Travel Log…The Devil’s Tramping Ground

There’s something to the Name Game, but there are times when a legend plants itself so deep into the minds of residents it forces them to actually name the place for the odd folklore born there.  We recently came across something like this with Bloody Bucket Road in Wachula, Florida, a road named after a story which then inspired a story which inspired an urban legend.  We’ve also found our way to places informally named after the weird happenings there, like the Devil’s Tree and Thrill Hill.  Rarely does a crazy story, known by the people living in the area if not fully believed, make the powers that be change the name of a place to reflect the popularity of a story.

20170711_113012The Devil’s Tramping Ground in Bear Creek, North Carolina is one of those places.  As we heard more about the story, given our obsession at the time with all things named after the Devil, we knew if we were going to North Carolina to look for phantom trains and hitchhikers, we were going to have to stop in and see if we could glimpse something unknown and supernatural making circles in the middle of the woods.

It started with a search into an area of North Carolina known as the known as the Piedmonts.  While looking for something else, I stumbled upon Craig Payst’s Web site North Carolina Ghost Stories.  He has a whole section of his site dedicated to the odd stories from that area, including a weird legend that has gained popularity among the people there over the last few decades.  Some of the details were familiar in that way a good piece of folklore should be, but one of the most interesting slants to the story was that the legend was shifting, adapting with the times to conform to changing ideas.  As we changed as people, the little tale of a patch of land where nothing would grown changed with them.

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The basics of the story should sound like something you’ve heard before.  In the woods near an area known as Harper’s Crossing there is a patch of land where things would not grow.  The infertile pattern was in an almost perfect circle, so people said there had to be something sinister and supernatural about it.  The first stories, which is said to date back at least two hundred years, tell of the Devil himself cast down, or up, to earth to contemplate what evil deeds to commit against the people of the Piedmonts.  Payst attributes this foundation to the strong religious ideas of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who made their way to the State.  No reason is given as to why these people should be a target for him, but there he walked in a circle debating and scheming what to do and tearing up the ground as he walked.   

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Listen to Episode 17…Trips, Triangles, and North Carolina Folklore

20170711_105007.jpgThere is more than just barren land in the story though.  Men and beast avoid the spot for reasons they can’t explain.  People who have dared to try and stay there at night have left with terrible visions.  It is also said that anything placed in the middle of the circle, living or dead, will be cast out by unseen hands.  Some have seen unexplained lights, and like many sites like this one, people have reported seeing hooded figures, either dark souls or Satanic cult members, walking the circle and the surrounding woods.  

If that was end of the story, it would make for an interesting tale.  But there is more to the story.  In the past few years, every trend in the paranormal has been used to explain the site or offer up a backstory for the unexplained.  According to Payst and some others who have looked into the stories, over the years the story has shifted to aliens, a witchcraft hotspot, and an ancient Indian burial location.  Each variation reflects the fears and the interests of the people who are making the story their own, evidenced by the newer idea that the spot is actually a vortex.  Whether to keep the deep folklore alive or just to claim a little ownership in the story, the little patch in the woods transforms itself into what people want.  

This, along with the idea of being pushed by unseen hands drew us to the site.

When we got there is a warm summer day with clouds and a slight breeze.  It was not hard to find, especially considering the street is named for the legend.  We set up a stationary camera to capture the whole thing and walked the perimeter of the circle.  It was littered with garbage, convenience store cups, and beer bottles.  There was a metal chair set up roughly in the middle and a makeshift fire pit.  Someone had been there recently, confirming the Devil’s  Tramping Ground as a party place.  

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We walked a ways into the woods and found evidence of other activity.  There were animal bones scattered in different locations, proof of either cult activity or people wanted it to look like there was cult activity.  Other than the bones and tarps, there was not too much to the area itself.  We spent time in the circle itself to see if we could feel anything trying to get rid of us, but our feet remained firmly planted.  Natalie had the idea to make a cross out of some of the local vegetation to see if it would get tossed from the circle.  We stayed for about an hour, mainly to say we had been there, and made our way to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

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The original plan was to go back that night and see if we could talk to some of the people who partied there or even interview the dark forces, but we spent too much time looking for the hitchhiking Lydia and were not able to get back.  A follow-up the next day revealed nothing else out of the ordinary and our cross was in the same place.  In fact, after the being molested by ghostly redheads in Greensboro and getting new Pukwudgie reports in Indiana, the Harper’s Crossing and the Devil’s Tramping Ground felt mundane.

IMG_3104It was not until we reviewed the camera some time later that things got eerie.  One of the things I noticed, and we had not talked about it at the time of the trip, was how little time we spent in the middle of the circle.  Most of the time we were there was spent trailing the woods, but we seemed to unconsciously avoid actually being where the Devil was believed to walked.  It was subtle.  We had travelled 1,000 miles and didn’t spend much time in the middle.

