12 Hitchhikers, Truckers, And Travelers Share Their Most Terrifying Stories From America’s Darkest Highways

via Flickr - Laurent Henschen
via Flickr – Laurent Henschen

1. Hitchhiking

In the late 70’s, my Uncle was studying medicine at the University of Chicago. After a morning class, he decided that he would hitchhike back home to Lincoln Park on the North side instead of pay for a taxi. A man drove up in a Plymouth Satellite and offered my Uncle a ride. The man looked normal and seemed friendly…lighthearted even, so my Uncle got in the car and they started driving towards Lake Shore Drive. However, once they got there, the man drove South on Lake Shore instead of North, towards Lincoln Park. My Uncle told the man he was going the wrong way and to turn around and head North. The man looked at my Uncle, put his hand on his knee and said, “No son, you are coming with me” and smiled darkly at him. My Uncle froze in panic, and when they hit traffic near the South Shore, he quickly unlocked the passenger door and ran away without looking back.

A year or two later on a cold December day, my Uncle was having coffee in a cafe with my future Aunt when he caught something on the TV that made his blood run cold. He saw the man that had picked him up from school that day the year before. He had been arrested for the suspected rape and killing of over 20 young men and boys. The man on the television was John Wayne Gacy. And he had removed the door handle off the passenger side door to prevent the men he picked up from escaping.

2. Bodies On The Highway

I was driving a shortcut from Twentynine Palms, CA to Albuquerque, NM. Twentynine Palms is located in the desolate high desert east of LA. The shortcut was all two lane road through total nothingness, except for passing through Amboy, CA. Amboy is a nearly abandoned town nearly as far below sea level as Death Valley, with a dormant volcano and lava field on one side and a salt flat on the other. It was also, at the time, a hotspot for satanic group activity.

So I was driving by myself in the afternoon. I stopped in Amboy and snapped a picture of the city sign, just to prove I was there to friends who dared me to take that route to I-40. I got back in my car and proceeded to drive up into the mountain range between Amboy and I-40.

Once I reach the top I am driving north through a canyon with high grass on both sides of the road. Up ahead I see some stuff in the middle of the road. As I approach I slow down to see a red Pontiac Fiero stopped sideways across both lanes, a suitcase open with clothes scattered everywhere and two bodies laying face down in the road, a man and a woman.

I stop a hundred feet or so away and the hair on the back of my neck is standing up. Being a Marine, I reach under the seat and pull out a 9mm pistol and chamber a round. Something seemed very wrong, it looked too perfect as if it were staged. An ambush? Was I being paranoid? Something was just wrong. Getting out of the car seemed unthinkable, it was the horror movie move.

As I scanned the road I saw a line I could drive. Pass the guy in the road on his left, swerve to the right side of the woman, behind the Fiero and I’d be on the other side. I dropped it into first gear, punched it and drove the line I planned.

I passed the back of the Fierro without hitting it or either of the bodies in the road. I continued forward a couple hundred feet and slowed down so I could breathe and let my heart slow down. As I looked up into the rearview mirror I saw that the two bodies had gotten up to their knees and twenty or so people emerged from the tall grass on either side of the road by the car and bodies.

At that moment my right foot smashed the gas pedal to the floor and did not let up until I had to slowdown for the I-40 east onramp.

I will never know what would have happened to me had I gotten out of the car to check on the bodies or stopped my car closer to them. Somehow I do not think it would have been good. Sometimes real life can be scarier than a movie.

3. The Blue Car

It was 2001 and my friend and I were 17 (both female) and driving back from a late movie to my house one night. I lived in a pretty rural area in Maine, about 20 minutes from the nearest town.

As we were driving down the highway through the woods, we passed a median with a car sitting in it, facing in the oncoming direction, with all its lights off. Right after we drove past it, it flashed its lights, did a 3 point turn and started driving behind us. We giggled that “oh, it must be a gang initiation, we’re gonna get murdered!” because this was Maine and that was obviously not what was happening.

