Highway haunts

| October 20, 2012

Editor’s note: Originally published in Truckers News, October 2008.

Maybe you’ve seen something you can’t explain or wondered why the hair on the back of your neck stands up every time you drive down a certain stretch of highway. Or maybe ghost hunting comes to you just as naturally as driving a truck. Ghost stories have been passed down for years and with them the curiosity of both believers and nonbelievers. Their essence is made known in creepy, back-road cemeteries and abandoned buildings … but highways?

There are just as many stories about highway haunts as there are tales of cemeteries and ghosts. And the number of fatal accidents increasing on highways causes some to wonder what is still there long after the deceased have been buried.

Brian Patrick, from Chealsea, Mich., and a heavy hauler with Landstar, is accustomed to his wife Marie’s requests to slow down their 2007 Peterbilt 379 so she can snap a few pictures of the open road. Equipped with her digital camera, Marie snaps away in hopes of getting the perfect picture of whatever locale they happen to be passing. To her surprise, the photos sometimes tell much more of a story than she intends.

Haunting Marie’s prized collection of photos are various orbs (spheres of light or energy thought to be given off by spirits), inexplicable mist, eerie images of Civil War soldiers lurking within the Gettysburg National Military Park and many other phenomena. Marie calls herself one of the “lucky, unlucky people” who can sense and see images of ghosts. She is currently writing a book based on what she’s seen.

Marie Patrick became interested in the paranormal at the age of 18, but it wasn’t until her 40s that she was finally able to afford the necessary ghost-hunting equipment. “You always have a small amount of fear, and you pray a lot and question your sanity,” Patrick says of ghost hunting. “It takes a lot of money, effort and patience.”

But Patrick’s encounters aren’t as unusual as you might think. For years, truckers and nontruckers have been sharing stories about strange occurrences on America’s roadways. Following are a few such stories.

Spook light

Interstate 44 and other smaller roads connect the areas of Joplin, Mo., Columbus, Kan. and Miami, Okla. Known as the Spooksville Triangle, this is an area where “spook lights” — unexplained red and yellow lights that appear sporadically — have been reported for more than 100 years.

One of the most famous spook lights in America is the Hornet Spook Light on State Line Road (or Missouri state highway N4703), which connects Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. The light has been seen along a four-mile open patch of countryside along Gum Road in Missouri since 1866. The Army Corps of Engineers has investigated the phenomenon and concluded that it’s a “mysterious light of unknown origin.”

“The light spins down the center of this gravel road at great speed,” says Troy Taylor, president of the American Ghost Hunters Society, “rises up high, bobs and weaves to the right and left. It appears to be a large lantern, but there is never anyone carrying it.” The light appears only at night and is best seen between 10 p.m. and midnight.

Many theories attempt to explain the Hornet light. One legend says the light is the spirit of two young Quapaw Indians who died in the area years ago. Another says the light is the spirit of an Osage Indian chief who was been beheaded on the site of the present day road and is using a torch – the spook light – to find his missing head.

As for areas around Joplin, Patrick says she can only describe them as spooky. “There are areas in Joplin that not even the locals will go into without guns and guards,” Patrick says. “I’ve never felt comfortable walking around Joplin or even sleeping in the Joplin truckstop.”

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