You can’t put your hands on that kind of idea or hold it up.  It could just be an overactive mind wanting to justify having touched a legend.  The camera, however, picked something up which almost defines the eye.  At one point the lighting completely changes (perhaps due to the clouds overhead), but then several odd noises are heard.  These climax with a clear clanging of metal.  At that exact moment, something flies through the frame and out of the circle.  We have broken it down and determined it was not a bird and was too big, even in perspective, to be an insect or something else hanging out in the woods.  This, mixed with the sound heard right before the movement, leads us to believe one of those beer or soda cans was kicked out of the circle while we played in the woods.

Like the legend itself, there is no clear cut answer to what we saw.  The Devil’s Tramping Ground has exist for decades, and if every bit of folklore is born from some truth, there might be more to the story than just some dead vegetation and some odd lights in the woods.  People will continue to tell their stories about the place, odd first hand accounts with their choice of background to give it context.  The legend will continue because we want it to, but just when you think it’s safe to sit back and think of it all as just a story, a swift kick and clang might happen and make you rethink whether a ghost story, or even a tale of the Devil, has more fact than fable to it.  

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Listen to Episode 19…Tripping Carolina in My Mind

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Travel Log…Investigating Vs. Tripping

 

by Natalie Crist

 

I didn’t know what to expect. This really isn’t one of my areas of expertise.

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Listen to the Tripping on Legends episode about it…

This was a friend of Christopher’s whom I had never met, and being my normally socially awkward self, I was especially nervous about coming into a stranger’s home with the intent of removing a ghost.  Going into someone else’s living space is so very intrusive, so up close and personal to the situation. Rarely do we experience a first hand account when Chris and I are on our trips, so this was a completely different animal.  However I rationalized the event by at least being able to offer an outside perspective and maybe just a shoulder to lean on for this obviously scared and shaken up woman.  

IMG_4291The story has been told so I don’t need to go into those details, but the short of it is that Chris’ friend hadn’t actually experienced anything but her family had. Being only a few months post-newborn, she had those newly created mama-bear instincts kick in.  She wanted this spirit gone, mainly to protect her infant. It was slightly overwhelming to think that she was placing her trust and her family’s safety with us.

The odds were stacked against us for my first real investigation.  Honestly, I had never met Nicole (the psychic/medium Christopher discovered) and knew nothing of her genuineness.  Chris is a super brilliant scholar, but I’ve never actually seen him be effective in investigating/removing a spirit.  And me, well I hadn’t even been successful in removing my own ghost. So there was definitely a thought of, “Why are we even here? This is hugely out of our pay-grade,” and, “We should be calling a priest.”

IMG_4258.JPGAfter we actually got set up and began to build a rapport with the family, my natural soothing nature kind of kicked in.  I wanted to fix it. I had to fix the situation. The friend was out of her mind with worry. But this isn’t my thing – although I naturally try to assert myself whenever there’s an issue and take charge – there really wasn’t a tangible solution.  How DO you remove an unwanted ghost, or psychic recording? How do you actually cleanse a space of what you consider a negative or draining energy?

Nicole and Chris obviously took the bull by the horns and each began their own methods of trying to figure out the story and achieve a result. Chris’ approach was one I was slightly familiar with, setting up a camera aimed at the room in question, setting down the recorder in the room, taking a bunch of pictures, and then getting the facts about the experience. Although I learned later that he didn’t actually do everything he had wanted, I thought it was a pretty standard setup.

IMG_4264.JPGNicole on the other hand walked around and got a feel for the room(s), trying to, I assume, soak up the energy and get an idea of what was there. I had messed up in the car on the way over and told her what we had discussed prior to going over there, about us believing it may be an old man that had once lived there – the idea that she clung to. She tried to describe the man, guessing at “old man’s sounding name,” telling us she felt like he was drunk or woozy all the time, and that she felt like he was searching for the wife who had obviously stayed in the room. I tried to talk to the spirit, and asked “him” to leave. Nicole said that confused and upset him.

It was at that point that she “helped” him moved on. She stood in front of the bed, eyes closed hand outstretched at one point, and spoke to the man. She told us she brought him to Archangel Michael, and he helped him go. That the space was now clear.

IMG_4276I wasn’t sold on Nicole’s whole moving the spirit along with the assistance of Archangel Michael. The sick feeling was still within the bathroom, and then seeing the ‘kiss’ in the mirror I was freaked. I just observed after that, trying to determine whether the friend and her family were assuaged by Nicole’s actions. There seemed to definitely be a weight lifted, even if partially, on the family’s faces. Relief and hope. Nicole performed Reiki for each of them which aided in that relief too.