The turnoff for my road was a few miles away and this car stayed behind us the whole time. We made the left turn and the car kept going down the highway. Phew! But 30 seconds later we realized that the car must have backed up on the highway and made the turn after us. Now we were getting a little worried. There was still one more road to turn down before we got to my house (this is way in the woods) and the car did the same thing…backed up and made the left after us. Now we were legit freaked.

I had a long driveway and the car followed us right into the driveway and almost up to my house, which had all the lights on because my mom was home. We ran into my house, just in time to see the mystery car reverse back down the driveway and drive away.

To this day we still have no idea why that car was following us – if they thought we were someone else or if they actually had bad intentions and only changed their mind when they saw that my houselights were on. Since we only ever saw the front of the car, we didn’t get a license plate or a better description than “a blue car”.

4. The Woman In The Burlap Shawl

About 15 years ago my mom and cousin were coming home from visiting my aunt who lived 2 hours away. The drive takes you through the desert and up some mountains but there is a shortcut you can take to avoid the mountains and shave about 10 minutes off your drive time, only problem is the shortcut takes you literally through the middle of nowhere. Its a 2 lane road with nothing for 30 miles, no houses, no shops, no lights, not even those roadside emergency phone booths.

They’re driving along through the shortcut at about 11PM when they spot something on the road. At first my cousin thinks its a rock so she slows down to go around it. When she gets closer she realizes its a lady with long black hair and what looks like a burlap shawl wrapped around her. She’s crouched down facing away from my cousin. My mom says that she thought the lady might have been in trouble so they pull up next to her and ask if she’s OK and if she needs help.

My cousin says the lady stood up and looked at them and let out a shriek like a goddamn banshee. She insists that the her eyes were pitch black and her skin was as white as a sheet and she was really skinny, like almost anorexic skinny. I debate this because it was dark out and her mind might have been playing tricks on her, but none the less it was enough to spook the hell out her and make her punch the accelerator and get out of there.

The lady briefly ran after them but they lost sight of her after a short bit. They didn’t stop for anything, even running a stop sign, until they got to the next town where they stopped at a gas station to get something to drink and to collect their thoughts.

A few weeks later my cousin was telling her coworker what happened and she said it might have been a skin walkerthat she saw and that she’s lucky she got away. That spooked her even worse so now she wont go through the shortcut, even when someone else is driving she insists on taking the main highway.

5. Too Tired To Keep Driving

About two years ago, I was driving home from a family reunion pretty late at night, and the drive was about two hours. I didn’t stay the night because I had to be back for work the following day. Most of the drive was on roads with dense bushes and trees on either side – the real creepy ones you see a lot in movies. Anyway, I had been driving about 45 minutes, and I was starting to get really tired. You know how sometimes you just suddenly become really tired, out of nowhere? Well yeah, that happened to me. I knew I wasn’t going to last, but I didn’t come across any place that I felt I could park and safely sleep.

Anyway, after it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to find a place to pull up, and my tiredness wasn’t going away, I did something very questionable. I pulled over to the side of the road onto the grass, behind some bushes, to try and hide my car from anybody else who was going to come past (the roads weren’t empty, I came across another car every few minutes or so). I made a mental note that the time was 11:22, and then fell asleep.

Some time later I was awoken by a scratching sound. I looked at the clock – 11:50. The sound stopped after a few seconds, and because I was still extremely tired, I didn’t bother looking around and simply went back to sleep. I was later awoken by the same sound, and it was now 12:40. This time it really freaked me out because the sound didn’t stop. The thought ran across my mind that it was just an animal inspecting the car, but why would it return almost an hour after it had left the previous time? I looked in my rear view mirror and just managed to catch a glimpse of something running away into the forest. Now, at the time, I thought it was the damn hook killer, you know the one that scratched that couple’s car and then slaughtered the guy when he got out to investigate? Fuck that, I thought to myself, so I got the hell out of there. There was a bend no more than a hundred yards up the road, and as I came around it, there was a fucking car, parked off to the side of the road with the driver side door opened. I slowed down just to look to see if anyone was in there (there wasn’t).

