- Religion and Philosophy
Paranormal Experiences - Road Ghosts & Spirit Hitchhikers
Ghosts or hoaxes?
The phantom hitchhiker is a relatively new phenomena and so dismissed by many as nothing more than an urban myth. There could be some truth to this as many of the stories are very similar in nature and most involve a modern dressed, female, ghostly hitchhiker who either gets in the car and subsequently disappears or vanishes from the road before contact is made. The other main theme is that of a driver either thinking he has knocked someone down or swerves to avoid a person. On going to the scene the driver finds no one there.
However, when you look into this area of the paranormal there are in fact a variety of situations and entities that have startled drivers, cyclists and passengers over the years. Many people are so convinced that they have seen or hurt someone, they've reported the incident to the police. In addition, many of these paranormal events happen when more than one person is present so giving greater validation to the experience.
There are also many accounts of road ghosts and hitchhikers who appear to warn drivers of dangers ahead. In a number of cases people in the cars have stated that they were saved from having an accident by a spirit on the road.
In this light should we really be dismissing all road ghosts and phantom hitchhikers as mere modern myths? After all, isn't it the case that even the oldest mythologies , at their root, have an element of truth?
To start us off lets look at a classic hitchhiker case that happened in Somerset England. This is interesting not just because of the events that happened to the driver, but numerous other people reported having the same experience.
The driver, when speaking to paranormal investigators Michael Goss and Hilary Evans, asked for his name not to be published. Therefore, I've given him the name of John.
John was driving between the towns of Frome and Nunney in August 1977 and stopped to give a man a lift. When the man got into the back seat, John locked the doors and drove on. The passenger was quiet and only mentioned about it being cold - a strange thing to say for an August day in Somerset. John drove on and then asked his passenger a question, but received no reply, he turned round and was shocked to find that the back seat was empty. He was certain that the man couldn't have got out of the car without him knowing. John became very distressed and made his way to the nearest police station. The police were polite and listened to John's story, but to be sure they breathalysed him for any alcohol intake - he was clear. The police did explain to John that other people had also had the same experience and not to worry too much about it.
However, what is also fascinating about this case is that John had an encounter with another hitchhiker on the same road but some time after his first ordeal. In addition, his second experience was very different from the first. In this second incident, John suddenly came across a figure standing in the middle of the road. Swerving sharply to avoid it, he actually hit a telegraph pole. It was however a very minor accident with no injury or serious damage. John then looked around for the figure but the road was empty.
The two cases that John experienced are classic of hitchhiker stories all over the world - with slight variations here and there.There is no doubt, as with haunted house stories, that many tales of hitchhikers are just spooky yarns. However, it's highly likely that at the beginning these accounts did stem from a core of truth. If you ask people like John what they believe, then I don't think 'it's just a story' would be the response he would give.
Halloughton Grange Lane, Whiteacre Heath, Warwickshire, England.
This next case is also the classic hitchhiker/road ghost type. One of the most recent sightings of this apparition was in 2010 but events go back to around the 1930s. Numerous drivers going along this road have had to break or swerve suddenly because of a nurse that steps out onto the road. One young cyclist was suddenly confronted with the apparition walking out in front of him from nowhere. He braced for impact only to find that he and his bike went straight through the figure of the nurse. There is a local story that a nurse was indeed killed on this road and not only has this apparition caused shock and distress to many a driver, she has also succeeded in causing quite a number of minor accidents.
Dalmarnock Road Bridge, Glasgow, Scotland
This sad account has distressed a number of drivers who have encountered this particular apparition. Described as a modern looking young man who is in his early 30's, wearing black trousers and a three quarter length coat. He is always looking down off the bridge into the River Clyde. Numerous drivers have pulled over realising that it's a suicide attempt, but before they can reach him the man jumps. Shocked drivers and passengers rush to the side to look over and then see the falling apparition vanish before he hits the water.
M4 Motorway, near the village of Welford, Berkshire, England.
This is an odd case with what might be sinister overtones. Near the village there used to be a wooden stake or post that was used by the local wise man to banish evil spirits. When the M4 motorway was under construction the post was torn up and disposed off. Since then it's claimed that this section of the road has a reputation for causing a high level of minor accidents and mishaps. Many attribute this black spot to the fact of the post being removed and possibly releasing evil spirits.
The strangest apparitions
In this section we have a couple of cases where the paranormal experience is not only strange but could be viewed as being rather sinister. See what you think:
Red Well Road, Aberdeen, Scotland
This is a very creepy but fascinating case. The spirit that is said to haunt this particular single track road seems to interact with people - to what purpose is anyone's guess.
For example in the early 1990s sixteen year old Christopher Christie was walking along the road in the evening, one New Year's Day. It was a familiar route for the lad and he had gone this way numerous times without any problems. However, he never walked the road again after his terrifying experience this particular evening.
Christopher was making his way along the small road when suddenly he was confronted with the image of an elderly lady dressed all in black. She moved forward, walking straight through him. As she did so, Christopher felt an icy bite throughout his body. Frightened and bewildered, Christopher began running back the way he had come, towards the main road that was brightly lit. To his horror the apparition not only kept pace with him, but went through him again. Finally, after reaching a short-cut he knew, he got home. The shocked and terrified teenager told his Mum what had happened. She later confirmed to investigators about the distraught state her son was in on arriving home.
