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Phantom Hitchhiker


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Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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You've all heard the story before. A driver going along a lonely road picks up a hitchhiker. Then the hitchhiker vanishes from the car. It is a classic account and one that many stories are based upon, but are there any real phantom hitchhikers? I ask this for two reasons. Firstly, I have never heard a first hand witness account. I even have a friend who, whilst writing her book on ghosts admits she invented her phantom hitchhiker story. I won't say which friend or which book as she hasn't admitted it publically .

Secondly it raises the question where these experiences fit in with the common theories on ghosts and for this you need good reliable details from actual witnesses.

Mauro
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I think it's the classic

I think it's the classic FOOF (friend of a friend) story, a bit like the Vidal story.
These Vidals were an Argentine couple who was supposed to have been picked up in their car by an "unknown force" and dropped in Mexico, thousands of miles away. Since this would have been a most amazing case, Latin American researchers and journalists went in a frenzy over it and tried to track down the Vidals and have them tell their story. After ten years of research the case was deemed a hoax or, at best, a mystery: nobody seemed to have heard the story firsthand, nobody seemed to know the Vidals personally, the Argentine and Mexican authorities failed to identify them... but everybody seemed to know "a friend of a friend" who was either a witness, a close friend of the Vidals', a diplomat charged with bringing them home or a policeman who rescued them.
I think the Phantom Hitchhiker is exactly the same thing, only on a smaller case. The true source of the story is now lost and we are left with is a piece of modern folklore.
About your second point: IF they are real they are probably part of what I call "ghosts of the road", those phenomena that seem to happen to travellers in the small hours of the day. A few examples include Ghost Bus of Kensington, London (now long gone and almost forgotten) or the famous Resurection Mary of Chicago, USA, both usually seen by motorists in the dead of the night.

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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I am actually involved in a

I am actually involved in a case with a very well documented Road Ghost attached to it. When I say well documented, I mean the team I am involved with have lots of witness accounts going back a few decades, but key information regarding the figure has been kept from the public and media, much like in a murder case. This way we know when interviewing suspected witnesses if they have seen the right figure because they can describe the clothing properly, whereas the local story and publicised ghost have the figure clothed entirely differantly.

This figure has been seen stepping out in front of cars and causing the drivers to think they have run someone over. Having a good case like this with no public knowledge is a gem .

Road Ghosts tend to appear at the side of the road within a certain area or along a stretch of road which varies in some cases. Phantom Hitchhikers would appear to be seen, get in a vehicle then travel some distance from their original location before vanishing. This shows an advanced state of interaction with the modern environment, especially as they must communicate with the driver somehow. Who would pick up a strange silent person by the roadside? When they are picked up do they open/close the car door?

I think they maywell be a modern folk tale as you suggest Mauro, but just in case, if any readers have picked one up, I'd love to hear about it.

Daniel Parkinson's picture
Daniel Parkinson
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I would agree that most

I would agree that most Phantom Hitchhiker stories are folklore/Urban myth. It is however interesting to note that the story pre-dates the motorcar, and could be a folklore motif. There is a story dating from Sweden from 1602 which involved a sleigh (FT Dec 2001)((Don't know if Santa was involved or not )). Also most hitch hikers I have seen generally have a huge rucksack, a bit of cardboard with a destination, and are seen around major road junctions. Don't know many people who would pick up a stranger in the middle of nowhere, especialy if they have seen 'The Hitcher'

As for road ghost, they are well documented, and I have spoken to several witnesses who believe thay have driven through a figure standing in the road, often convinced they have run over someone only to find no trace of anything. There are several haunted roads in Britain - well documented, it would be interesting to colate reports from around the country to see if specific physical factors were involved.

Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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This account of a road ghost

This account of a road ghost that appears on the main website actually happened to an uncle of mine.

During the 1960s three friends were travelling in van through the Castleshaw area, when they spotted a mounted Roman soldier riding towards them on the road.

At first they thought the figure was someone in fancy dress, but their curiosity gave way to terror as the mounted figure continued towards them and passed right through their vehicle.

Also check out http://whiterose.saddleworth.net/news05.htm. The Buckstones Ghost by Phil Clay.

This is a great account of a road ghost and it happend in 1960's Saddleworth, which is where the above Roman Soldier account occurred, though around differant villages.

The account mentions Denshaw and other versions of it I have read go on about The Moors Murderers and Saddleworths tragic past. It reminded me that my Grandfather had a butchers in Denshaw and only after the Moors Murderers were arrested did he realise that Myra Hindley had been in the shop. It made him wonder whether any of the missing children were buried on the moors around Denshaw and not just by the Uppermill to Holmfirth Road. I actually saw Ian Brady handcuffed between two officers once at a distance, whilst in the vacinity of the graves.

