We’ve all heard the tale of the vanishing hitchhiker. It’s a story that’s been told and retold throughout history dating back even to biblical times. And as vehicular travel progressed so did the nature of the hitchhiker stories. And yet there is a variation to the typical story of a passenger appearing and then disappearing just as mysteriously. And this variant carries with it a prophetic tone.
Take this story circulated towards the end of World War II. A businessman, traveling home on a dark and stormy night picked up a young woman after spotting her walking home or standing at the side of the road. As she reaches her destination, she offers to give him money for gas in gratitude for taking her to her house. When the man refuses, telling her good is it’s own reward, she offers to tell him his future. Not believing in the mystical, he cautiously believes. It is then that the woman tells him the cryptic message, “Before the end of the night there will be a dead man in your car. And Adolf Hitler will be dead within six months.” The man is left flabbergasted by the specificity of the fortune and is left speechless as she leaves the car. Later as he’s driving along, he comes across a wrecked car. In the car is a badly injured man who he decides to take to the hospital. En route the passenger dies from his injuries. The man is then left with the shocking realization that the woman’s prophecy has come true. And so he waits for the second half to come true as well.
In the grips of World War II, this story became popular in the final days before Germany ultimately surrendered. And though it may have been an urban legend, there have been several prophecies made through the story. Variants have included predictions of everything from the death of Princess Diana, Ronald Reagan, Elvis, and even made predictions more recently about Hurricane Katrina. Of course whether these stories originate prior to the events they are predicting or not, they largely do not become popular until after the events transpire. And it seems logical that given the formulaic nature of the urban legend many of them do not originate themselves until after the events themselves.
The interesting note comes when it’s not heard from a third party at all, but when witnesses claim to have experienced the events themselves of the phantom hitchhiker and their mysterious predictions. And the variants of the stories are almost as diverse as the storytellers themselves. Some even claim an alien angle to the phenomenon, depicting a man or woman who doesn’t seem quite human making a prediction about a major world event about to transpire or even UFO disclosure itself. Whether its veracity can be confirmed or not, these stories no doubt have established themselves as a cornerstone of urban legends. And the occasional accurate prediction made through the telling of these stories is one of the things that makes them give us pause when we hear them again.