Monster of the Week: The Phantom Hitchhiker

Category: Monster of the Week
Created on Friday, 12 November 2010 Written by Steve

Also Known As: Vanishing Hitchhiker. Some frequently-occurring phantom hitchhikers also have local names or nicknames.

Description: Phantom hitchhikers appear to be normal people in need of a ride. While some phantom hitchhikers act oddly or are silent, many carry on conversations with the driver who picks them up and give no indication as to their supernatural origin. Most reported phantom hitchhikers are young women, but phantoms of all genders and ages have been encountered. In some stories, the phantom hitchhiker helps the driver in some way (such as talking them out of suicide), provides useful advice, or issues a cryptic prophecy.


BMA Classification: Since there are no recorded cases of phantom hitchhikers causing harm to those who encounter them, the BMA does not classify them as monsters. They are considered “Innocuous Hauntings,” which basically means that while M-Forcers are free to assist in getting rid of the phantoms, they are under no obligation to do so. Phantom cases should always be considered of the lowest priority if there is other potential monster activity to be investigated.

Powers:  Although they appear solid, phantom hitchhikers appear to be made of an ectoplasm-like substance and cannot be physically harmed.  

Vulnerabilities: Phantom hitchhikers can sometimes be dispelled through exorcism or similar rituals.

Biology and Habitat: The typical encounter with a phantom hitchhiker occurs on a lonely road late at night. Some phantom hitchhikers vanish at some point during the ride while other travel all the way to their destination with the driver only discovering the hitcher’s ghostly status later, usually when attempting to return an item that was left in the car or retrieve an item (usually a jacket) that the driver loaned the rider the previous night. In some cases the driver will recall dropping the hitcher off at an expected location (home, bar, etc.) but when he later re-traces his steps or returns to the address he finds a cemetery instead (in such cases, items borrowed are typically found on the phantom’s gravestone).

The conditions under which a phantom hitchhiker manifests seems to vary from phantom to phantom. Some only manifest on specific dates, some only in certain conditions (such as rainy nights), and some seemingly at random. In nearly all cases, phantom hitchhikers appear because they have unfinished business that must be completed before they can move on. While this unfinished business varies considerably, one trend involves hitchers who get in or out of the car near a cemetery (and especially those who get in the car near a cemetery and vanish from the car): they have typically left something at the spot where they died (usually in a car crash). Often they have literally left a part of themselves--typically a bone fragment--at the crash site, but unrecovered personal effects that were important to the person in life (such as wedding bands) can also trigger manifestations. If these items are returned to the grave site, the phantom will stop appearing. It should be noted that the lost item is not always found at the place of death--the phantom merely travels to that spot because that’s where it believes the item to be.

Sightings:

  • By far the most well-known phantom hitchhiker is Resurrection Mary, who has been catching rides from Archer Avenue to the  Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois (near Chicago) since the 1930s. Mary is also key to a legal case that set a precedent for dealing with this type of haunting: In the 1960s, a group of M-Forcers began an investigation that they hoped would allow them to put Mary to rest. The locals, however, didn’t like the idea of losing “their” ghost and took M-Force to court. M-Force argued that Mary had a right to rest in peace, but was unable to provide any evidence that Mary was sentient and therefore accorded basic rights. Based on this case, it is generally accepted that the local community can decide whether or not an innocuous haunting on should be dispelled.
  • The earliest known phantom hitchhiker encounter, of the “prophetic phantom” variety took place in Sweden in the 17th Century and involved a sleigh as the mode of transportation.
  • An 18th Century English ballad called A Suffolk Wonder tells the story a phantom hitchhiker taking a horseback ride.
  • A “well-dressed young man” hitched rides with several people near Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1970s. After telling them about the approaching Second Coming of Christ, he would disappear.


Additional Information: None

Since phantom hitchikers cannot be physically harmed, have no real capacity for thought, and have no free will, most attempts to interact with them will result in either automatic success (in the case of things the phantom is “programmed” for) or automatic failure. Therefore, they do not have normal stats. Instead, they have only a “Phantom Hitchhiker” Job, with a Number typically between 11 and 15 (depending on the strength of the haunting). This Number is typically used for resisted rolls when the GM rules that a PC action may affect the hitchhiker in some way--for example, when a PC attempts an exorcism on the phantom.  






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Monster of the Week: The Phantom Hitchhiker.
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