Also A75 - It would appear that lots of ghost haunt this road around the Annan area.

1957
A lorry driver ran into a couple crossing the road arm-in-arm in front of his lorry, but when he stopped the accident victims had vanished.

1962
Derek and Norman Ferguson were driving along the A75 near Kinmount, around midnight, when a large hen flew towards their window screen, but vanished on the point of impact. The hen was followed by an old lady who ran towards the car waving her outstretched arms. She was followed by a screaming man with long hair and further animals, including 'great cats, wild dogs, goats, more hens and other fowl, and stranger creatures', who all disappeared. The temperature then dropped, and when the brothers stopped the car, it began to sway violently back and forth. Derek got out of the car and the movement stopped. He climbed back in and then, finally, a vision of a furniture van came towards them before disappearing.

1970's
A group of Eastriggs women saw a 'weird' looking phantom or creature' on the Kinmount straight

1995 March
Garson and Monica Miller of Annan were driving east on the Kinmount section of the A75, near Annan, when they saw someone in their path. It was the figure of a middle aged man, wearing a hessian sack folded over his head and his hands were outstretched towards the direction of the car, with what looked like a rag in his hand. Driving at 60mph the couple were convinced they had hit the man, and reversed back to the spot, but the figure had gone. the incident was reported to the police in Annan.

1997 July
Donna Maxwell, 27, was convinced she had hit a man in the road whilst driving along the A75 near Swordwellrig with her two children. Travelling at 50 mph she saw the man jump out in front of her, about two feet in front of her car. He was in his 30's, with short hair, wearing a red top and dark trousers. She braked hard, involuntarily closing her eyes and bracing for impact. When she opened her eyes, the car had stopped but there was no sign of the man. She contacted the police and the area was searched but there was no evidence of an accident. A description of the accident issued to the media a week later failed to provide any further explanation of the accident.

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Red Don
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I have a friend who

I have a friend who recounted an experience his father had one night. He was driving to work along some country roads and suddenly felt like somebody else was in the car with him. The distinct feeling of a prescence. A few miles down the road it vanished. Maybe this had something to do with electromagnetic fields (maybe the weather or geology was important) or a spirit had jumped in for a lift, I don't know. Maybe in these type of accounts are where the true phantom hitchhiker lies and the stopping to pick someone up is an embelishment on the theme.

Lee Waterhouse
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After reading the initial

After reading the initial posting the other week I went with a freind to test ride a motorbike. We picked the bike up from Hyde drove up the motorway, went up the Woodhead pass and turned off to go to Glossop on the road takes you over the Devils Elbow, bloody miserable weather too I can tell you. Anyway, as we got the the elbow i recalled a story i had heard many many years ago about a chap on a motorcycle and sidecar that had driven over the Devils Elbow and a Ghostly pair of hands clamped over his and if memory serves mad him crash. I can't seem to find any reference on'th web. I know its not really a phantom hitchhiker, more of a phantom bike thief. Has anyone else heard this tale ? It may of just been in one of them ghost story books by penguin when i was a lad.

Daniel Parkinson's picture
Daniel Parkinson
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LeeDid some research on the

Lee

Did some research on the Devil's elbow some years back. It has had a reputation for being haunted for a long time, folklore relates that the Devil dropped his arm creating the bend in the road. I will have to check the story in my notes. The story I have heard is that a motorcyclists passed through a freezing patch on the road and then saw a black amourphous mass cross the road. It appears in Paul Deveraux's Earth Lights - or the sequal to earth light. Unfortunately I don't have a copy anymore.

Lee Waterhouse
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Dan, just found my

Dan, just found my motorcyclist/hands/crash thing here http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/devon/devon3.html i cant think why i linked it to the devils elbow.

Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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There was a tradition of

There was a tradition of having gibbets at crossroads so that the ghost of the criminal could not find his way home. In reality it was probably there because you'd get more traffic at crossroads and therefore the warning to to other wrong doers would reach a wider audience. 

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Agricola
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Lee, you're Devil's Elbow

Lee, you're Devil's Elbow story rang a bell with me. I seem to recall being told something similar about a dangerous road in the Peak District when I did Duke of Edinburgh fifteen years ago or so. We were on the road in our minibus and the teacher told us a story about a motorcyclist who had gone off the road on the bend, but he survived but had lost his hands, or arms, in the accident!

Possibly sounds like this could be one of those urban legends.



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