Unfortunately for the teenager this was not the end of his ordeal. There may have been some form of temporary spirit attachment that developed, for later, sleeping in his room, Christopher woke up gasping as if someone was choking him. When he switched on his light he saw a dense, black cloud hovering above him. The black cloud then started moving slowly towards the window, passing through it and vanishing.
Christopher described the apparition to researcher and author Norman Adams (Haunted Scotland) - the lady was very small, about five feet. Completely dressed in black and held her hands clasped out in front of her. She was extremely pale with cheeks that seemed to sag down. She didn't speak and her face had no expression.
What is also interesting and strange about this encounter is the legend that surrounds this particular road. The 'Red Well' that gives the name to the road is an ancient site whose waters were believed to cure illness. The water is believed to have a tint of red through it, due to the high iron content in the location so giving rise to the name 'red' well. There is a dome shaped structure over the top of the well that is thought to date back to Roman times. Two theories put forward for this entity is that it may have been a form of ancient spirit that guard sacred sites - in this case it would be the guardian of the well. Secondly, there was a very famous 'wise woman' who once lived in the area called Lily Grant. Some have speculated that it may have been her spirit that was encountered by Christopher.
A few researchers have suggested that Christopher experienced sleep paralysis in his room and nothing more. However, unlike sleep paralysis, Christopher was not only able to move - to turn his light on - but he also saw, what he believed was causing him to choke. In sleep paralysis, the person doesn't see any entities or black clouds for that matter. So was this entity warning the lad off or just trying to make contact in it's own peculiar way?
Kirk O' Shotts, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
Kirk O' Shotts is a small village with a 15th century Kirk (church) and Canthill Road runs past it. It's on this road that ghostly events occur.
One very foggy night a female driver on her own was horrified when a pedestrian seemed to loom out of the mist right in front of her car. The figure was hit by the car and bounced on the bonnet and thrown over the top, but then shockingly landed on his feet on the road behind the woman's car. The figure who was very tall and covered in a dark cloak stood stock still in the middle of the road. The trembling woman reversed back to make sure he was alright, but he vanished into thin air.
Still shocked, she decided to call into her favourite radio show - ScotFM - to tell her story. Incredibly the radio station received numerous calls describing similar incidents along the Canthill Road.
In addition, the local minister of the Kirk - Sheila Spence - has said that many of her parishioners have told her incidents about their encounters with this strange apparition. Another lady driver who is one of the parishioners, had to swerve her car one night in order to avoid hitting a huge dark figure standing in the middle of the road, but again it vanished without trace.
One theory put forward as to who the strange dark figure might be, is that of Bertram Shotts who lived in the 12th century. He was reputed to have been a very tall man but enjoyed the game of terrorising travellers who passed through the area. A reward was offered to anyone who could capture or kill the offender. The reward is alleged to have been claimed by William Muirhead who ambushed the giant man and killed him.
Another theory is that the spirit is that of a covenanter* who was murdered in 1678. His name was William Smith and it's believed he was trampled by the Duke of Monmouth's horses and then stabbed. There is a memorial to William Smith that commemorates the battle he fought on the Pentland Hills for the covenanters and also how he was murdered on his return home.
*Covenanters were Scottish people who signed the National Covenant of 1638. They were opposed to King Charles I who believed in the divine right of kings and as such he could dictate how people should worship God. The Covenanters believed that no man could be head of their spiritual beliefs only God himself. This difference led to one of the most horrific and bloody periods in Scotland's history and the eventual beheading of King Charles I.
Lastly, The small village of Kirk O' Shott not only has the tall dark figure to contend with. It's also believed that a ghost of a grey lady haunts the graveyard and shadow figures have also been seen on a number of occasions.
Give Your Opinion
What did you find the creepiest?
More weird tales - the hunchback
Our last tale is another odd one and although some may think it's not strictly a road ghost, it is fascinating!
Chatsworth Avenue, Fleetwood, Lancashire, North West England.
This strange apparition was observed by two workmen,(Cyril Stirzaker and Stanley Ball), who worked at Fleetwood Docks. Both men each had their own transport so from that point of view, the incident was observed independently.
When the men finished their shift at around 1.30am, Mr Stirzaker was just about to get into his car on Derwent Avenue, a road near to the docks, when he saw a six foot stooping shadow close to him. At first he thought it was just a shadow cast by the street lamp. He got into his car and started to reverse, at this point the strange shadow loomed up behind his car, and then moved swiftly around to the side window. He put his foot down hard and shot away from the scene absolutely terrified. Mr Ball who was close by in Chatsworth Avenue also saw the same apparition on the same date. He described the shadow as being about 6 feet and looked hunchbacked. He thought at first it might have been a cyclist, but when he got closer to investigate the hunched shadow moved swiftly into the centre of the road and vanished.
As yet there is no explanation for this very weird apparition.
I hope you've enjoyed these few examples of hitchhikers and road ghosts and if you have your own stories or theories then please share them with us. It only leaves me to say, that when driving - especially if you're on your own - look hard at any person you want to give a lift to, it might just be a ghost!