Uniondale Phantom Hitchhiker
Between Uniondale and Willowmore, in the semi-desert area of the Karoo there is a very well known story about a phantom hitchhiking girl called Maria. On 12th April 1968 there was a car accident on the N9 road to Willowmore, near the town of Uniondale. The car, a Volkswagen Beetle, was occupied by a young off duty Air Force Lieutenant and his fiancé who was asleep on the back seat. He lost control of the vehicle during a storm and unfortunately his girlfriend died. Officer Pat McDonald was the first on the scene after the crash. The 22 year old girl had died of head injuries and was found laid against an embankment. She was short with long hair, wearing dark green trousers and a duffel coat. According to which source you use, the accident happened anywhere between a few kilometres and twenty kilometres from Uniondale. The girl was named Maria though I have found references to her surname being Rue or Roux or Grimbeeck or Groesbeeck. Maybe pseudonyms have been used as the case has been rewritten over time.
On Good Friday, 1976 Anton Le Grange from Oudtshoorn was driving from Willowmore and was roughly thirteen kilometres from Uniondale when he saw a woman standing by the roadside. She was short with brown hair and wore dark trousers and a jacket. It was around 7.15pm and it was getting cold, so Anton stopped his car and she got in the back seat. As he continued toward Uniondale he tried to talk to the girl but she would not reply. It is only when he looked into the back seat that he realised that she was no longer in the car. Anton immediately went to the Police in Uniondale and PC Snowy Potgieter followed him back up the road to try and find her. PC Potgieter then saw Anton’s rear car door open and close as they approached the spot where the girl had been seen. The officer was distrustful that Anton was not trying to trick him, so he had Anton drive a little further with his interior lights on so that he could be sure that it was not him that had was opening the door. Some but not all versions mention Anton hearing a woman’s laugh inside the car, whilst others mention a scream. Following as before, PC Potgieter saw the car door open of its own accord and close again. Unnerved they both returned to Uniondale where Snowy is said to have closed the Police Station for the night.
A journalist called Janie Meyer obtained a picture of Maria from the dead girls mother and showed it to Anton with a selection of other photographs showing young women. Anton identified Maria as the girl he stopped for and offered a lift to.
On Good Friday, 1978 Corporal Dawie van Jaarsveld was riding his motorcycle on the N9 heading toward Uniondale at 9.35pm when he encountered the phantom hitchhiker. She was stood by the side of the road and Dawie stopped offering her a lift. She climbed on the back of his and took the offered spare helmet and earphone. “After a few…say a kilometre or two, the bike had a twitch. I thought she fell off. A lot of things went through my mind. I turned around; I wanted to see if I still had somebody with me. There was nobody. I turned around; I went back with the motorcycle, [and I] looked to see if there was anybody lying in the road.” He searched the road for his missing passenger, “Then I got a fright…I saw the helmet. It was back on [the bike]; the earphone was just lying there (which was later found to be unusable, the adaptor jack somehow having been melted). And I just had to move off, because I realized then I didn’t actually pick someone up.” He described the woman as being a short brunette wearing slacks and a jersey.
On Good Friday, 1980, André Coetzee (aged 20) was riding his motorcycle along the N9 looking for a friend he suspected may have run out of petrol in the Karoo desert. He felt something wrap around his torso and looking down saw a pair of hands on his waist. Frightened he accelerated and after a short while the hands vanished, but not before he felt a few raps on his helmet.