and experienced a chill.

Next we will move into Virginia where the Pocahontas Parkway Toll Plaza lies.  A delivery truck driver, on July 15, 2002, reported seeing three Native Americans approaching the Pocahontas Parkway toll plaza that had just recently opened on Route 895 in eastern Henrico County, Virginia. According to the toll taker whom he had told the story to, the driver said he saw three breech-clothed warriors carrying torches as they walked down the middle of the highway. He blew his horn to warn two more men who were illuminated by his headlights. He wondered if they were getting ready to have some protest against the parkway.

The toll taker add the story to a growing list of stories she had received from other drivers. She would send in the incident, as was protocol, but she knew that state troopers would investigate and find that there were no Native Americans parading with torches.

Troopers who had the graveyard shift along the Pocahontas parkway had responded to dozens of similar calls. The first occurred on July 1, then again two nights after that, when plaza workers reported hearing cries, whoops, chants, and drums of what sounded like 100s of people. Every not and then, they would see the vague outline of people running around in the dark. Corinne Geller, a Virginia state police spokeswoman, visited the area late in July and experienced the sounds for herself.

An engineer who had been working late on the construction of the bridge said that he and some of the other workers had seen Native American’s sitting on horse watching them from under the interstate. They were about to tell them to leave, that he wasn’t supposed to have a horse on the interstate, when the horse and rider disappeared.

Deanne Beacham, from the nearby Nansemond tribe, confirmed that none of their members were taking part in a protest. While she never admitted to believing that tribal spirits roamed the area, she said that there were lots of communities, roads, streets, and rivers with Native American names in the area, so why shouldn’t people see a physical manifestation of that.

A dig was conducted at the side of the bridge constructions led by Dennis Blanton. They found artifacts scattered all over the site, some dating back 5000 to 6000 years. A business owner close to the parkway said that he had heard the hooting and hollering for years, and that local Native Americans had long said that there were many spirits that roamed the area.

Turns out, Britain has their fair share of phantom hitchhikers. It makes sense since they have been traveling at night by coaches and carriages longer than we have in the US. The most haunted road in the UK is said to be A23 between London and Brighton This is where numerous motorists have spotted a small girl with not feet or hands, a ghost in a white trench coat, and a ghost dressed in cricketer’s clothing.

There is a stretched of A465 near Bromyard in Herefordshire where villagers are concerned that a ghost of an accident that happened over 60 years ago could be haunting the country road. A farmer has reported upwards of 26 drivers crashing into his fence during an 18-month period. There are some drivers who have said that they mysteriously lost control of their car, and felt as if their steering wheels were pulled out of their hands as they got closer to the haunted area.

On Blue Bell Hill in Maidstone, England, since 1965, dozens of drivers have had to slam on their brakes to keep from hitting a young woman in a white dress standing in the road. It is said that the phantom belongs to a woman who was supposed to be a bridesmaid for her best friend when she died in a car accident the night before the wedding. Her ghost appears still in her bridesmaid’s gown, still trying to get to her friend’s wedding.

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