Then I looked in my rear view mirror. I didn’t see anything, and all of a sudden, this guy comes sprinting around the corner. He starts screaming at me, shouting stuff like “Hey! Hey you! Get the fuck out of your car! Now!” I noped the fuck out of there and sped off. I never saw the guy again. Moral of the story? Don’t fucking sleep on the side of a deserted road.

6. The Scarecrow

A couple of years back my best friend and I went on a road trip to the states for a music festival. Met up with some friends, saw lots of things and whatnot. One of our friends comes back home with us, he needed to get back home for school and his buddies didn’t want to head home yet. We decide to drive straight home in shifts, took 24hrs for the full drive.

Anyway my story starts where I am driving, night shift at about 2am. It is a beautifully clear night, full moon, no clouds, middle of the summer party type night. While noticing all of these conditions I also notice we have followed the GPS onto a back road and driven into a huuge valley. Open fields, not another car or house in sight and it is important to note that we have not seen anyone or anything relating to human presence for a few hours. Upon entering this valley we loose our satellite signal. We have no satellite radio, no GPS, and no cell signal. Cool beans, doesn’t really matter as I know we follow this road for a couple more hours.

About twenty minutes after entering this valley and after loosing all our connections, we come upon a bridge. As we get closer I see a car pulled out on the side of the road. Not uncommon, people sleep in pullouts when they can. What is uncommon is this car has all of its windows blacked out. With all of the light from the moon we should be able to see at least partially inside, but it was completely black. Getting closer we also realize that it has no license plate that we can see. No big deal, we assume that it is abandoned out here in the boonies, that is until we pass this vehicle and almost immediately its lights turn on, and it pulls out behind us on the road.

Now this is where it gets creepy- this vehicle starts tailgating us, in the middle of nowhere, and we can’t see who is inside or anything. Again we brush it off, maybe he is lost- needs to follow someone out of the area? Doesn’t explain the windows being blacked out or the lack of a license plate however. Anyway with this car following us I start to get an uneasy feeling. Subtle at first, but growing stronger. Soon I get an all out “get the fuck away from this vehicle ASAP” feeling. I find it important to note, that I do not frighten easily, I do not panic, and I only have ever gotten this feeling in times when I know for a fact my life is in danger. I push these feelings aside as it seems like the silliest response to a possibly explainable situation- that is until I see something in the middle of the road. Almost on cue, this car backs off, as I and my companions (one of whom was asleep beforehand) try to make out what is in the middle of the road. Coming closer we see what looks to be a body laying in the middle of the lanes. This is not a big road, and like I said it was also a back road- still paved but very small.

At this moment and at the sight of what appears to be a body in the road ahead, we start freaking out. I, in no way am stopping for no one in this desolate and isolated area. There are no other vehicles around other than the one following us, and I can see no housing or lights for as far as the eye can see. No cell service, no satellite, nothing. I quickly tell the others that I am not stopping, and I am going around or through. By this time we are almost on it, there is no room to go around as there are no shoulders on the road and deep ditches on the sides.. and we are close enough to see now that it is a scarecrow… and I drive over top and on-wards. This car, small enough to go around it, continues to follow. I speed up, it speeds up, I slow down, it slows down…. until I punch it. After about two minutes of this, the car slows down… does a u turn and drives back. Now my passenger turns to me and says “I swear I saw spikes in that thing”.. Lucky for us, we were driving a huge truck, the wheelspan was bigger than the scarecrow on the road and we never even touched it.

It was another half hour before we reached cell services and the satellite picked back up. It wasn’t until we reached home at 5am that we remembered, during this time there had been a couple of missing people reported in our province, ones who were on vacation and driving home from the states who never made it home or were ever found. I, and my passengers fully believe that we escaped some crazy “wolf creek” type of death for ourselves.

We contacted the police about it and ended up making a full police report, however we were unable to pinpoint the exact location. There wasn’t anything they could really do other than file the report. We definitely didn’t want this to happen to anyone else as it was creepy as hell.

7. On The Bus

This didn’t happen to me but I was involved in it. The victim was actually my girlfriend and I got the story later.

