Zoinks…Scooby Doo and the Universities of Massachusetts

Urban legends can range from the scary to the profound to the plain confusing and unexplained.  With Massachusetts so entrenched in history and on the forefront of the future with its hospitals and colleges, it’s no wonder so many legends involve the Bay state.  Recently an older legend has come back around.  It’s not about haunted hitchhikers or deranged killers or college pranks.  It’s one of those stories where you just laugh, scratch your head and retell it without thinking.

To entire generations of cartoon watchers, Scooby Doo is a part of their childhood.  There may be a direct correlation between the show and the number of paranormal investigators out today, although very few of them spend their time ripping off masks and getting their dog out of trouble.  The show was the first of its kind, showing four friends and their four legged pet driving around with no means of incoming falling into well-conceived but poorly executed plots whenever they stopped for gas. 

scooby-doo-tv-01There has been a classic urban legend about the show has been around for years.  The five characters all represent the different type of drug users.  From cocaine to the secret ingredient in Scooby Snacks, these young adults run around looking for their next fix.  Any aspect of the show, from Daphne’s handkerchief to the unseen back of the Mystery Machine, is attacked.   

Another legend has come out lately involving the Scoobies that has less to do with drugs and more to do with the foundation of Massachusetts education system.  According to Snopes.com, the fearsome five-some has been compared to five local colleges.

Scooby, with his dopey lovable nature, is UMass.  Shaggy represents the typical stoner of Hampshire.  Fred, the coke fiend in other legends, is the ideal man seen as an Amherst man.  Daphne, many a young boy’s first crush, is the Mt. Holyoke girl that makes our heads turn.  Velma, many a young girl’s first crush, represents the questionable orientation gal which Smith has become notorious for.

There is never any mention of who Scrappy Doo or that little dude with the big hair might represent, but that is probably just an oversight.

sessions_367Snopes.com lists the urban legend as false, but most people that tell it find it more amusing than a statement of fact.  Like the drug legend, people just enjoy analyzing familiar things.  The same thing could be done with just about any popular icon and we always seen to be able to find the one element that proves our argument.  In the legend, the creator of the show is said to be from one of these colleges and he drew the idea from the show from his experiences with them.

The other appeal is feeling your school is special.  The legend is most popular with students from the five schools mentioned and other schools can claim any of the characters if the read it the right way.  Fred could easily be a Harvard man and stoners are seen in most colleges, from Emerson to Salem State.  Some of the girls from MIT are pretty scary too…

eccentric-hidden-passage-6-1The popularity of the Scooby Doo show breeds these comparisons.  Their antics have become part of our collected conscience and entrenched in our pop culture.  The characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer referred to themselves as the Scoobies with no explanation needed and now people of that generation are beginning to pass their love of Scooby down to their children, causing a rebirth of the show.  Not to mention, many of those college students are ingesting their own Scooby Snacks and watching the reruns themselves late at night on Cartoon Network.

MILLERThe show was actually based on characters in several other radio and television shows that aired over the decades before its release.  It has no connection to the colleges or the stereotypes which really have their foundation after the premier of the show.  The urban legend is not true, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t debate it.

And what was that little dude with the funny hair’s name…


Vale End Cemetery

This is one of those locations that holds a special place in my heart, and one that always seems to get a response from the people who know it.  Much like Met State, it had its heyday years ago and became such a nuisance that police and town officials felt the need to close it at night and monitor it.  And much like Met State, no one seems to talk about it much anymore.
In addition to having two ghosts that sound more like urban legend than haunting, the cemetery seems to be one of the more aggressive pukwudgie stories on record.  I always cite it when talking about the evolution of modern pukwudgie lore.  The stories have changed over the years, but I’ve included links to some of the other stories, especially those of Fiona Broom. Broome first documented parts of the story on her site Hallow Hill, which has now moved to Encounter Ghosts.  Around the time of the story below, Broome had taken down her information because she was worried the pukwudgies in the cemetery were responsible for several attacks and the passing of a friend who had visited the location.

Listen to the location’s part in the changing story of the Pukwudgie.


