by Tony Harrington
There is something indeterminably creepy about a long, dark, and winding stretch of road in a backwoods town that often sets one’s mind racing. For it is on these very roads that most towns boast the presence of a nightly wanderer.
The stories are typically similar from town to town. It was a dark and stormy night, a young man or woman was on their way home when they lost control of their vehicle and crashed and subsequently died on the very road.
Or, the road houses even darker secrets having been witness to rape and murder most foul.
No matter the circumstances, and there is always a story to go with it, these roads are host to a paranormal phenomenon known simply as “Road Ghosts”.
The phenomenon is exactly as it sounds. The presence of a wandering soul whose mortal frame has long since vanished haunts the road and terrifies passers through. They appear on the sides of the road, sometimes as a hitchhiker or someone in distress. They are known to interact with motorists, sometimes going so far as to climb into the backseat of an offered ride only to mysteriously disappear before their destination is reached.
In some instances, upon the reached destination, the final destination is discovered to be a graveyard where the ghost’s earthly vessel is buried. Or the destination is the home of the deceased’s family who will deliver the shocking news to the concerned motorist that the person they witnessed died years ago on the very road from whence they came.
The stories are wide and varied but there is a common thread running through them, that for some people, suggests life after death.
In Arkansas, there is the legend of Woodson Lateral Road. The stories on this particularly long baseline black top are numerous and range from the ghost light of a felled motorcyclist to the apparition of a female hitchhiker who leaves a souvenir in the back seats of concerned motorists who offer her a ride.
Woodson Lateral has the distinction of having many things working in its favor: the road is creepy, a long stretch that leads into an endless abyss of black during the night. The road is flanked by tall trees that hang over the side of the road creating a canopy-like effect. In addition to this, there is actually a cemetery sitting off of the road and periodically, a pentagram is spray painted on the road, as if the place wasn’t creepy enough.
In addition to spectral visitors, local residents and visitors report seeing a myriad of strange creatures like the giant owl-like figure that stands in the middle of the road and flies at the windshields of oncoming cars only to disappear into thin air as if it had never been.
Others report seeing shadow creatures watching from the side of the road, peering with an intense gaze as if they are waiting for you to stop.
Phantom headlights following travellers traversing the landscape have been reported. Sometimes the headlights get so close that drivers think it is a cop and pull over only to realize that the lights have vanished.
I have personally never been on Woodson Lateral, even though I live in Arkansas. The prospect of stopping my vehicle and walking around a poorly lit, long stretch of road doesn’t seem too appealing. I do not wish to be struck and killed and left to wander the road for all eternity while my ghost laments its passing and terrorizes passers by in the process.
Similar to Woodson Lateral, the Rock-a-Dundee Road in Hampden, Massachusetts boasts many spirits ranging from the ghost of a hatchet wielding mad-woman, to the spirit of a young boy named Jared who was struck and killed by a car upon departing his school bus.
There are also rumors of the ghosts of ten teens who committed a mass-suicide on the road, though in that particular case, local authorities actually weighed in on the rumors and flat-out deny any such incident occurring.
Still, travelers on Rock-a-Dundee road report seeing some pretty crazy things and feeling a sense of dread as if they are being watched from just beyond the adjacent forest treeline.
Ask residents of West Milford, New Jersey about haunted roads and they will openly discuss the tragedy that befell a small boy on Clinton Road. Their legend claims that said boy was playing by himself on the long road when he fell to his death from a bridge.
As with most legends, this one can’t be substantiated, but it has been around long enough that it is taken at face value.
Because of his untimely and tragic death, his spirit is said to wander Clinton Road accompanied by a myriad of other phenomena including ghost lights and even a red-eyed hell-hound.
This aptly named road is said to be cursed by the spirits of the Lenni-Lenape people who were slaughtered by a tribe of Iroquois Indians. There is a litany of reported sightings of spectral beings wandering the road. Shadow creatures and other cryptozoological abnormalities are known to walk the area, and the presence of phantom lights is almost considered the norm.
That name though, turns out, is very appropriate. Over the many years since the road was cut there have been countless murders, accidents, and horrific deaths that have littered the roadside with mangled corpses. Discarded mutilated bodies have turned up as have the remains of unfortunate souls who have been ravaged by wildcats that are known to roam the area.
No matter your locale, it is a safe bet that there are known roads that harbor dark secrets and ghostly visitors. Share with us in the comments below any experiences you have had on the haunted highways byways of your hometown.
Thank you for stopping by.