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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Vanishing Hitchiker - Oklahoma

The vanishing hitchhiker may be a tale of truly ancient origins. A Chinese story tells of a ghost of woman killed in a well haunting the travelers along a stretch of road until her body is found. A few stories and poems from the middle ages may also hint at the concept.

A version dated to the civil war was collected in the Ozarks in the late 1800’s. Chicago in the 1920’s with its bootleg, fast autos, and “flapper” lifestyle, saw the rise of the definitive Vanishing Hitchhiker in the form of Resurrection Mary. Through all of these is the thread that the normal (therefore virtuous) present is going to “hell in a hand basket” because of the “loose” and “antisocial” behaviors of the young. They must, the stories all agree, be cautioned and brought back to the “straight and narrow” path of acceptable social behavior.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker motif again achieved great notoriety during the late 1960’s and 1970’s across America, no doubt in response to the cataclysmic social changes occurring in society. The Vanishing Hitchhiker seems to have always had an element of cautionary notice about the shortness of life. In the hippie culture of the 1960’s this aspect was very visible with a few new wrinkles. These disappearing riders were often labeled as runaways, angels, demons, Jesus, and victims of drug overdoses, or serial killers. They reflected the fears in society about the dangers to be found on the road by those who ran away, they reflected the values of the “Jesus People”, and other evangelical movements, and early New Age spirituality in a personification of the rider as a spiritual or mystical figure. No matter when it is found, the story keeps its strong message as a cautionary tale about the safety of the family and of the risks of departures from the social norm.

Oklahoma has reported sightings of a “lady in white” or sometimes the “Lady in yellow” in the Ardmore area and the roads around the lakes. Explanations have ranged from drunken visions to clouds of bioluminescent insects. No images proving the truth of either the claim of the apparition or the insects has been seen by the author. There is also, to my knowledge, no song such as the one described in this story. Every good legend deserves a theme song though.

She is sometimes glimpsed strolling along the old blacktop roadways around the lakes. A few people have described her dress as being slightly in the style of the 1930’s with a longer skirt that flapped about the knees and a cloche hat. Others however have merely cited the faint blurred form or the slightly luminescent image by the roadside in the dusk or evening hours. Who she is and why she walks is apparently unknown. Or, if anyone does know…they aren’t talking

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