Vale’s End Cemetery in Wilton, NH, is one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had and one of the few times I feared for my safety.  We went there after visiting a few sites and not having much happen.  I had heard about it on the Internet and had been given warnings of what might be there. (Since, almost every site I’ve visited has posted a warning and has pulled directions and stories because people have been physically harmed there.)  There was supposed to be a documentary about it, but I have yet to find one or hear about it other than though interviews with the people of Wilton.  The cemetery is the home two ghosts and something else indefinable, although they can best be described as trolls or some type of physical demon that can take a solid and non-physical form.  The two ghost are what brought attention to the graveyard.


Not taken that night, but sent to me a few months after I posted the original story…also not a picture of ghosts.

The first is known as the “Blue Lady”, who in life was known as Mary Ritter.  She was buried and her husband remarried another Mary.  To save money, when the second one died, he buried her with the first one, and that might have angered the woman, although there is nothing in the records to say she has ever harmed anyone.  Her grave is known to glow blue and sometimes she appears with a blue glow around her.  Her grave has been studied, even to the point that pieces of the stone have been broken off, but there has been no logical reason why there should be a glow.

The second spirit is that of a man who buried his daughter in the graveyard.  She was married, and after her father’s death, her husband moved her grave to be with her.  The father is known to walk the rows studying the stones and looking confused.


Great picture…not a ghost…

We arrived in Wilton about ten o’clock and search by car for the sight.  I had no idea where it was, although I had spent every weekend in Wilton with friends for a few years.  Dennis suggested that we go to the police station to ask, but we all agreed that was a bad idea.  Instead we asked this group of teenagers in the square.  They were eager to tell us where it was, a sort of civil pride in the haunting expressed by everyone we talked to.  They gave us rough directions, but we got lost.  This car began to follow us, and then finally signaled us to stop.  They asked us if we were lost and then volunteered to drive us to the cemetery.  We reluctantly agreed, and when we got there, they talked more about some of the people who had come to make the documentary and investigate.

“Would you guys or your friends hide up there to scare people that went in?” asked Jenna.

“Hell no!  We would go up there if you paid us.”

vale (2)At the time the cemetery was open at night, although I believe that has since changed.  We entered and started on the path to the back where Mary’s grave is.  The temperature immediately dropped.  The cemetery has a straight path that then splits and blends into a circle.  We followed the circle around and eventually found her grave.  Nothing of interest happened, although we all tried to communicate with her.  There were unusual gusts of wind and fog, and one “cloud” (which we were able catch on tape) swarmed around us, stopped for a few seconds and then blew away.  Then the lights started.

As we made our way around the graveyard investigating all of it, we started to see little flickers of light accompanied by a rusting of leaves.  It was sometimes out of the corner of our eyes and sometimes as we looked straight on.  We would go to where we had just seen them, and they would appear a little further in to the cemetery, closer to the woods that surrounded it.  We would go to the next one and the next one, and I started to realize these things were leading us.  The feeling of being watched grew stronger, and it now started to feel like we were being surrounded.  I said it was time to go because I had heard of people being attacked, and it felt like we were outnumbered and helpless.

valeWe started back and got to the path.  Jill was interested in about six small headstones that all belonged to one family and we stopped to look at them.  Jenna heard the footsteps first, right in front of us, coming from the grass.  I looked up and saw a column of black and Jenna saw something more solid, like a flash of white light in the shape of a very tall, bulky, man.  I said it was time to go now and we walked very fast up the path to the entrance.  When we were out, the pressure on my chest stopped, and even Dennis, a true skeptic, said that something explainable and evil was behind those gates.

Spooky Story a Day…The Sacrifice

Old true stories that are meant to just give you a little chill as you go about your day…
Keep checking in to see the new one every day…
We’re going to start this week with a series of stories that all take place in an area of Woburn, Massachusetts, know as the Glen.  We already told one story that’s related to the neighborhood, and our story on Horn Pond has gotten some interesting feedback, but there are several more we’ve collected over the years.
It makes you wonder if certain places are more haunted for a reason, and what those reasons might be.
If you have a Woburn story or legend, contact us at spookytripping@gmail.com.



Di had experiences in her first marriage as well, adding to her belief that she is either blessed or cursed with an connection to those that have passed.  Unlike her other stories, she is on the outside of this one, watching that events happen, the only one who truly understands what happened.

