Taking the Haunted Highway
While a majority of our paranormal fiction is set inside old spooky houses, another large portion is fascinated with possessed vehicles, whether spiritually, demonically, or telepathically, and the haunted highways they ride on. More than one author has made a killing with a bestseller novel on the topic.
Even before the invention of automobiles, the concept of the haunted route was still a popular subject for ghost stories. Driving at 40 mph through a spooky stretch of forest is a lot more bearable than having to walk it. Imagine being clueless to the scientific origins of certain phenomenon, attributing illuminations like St. Elmo’s fire to the supernatural.
The Headless Horseman in turn became a very popular character after Washington Irving’s story, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, written only an hour east of Middletown. Even before the fearsome rider became immortalized in print, he or a variation was most likely a stock character in tales since riding was invented.
When the railroads arrived, they brought with them a whole new brand of travel horror. Old conductors would tell young passengers about cursed bridges, phantom trains that pass between this world and the next, and spectral switch operators.
In all eras there was invariably also the “phantom traveller.” In the days when going the road by foot was the norm, the phantom traveller was the mysterious companion who joins you at a remote crossroad. In the future, he would evolve into the phantom hitchhiker, a strange person who asks for a ride at a similarly removed location. All incarnations have something interesting to say, whether sage and life changing advice, or woes from their tragic lives. The uniting factor is that they all disappear into the air with a sudden, spectral abruptness.
Every state, every region has its own homegrown bunch of stories concerning haunted local roads. Some spawn from a road that simply happens to be isolated or well shaded, making for a spooky setting at night; others, from true-ish enough events. To the south, West Milford, New Jersey, is one of the most popular haunted roads in US, said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman.
One of the best ways to learn about haunted highways is to talk with people. Maybe shared stories of a road you always feel uneasy on will spawn new legends. There are also plenty of web resources devoted to pulling out the best haunted spots.