"The Vanishing Hitchhiker"
Supernatural Non-Religious Legend
Allison James was a friend of mine at Provo High School. We both graduated from high school in l975. She was born in Berkeley, California, in October l958. She is an enthusiastic outdoorswoman and has worked as a camp counselor. She comes from an active LDS family, and she is of Scandinavian and English descent. Allison is presently attending the BYU where she is majoring in English.
I collected this story while talking with a group of girls who were discussing ghost stories. Allison's story was one of four versions I heard at that time. She had learned the story at a summer camp where other girls were participating in this type of storytelling. When I heard the story, the audience response was one of familiarity with the story and each had a different version to tell. We were all together eating lunch in our high school cafeteria. In spite of our awareness of different versions of the story, all of us still (and do today) wondered if there might not be some truth to the story.
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There were these two guys driving home late one Friday night, when they spotted a young woman wearing a purple dress walking down the edge of the road soaking wet in the rain. They stopped and offered her a ride, and she accepted (although she must have been scared to). Since they saw that she was cold they like offered her a jacket or something and then they dropped her off at her home. I wonder if you could count on anyone doing that these days! Anyway, these guys really were attracted to her, and they decided they'd go back and visit her again. They used the jacket as an excuse, because she took it in with her when they dropped her off. And, they came by and knocked at the door, you know, and this old lady came out and got really upset at them, and said, like, "why do you kids play tricks on me like this every year?" And of course they didn't know what she was talking about, and they, like, go, "Well, we only wanted to get the jacket back. We dropped this girl off here last week, and she was all wet from the rain and we let her use my jacket." I guess it was a letter jacket, and he wanted to get it back even if he didn't get to see this girl again. And this woman said, aah, "There's no girl here. The only girl who lived here was my daughter, and she got killed in a car wreck ten years ago this week, out at that bend in the road by that old barn. If you don't believe me, just go look in the cemetery." And she, like, slammed the door in their faces.
So they drove out to the cemetery and sure enough they found her grave and it had the same date on it that they had picked her up. And there was the jacket, draped over one corner of the gravestone.
Allison told this story with total conviction, gesturing with her hands and kind of bulging her eyes out as if it was just too scary for words. Although most of us had heard some version of it before, she seemed to know just where it had really happened and was really convinced this was the way it really was. Her performance of the story was so overwhelming that nobody dared contradict her. It had the effect of reminding someone else of the story of the man with the hook on his arm.
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Fife Folklore Archives, Utah State University Libraries, Logan Utah 84322-3000