Before she married her first husband, Frank, he was diagnosed with cancer.  He kept his hopes up, but it was not the first time he had faced the disease and the outcome did not look good.  The tumors continued to grow and his fate seemed to weaken.  Even more disturbed by the news was Frank’s mother, Eileen.

Frank was her only son, and she was close to giving up on herself and him.  She was a severe alcoholic who drank most of the day and was slightly sick herself with asthma.  She began to beg God to save her son.  “She would sit there and drink and cry all the time,” says Di.  “‘Just take me.  Let him live.'”

Then Eileen developed cancer herself.  The doctors told her it was not as dangerous as Frank’s and she needed to have a hysterectomy.  It was the fall before she could go in, and Di remembers the day perfectly.  As she opened the door to her house, the leaves began to swirl around her although there was no wind.  The sounds of the outside world seemed to fade away and she got an “eerie” feeling.  The phone was ringing inside.  “And I just knew it.”

Eileen had died in the recovery room of an asthma attack.

Some might put that up to coincidence and timing, but Eileen, who had never been known as a happy woman, made sure everyone knew what she had sacrificed for her only son.  Starting that day, there began to be a halo formed around her face on a picture of her and her husband they had taken for their 25th anniversary.  It was dull at first, but easily seen by funeral.  They tried to wash the frame and then clean the picture, but it continued to get darker and darker until it became bright orange-yellow.

Frank went into remission without chemo or any further treatment.  Since 1982 he has lived cancer-free and with no serious health problems

The Monsters Of Tennessee — Hondacsr

Like every state in the Union, Tennessee has its local legends, ranging from First Nations stories that predate the arrival of Europeans to the land to modern urban legends the likes of which reflect modern fears and unease. Among these legends are legends of local monsters. Given the centuries of human habitation in the state, […]

via The Monsters Of Tennessee — Hondacsr

Some interesting side stories to follow up on if we go to Tennessee…


Name That Symbol

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Here are some of the grave symbols we discovered while looking over the Manasota Memorial Gardens with the kids during our Tripping with Kids Episode.

We have searched for some, but still can’t figure out the meaning of some.  We’ve tried to focus on the ones that we are still in need of, especially the wax-like substance and its meaning and the three Freemason Chair set up.

Please keep in mind; we’re not only looking for who the symbol belongs to but what the markings actually mean.

You can send your feedback to spookytripping@gmail.com

Listen to the episode here:

Story of the Singing River

The Singing the River Sings Back

Tripping on Kids

What’s Up, Doc: Being Rejected by the Professor

And here I thought I was doing it right all along.

I set nets and lobster traps out there.  I publish a story I hear in the hopes that a person keywording something they experienced or were told about will fall in and tell me their version of the story.  I then document what they experienced.  I go out to the places where things happen and try to experience it myself, maybe asking a few people nearby if they’ve heard about it.  I’ve been doing that for more than twenty years, since I first asked people what they had heard about my haunted dorm, Charlesgate.  If I’m looking at a place I don’t know, I send out e-mails to the gatekeepers of the tales; librarians, members of town history groups, professors at local colleges.  It’s my way of trying to get my hands on what Charles Johnson once called, “our human inheritance.”

Today I received a response back from a doctor of folklore studies from a university in Pennsylvania.  Nine words if you don’t count our names.

This is not the way to conduct folklore research.

Thanks, Doc.

Years ago Tim Weisberg from Spooky Southcoast gave me the label of Analytical Folklorist.  I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded official and important and close enough to what I do for me to embrace.  After all, I was slowly moving away from investigating the paranormal and had long held to the idea that the value in looking into the paranormal was in finding what it had to do with the people who experienced it and those who sought out their stories.  Tracking down a good ghost story was an exercise in recording oral and written history, and writing it down was capturing more about society than capturing a ghost (or a Ghost on Film).  I believed then that tales of the paranormal and supernatural were a major part of our modern folklore, and my work over the past three years has done nothing to change that.

