Highways can be eerie places at night. The asphalt stretching out to an uncertain horizon, the darkness cast out around you, the road flickering by, perhaps joined by trees or desert scrub in a dance past your windows. Just you, the wide unseen world out there past that road that inexorably pushes on ahead, and your thoughts. This seems like a prime place for tales of high strangeness, and you wouldn't be wrong to think so. There are many highways in this world that go out over the landscape towards that horizon and beyond, to places beyond our understanding.
One remote highway that seems to be home to a hodgepodge of all manner of bizarre phenomena is called Highway 72, which is a slash of roadway going from the towns of Salem and Rolla, in the United States. It is often known as a gateway to the Ozark Mountains through the state of Missouri, but it is also apparently known for its many UFOs and Bigfoot encounters. According to Dr. Emmett Reary, a senior investigator for the UFO research organization called the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), Highway 72 has an inordinate amount of UFO reports, saying “UFO sightings are all over the map around here, but I have personally seen a number of them on Highway 72, and many have been reported to me in that area.” There are also many alleged UFO landings in the vicinity of Highway 72, especially where it meanders through the rural area of Dent County, and Reary says of one of these mysterious landings:
Back last fall we had a landing, or what I believe was a landing, so I went out and checked it out myself. The night it occurred was really windy, and the guy that owned the property where it happened said it was so violent it woke him up. When he walked outside the next morning all his lawn furniture was knocked over and there was a circle in his yard. I measured it to be a perfect circle which was 16 feet, nine inches in diameter. The grass along its outside perimeter was all desiccated and dried out completely. To this day it still is dried out. I was going to check if snow would stay on it, but we just didn’t seem to get any last winter.
Along with all of the UFO sightings along the highway are also numerous reports of Bigfoot, most often seen lumbering across the road by motorists. What’s interesting here is that on many occasions the UFOs and Bigfoot along Highway 72 have been seen either at the same time or in close proximity to each other, making it all even stranger indeed. Is there some connection? Reary says of the Highway 72 UFO and Bigfoot link:
Bigfoot sighting and UFOs often happen together, sometimes there’s even been reports of a Bigfoot coming out of a UFO. Me, I don’t know, but it’s funny because the way it used to be is if they got a report of a Bigfoot with a UFO, they’d just throw that in the trash can. Same with the UFO people, they would just ignore it if a Bigfoot was spotted with a UFO. We’re learning now to not do that, but it takes time to change. There are always more questions than answers.
Besides UFOs and Bigfoot, other strange highways are home to phenomena that seem more ghostly in nature. Stretching through rugged terrain from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Central California is the winding, precarious wilderness road called Highway 50, which is the setting for a rather bizarre supernatural unsolved mystery. In June of 1994, a motorist by the name of Deborah Hoyt was travelling along a very lonely, almost deserted stretch of the highway after waking in the night with a desperate urge to drive home from where she had been staying at the time, when she saw what appeared to be the naked ghost of a woman lurking along the stretch of road at a place called Bullion Bend.
She soon notified police of the spooky ghostly figure, but when they investigated that night they could find nothing out of the ordinary. However, with the coming of the light of day it was discovered that there was a car crashed and wedged within thick brush at the bottom of the steep incline at the bend. When the car was checked they were shocked to find the body of a woman named Christine Scoobish trapped within, and her 3-year-old son, who was amazingly still alive. Eerily, it would turn out that not only had Scoobish been trapped in the car and unable to leave, but she had also died days before the sighting of the ghost, with the son having been stuck in the vehicle with his dead mother for 5 days, and adding to the mystery was that when shown a picture of Christine, Hoyt insisted the spectral form she had seen was her. Was what Hoyt saw the ghost of the dead woman trying to draw attention to her trapped, imperiled son?
Interestingly, there are other strange details surrounding the case. It seems that Christine had left for Carson City along Highway 50 with her son in order to move there and start a new life, but had never arrived. This had prompted the concerned family to post flyers and search the heavily forested road, but this didn’t turn up any results and it had been too soon for the police to consider her a missing person. In the meantime, Christine’s aunt, named Karen, would have a series very vivid dream in which she saw herself within the car, only the vehicle seemed wrecked and Christine and her son were in trouble. Throughout these horrible dreams the number 16 flashed constantly. Oddly, the crashed car had been found at a road marker numbered 16. Did this aunt somehow predict the crash or see it from afar? How is it that Hoyt was able to be in just the right place at the right time? Did her own strange urge to drive along the road that night have any connection?
Also very bizarre is what the young son, Nick, said when authorities found him. As they rescued him from the car, the boy described how “Angels” had been with him after his mother had died, and that he had seen a bright figure lurking about. He also claimed that he had heard his mother talking to him and singing for him as he cowered in the car waiting for help, even though police have said that this would be impossible, as it would be ascertained that the mother had died on impact. Was the spirit of Christine Scoobish watching over her endangered son even in death, only leaving when he was out of peril? The strange case of the “Highway 50 Phantom” has been featured on the TV programs Unsolved Mysteries and Paranormal Witness, and it will likely remain a strange mystery.