At the time my girlfriend and I were attending college together. It was a smaller school in a pretty quiet place so most of the students were from the area. My girlfriend, Caitie, was one of those. I came from a distance and so lived in a dorm at the college. Caitie and I would hang out together in my dorm between classes and even some evenings and weekends when we wanted to be together but didn’t feel like going out. It was a Friday night and both of us being pretty introverted decided not to do anything crazy so we planned to spend the night in my room with each other as my roommate was out that night. She wanted some time to go home after classes and assured me that she’d be back around 8:00.

Caitie had a car but she never liked driving. Unless she had to pack around her instrument she usually took the bus. That Friday night she had a pretty unnerving experience in doing so that freaked the two of us out for a long while after it happened.

She was a small girl, definitely didn’t look like a college aged student. She was short, thin, and quiet. Standing alone at a bus stop in the dark was probably not ideal but she preferred that over taking her own car. She waited for the bus, innocent as a rose, when a van drove past her, then again, then again, then again. She was a bit suspicious but told herself he was probably just lost or killing time. The van then pulled over right in front of the stop and the driver rolled his window down.

“Isn’t it cold out here?” he asked, “The bus is always late. Hop in and I’ll give you a ride.”

Caitie declined politely and took a few steps back trying to show him she wasn’t interested in anything he wanted. He asked again if she was absolutely sure that she didn’t want a ride and he drove away after she turned him down again. The bus arrived moments later and she was relieved to step on. To her horror, she then noticed the same van right behind the bus. The van followed the bus directly and Caitie texted me to explain the situation to me. I could tell that she was panicked, which isn’t uncommon for her. I offered to talk to her on the phone to calm her nerves and she accepted. We talked about school and things to get her mind off it. Once her stop came, she felt safe enough to hang up the phone and walk the short distance to the college. When she arrived at my dorm room, she was hysterical. It took me over an hour to comfort her enough to get the story out of her and this is what she told me.

The van had stopped following the bus after getting stuck at a red light, giving the bus a chance to get ahead. However, after getting off at her stop, the van sped up to her. He was driving like a maniac at this point, going at least 20 kilometres over the speed limit. The bus had already pulled away when the van stopped next to her. It had pulled over right where she intended to go to get to the college so in a panic, she bolted the other way, and the driver raced after her. When she turned her head to look behind her, she noticed he was holding a large butcher knife and waving it in front of him in her direction. She did a wide turn to get back on track to the college, the man following close behind. Lucky for her, he lost his footing on an icy patch on the road and his fall delayed him enough for her to get far enough ahead. When he got back up, he didn’t chase after her again but instead yelled out “I will find you and I will get you!”

Since then, she’s always taken her own car instead of the bus.

8. A Foiled Hijacking

In South Africa, we have a lot of hijackings, and for a while the favoured method to stop a car was to play dead in the road. Of course it doesn’t take long for people to figure out that stopping to help people on the road is a bad idea and that is where my friend of a friend joins the story.

On his way home from work one night (he lived on a small-holding), he sees a body in the road about 1km from his house. He quickly realised what was up and decided to just drive up onto the pavement (kerb for the Yanks I think), and go around the body without stopping. He got home about 2 minutes later, ran inside and called the police. When he saw them coming down the road, he returned to where he had seen the body to tell them where to start their search. Obviously there was no body, but what they did find was quite surprising. Three dead hijackers hiding in the long grass on kerb, as it turns out, when he had driven up on the kerb to avoid the “dead” guy, he had crushed all of the accomplices.

The “dead guy” was never found as far as I know.

9. A Missed Stop

This is a true story, told to me by a man who had been working as a murder investigator for over 30 years at the time. I was told this story after asking what the creepiest case he’d ever been involved in was.

