The Vanishing Hitchhiker

This legend is probably familiar to most readers. It is a dark and stormy night. A person driving sees a forlorn figure at the side of the road and decides to give him or her a lift. Usually the hitchhiker is a young woman in some sort of trouble… her prom date dumped her, or her car broke down. The driver gets to her house only to discover that his passenger has disappeared without a trace from the back seat of his car. He knocks on the door to the house, maybe to make sure the girl is ok, and the door is answered by the girl’s parent. Eventually it comes out that the girl died some years ago, and every year on the anniversary of her death (or her birthday), the girl hitches a ride back home with a stranger.

There are many variations of this legend. Sometimes the girl appears to make it home safely, but the driver finds something the girl left behind in his car, and goes back to return it, thus lear- ning the truth about the girl. Sometimes the driver lends the girl his jacket or sweater, and goes back the next day to retrieve it. Often, he finds his jacket hung over the grave of the dead girl.

It is interesting to note that this legend has made it into many regional folklores. In Hawaii, for example, the hitchhiker is often said to be the goddess Pele. It has already been mentioned that La Llorona has also been connected with the story. In the Chicago area, the vanishing hitchhiker takes the form of Resurrection Mary.

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