Another rather spooky highway with its share of supernatural mystery is U.S. Route 44 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, which according to the lore is prowled by the malevolent spectral form of a red-headed male hitchhiker. The apparition is usually described as being a large man, with red hair and a red beard, almost always said to be wearing a red flannel shirt, brown work pants, and work boots. Some reports say he looks clean cut and normal, while others describe him as looking decidedly filthy and almost feral in appearance, his clothes in tatters and his beard a wild tangle. He is usually reported as being somewhat transparent, although he can appear to be quite solid and realistic as well, and his eyes are sometimes said to glow or conversely be merely soulless black holes like a shark’s eyes.
A typical encounter with the wraith involves a driver pulling over to give him a ride, not usually noticing anything off about him until after he has gotten into the vehicle. The apparition then remains completely silent, ignoring all attempts to interact with him until he suddenly tells the driver to stop, after which he will startle the witness by laughing maniacally, screaming, or letting out a bloodcurdling wail, only to then vanish into thin air to leave the driver frightened out of their wits. In other reports drivers have told of having the enigmatic stranger suddenly walk out in front of their car out of nowhere, whereupon the driver braces for an impact that never comes, driving right through him to leave them baffled. One such report was given by a witness who says:
Suddenly I see a guy jumping from side of the road and running in front of me. As I see him standing directly in front of me staring at me directly I slam the brakes. Still to this day I remember I could not stop in time and at the moment when I hit him there was suddenly no sound (which I was expecting). Car stopped few meters behind place where he/it stood. I went out of car and look who I hit but there was nobody near. No other car, no people. I explain it to myself as a hallucination. However, I remember I saw the guy vividly standing and staring at me disappearing at the moment the car "hit him"/moment I expected to hear the bang sound.
The ghost is also said to sometimes run after cars, keeping up with them no matter how fast they go, and is even known to cause car tires to burst or even explode, or to make cars overheat or stall, leaving the distressed witness abandoned out there in the night surrounded by dark trees and a sinister presence watching them from the shadows. On still other occasions people have said the phantom will laugh at them or taunt them over the car’s radio through a haze of static. For the most part this seems to be a rather malicious entity, seeming to enjoy causing fear and panic, perhaps even feeding off of it. Whether this is all the result of urban legends, hallucinations caused by tiredness on the remote road, or a real spirit is unknown, but it seems like the Red Headed Phantom of Route 44 is not someone you want to comes across if you are ever in the area.
Moving out to the state of Texas there is another highway with something paranormal going on, this time on a stretch of Highway 83/84 that runs past the small town of Anson. This expanse of highway has become rather well-known for a peculiar mystery often called simply the Anson Ghost Lights, which appear as white glowing orbs that will general approach cars or follow them, but also exhibit a wide range of properties depending on the witness, and the site Weird Texas says of them:
Most describe it as a slow moving white light that travels down the road towards your car. Some have seen it swing wildly from side to side, and others have seen it dance among nearby treetops. It is never accompanied by any noise. Sometimes it changes colors––some say that if one disrespects the light by taunting or cursing at it, it turns red. It usually ranges in size from appearing to be a flashlight to being the headlight of a motorcycle. Some have seen it start at its regular size then grow to immense proportions as it travels down the lonely unpaved road. Usually, if one travels towards the light in an attempt to touch it, it fades away and disappears. Sometimes it appears not as one light, but as several small lights.
Another odd detail is that the lights always appear on warm clear nights and never in rainy or cloudy weather. Why should this be? Is there some impact that the weather has on them? What are they? The Anson lights have been theorized as being anything from some natural phenomenon to being ghosts or UFOs, but most locals say that they are definitely ghosts, specifically the spirit of a woman who once lived in the area in the 1800s, and who apparently eternally wanders the highway looking for her three children who were murdered in the area. There are even stories of the ghostly woman appearing as an apparition holding a lantern and roaming about as if looking for something. Whatever they are, the Anson Ghost Lights draw in curiosity seekers from all over the country hoping to get a look at them.
Looking at places such as these it is easy to see the spooky stories that seem to gather about dark and lonely highways. In a way these places are perfect for such tales, with their isolated locations, typically surrounded by wilderness or nothingness, no one around for miles and nothing to see but the lane lines dancing by. When flying through the night along such expanses of monotonous road it is very easy to imagine something appearing out there in the gloom, whether that be a strange creature, ghost, or UFO, and as long as these forlorn highways crisscross the landscape through the dark wilds there will likely be some that draw to them scary tales of the supernatural.