The idea of hitchhiking across the world and relying on the kindness of strangers to get you from point A to point Z is a romantic one. But, for every cinematic story of people meeting at a truck stop and becoming fast friends, there are hundreds of real life hitchhiking horror stories. The stories listed here should convince you that hitchhiking is simply not safe. Not only can you get hit by car or have all your money stolen, but you could end up being a forced sex slave who sleeps in a coffin under your captor’s waterbed for close to a decade. Or worse, you could end up dead.
The open road is a beautiful place where you can make friends that you’d otherwise never meet and have adventures that will change your life. But, there are also extreme dangers to traveling with strangers on highways and back roads. No matter how trustworthy or well-intentioned a driver might seem, its nearly impossible to tell if he or she is actually a predator or murderer, preying upon innocent hitchhikers.
Ben Rhoades is a trucker who allegedly admitted that he had been "torturing women for 15 years as he crisscrossed America by highway." The sadistic trucker kept a briefcase full of alligator clips, leashes, handcuffs, whips and dildos. He was caught when an Arizona state trooper decided to chat with Rhoades, who had parked his big rig dangerously close to the shoulder of Interstate 40.
Inside Rhoades's cab, the trooper found a woman shackled to the door covered in welts, cuts, and with a horse bridle secured to her mouth and neck. After Rhoades was arrested, he was tied to a series of hitchhiker murders in multiple states and received multiple life sentences in Illinois and Texas.
From the late '80s to the early 2000s, the bodies of as many as twelve hitchhikers, including 18-year-old Catherine Graham and 32-year-old Tony Jones, turned up on a desolate stretch of highway outside the cattle town of Hughenden. This stretch of highway has been dubbed the "Highway of Death" as a result. The murders remain unsolved.
Thus far, it's impossible to know if all of the murders are the work of a single killer, or if this part of the Australian outback is an area where bodies of victims can be easily and secretly discarded.
On May 19, 1977, 20-year-old Colleen Stan decided to hitchhike 400 miles from Eugene, OR to surprise her friend in Westwood, CA for her birthday. She was less than 100 miles away from her destination when she had the misfortune of running into Cameron Hooker, a 23-year-old lumber mill worker. Hooker was traveling with his wife and baby when he picked up Stan and forced her to be a sex slave in their home for seven years.
During that time Stan slept in a box under the couple’s waterbed, and was repeatedly raped and tortured. Stan wasn't freed until 1984 when Hooker's wife helped her escape and get to a bus stop. At his trial, Hooker was sentenced to 104 years in prison.
Throughout the early '70s, the Sonoma Valley of California was thought to be an ideal spot for hitchhiking. In reality, it was the site of a brutal series of slayings that lasted from 1972 to 1979. Over the course of seven years, eight young women ranging from the ages of 13 to 20 were found raped and murdered in the rural outskirts of Santa Rosa, California. No one was ever convicted of the crimes, but one of the main suspects in the case remains to be the elusive Zodiac Killer.