It’s not that I think ghosts don’t exist.  There are unexplained things in this world, and those things will always remain that way.  The paranormal is our way of trying to make sense out of the unseen, and for every story where we see a possible reason for the ghost, there are ten more that only point at our existing ideas on ghosts or the growing new mythology we are creating concerning the unknown.   There is much folklore in how we look for ghosts, including the people who do it, as there is in the ghosts they look for.

But that’s a story for another day.

This is more about the Legends Project and its goal of searching out stories to trip this summer outside of Florida.

I had started the project a few years ago and restarted it about six months ago with the goal of traveling to sites I could trip and collect stories from.  The idea was to find places where the locals knew of a story, ghost or just off-center, and then go to the location and see what I could collect by talking to people and enacting any ritual connected to the story.

IMG_1978For example, you go to a cry-baby bridge.  You turn your lights out like the tale tells you to do.  Honk twice as instructed and be ready to see the bride appear before you with the dead baby in her arms.  Before that, you hit the Internet finding variations of the story and ask people about it when you get to the town.



Perhaps the best example of Tripping on Legends doing this would be the case of the Devil’s Tree in Port St. Lucie.  We searched the Net for hours, and when we got there we asked everyone we could find the stories they had heard about it.  We were able to record four or five variations of the story or little add-ons (the serial killer lived in a shack near the tree) and this led us to other mysteries, like what were the ruins near the tree and was the whole thing signal some kind of disturbance in the area where serial killers, sketchy asylum owners, and random acts of violence would find their way to the same spot.

To me, that’s what modern folklore is about.  Find a story, look into the story, try to connect the story.

TImage result for food for the deadhis is what I learned from reading the people who inspired me.  Food for the Dead was one of the most influential books to my early work because Michael Bell set out to find the stories and experience them himself, even though he never really thought there were vampires out there. Jan Harold Brunvand laid out similar methods in collecting as many versions of urban legends as he could.  The same could be said for Charles Robinson in prepping New England Ghost Files.  I would even say hearing Joseph Campbell describing connecting myths follows a similar pattern.

So what am I doing that’s wrong, Doc?

The logical first step is to find a story.  This is a copy of the e-mail I send out to get the pot stirred:

My name is Christopher Balzano, a folklorist living in Southwest Florida.

I am starting a new project looking to explore and celebrate the stories that have become the foundation for the rich oral and written tradition of this country.  I am looking for the folklore that has contributed to the development and tradition of America, and I am hoping for your help.

I believe the journey of a folklorist starts with asking a question to get the adventure started, so today I am asking you.

Is there a story in your area that your citizens view as folklore or local myth?

Having done this for more than two decade, I understand how difficult that question may be. It involves sifting through old stories and urban legends to try and sort things out.  I am not asking you to go that far, mainly because that’s where the love of the trip lies for me.  I’m just searching for whatever information you might have and perhaps a lead.

I am looking to document the more obscure stories, the hidden John Henry of your area.

The story may be familiar but region specific, creepy or spooky, or just plain entertaining or important.  Folklore, urban legends, or just regional legends are all fair game.

I am especially interested if you know of storytellers who make these tales come to life or know of local archived audio files of them.

I thank you for your time, and I hope to hear back from you.


I have sent this to countless libraries and historical societies.  I have sent it to paranormal investigators and professors.  It’s a feeler, and more often than not it gets ignored.  The goal is to have someone get the e-mail and remember a story, or be bored enough to look through their files and find something that might fit the bill.  Sometimes there is a near-forgotten story in a drawer somewhere, like the Haunted Schoolhouse case a few years ago.  The bigger hope is that I get into their mind, so when something comes along, they think of me and what I am doing and get back in touch.

img_1614Almost every legend trip I have done in the past six months was born of this letter.  A librarian told me about the Singing River.  A newspaper writer pointed me towards the Mini Lights.  A member of the historical society asked me if Talking Mary fit into what we were trying to do.

So what do I do differently, Doc?

I have since sent a return e-mail asking what more I need to do to warrant a moment of his time and a lead on a story, but when I look at what I do, I am confident I’m going about it the right way.  I do it with a love of the story and an eye to what it says about us.   I do it with respect and awe.  I do it with the hope of experiencing what people have claimed to be their town’s truth but with the realization that more often than not I’ll just be shouting into the wind.

