Vanishing Hitchhiker - Cultural References

Cultural References

  • In 1941, the Orson Welles Show presented the debut broadcast of Lucille Fletcher's The Hitch-Hiker, starring Orson Welles. The play contained a variation or subversion of the myth where it is the driver that is the ghost, and a hitchhiker (but not the title character) that is alive. A man (or woman in subsequent adaptations) is involved in a car crash that initially appears to have been a minor blown tire. "The Hitch-Hiker", an episode of The Twilight Zone, and the episode "RoadKill" of the TV series Supernatural, were notable television adaptations of this particular variation.
  • The vanishing hitchhiker was the inspiration for Dickey Lee's recording on a 45 rpm single (TCF-102) of the song "Laurie", which is subtitled "Strange Things Happen ..." Country Joe McDonald wrote and performed a song about a vanishing hitchhiker called "Hold On It's Coming", later covered by New Riders of the Purple Sage. Other modern songs include "I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymore" by Blackmore's Night on Village Lanterne and "Bringing Mary Home" by the Country Gentlemen originally on Starday's subsidiary, Nashville Records 45 rpm # 2018 in 1964.
  • Author Alvin Schwartz includes a variation of the vanishing hitchhiker legend in his book More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark along with copious notes detailing the origin and variations of the story.
  • David Allan Coe's song "The Ride" reverses the vanishing hitchhiker scenario. In "The Ride", Coe is the pedestrian hitching a ride in a Cadillac driven by Hank Williams from Montgomery, Alabama (Williams' hometown) to Nashville, Tennessee. At the end of the ride, Williams turns the car around, stops, and lets Coe out, saying "This is where you get off, boy, 'cause I'm goin' back to Alabam'."
  • Keith Bryant's version of "The Ride" is about an amateur Nascar driver that gets a ride to Daytona International Speedway from Dale Earnhardt.
  • "Phantom 309" depicts Red Sovine thumbing a ride with a trucker. When the driver lets Sovine out a nearby truck stop, he tells him to inform the truck stop crowd of who sent him. Silence overtakes the truck stop before one of the patrons tells Sovine the story of the driver, who died after crashing his rig to spare a group of teenagers he hadn't seen in time to stop after topping a hill. Sovine also recorded "Bringing Mary Home", in which he picks up a young woman standing by the road on a stormy night, only to have her disappear before he reaches the address she gives him. Her mother answers the door and tells him that he is the thirteenth man who has come to her, bringing Mary home.
  • "Big Joe and Phantom 309" written by Tommy Faile and sung by Tom Waits in his 1975 album Nighthawks at the Diner.
  • Hilton Edwards directed a 1951 movie called Return to Glennascaul, starring Orson Welles, which centered around a Vanishing Hitchhiker event.
  • In the Girl on the Road episode of the obscure TV series The Veil hosted by Boris Karloff, a motorist aids a girl stranded on the highway. After she vanishes, he searches for her, eventually discovering she had died years before in a wreck on the stretch of road where he met her.
  • In the 1960 British horror film The City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel) actor Valentine Dyall plays a centuries-old warlock who hitches a ride with two different characters in the movie and then vanishes from the car as soon as they reach an ancient New England witch village.
  • The Swirling Eddies released a song on their Outdoor Elvis album (1990) called "Urban Legends". In the lyrics, the narrator critiques the naive belief in urban legends by satirically having the vanishing hitchhiker tell the car driver to "stop telling lies" before he vanishes.
  • Dust Devil a 1993 cult film by Richard Stanley set in South Africa was, according to the DVD commentary, inspired by the director's memory of being told the Vanishing Hitchhiker legend as a youngster.
  • The 1985 film Pee-wee's Big Adventure includes a scene that is a variation on "Phantom 309". While hitchhiking across the country in search of his stolen bicycle, Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) thumbs a ride with a female truck driver named "Large Marge" who relates to him the story of "the worst accident I ever seen," which concludes with Marge's face contorting very ghoulishly. When Pee Wee announces to the truck stop that Large Marge sent him, one customer recounts that this particular evening is the anniversary of said accident. It is also explained that this accident happened to Large Marge herself.
  • The contemporary folk-style song "Ferryman" by Mercedes Lackey and Leslie Fish offers another version of the reversal. The encounter here is between a young girl seeking to cross a river in a violent storm, and a ferryman who agrees to take her without charge. Although the tone implies an unworldly nature to the girl, in the end it is the ferryman who is revealed as the ghost. This version includes a garment as a token: the girl’s shawl, left as a pledge for the fare, is found in the morning on the ferryman’s grave.
  • A popular Bollywood horror film of the 1960s Woh Kaun Thi? meaning "Who was she?", has the sequence where the leading man gives a lift to a beautiful woman on a stormy night. Her manner is mysterious and answers questions vaguely and she asks to be dropped off at a gate. He says "But that's a cemetery!". She looks at him, smiles enigmatically and gets off the car and walks into the cemetery. The gate opens automatically for her.

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