Vanishing Hitch Hikers
Hitch Hiker's Thumb
The Vanishing Hitch-Hiker is a great Urban Legend that has a number of variations. The story also stretches back quite a while and is not considered ONLY or merely a the product of modern technology or invention like some other Urban Legends are.
(A necessary aside)
- For instance, fear of technology allows for certain kinds of tales to be created and told, but some versions of urban legend in many categories can be traced only as far back as to when certain technology showed up in our near-history. Before the technology, some stories simply did not, could not exist.
- Such is the case in "The Hook" urban legend. There aren't a lot of valid traces of a "hook-handed man" terrorizing the countryside or lovers lanes before mid-century, 1900's. This is because prosthetics weren't highly visible before the mid-1900's. Some older stories and legends of pirates and such displaying prosthetic devices exist and can be traced back a couple of hundred years but as a rule, these pirates and the tales to which they belong (even if the pirates do turn out to have been valid, real people in history) are not about their prosthetic devices...whereas "The Hook" urban legend demands that you pay very close attention to the fact of the HOOK in the story...as an instrument of danger, as a weapon, etc. Hook-handed pirate legends from the past are generally about the pirate, not about the hook, stump, unique prosthetic gear belonging to the pirate.
With The Vanishing Hitch-Hiker, there are tales which can be traced back much farther than the mid-1900's and which pre-date the age of automobiles - so automobile technology is not always a primary, necessary element in this Urban Legend. There are Vanishing Hitch Hiker stories from within the age of automobile transport as well as 'Vanishing Traveller' stories from before automobiles were invented.
The Ghost Hitcher (Mostly True Stories)
Vanishing traveler stories started long, long ago
Believe it or not, there are even tales which fit into the 'Vanishing Hitchhiker' category that involve no mechanical vehicle (wagon, cart) or automobile at all...whereby the people in the story are simply walking, talking together, and then the stranger in question vanishes!
Because this urban legend does not rely exclusively on or in large part on the presence of an automobile, many exciting and strange versions of the tale are around for us to enjoy.
In our modern age, however, automobiles will figure prominently in most tales encountered involving The Vanishing Hitch Hiker...simply because autos are a common element in our lives in most countries around the world.
I invite you to search for older versions of this urban legend - versions without the automobiles - and listen to or read about those versions of disappearing travellers because they are simply just as interesting as modern versions...and it is amazing to compare versions and find out that connections with and fears of strangers and travelling haven't changed much over the years - even though our modes of transportation have changed drastically!
Basic Modern Version
A motorist is travelling between towns just after dark when he sees a figure walking by the roadside
The motorist stops and offers the figure a ride
The journey proceeds in an uneventful way with the motorist driving along to his destination. Sometimes the new passenger talks and responds to polite conversation, sometimes the passenger is silent.
At some point, the motorist turns to speak to the passenger and finds that the passenger is simply gone.
The vehicle has been in motion ever since the passenger was picked up and the motorist has made no attempts to let the person safely out of the vehicle in most cases. In some cases, the passenger actually vanishes right as the motorist is pulling to a stop to let the passenger out. Usually in the latter case, the spot where the motorist is pulling over at is a location that the passenger has asked to be let out at - but the passenger has disappeared before the vehicle has come to a safe and complete stop.
Scary Stories and Urban Legends
"Item Left Behind" Versions:
In some versions where the passenger/stranger actually does exit the vehicle after the driver makes a full stop, a few things can happen:
- The driver immediately cannot locate the passenger upon exit, when the recently-departed passenger should still be easily visible right by the side of the road
- The driver simply drives away, having left the hitch hiker in safety by the side of the road ...
- Sometimes the driver sees the hitchhiker throught he rear-view mirror or side mirrors as the vehicle proceeds down the road...and the image of the hitch-hiker vanished in the blink of an eye when he/she should still be visible for a time in the mirrors
In any case, the more important aspect of the legend is that the passenger or hitch hiker has left something behind in the vehicle. Almost always, the item left behind is an article of clothing or clothing accessory or is something otherwise very personal like a walking cane.
If the driver notices the left-behind item immediately and tries to rectify the situation right away...
When the driver is able to go back to the spot where the passenger disembarked, the driver cannot find the hitch hiker - when the hitch hiker should be visible. The hitch hiker couldn't have travelled very far on foot, but still cannot be found...instead, the driver often discovers that the spot near where the hitch hiker was dropped of is near to a cemetery or road marker/memorial of some sort which explains that a person (resembling the hitch hiker) died at that spot years before or one year ago.
If the driver notices the left-behind item after some time, usually the next day, the driver returns to the nearby town near to where he dropped the hitch hiker off. In a local diner or store, the driver asks around to try and locate someone who knows how to return the left-behind item to the owner...eventually, the driver speaks to someone who recognizes the object and listens to a description the driver gives about the passenger from the night before...the person the driver is speaking to tells the driver that the person's object/item and the hitch-hiker person is well-known but is someone who has been deceased for quite some time (or for 1 year).
Christopher Balzano on Vanishing Hitch Hikers
"Borrowed Items" Versions
Sometimes, during the portion of journey that the hitchhiker and driver share, the driver notices that the hitch hiker is ill-equipped for travelling in the kind of weather that is current at the time. The driver gives the hitch hiker something so that when the passenger disembarks, he/she is better prepared for the weather.
Usually the item 'lent out' by the driver is a blanket, coat or sweater.
In versions like these, the driver usually 'gives' the passenger the item, not expecting it back in return.
Mysteriously, the item ends up being 'returned' to the driver, as if the passenger/hitcher intended to only 'borrow' the item for the duration of time it was needed...usually the lenth of time is very short and the driver's item is returned by the next day...
...under circumstances which are impossible - since, in these versions, the 'borrower' and 'driver' had exchanged too little information for the 'borrower' to know how to return the object/item!
Often, the item turns up in the driver's vehicle the very next day...it's just sitting in the vehicle when next the driver goes to use his/her vehicle.
Sometimes the item is returned by a person who says that 'someone who vanished' gave directions for returning the item - that is, a stranger was approached by someone who gave instructions for returning the item...but when this other stranger turned to ask more questions, the person who handed him/her the item had mysteriously vanished...