The first paranormal story I can remember involved a retelling of a Devil’s Footprint in New Hampshire.  I was living there at the time (seven years old), and as I read how the town had created whole mythos around this imprint in stone, I became fascinated with what was the truth behind the story, especially after the writer gave several different account of the legend.  Then he put his socked foot into the print and it fit exactly.  I was hooked.  Years went by and the same idea of the Devil’s footprint kept coming up.

Maybe I’m not going about this the right way, but methods have to shift.  We do not tell our stories the same way, and we do not hear them like the days of old.  Smart phones are handheld campfires, and Reddit is your sketchy cousin letting you in on the haunted house down the street.  Folklore is happening as we live and changing as quickly as we can switch apps.  There is history in the ghost story.  There is societal knowledge in the cryptid still wandering in the woods.  The best way to hold this knowledge is to experience and squint and look for the strings.

Here’s hoping that’s good enough for you, Doc.


The Red Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44

It’s odd how things work out.  A student recently sent me an e-mail with a link to my old material from Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads.  I decided to post some of the stories as part of documenting some of the hauntings and legends I’ve covered over the years, but also as a way of tracking how some of these stories have changed over the years since they were originally published.  
The story of the Red Headed Hitchhiker or Phantom of Route 44 was the first story I every tracked down after reading about it in Charles Robsinson’s New England Ghost Files.  I decided to post it with no editing for two reasons; first, I wanted to document how I first published on the topic back in 2003, second, I wanted to put it out there to see how the public has changed its opinion on the it and how might have changed how I feel about it.  The only change is a switching around of a few paragraphs to move some first hand account I published in a follow-up the next year up into the main article.
Enjoy, and let me know what changed to the legend you’ve heard over the years.


People from New England survive on a history of oral tradition, passed down by word of mouth in accents that sound funny to the rest of country.  Whether it is the sports they play or the lives they live, people from that area are natural storytellers.  From the beginnings of European settlement to today, the history of this country goes through New England, and an area with such a rich history is bound to have rich legends and folklore, but that reputation might work against reality.  People with real experiences are seen as spinners, and although they might try to raise a voice to protest, their words become part of the myth of the state.  People have claimed to see a red-headed man walking down U.S. Route 44 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, and some have stopped to pick him up only to have him disappear on them.  It sounds like an excellent story, giving people chills around a campfire, but the story might be more truth than legend and the ghost might be more supernatural than literary.

015Descriptions of the ghost and the encounters seem to follow the same basic pattern.  The driver is driving along Route 44 at night, usually near the Seekonk-Rehoboth, Massachusetts line, when they encounter a well-built man between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five.  He has red hair and usually a beard and is dressed in a red flannel shirt with either jeans or brown work pants and work boots.  Sometimes he is well kept, but other times he appears disheveled with an overgrown beard, dirty pants and an untucked shirt.  Most times he appears solid to the drivers but not quite all there and there is a rare report of him seeming transparent throughout the entire encounter.

The biggest discrepancy in the physical description of the hitchhiker is with his eyes.  Some say they look normal but just don’t feel right.  Some say they are black and empty, others glowing and lifeless.  Every color has been attributed to them at one time or another, from yellow and red to green and it is this inconsistency which adds fuel to the skeptic’s argument against the existence of a genuine spirit.

The basic encounters all follow a similar pattern.  Someone is driving along the road, usually alone, when they see a man in the road or on the side of the road.  They may hit him or stop to pick him up.  The hitchhiker will interact with the person and then eventually vanish before their eyes or no longer be there when they turn to look.  This is followed by some type of audio finale where he laughs at them, yells or taunts them.

Anyone who has driven that stretch of road at night can understand the uneasy feeling that pervades Route 44.  A similar scene plays itself out in any rural towns across America where there are more legends than streetlights.  It is a classic movie set up, which may have something to do with the appearance of the spirit.  There is documented proof of accidents in that area that have proved fatal, and Rehoboth is located at one end of the Bridgewater Triangle, an area in Massachusetts made of about a dozen small towns having a documented history of high paranormal activity, UFO activity and anomalous animals.  Rehoboth might be the most active town, with Route 44 being home to the haunted Annawan Rock and several cemeteries that have supernatural histories ranging from sightings and car failures to attacks.

31+Q6-m65nL._BO1,204,203,200_The earliest formal written record of the occurrence was set down by Charles Turek Robinson in his 1994 book New England Ghost Files. In it he describes several encounters in detail.  In one, the hitchhiker is seen outside the window of a fast moving car.  Another person picked him up, only to have him vanish from the car.  The most disturbing story in his book tells of a couple who broke down at about 10:00 PM.  The woman stayed in the car while the man went to get help.  They both suffered separate experiences.  The man saw him on the side of the road and tried to talk to him.  The red headed man began yelling at him and then disappeared, laughing from all directions as the man made his way back to the car.  The woman heard his voice come over the radio, taunting her until she ran from the car.

Stories like this make the believer in us nod our heads and avoid roads and the skeptics laugh.  Every state has something like this, they say, and despite dozens of sighting over the decades, there is no documented proof other than first hand stories of the encounters.  There are psychological and physical alternatives to the hauntings, as well as entire cannon of myths and urban legends utilizing the basic motif of the lonely road and the hitchhiker or traveler.  Yet just because something can be explained doesn’t mean it has been.

Most hauntings like the red headed hitchhiker have fallen into the realm of local legend, told as cautionary tales and local color.  The most famous of these is Resurrection Mary in the Chicago area that has been reported in books and television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries.  Mary was a teenage immigrant who was killed in a car accident while going home from a dance. She is still seen in her dress traveling the road between the hall and cemetery at which she is buried trying to get home.  She is often picked up and has been known to interact with the people who do so.  She asks to be dropped off near the cemetery and vanishes near it or vanishes from the car as it passes.

If this sounds familiar, it should.  It has been adopted by most states and several countries on both sides of the ocean.  There have been similar occurrences in other parts of the country including Kentucky, St. Louis, North and South Carolina and Arkansas.  Hawaii has a long history of hitchhikers vanishing, and for a long time it was thought to be the volcano god Pele who stole rides with horsemen and drivers.  All have some twist to unique to that area of the country and all are built upon first hand reports later spiced up and allowed to fall into myth and exaggeration.

1743591_10203778409366409_603218265_nThese stories might be part of a broader tradition that continues to grow.  Jan Brunvard, the most decorated folklorist in modern times, has written extensively on the topic of the vanishing hitchhiker, even naming one of his collections of urban legends after the tale.  It is one of the most popular urban legends and seems to stretch across different times and cultures, and new variants are being added every year.  Some stories have a man pick a girl up and drop her off at her house only to find her no longer in the car.  When he approaches the door, he is told by the people inside that it was the ghost of their daughter that died years ago on that stretch of road.  Often there is a picture the driver of the girl so the driver can identify her.  Another has two men or a group of men pick her up and bring her to the prom.  They dance with her all night, noticing how cold she feels before she vanishes.  There is often proof left behind, like a scarf or a jacket left on a gravestone.

Another whole string, more in line with the hitchhiker on Route 44, has a man being picked up or just appearing in the backseat.  He often has something prophetic to tell the driver that comes true and is sometimes Jesus himself.

One of the most disturbing tales is of a naked woman seen lying in the road in California.  The driver gets out, but she is no longer there.  Despite his searching and the help of the police, there is no one found.  After three nights of sightings, they finally find her car off the road and hanging off of an embankment.  She is dead inside, but her son is still alive, hanging on to the last moments of life.

Our time and place does not have exclusive rights to the hitchhiker tales.  Mythology from England and Ireland has its own version of the tale that dates back hundreds of years.  The Fortean Times has published dozens of accounts, sometimes with a supernatural creature such as a vampire, werewolf or black dog filling in.  A famous British politician once saw his doppelganger on such a road.  Irish fairy tales tell of people straying from the road only to fall into a fairy circle that causes disasters to befall them.  There are tales from Roman days of walking along the road only to encounter some paranormal or supernatural being.

There is an account in the Bible and the Devil is known to appear at crossroads to strike deals for hapless victim’s souls.