Nicole was essentially done with her part of the investigation by this point, and took a backseat while Chris continued.  He directed the friend on how to change the atmosphere. Lighting candles and spraying a salt and water mixture within the rooms. At one point he too had a conversation with whatever was there.

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We had done really all we could at this point I suppose. Doing an investigation into activity isn’t the difficult part.  I’ll bet you could realistically find paranormal activity everywhere if you’re looking for it. But that’s just my idea that the other worldly lives amongst us, just in a different dimension coming thru.

Getting rid of that activity is extremely difficult and almost impossible to determine success immediately. Only time was going to tell whether or not Chris and NIcole’s actions actually did anything. But at least Chris’s friend was calmer. That’s all that mattered. Maybe she was able to finally get a good night’s rest that evening (the tequila probably helped, too).

After hearing that there was still activity that evening in the form of a Christmas snowglobe’s song I was disappointed, but not shocked.

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Listen to the Tripping on Legends episode about it…

It’s probably a very rewarding career or hobby to investigate and assist in matters such as these.  Of course, that’s if you’re successful.  However, to disappoint something who has trusted you is a bit crushing. I wouldn’t consider ever taking this type of activity up on the regular, at least not with the intention of removal. The experience was neat, but mostly I just felt badly for not being able to be useful.  

 

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…

http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HSQQNTpQ

Met State: The Asylum Time Forgot

There’s an odd thing how paranormal landmarks work.  There’s an ebb and a flow to the popularity of locations which draw people in.  Whether it’s the Lizzie Borden’s Bed and Breakfast or Eastern State Penitentiary, these locations have a tendency to flare up, become very popular and eventually take a backseat to the next supernatural trend. Usually it’s due to television and media exposure, and much like a hot trend on television for the season, unless there is a deep rooted sense of community or legend within the story behind the location, it is almost impossible to keep the momentum.

Metropolitan State in Massachusetts is a lot like that.   Obviously when the hospital was still open reports from there were frequent.  When you consider its closing aligned with the rise of ghost hunting television shows and the founding of investigation groups, it’s no wonder it became one of the most popular legends in the Metro Boston area.  The longer it sat unoccupied, the more the stories grew.  The larger the fence was around it grew, the more people needed to see what was behind it.  It was even featured in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places.  Then nothing.  

After I found this old article, I tried to connect with some of the people I had spoken to about it and research whether things were still being spread the old building.   People I spoke to who research and investigate in the area had to look  it up when asked about it.  Met State’s time has come and gone.  It will be interesting to observe what might happen to it as time passes.  These things tend to go in cycles.

 

Asylums feed into our very idea of terror.  The insane, the locked doors, the masked doctors performing treatment we’d rather not think about.  To hear the word conjures up images we try and block out.  The buildings, designed to be inviting and practical, fit into our worst visions of these asylums, and as they fell into ruin they became more and more intimidating.  The torment that went on in them and the patients who died without names and without peace create a settling ripe for ghosts and ghost stories.

Although not as famous as its nearby cousin Danvers State Hospital, Metropolitan State Hospital in Middlesex County, Massachusetts has become known itself for the type of ghosts and ghostly legends that give people nightmares.  No one knows what went on behind the cement walls of that building, but our imagination has created its resident’s lives.  When reports started to come out about the strange happenings on its grounds, Metro State was labeled as haunted, and since its closure in 1992 those rumors have been confirmed time and time again.  Trespassers inside the building and people just interested in the beauty of the land say the same things doctors and mental health workers had said for decades.  Metro State is haunted.

metstateWhen looking at the hauntings at Metro State Hospital, it is important to separate the facts from the legends that now surround them.  The rundown buildings lie in Waltham, Belmont and Lexington, Massachusetts, cutting into the landscape of three very different communities.  It was originally opened in 1930  and functioned successfully for decades..  Although many mental health treatments in the past century seem ludicrous to us today, Metro was always on the cutting edge of the field.  As methods changed, Metro changed with them, and when severe financial cutbacks hit the state in the 1980’s, Metro felt them as much as the other institutions in the state.  The buildings were plagued with overcrowding and understaffing.  Unlike other hospitals that could be converted to prisons or juvenile detention facilities, Metro State was hampered by the design that had made it unique.  The building was finally closed in the early nineties. 

During the time it acted as a functioning hospital, its residents suffered horrible conditions and saw the worst of human sorrow.  Lost souls filled the rooms, giving in to homicide and suicide by its residents.  Doctors tinkered with experimental treatments like mind-altering drugs and electroshock therapy.  The poor died without family around them to grieve.  The psychic energy amassed in within its walls makes the hospital a prime area for the appearance of ghosts.

