vanishing hitchhiker In American folklore, a classic automobile legend. The story features a revenant, a returning ghost. An automobile motif was added by the early decades of the 20th century. In all variants, some people, usually two young men, were driving along a road when they saw a young woman hitchhiking. They stopped and picked up the girl, and she got into the back seat. She told them that her family lived just a short distance away and said nothing after that. When they came to the house, the driver turned around to tell her that she was home, but when he looked around the young woman was no longer in the back seat. The two occupants of the car were mystified and decided to knock on the front door of the house and tell the people what had happened. They were told by the family that they had indeed had a daughter who fit the description of the girl they had picked up, but she had disappeared, or had been killed in an accident, many years ago. Ever since she had been seen hitchhiking along that very road. The story is well documented in American legendry and even has variants among the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) of Utah. There the ghosts are called Nephites, who help stranded
motorists on lonely mountainous highways and often foretell the outcome of wars and make predictions about future events or happenings. The vanishing ghost story is not limited to the United States. There is a Russian variant from around 1890. Along busy Sergievskaya Street in St. Petersburg, a priest carrying the holy sacraments was sent to a certain apartment after Mass. When the door was opened, the priest said that he had been sent to administer the sacraments to a dying man. He was told by the person inside that a mistake had been made and that there was no sick person there. The priest then said that a woman on the street had stopped him, given him this address, and asked that he go there right away to administer the sacraments. The apartment dweller was perplexed. The priest then saw a picture on the wall and told the apartment occupant that it was a picture of the very woman who had approached him on the street. “That is a portrait of my dead mother,” said the young man. He was seized with fear and immediately took Communion from the priest. That very evening he was found dead in his apartment.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante