The Redheaded Hitchhiker and other Route 44 Attractions
Okay, so this post has been a long time coming. I was originally supposed to post it back in October as part of the Atlas of the Odd series. The whole concept was to give you haunted places that you could actually visit during the Halloween season, but, needless to say, that didn’t happen.
I ended up coming down with COVID and that knocked me out for a month and a half. Then I came out on the other side of that just in time for the holiday season. Then I was just lazy.
Anyway, here we are again in a new year and it’s finally time to visit Route 44 in Rehoboth! This is a story that you legally have to talk about if you write about ghosts and stuff. It’s pretty much been done to death, but hopefully I can give you some new information about it, or at least make it entertaining. Let’s just say that I want this post to get a big thumb up, and not just from a hitchhiking ghost! Get it?
Wow, we’re off to a terrible start. Okay, let’s go!
The Redheaded Hitchhiker and other Route 44 Attractions
The story of the Redheaded Hitchhiker of Rehoboth can be definitively traced back to the prehistoric year of 1994. That’s when it was published in The New England Ghost Files by Charles Turek Robinson. It’s such a classic that following that link is pretty much the only way you can get your hands on it, so if you want a chance to read it, you should really get it while you can.
Just because the story was put down on paper doesn’t mean that was when it was created. This is folklore of the highest caliber. There’s really no telling when it actually started, but stories of the Hitchhiker have been around for many, many years.
In fact, I’ve even tried to catch a glimpse of him. It wasn’t as far back as 1994, but the car I was driving was a ’94 Cavalier, so is that just a coincidence? Well, yes, it is, but it’s still fun,
Anyway, the story typically goes like this: You’re driving down Route 44 in Rehoboth when you see him on the side of the road. He has red hair, a red flannel shirt, jeans or work pants, and work boots. He has his thumb in the air and many good bros and bro-ettes stop to pick him up.
The flannel shirt and work boots are also why he’s sometimes referred to as the hitchhiking lumberjack, by the way. The jury is still out on whether or not he’s wearing women’s panties underneath them.
|Monty Python for reference|
So, they pick him up and he usually gets into the backseat of the car. He’s totally silent and never answers any questions that the drivers ask him. “Where you goin’, stranger?” Nothing. “Cold night, innit?” No answer. “Are you wearing ladies' panties under your jeans?” He just sits there and stares right into the driver’s eyes through the mirror.
Speaking of eyes, there are lots of different descriptions of them. Some people say they’re also red. Others say they’re black. Some even claim that they’re glowing but that’s really the only discrepancy. Everything else about his appearance is pretty much the same from story to story.
It should come as no surprise that the drivers end up with a real feeling of uneasiness at this point, and that’s when it happens. They look away for a second; look back at their Hitchhiker and no one’s there! He vanishes without a trace and is never seen by the same person again.
There are some variations of this, though. Lots of the stories have the drivers hearing his evil laughter playing over their radio after he disappears. Some stories even have him appearing outside the car, floating alongside it as it drives down the road. Other times he reappears right in the passenger seat, laughing and staring at the drivers. If there’s a story to be told about him, it’s been told.
So, that’s the basic gist of the Redheaded Hitchhiker of Rehoboth. You can pretty much find stories about him everywhere. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. I asked people to share their personal Hitchhiker stories with me and here’s what I got.
|"I've been trying to contact you about your car's extended warranty!"|
I was talking to a person named “Name Withheld” and here’s what they had to tell me:
“As a child, my dad told me he had some paranormal experiences on 44 in Raynham and Rehoboth area!”
Being the inquisitive little feller I am, I asked for some details, to which they responded:
“I remember him saying when [he] was a young driver, something about a lumberjack ghost… I was young, probably 7, 8, or 9. So I’m not sure how accurate that is. He has since passed but he talked about that incident often.”
Now, if you were paying attention while you were reading this on the toilet a few minutes ago, that lumberjack part is going to stick out to you. It stuck out to me and that’s when I suggested that it might be the Redheaded Hitchhiker he was talking about. Also, wash your hands.
“Ohh!! Yes!!! The red hair!! That struck a memory!! So cool! Yes, please share!!”
So, there you have it. That’s a real story from a real person about the Hitchhiker, passed down through a generation. It may not be a direct firsthand account, but this person’s father certainly knows what he saw.
You can also find plenty of stories about him across the internet. Here’s a YouTube video where some people go looking for him, husky ghost hunter voices and all:
Now here’s one with a person relating personal experiences from other people:
And, YouTube being YouTube, here are the top facts about the Redheaded Hitchhiker:
So the point is that there are plenty of stories about the ghost so it must me real, right? Well, possibly, but it’s a really big coincidence that this kind of story has been told since the very concept of roads became a thing.
Laurel Canyon in California has a ghost carriage, drawn by ghost horses, that causes accidents on the road by ignoring a red light. The M6, which is British speak for highway, is hella haunted. They have Ancient Roman soldiers marching along it, a phantom truck following its former route, and even a distraught female hitchhiker trying to catch a ride. Then there’s Resurrection Mary.
You don’t have to look hard to learn about her. She’s pretty much the O.G. highway ghost and sightings go all the way back to 1939. The story goes that “several men driving northeast along Archer Avenue between the Willowbrook Ballroom and Resurrection Cemetery have reported picking up a young female hitchhiker. This young woman is dressed somewhat formally in a white party dress and is said to have light blond hair and blue eyes. There are other reports that she wears a thin shawl, dancing shoes, carries a small clutch purse, and possibly that she is very quiet. As the driver nears Resurrection Cemetery, she disappears into it.”
We’re getting off-track, though. Let’s come back closer to home and find out what else is going on around the Redheaded Hitchhiker’s stomping ground.
Ghosts of Route 44
Route 44 is a mighty fine route that goes down through Rhode Island and on its journey for 237 miles. I spoke to another person named “Censored.” Her story takes place in East Providence and I’ll let her tell it:
“When I worked at Gregg's in E Prov, there was a ghost of a woman who wore a 1950's red shirtwaist dress. Usually she would whisper in the cooks' ears after closing time, scared the beejesus out of a busboy on his first day and almost killed me!
“I was closing the pub one night and there was a newly installed plate of glass that was positioned over the salad bar. It literally split in half and if another waitress didn't pull me away, I would have been shredded! Shards went everywhere.
“She does not like the waitresses, one time I noticed she pulled out a coffee filter while a pot was brewing and I even think she pushed me down the stairs. While I was working there in the 90's, a manager told me they had a medium visit the restaurant and allegedly it is the ghost of a woman who watched her daughter get hit by a truck on 44. She witnessed it through her living room window in the house that once stood where the restaurant now stands. If she is still there I don't know, though.”
So that’s one more ghost story along the same road. It doesn’t end there, though. In fact, AAA calls Route 44 the most haunted road in the United States. There’s something else, though. Check out this map:
|How do you know if Loren Coleman named something? Don't worry, he'll tell you!|
Yup! Rehoboth is one corner of the Bridgewater Triangle! If this route goes through the paranormal vortex then it must pick up that energy and carry it along its entire path, right? Well… yeah!
Raynam is where you find the Hockomock Swamp and we’ve already talked about that. Rehoboth is also home to the Hornbine School where classes full of ghost children, complete with a ghost teacher have been spotted. There’s also activity reported at Shad Factory Pond as well as Village Cemetery!
The longer you follow Route 44, the more paranormal activity you find and it seems like the Redheaded Hitchhiker himself is busier than ever before. There have been more sightings in the past few years and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. So, what does all this mean?
Well, if you want the paranormal explanation then there’s a whole thing about in-between places that explains it. These are places that are between two places, just like it says on the package.
Think of bridges, hallways, hospitals, and yes, roads. They’re the spaces you inhabit while you’re going from one spot to another. That’s exactly what ghosts are doing. They’re still inhabiting this world while moving on to the next one. That’s why their energy is so attracted to the spaces that the living use as go-betweens.
That’s why there could be so much activity along Route 44. It’s hundreds of miles of in-between space and spiritual energy can’t help but be attracted to it. What about an explanation from this plane?
Humans want to Believe
The simplest explanation is that humans just want to believe that something’s out there. It happens all the time and it’s really just your brain trying to keep you alive.
As Popular Science puts it, you have two possible reactions to something that may or may not be there. Just think about hiking through the woods and hearing a noise off the trail. You can either assume it was nothing and go on with your day or you can assume it’s something dangerous and run away from it. Your brain is going to go with the safer option every single time, especially when you’re alone. You’ll start to imagine every type of predator your brain can come up with and peace out forthwith.
It’s the same thing when you’re driving down an empty road at night. Anything that could potentially look like a human form is going to do exactly that. It doesn’t matter if it was just a shadow from your headlights or a deer running off into the woods. If you believe in ghosts and the thought of them elicits fear then that’s what your brain is going to make you see.
|Or it could just be a regular redheaded hitchhiker.|
Of course, that only explains sightings. It doesn’t do anything for the stories of picking up an actual hitchhiker and having him disappear on the drivers. That’s an explanation that no one can really come up with. Either it happened and the Redheaded Hitchhiker is real or it didn’t and the flanneled phantom is nothing more than a collection of misinterpretations and lies. That’s really up to you to decide.
So, what’s the takeaway from this collection of 2,000 words that you just half-read during the commercial breaks of whatever you’re watching? Well, it’s simple. If you want to believe that the Redheaded Hitchhiker is real then you should. There are more than enough stories to read and listen to. If you’re really up for an experience then drive down Route 44 in Rehoboth at two or three in the morning. That’s when he’s the most active.
There’s also plenty of evidence that he might just be real. Those in-between places are beacons for paranormal activity and there’s a whole lot more to the universe than what our five senses can tell us. Pick him up on the side of the road and give him a ride! Just prepare yourself for the jump scare at the end and give him the reaction he’s after!
If you don’t believe in the Redheaded Hitchhiker then don’t worry about it. Take a nighttime drive down that very same road and relax in the knowledge that ghosts aren’t real and nothing can hurt you. Just keep a lookout, though. Your lack of belief in the Redheaded Hitchhiker doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in you!
Of course, if you don't feel like driving, just sit back and enjoy this relaxing video of the non-haunted Pennsylvania countryside on repeat!
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