The reports started while the building was still open.  Several employees spoke of shadowy figures seen at night.  Described as a looking like a tall slender man but having no solid form, the unknown visitors would walk through walls or appear in locked rooms.  Residents reported the same shadow, but the reports were ignored as delusion.  Then nurses and security officers began seeing them too.  One woman described at least three different men who all walked differently.  She stated it became common knowledge around the main buildings and were talked about but ignored.

Other residents reported hearing the screams of residents who had passed, especially those who had suffered electroshock treatment at the hospital.  One employee went to assist a certain patient he had had a close relationship with.  The man was screaming about his mother, but when the worker, recently back from a vacation, went into the room a different man was there.  His resident had died over the week.

met6Underneath the hospital runs a network of tunnels once used to travel to different parts of the 23 acre grounds.  The tunnels were lit by intermittent bare light bulbs, and patients were often found in them after having wandered off.  There were also reports of deviant workers would take willing and unwilling patients down there for sex.  Whispers were often heard down in the tunnels although no people could be found.  One man described always feeling as if there was someone behind him or in front of him, but he never saw anyone there.

Not all the spirits in the yard are happy.  Poorer patients without families were buried on the site.  Hundreds of bodies were laid to rest in unhallowed ground with nothing but a marker stating their religion and a number.  Although there have been recent attempts to find their identities and give them a proper burial, their souls seem trapped.  Glowing red and green figures have been seen in the areas of the old and new cemeteries.  The emotions of these people are felt throughout the grounds.  People have heard whispers and footsteps and one woman stopped walking near the grounds after she continuously saw visions of the patients while near the building.  Although she walked without really thinking about what went on there, she would see them inside her head and feel what they had felt.

met5The reports continued after Metro State’s closing.  The longer it remained closed, the more the main building looked like a stereotypical haunted house.  What was once a beautiful and intriguing piece of architecture was became covered with graffiti with broken windows and crooked doors.  Adventure seekers and paranormal investigators found their way in.  Inspired by their own fears and the media coverage of the asylum, they broke in.  Equipment has registered activity such as EMF readings, bizarre changes in temperature and ghostly photographs.  They have experienced the same shadows and screams reported while it was still open, but they have also felt sudden sadness and depression hit them and seen objects in plain sight move by themselves.

The ghosts are not confined to the buildings.  There have been numerous sightings made on the grounds.  Designers envisioned a active yard where patients would receive occupational therapy and grow their own crops.  Touch and sensory treatment was also utilized.  This positive energy has also been imprinted at Metro State.  In the daytime there have been reports of people with a glowing aura picking flowers with smiles on their faces.  These people disappear when approached and have even been seen floating slightly off the ground.

met3Like other asylums throughout the East coast, the grounds at Metro State are being recycled.  AvalonBay Communities Incorporated has purchased part of the land and is converting it to apartments and a golf course.  Buildings are already being torn down and construction has started, giving rise to a new chapter in the land’s history.  The same company has been buying old hospitals and building homes, laying the foundation for a new set of hauntings and legends.  Instead of a haunted house being on what was once an old Indian burial ground, people will begin to talk of houses built over the sunken remains of old asylums.

met2If a society is judged on how it treats its sick and helpless, should it not also be judged on how it remembers it?  Metropolitan State began as an experiment in curing those society had cast away.  The souls trapped in the hospital may never find peace and those walking the grounds may never find rest.  That then remains the legacy of Metro State; a reminder of what we tried and a living ghost of just how far we need to go.

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.

 

 

 

 

Mini Lights, Minnie Lights, Come Out Tonight

 

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The Mini Lights of St. Petersburg ended up being one of the most interesting legend trips we’ve done, not because of any evidence we got, but for the rich insight it gave us into the community and the challenges it provided for trying to figure out where things happened and what the straight story might be.

Ends up there isn’t one location and there isn’t one story.  You can spend your time trying to straighten out spaghetti or you can devour the bowl and ask for some garlic bread and meatballs.

Check out the episode we did on the way and after…  http://triplegend.hipcast.com/deluge/triplegend-20170326103541-9630.mp3

As well as some follow up on that case and the Devil’s Tree in Port St. Lucie…  http://triplegend.hipcast.com/deluge/triplegend-20170327012736-6406.mp3

…and hear the show where we first talk about it…http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HtJFN9GQ

…and more about the Devil’s Tree and the mysterious draw to the ruins.  http://www.hipcast.com/podcast/HQRrNrBQ

 

Subscibe to the full show at http://triplegend.hipcast.com/rss/tol1.xml or search for us on Sticher, TuneIn and Itunes and Google Play.

 

For more content, also follow us on Twitter at @SpookyBalzano and @NayNayMyFriend and on Faceboook at https://www.facebook.com/TrippingonLegends/ and YouTube.