ONE OF THE most persistent and entertaining types of ghost stories is that of the phantom or vanishing hitchhiker. It's also one of the most chilling because, if true,it brings ghosts in very close contact with mortals. More disconcerting still, the stories depict the specters as looking, acting, and sounding like living people - even physically interacting with the unsuspecting drivers who pick them up.
The basic story usually goes something like this: a weary driver traveling at night picks up a strange hitchhiker, drops him or her off at some destination, then somehow later finds out that the hitchhiker had in fact died months or years earlier - often on that very same date. Like many "true" ghost stories, tales of phantom hitchhikers are difficult to verify, and are most often relegated to the category of urban legend or folklore. But there are many such stories, and it's up to you whether or not you believe any of them. Here are a few:
The Dancing Ghost
This story has many of the classic elements. It takes place in Tompkinsville, Kentucky.Two young men are on their way to a dance when they spot a girl their age walking along the road in a party dress. They stop and ask if she'd like to attend the dance with them. She accepts and spends the evening dancing with them. When the dance is finished, the young men offer to take her home and she insists they drop her off at a certain spot. They agree, and since it is raining, one of the boys gives her his coat, saying he will pick it up from her later. As she requests, they drop her off at a house on Meshack Road. A few days later, the boy returns to the house to retrieve his coat... but is told by the woman at the house that the girl he describes sounds like her daughter, who died in an accident on that road. When the boy visits her grave at the cemetery, his coat is laying beside her tombstone.
The Girl on the Side of the Road
"The Vanishing Hitchhiker" relates the story of one Dr. Eckersall who, while driving home from a country club dance, picks up a lovely young girl dressed in a sheer evening gown. She climbs into the back seat of the car, because his front passenger seat is crowded with golf clubs, and gives him an address to take her to. As he arrives at the address, he turns to speak to her - and she is gone. The curious doctor rings the doorbell of the address given to him by the mysterious girl. A gray-haired man answers the door and reveals that the girl was his daughter who died in a car accident nearly two years ago. A very similar story is known as The Greensboro Hitchhiker.
The Basketball Player
It's a winter evening in Oklahoma in 1965. Mae Doria, driving to her sister's house from Tulsa to Pryor, sees a boy of about 11 or 12 hitchhiking on the side of the road. She stops for him, he gets into the front seat along side of her, and they make idle chatter as they make their way down Highway 20. In their conversation, the boy says that he's a basketball player for a local school, and Mae reckons that indeed he has the height and build of an athlete. She also notices that he is not wearing a jacket of any kind, despite the fact that it's winter. And the boy seemed to have no particular destination in mind. He points to a culvert on the side of the road and asks to be let out there. Mae is puzzled because there are no houses or lights anywhere in sight. Before she can even pull over, however, the youth simply vanishes from the car. Mae immediately stops the car, gets out, and looks around, but there is no sign of the boy. Mae later learns in a chance conversation with a utility worker that the same phantom hitchhiker was first picked up at the same spot in 1936 - 29 years earlier!
The story of Resurrection Mary is considered one of "the most famous ghosts in Chicagoland."The story begins on another winter night in 1934 when a young girl was killed in an auto accident while on her way home from the O. Henry Ballroom on Archer Avenue in Justice, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. Five years later, in 1939, a cab driver picks up a young girl in a white gown on Archer Avenue. She sits in the front seat and instructs him to drive north on Archer. After driving a short distance, she suddenly tells him to stop... and simply vanishes from the cab. The cab is stopped in front of Resurrection Cemetery, where the girl is buried. According to a 1977 account, a woman may have seen Mary locked inside the iron fence of the cemetery. Reportedly, the metal bars bore the imprints of her hands. According to the Northwest Indiana Society of Ghost Research, the girl's name was actually Elizabeth Wilson, and the cemetery she's buried in is actually called Ross Cemetery.
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