Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some ghost stories that you have experienced firsthand? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
In 1992 or -3, I had an aging Datsun (not Nissan) 200SX whose ignition system was notoriously dodgy. I was in the habit of carrying both a rubber mallet and an extra longflathead screwdriver to persuade my starter to in fact start my car.
My then-boyfriend and I had gone for a date up on Grizzly Peak Road in Tilden Regional Park, hanging out in the dark looking out over the city lights out to the bridges and playing music on the car stereo…and running down the battery. Ooops. Someone tried to jump my battery for me, but as I’d expected from prior experience, I needed someone with more oomph under the hood than the dinky lil’ import that was offering aid.
Late as it was, we were wondering whether we’d be able to get any help. Remember, these are the days before mobile phones. Along came a vintageconvertible, mostly faded, with the lights flickering weakly, and a young slim, long-haired and barefoot hippie chick to match. Again, this is 1993 and hip-hugger bellbottoms were not much in vogue, especially not among the Berkeley hippie set who at the time were all in baggy t-shirts and broomstick skirts.
She offered one or both of us a ride down to the bottom of the hill, back to civilization. We thought about sitting in the dark, and opted for the unsafe but momentary option of my riding down on his lap.
Now, the road down to Claremont is hilly and winding, and not very well lit. Ms. Blonde Barefoot and Bell-bottomed took the curves with great aplomb and not inconsiderable speed, and then blithely mentioned after a bit that she had no brakes on this car, because she’d bought it for $50 from a friend. But no worries, she assured us. Clutch would suffice!
So. No seatbelt, open top, barely any headlights, and no brakes. Hooboy.
And then, grinding noises and muttered cursing. No more clutch.
There is a traffic light at the bottom of that road, and it crosses a far busier one. I have no idea what we would have done if the light had been against us. Played Frogger while leaning on the horn, maybe.
The light was with us.
We cruised in on inertia into the parking spot that was miraculously open in a straight shot from the gas station driveway. Ms. Hippie Chick wandered off while my boyfriend and I were figuring out what to do next. She’d told us she was abandoning the car, as it wasn’t worth fixing. We were going to see if she needed a ride anywhere, but … she was nowhere to be found.
We asked each other whether either of us had actually touched her. Neither of us thought to check the temperature of the engine before it had been long enough for it to cool off, but the suddenness of her disappearance and her anachronistic appearance had us wondering for years whether we’d been part of a “Disappearing Hitchhiker” ghost story with a twist.