Tales of a haunted highway in Kazakhstan have struck fear in the hearts of residents in the village of Khankol. The description of a disappearing woman walking along the roads is eerily reminiscent of vanishing hitchhiker folklore that appears all over the world. However, in Kazakhstan, these ghost stories have led to a police investigation, and, most curiously, animal sacrifice.
The story broke in November when the Kazakh news site Tengrinews.kz reported that:
Residents of the small village of Khankol in the Karatobin district claim that in the vicinity of their settlement, the ghost of a woman with light-colored hair appears. The people are very frightened, even men are crying from fear.
Local posts on social media added to the fervor. One post claimed:
[The ghost] came toward a freight truck and the man almost got into an accident. Then the girl disappeared. The driver came to the village, but local residents say they didn’t see the ghost. People started reading the Koran.
Other commenters told of a female specter who knocked at car windows, blocked traffic, and suddenly appeared in vehicles causing drivers to veer off the road. A video supposedly showing the ghost was shared by residents. Tales of the roadside ghost spread to neighboring areas.
Although the province’s governor initially suspected a hoax, he took the news seriously enough to send police to investigate the reports. West Kazakhstan Province Governor Gali Iskaliev told the local newspaper Nadezhda,”This is undoubtedly unreliable information or someone is playing a joke. [But] I will order police to go and check it out.”
In the meantime, residents from miles around congregated in Khankol to participate in a ritual sacrifice called sadaka. The purpose of the Muslim rite is to perform an act of charity and request divine protection. A ram was slaughtered and its meat fed to the poor to rid the area of evil spirits. Tengrinews proposed all the fuss was the result of a mass hallucination (not unknown to Kazakhstan), but recent films and previous accounts of other highway hauntings in the region may be a factor as well.