This happened in northern Scandinavia in the late ’80s, in a part of the country that is mostly covered in dense pine forest. On the highway between cities in this part of the country, you do come across the occasional villages and secluded houses, but there are stretches that seem to go on forever with only pine trees as far as you can see. A young girl, in her early twenties, was taking a motor coach home after being on a trip down south, presumably visiting friends or relatives. This happened just as winter was approaching, and it was freezing outside after nightfall. This girl lived in one of these really small communities that you pass along the highway, but during the bus trip she fell asleep and missed her stop. Looking at her watch, she realized that they’d passed it only recently, and that if she were to get off she would be able to walk back in approximately three hours. Either that, or get off in the next city where she didn’t know anyone or had any place to stay. She explained all this to the bus driver, who pulled off at the next parking space and let her off. That was the last time anyone saw her.

Almost fifteen years later, long after the search for her has been given up, she is stumbled upon by a hiker. Her dead body was found tied to a tree, well over an hours walk from the road into the dense, almost impassible forest. The autopsy showed no signs of physical violence of any kind. Someone had just left her there, alive.

10. The Note

I was a pretty brave person when I was younger. Or maybe I had that sense of invincibility that comes with youth. I’d survived some things: a stalker, who pursued my sister and I for over a year & a half, being sexually assaulted, 2 house fires, and growing up in a house that I swear to you was haunted. Not in that Disney way, either. I’m talking torture chamber in the basement and strange things going on. Anyway, I suppose, looking back, that having been through all of that made me feel a little like either I was sort of invincible, or maybe I just assumed that I’d gotten all of the bad stuff out of the way and nothing else would happen. Whatever it was, I learned to know better.

When I was 17, I didn’t have a driver’s license. (In fact, I was 36 before I did.) I walked most places, occasionally catching rides with friends, and, less occasionally, hitchhiking. The night in question was one of those seldom seen occasions when I’d decided to hitchhike, having worked late and being too exhausted to walk. Now, most of the time when I’d hitch a ride, I wouldn’t get in the car with a lone man. Only women or (rarely) men with a wife/girlfriend and/or kids in the car. This night, though, cars were few and far between and it was cold, and really (if I’m being perfectly frank), when he pulled over I took a good look and figured I could take him if he tried anything. He was on the slender side, and had a strange frailness about him, even though he looked healthy enough.

I got into the car after we agreed on a destination, we exchanged names and I warmed my fingers in front of the heating vent. He spoke quietly, asking a few questions along the lines of was I a local and how did I like living there. He said he’d only been there a couple of months, but found it beautiful and hoped he could find happiness there. That comment struck me as a little odd, but I brushed it off. It began to snow and the road quickly got slippery, so he slowed and kept his eyes straight out the windshield, driving silently. I was okay with that, as small talk was never my forte. About ten minutes later, I noticed a car near the intersection we were approaching seemed to be sliding, so I said, “watch out!” He immediately hit the gas, shooting through the intersection and burst out with, “Don’t EVER scream at me!”

Needless to say, I was taken aback. I said, “Look, this is close enough, just pull over here and I can get there.” He didn’t seem to hear me. “Um, Richard? Did you hear me? I said you can pull over here and let me out.”

…no response. He just stared straight ahead, driving faster now than he had been since it began to snow. To say I was scared doesn’t seem to cover the depth of the fear that began to arise in me. I didn’t know if I should stay quiet, or speak, but I was damn sure not going to yell after his outburst. After about a mile, he began to mumble under his breath. I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying, but I assumed he was speaking to me, so I said, “hmm? I couldn’t hear you.”

He began to speak, quietly and rapidly, saying things like, “you’re always yelling at me. I’ve told you time and again I do not appreciate being yelled at, but do you listen? Nooooo. Well I’m done listening to YOU now, do you hear that?”

I was at a complete loss. I didn’t know what to say in response or if I should say anything at all. I contemplated just jumping out of the car, but nixed that idea when I realized the door lock was missing; there was just a silver-lined hole where it should have been. I’d started to cry and debate with myself about causing an accident by grabbing the wheel and hoping for the best (at least, I figured, there was a chance I’d survive that), when he suddenly looked at me for the first time since I had gotten into the car. He blinked several times, rapidly, then slowed the car, pulling into a gas station.

