Nothing is more iconic to the United States than the vast network of Interstates Freeways and Highways that crisscross the landscape. The ultimate symbol of freedom, allowing us to drive wherever we want, go wherever want to go, in ease. The highway system allows us to express ourselves in the cars we drive. To show the world our personality and tastes through the vehicles that we take our trips in. There is, however, a darker side to these pathways that allow us to traverse the country, something lurking in the shadows. In any state, you can find the haunted highways that speak of terror on the open road.
We’ve all heard the urban legend; a boy is driving along on a dark and stormy night. Perhaps there is a layer of fog that is decreasing the visibility. As the boy drives along he happens to spot a beautiful girl in a fancy dress, standing cold and alone on the road. The boy stops, offering the girl a ride and a chance to get out of the elements. As they drive along, the girl is quiet, upset over something. The boy tries to get a name or any information but she’s very tight lipped. At a stop the girl gets out, next to a cemetery. Later that evening, the boy will hear a story about a girl that was killed on that road, hit by a car as she waited for her prom date to pick her up. The boy will see a picture of her and realize that it was the girl he’d just given a ride to.
Although most teens have heard that story, it’s regarded as legend, nothing more than a ghost tale…or is it? Let’s take a look at some of the most common haunted highways right here in America. In West Milford, New Jersey people have long claimed that the Clinton Road is haunted, subject to legends about ghosts, witches, and Satanists. Sightings of many different apparitions and strange creatures have been told since the road was built.
In one of the more common tales that focuses on Clinton Road, there is a bridge that goes over a reservoir. Legend has it that if you throw a penny off the bridge that within a minute the penny will be thrown back at you, by a boy who drowned in the water. Variations of this legend also include people claiming to have felt something pushing them off the bridge while they were looking over the edge and others who claim to have seen the image of a drowning boy in the water.
In Clermont County, Ohio, sandwiched between two freeways is a sharp and dangerous turn that is so sinister and treacherous it’s earned the nickname ‘Dead Man’s Curve.’ The curve has taken many lives. Stories are told of drivers seeing car headlights following them dangerously close at night, then not making the turn. No cars are seen going over the edge, just the floating headlights. Witnesses have reported seeing a 1960’s Chevrolet Impala floating along the road near the curve, a car that was full of teenage boys when it flew off the road and killed everyone aboard in the ‘60’s. There have even been reports of antique carriages that fell off the road centuries ago traveling along the road, only to disappear at the curve.
The hauntings and strangeness of the roads isn’t limited to just humans. On Kelly Road in Ohioville, Pennsylvania there is a section of the road known as ‘Mystery Mile.’ It is said that when animals scamper across the road on the Mystery Mile they instantly turn deranged and rabid. There has been no scientific explanation as to the cause of the incidents. Drivers of the Mystery Mile have also reported a pale, ragged looking boy walking around that seems to be bathed in an eerie white light. Residence have no idea who the boy is or where he came from. Anyone trying to approach the boy reports that he starts walking away before disappearing.
Chicago Illinois has its fair share of ghost stories, haunted houses, and strange occurrences but one of the most haunted places in all of Chicago is a stretch of Archer Avenue between Resurrection Cemetery and St. James-Sag Church. Weaving through forests, lakes, and multiple cemeteries, each one seemingly having its own frightening, haunting tale. Reports of phantom horse riders and chanting monks near the churches have been told for decades, but perhaps no story is more known than Resurrection Mary.
Resurrection Mary has been frightening motorists since the 1930’s and shows no signs of ever stopping. Thought to be the spirit of either Mary Bregovy, a young girl who died in 1934, or Anna “Marja” Norkus, a girl who died in a car crash in 1927, the story of Mary is one that is known across the country. As the story goes, Mary got into a fight with her boyfriend at the Oh Henry Ballroom, now known as the Willowbrook Ballroom and Banquets. Mary leaves the dance and begins walking home. After less than a mile Mary is killed in a hit-and-run. Her parents have Mary buried in the Resurrection Cemetery in the dress she was wearing the night she was hit.
Many motorists have reported picking up a girl in an old style party dress. She’s hitchhiking down the road, sometimes she’s in the parking lot of the Ballroom. Mary doesn’t say a word, just looks on sadly as they drive down the road. The driver tries to talk to her until they pass the Resurrection Cemetery, where Mary vanishes from the car.
So whether it’s a dark and stormy nights or the stars are twinkling with a full moon, always be careful when you see a hitchhiker on the road, especially if it’s a sad teenager wearing party clothes from a bygone era. The fact that these stories persist and so many people claim to experience them make a person wonder what is happening on all the haunted highways of America. As a Science Fiction writer, these stories provide a wealth of inspiration for writing, and haunt the dreams of those people who’ve experienced the true nature of the Haunted Highway.
To see how these Haunted Highway stories have influenced my writing, head over to www.leifericksonwriting.com and buy my books today.
North Carolina Folklore Journal. North Carolina Folklore Society. 1999.
Heise, Kenan (1990) Resurrection Mary: A Ghost Story Chicago Historical Bookworms, ISBN 0-924772-09-3.
‘Dead Man’s Curve’ Urban Legends Reference Pages. Snopes.com. May 23, 2007. Retrieved November 21, 2015.