The incident took place on a lonely country road in the 1950s. A young couple on their way to visit friends were running late because of heavy rain, which made the unlit road treacherous. In those days, streetlights were few and far between in rural areas, and the thick forest to either side of the road reduced visibility to only what could be glimpsed in the headlights between flashes of the wipers.
As they were crossing a bridge, a figure suddenly appeared in the cone of light: a pale teenaged girl, her pink sweater drenched from the rain. The driver swerved wildly to avoid her, standing on the brakes as he did so.
When the car came to a stop, his girlfriend rolled down the window, “Are you all right?” she called to the girl on the bridge.
“I’m trying to get home,” the girl replied.
“Well hurry up and get in! We’ll give you a ride.”
The girl gratefully climbed into the back seat. She looked cold and wet, her dark eyes huge in her thin face. “What were you doing out on a night like this?” asked the driver.
“I was at the school dance with my boyfriend. We…we got into an argument. I decided I’d rather walk home instead of ride with him.”
The driver shook his head in disbelief, but his girlfriend winced. “I understand, honey. Tell us where to go, and we’ll take you straight home.”
They drove on through the downpour, following the quiet directions from the girl in the backseat. When they pulled into the drive, they saw a house with a light on in a downstairs window. Was an anxious parent waiting up for the teen?
“Thank you for bringing me home,” the girl said, climbing out of the car.
There were no outside lights at the house, so the darkness swallowed her up only seconds after leaving the car. The driver’s girlfriend hit him on the arm. “What sort of a gentleman are you? I can’t believe you didn’t walk her to the door to make sure she got in safe!”
The driver felt ashamed–he hadn’t wanted to get out in the rain, but his girlfriend was right. He’d been raised better than that. “I’ll check on her,” he said, and climbed out of the car.
He hurried through the downpour to the front door, stumbling over the steps in the dark, and rang the doorbell. A few minutes later, he heard footsteps approaching, and an old man opened the door.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the driver said. “But we gave a lift to a girl who said she lived here, and I just wanted to be sure she made it to the door okay.”
Tears filmed the old man’s gaze. “Thanks for trying, son. The girl you picked up was my daughter. She was walking home from a high school dance, when a car hit her on the old bridge. My little girl died twenty years ago on this very night, but she’s still trying to make it home.”
Variants of “the hitchhiker” story above are probably one of the most common ghost stories told in America. The basic story seems to date back to the days of horses and buggies, and usually features a woman who needs a ride back to her house, only to vanish before they ever reach the door. This particular version was told by my dad, who swore it happened to him when he was dating his first wife. When I was a child, I believed the story whole-heartedly, and it gave me many chills around Halloween.