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Bygone Era of Route 66

Updated on July 15, 2011

Haunted History

Throughout the history of Route 66, many legends and tales have unfolded. Many strange and supernatural events have been encountered along its’ vast 2,300 mile length. The historic highway definitely has its’ fair share of haunted hotels and restaurants. More on that subject later. But first, let’s take a brief history lesson behind this legendary ‘super highway.’

In 1926, the rapidly changing demands of America necessitated a better way to travel across the American West. Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri were the motivating catalysts behind linking Chicago to Los Angeles. Although there was other East to West routes at the time, most left out rural communities, from which the nations’ farm products and other goods had to be transported.

The federal government finally got on board to link small town U.S.A. with larger metropolitan areas and in the summer of 1926 Route 66 began to take shape. Unfortunately, shortly after work began, the depression came and construction on the new ‘Super-Highway’ came to a standstill. However, in 1933, thousands of unemployed men went back to work paving the final stretches. By 1938 the highway was paved from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The Grapes of Wrath

In his 1939 classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck referred to it as the “Mother Road. The novel was made into a movie a year later, and Route 66 became an integral part of American history.

During the tragic Midwest Dust Bowl era, over 200,000 people migrated to California in search of jobs and a better life. And when World War II broke out, Route 66 became an important, primary means of transporting troops, equipment and supplies. When the war was finally over in 1945, tourism took root, sprouting countless, motels, service stations, garages, diners and other attractions. However, by this time the highway was in bad shape. The excessive travel done during the war years and increasing number of automobiles had taken their toll.

National Interstate Highway Program

Then, in the mid 1950’s came the National Interstate Highway Program. It spelled the death toll for Route 66. But, by the 1960’s, many places on the highway had become familiar to a new generation of Americans. Much credit for its’ continued popularity, although short lived, was the television series ‘Route 66.’

By 1970, most of the original Route 66 became bypassed in favor of modern four-lane highways. Businesses all along the route eventually surrendered to its’ more modern competition. By 1984, Route 66 was breathing its’ last as the final section of the original road was bypassed by Interstate 40 at Williams, Arizona.

Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, and its’ original signs were removed. Many became collector’s items while others made their way into museums or used as décor in restaurants or other businesses. Today, Route 66 appears on very few current maps.

Historic Route 66 markers have been erected along portions of the road, but, the route today is not what it was in the past. If you do any sightseeing along the old highway, take a lot of pictures. What is there today may well be gone tomorrow.

However, Route 66 Historical Associations as well as private groups have preserved many of the vintage treasures.

Now, that you have learned a little about Route 66, wasn’t something mentioned earlier about haunting and supernatural stuff? Here are a few tidbits that may stand your hair on end.

If you are traveling between El Reno, Oklahoma and Weatherford at night, stay alert. It is said this stretch of highway is haunted by an elderly humped back man. He supposedly appears in a brown trench coat, with a hat pulled down over his eyes, walking along the old highway. Reportedly, a traveler picked this old man up one rainy night but the sinister little man never said a word. Shortly afterwards, the mysterious little man tried to jump out of the moving car. The mystified driver pulled over to the side and let him out. The traveler drove on a few miles and again spotted the same stooped figure walking down the road. Another person said they thought they had hit the man with their vehicle but when they stopped to check, no one was there.

Another person relates this firsthand account. ”While driving between Yukon and El Reno, Oklahoma on a clear day, I suddenly saw a white mist run in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes as I felt the car hit someone or something, the white mist falling beneath the front of the vehicle. My twelve year old daughter was with me and looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. I stopped and got out, looking under and behind the car as my daughter looked on. There was nothing there."

Then, there is the haunting at Albuquerque Press Club, originally built as a family residence in 1903. It was known as the Whittlesey House. Over the years the property has been owned by numerous people. At one time rooms were often occupied by patients convalescing from two nearby sanitariums. Today, it is a nightclub. The staff and visitors have often heard strange voices and high heeled shoes walking across the bar and lobby areas. Stranger still, the piano sometimes plays of its own accord. The apparition of a woman in a black shawl the staff refers to as "Mrs. M” has appeared to numerous visitors over the years.

If you want to read more about haunting and other supernatural happenings along old historic Route 66 go to: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/66-ghosts.html

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    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Gregas, My dad was career Air Force and he dragged us from one end of I 40 to the other so many times I honestly can't remember. He also took us along Route 66 several times It was exactly as you just described.

    • gregas profile image

      Greg Schweizer 

      7 years ago from Corona, California.

      Hi JY, I remember as a kid we would travel from Calif. to Colo. and I remember all of the Stucky's stops. Then it ewas easier to stop by the cafes that always had Jackalope heads on the walls and the places where you could see live rattlesnakes and tarantulas. I travel IS40 quite often now all the way from Calif, to Mo. and I always tell myself that one of these days I am going to drive as much of the Historis Route 66 that I can. Maybe now that I am retired I will be able to do that. Thank you for the memories. Great hub. Greg

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Why, thanks Donna. Your comment is appreciated.

    • Donna Suthard profile image

      Donna Suthard 

      7 years ago

      I enjoyed this well written hub! Thank you!

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Ginn, Been up and down it a few times myself but was late 50's and very early 60's. Oooops! were showing our age Ginn!!

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 

      7 years ago

      Hey JY,I could not count how many times I traveled up and down this route in the late 40s. One of the best things was all the great little cafe's and drive-ins that served those great burgers and something very cold to drink---because there was no AC in the cars. Thanks for the ride.

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