Rte 44 HitchhikerThe connective tissue of these stories is the lonely road and the unknown and there symbols resonate with the reader because they are common and universal. Roads have long been associated with life; the path of our lives, the journey we must take.  They also imply the soul is still traveling, never able to get where it needs to go.  Are these just motifs of our collective unconscious or is there some basis for these localized hauntings.  Myths might point out the archetypes of the traveler trying to get home and the obstacles he must overcome, the lonely road, dark turns, isolation in the woods.  The very locations of these hauntings allow our minds to wander and sends us crawling back to our bedrooms as children where we shrink back from the darkness of our closed closet and the underneath our bed.  We see the crosses on the sides of roads and maybe even know the names and this adds to our tension.

Michael White offers another theory in his 1999 book Weird Science. He writes about hypnagogic and hynopomic hallucinations and claims it explains away the majority of the hitchhiker stories.  During long drives at night, especially in dark, secluded places, we tend to fall asleep.  The repetitive scenery, the lull of the motor and the constant yellow or white lines in the road put us in a hypnotic state that simulates the beginning and ending stages of sleep when we begin to enter a type of dream state.  Our imagination is fed by the stories we hear about an area or the cliché environment we are in and we see things that are not there.  People have even been known to interact and feel physical sensations from this stage of sleep.

With mounting evidence against the possibility of the existence of the red-headed hitchhiker is there any evidence that he does exist.  Back roads are primed for paranormal occurrences.  People often suffer tragic accidents or die in violent ways in these rural setting without streetlights and quick turns that can not be seen until you are on top of them.  Does this particular legend just sound like an established bit of folklore, or is the folklore based on activity that is more common on roads than other places?

Folklorists look for similarities in stories when they create motifs and variants, but evidence of the existence of the hitchhiker in Massachusetts might be gained by looking at what is different in these tales.   Recently reports have been posted on the internet by people claiming to have seen the ghost.  The majority of these can be discounted because the information seems to be a compilation of the rumors heard.  Most do not get the town or physical description right.  If you look at the reports before the area was modernized however, some things stick out.  First, most of the people reporting the occurrences did so with no ulterior motives, and most of the people Robinson interviewed were asked about a separate legend completely and offered the hitchhiker story.  Next, many of the people had never heard the legend and did not know each other.  At times, the phantom has appeared to more than one person which would make a hallucination like the one White talked about near impossible.

Then there is the ghost himself.  He seems unworldly, unlike the people often seen in the urban legend.  He offers no advice or prophetic promises.  In fact, he doesn’t talk.  His goal does not seem to get home but to scare and taunt.  He also has appeared outside cars moving over fifty miles an hour, which shows up in none of the urban myth research.  Lastly, he comes from an area long known to have paranormal activity.

Several employees of the Cumberland farms spoke of the spirit.  They had not seen it themselves, but had heard of the ghost.  One’s brother had been driving alone when he saw him on the side of the road.  He stopped and called out to the man who started to walk towards him.  As he got closer, he faded until he had completely disappeared.

One e-mail told of the hitchhiker appearing in the backseat of his car.  He was alone and saw him in the rear view mirror.  The radio started to scan the stations and then became so loud it shook the car.  The man disappeared and began to laugh on the radio.

Another e-mail offered some possible explanations and clarification on the source and nature of the haunting.  A resident of Rehoboth, the women who sent the e-mail had seen a shadow in her rear view mirror near the area the hitchhiker is known to lurk.  She had conducted interviews herself with people in the area.  Her research found the identity of the spirit might be that of a local farmer who was hit while changing a tire on 44.  His description matches that of the hitchhiker, although his actions during his death do not match traditional hitchhiker stories.  She also identified another aspect of the story might contributes to the legend aspect of the story.  Some people remember a ghost story involving a traveler seen on the road between Redway Plain and Wilmarth Bridge Road.  The name of the street may have helped change the description of the ghost over time, creating the legend that endures today.

There is no physical evidence that the Red-Headed Hitchhiker on Route 44 is real, and that might be enough for the skeptics among us.  He has never been recorded by tape or film and never been photographed.  Descriptions of him vary.  He never talks or explains why he might be there.  There is no record of who he might.  Just because his existence can be explained by science and anthropology and superstition doesn’t mean it has been.