The Vanishing Hitchhiker

From Academic Kids

The Vanishing Hitchhiker is a defining urban legend, and not specific to the United States, though the below reference by Jan Harold Brunvand is primarily about American urban legends.



The legend's provenance is unknown and probably unknowable; versions have been told in cultures around the world, including some with no knowledge of each other, and was told of horse-driven buggies before being told of cars. There is a version in the New Testament of the Christian Bible (Acts 8:26-39), in which a chariot driver picks up Philip the Evangelist, who baptizes him and then disappears.

The legend

The legend has many forms, has been told and heard by countless kids ("This really happened!") and it always happened someplace "close." It runs about as follows:

A man is driving late one rainy night, and stops to pick up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker climbs in back. The driver asks to where the hitchhiker is going; it is an address a few miles down the road.
They talk awhile, and the hitchhiker falls silent. The driver forgets about her. Upon coming to the address, the driver stops, "Here's your stop," turns around, and...
The hitchhiker is gone! But the driver never stopped, there is no way the hitchhiker could have jumped out. The hitchhiker simply vanished.
There is a house at the address. The driver knocks on the door; an elderly couple answers. "You won't believe this," the driver says. "I picked up a hitchhiker who asked to be taken to this address, and when I got here — she was gone! Vanished!"
The woman speaks, "Yes, that was our daughter. You see, ten years ago, she was killed on that road, and right where you picked her up. This happens every year on the anniversary of her death. She keeps trying to get home. But she can't."

Final words

Again, there are countless versions, and sometimes the hitchhiker makes a prophesy before disappearing before the driver's eyes.

Why the story is told is a good question. It is an encounter with the supernatural — a ghost is met, and the driver was not looking for the supernatural; it came to him/her. The spirit world may be met at any time, by anyone. The spectre passes for a living person. The driver does not recognize it as a ghost at the time, and we never know when we meet the supernatural.

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