When it comes to local lore, it seems like every town has its share of hitchhiking urban legends. There's either a certain road where folks say you're apt to encounter scary hitchhikers, or a certain car you should never, ever get into, no matter the weather. Many of these stories are rooted in the supernatural and feature mysterious apparitions or bizarre creatures that lurk in woodsy areas or on desolate stretches of road.
Several tales are variations of "the phantom hitchhiker" or "vanishing hitchhiker," whereby a driver picks up a wayward individual, only to have them disappear before their very eyes. After reading these creepy hitchhiking stories, we'd like to suggest you be careful about whom you offer a lift, and if you're traveling alone, maybe go ahead and splurge on a cab.
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The Legend Of Catherine Near Bangor, ME
Local Maine folklore tells of a woman called Catherine - named after a nearby mountain - who wanders Route 182 between between the towns of Franklin and Cherryfield. Like many phantom hitchhikers, Catherine perished in a car accident along this stretch of road and is now cursed to walk its length for all eternity. But there's a twist to this iteration: the poor young woman is said to have been decapitated, and some who see her spirit insist she walks without a head.
And that's not the only terrifying aspect of Catherine's tale. The legend goes, if you do not stop to help the ghost, Catherine will hex you and bring about pain, suffering, or even death. Some tell of an incident involving a motorist who refused to stop for Catherine, only to glance in his rearview mirror and see her severed head resting in his backseat, causing him to crash his car and suffer the same fate as she did.
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The Post-Pearl Harbor Fortuneteller
Snopes writer David Mikkelson shared this hitchhiker tale that became popular in America during WW2:
In the wake of the anxiety rumors that swept the nation immediately after Pearl Harbor came a pipe-dream rumor [that] was undoubtedly the most popular of all: the weird tale of the man who picked up a strange woman in his car. Arriving at her destination, his passenger allegedly offered to pay the man for the gas he had used. But the man refused to accept the money, so the woman offered to tell his fortune. And, as the rumor went, mysteriously she told him, “There will be a dead body in your car before you get home, and Hitler will be dead in six months.”
Supposedly, then, on the way home the man had seen a serious automobile wreck and had taken one of the victims into his car to rush him to the hospital. But the injured person died en route, which left the hopeful implication that Hitler would therefore be dead within the following six months.
- 396 VOTES
The Lady Of White Rock Lake
People from Dallas, TX, share a phantom hitchhiker story that also features elements of the La Llorona legend popular in Mexico and the American Southwest. The apparition appears at White Rock Lake, along Gaston Avenue, dripping wet and distraught. She tells those who stop to help her that she narrowly escaped a boating accident on the water and needs a ride home. After giving the good Samaritans an address, the woman disappears, leaving only a small puddle of water in the seat she once occupied. The person or persons go to the residence in question and are met at the door by a middle-aged man, who tells them his daughter drowned in the lake after her boat sank.
Other variations of this tale, which goes back to at least 1943, suggest the mysterious woman drowned herself in the lake. Still others state the woman goes around knocking on the doors of homes around the lake, rather than soliciting a ride home, though the rest of the story remains the same. There's even one odd retelling from a NeimanMarcus catalog that casts the woman as a devoted wearer of the department store's dresses.
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The Black Horse Lake Hitchhiker
In Cascade County, near Great Falls, MT, people say a phantom hitcher like no other in the nation roams there. Drivers on an isolated back road have reported a Native American man who at first seems to be hitchhiking. But as those behind the wheel approach, the man appears to fling himself onto the hood of the car and roll over the windshield, as though he's been hit.
The driver pulls over to check on the man, but of course, he is nowhere to be found, and their car shows no sign of damage.
- 584 VOTES
The UBC Hitchhiker
Phantom hitchhikers aren't exclusive to American folklore. The University of British Columbia in Vancouver boasts its own version of the legend. Originating in 1966, the story involves a couple who have an argument while driving to the campus library. The fight becomes so heated that the women storms out of the vehicle, only to be struck by oncoming traffic.
Travelers of University Boulevard have since reported seeing a troubled woman seeking a ride, with some accounts indicating she is drenched from rain. If picked up, the woman will, of course, vanish, leaving behind a piece of paper with the library's address written on it.
- 687 VOTES
Lydia The Phantom Hitchhiker
Somewhere near High Point, NC, a young woman named Lydia is said to roam the streets, looking for a ride home. As with countless other versions of the phantom hitchhiker legend, Lydia disappears when she arrives at an old railroad passover now known as Lydia's Bridge.
Printed reports of Lydia go as far back as 1924. Some researchers believe the tale may have originated with a fatal car crash in the area in 1920, though the deceased woman in this instance was named Annie Jackson.