UBC’s Ghostly Hitchhiker

First Posted October 8th, 2012

With Halloween approaching, the Vancouver media is likely to print some stories of local ghosts and haunted locations. This is always fun and occasionally they reveal some ‘true’ ghost stories that haven’t been recounted in the past. But one Vancouver ghost story I’m tired of hearing about is the supposed ghostly hitchhiker of the University of British Columbia (UBC). While I always enjoy a good ghost story, this one’s a yawn because it’s been talked about for many years as being a true haunt, but it isn’t.

To set the record straight, the UBC hitchhiker ghost story is based on an urban myth known as the “Vanishing Hitchhiker.” In this particular urban legend, a hitchhiker is seen in the headlights of a car travelling at night. Often, it’s a young woman in a white dress. The motorist, apparently not concerned about picking up a stranger on a lonely road at night, stops and offers the hitcher a ride. They drive off, sometimes with the hitchhiker sitting in total silence in the back seat. At some point in the narrative, the passenger mysteriously vanishes. In many versions, the hitchhiker disappears when the car reaches the requested destination.

The UBC ghostly hitchhiker story, which is hauntingly familiar (pardon the pun), tells of how, on rainy nights in October, a young woman can be seen hitching a ride along University Boulevard at UBC. When a driver pulls over to give her a lift, she seems distressed and jumps in the back of the car. Soaked from the rain, she tells the driver that she’s anxious to get home and gives her address. When the car reaches the destination, the driver turns around and sees that she’s gone. Shocked and confused, the driver knocks on the door to the house, which is opened by an older lady. When he tells her his story, she knowingly smiles and tells him how her daughter was a pedestrian killed in a hit-and-run accident one rainy October night many years ago. She had been walking back from a Halloween party on campus along University Boulevard when she was struck by what was probably a drunk driver. Every year around the anniversary of her death, her spirit hitches a ride home.

Like any tall tale, there are variations of this ghost story. Another version tells of how the woman was left on the road by her boyfriend after they had an argument in his car. Regardless, the general gist is that the ghost of the woman who had been killed on a campus road hitches a ride and then vanishes. It makes for a good yarn at Halloween but there’s no truth to it.

There are many Vanishing Hitchhiker tales told in various locations around the world, the most notable of which are “Resurrection Mary” of Chicago, Illinois, the ghost of Niles Canyon in California, and the “White Woman” of Belchen Tunnel in Switzerland.

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