I waited to see if he’d unlock the doors, not wanting to say anything to set him off again. After a minute or two, he quietly said, “I think I better let you out here.” and hit the button to open the locks. I wasn’t about to hesitate. I jumped out of the car as if it were on fire. I was about to turn and walk into the gas station when he called my name. He looked so damned sad I hesitated. He apologized, said he was sorry if he’d frightened me, that he never would have harmed me, and asked if I’d be able to get home okay. I said I would, and closed the door. He began to pull out of the gas station lot, but stopped suddenly. He just sat there for a couple of moments, his head down. I froze, wondering what the hell he was up to and was about to run into the station, but he opened his window and yelled to me, waving something in his hand. My hat. I’d left it on his seat. I warily approached his side of the car, and he handed it to me, apologizing again. I didn’t know what else to say, so I just said, “Thanks.”

I watched as he drove off, making sure he was out of sight before moving on so he wouldn’t know which direction I was heading (I’d decided to go to a friend’s instead of home). As I walked, I went to put my hat back and, on out fell a piece of paper. Folded into the paper was a $100 bill. The paper said, “I’m sorry. Please take a cab and don’t hitchhike any more tonight.” I didn’t. In fact, it was the last time I ever hitched a ride alone.

11. A Grinding Sound

I used to drive I-80 between San Francisco and Cheyenne, Wyoming a lot. It’s about 16-20 hours of driving depending on weather and traffic and whatever.

One night I was driving and the car starts making this odd grinding noise. Like I ran over something that got stuck. It’s about 2am. I pull into a rest stop (well-lit) and wake up my buddy who was sleeping. I explain it to him, as we get out of the car we both hear what sounds like a kid crying. There are no other cars at the rest stop, but we frequently heard stories about child trafficking and kidnapping nearby, so we decided to check it out. We grab our flashlights and head towards the noise, which is coming from the bathrooms.

As we get closer we realize it’s coming from the women’s bathroom, and it’s a low, dull sobbing. We are prepared for the worst. We walk in expecting to see some brutally beaten and/or raped 8 year old or something, and we see – nothing. The sound is still there, and it’s still clearly coming from the room, but the room is empty. We turn on the lights – still nothing. Check each stall, the trash can. Nothing. Even start looking for WHERE in the room it’s coming from – nothing. Is it a hidden speaker? Are we on candid camera? What the fuck?

My buddy climbs up one of the stalls to get to the top window in the rest stop which is vented out, and open. He closes it, and the noise stops. Completely. Opens it, and there’s no more noise. We sit there for a few seconds, staring at each other. He shrugs. Then the window slams shut again without him touching it.

We were out of that fucking bathroom in seconds. The noise starts up about 10 seconds later as we get to the car, and we’re tearing out of the parking lot within 10 more seconds. The grinding noise is still there. So this time I pull over a few miles later at a Flying J Truck Stop, well-lit, sometimes occupied. Couple of truckers there, no other “civilians” like us. We check under the car. There’s a red and silver piece of metal wedged between part of the car and the road, about 1/2″ or so off the ground, so with us in the car it would definitely have been grinding against the ground. Can’t remove it by hand, it’s really wedged in there, so we kick at it to bend it and figure we’ll remove it when we get back.

A week later I had my mechanic take it out when he was doing a service – it was part of a kid’s tricycle. The red area on the back where somebody can stand.

12. A Long Haul Through Native American Lands

My dad drives in Texas a lot but there is a particular road he always avoids. I’m not sure what road it is, but he says its in the middle of old Native American land.

One night as he was driving through, he kept seeing shadows running along side his trailer. Every once in a while he would hear a loud BANG as if someone was slapping the side of the trailer. He decided to stop and see if a tire has blow, because that’s the only thing that could be making that noise.

He did his usual walk around, checking the tires, but as he turned the corner, he heard a laugh, and a shadow took off running down the road.

Needless to say, he shit his pants, jumped in the truck, and didn’t stop until daylight.

Apparently he saw the skin walker standing on the side of the road with his arms crossed about fifteen miles later. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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Eric Redding

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