Highway haunts

| October 20, 2012

Brad Steiger says numerous eyewitness accounts recall a black, 1930s vintage Pierce-Arrow roadster running cars, trucks and motorcycles off the road, and the apparition has been credited with at least five deaths. Stories of hellhounds howling and materializing around travelers’ vehicles also have been documented. Steiger says Avery Teicher of Phoenix spent 10 years compiling reports of the Pierce-Arrow and the hellhounds “According to Dr. Teicher, two members of a biker gang had both of their arms chewed off by the fiendish ghost dogs, and a third biker had 90 percent of his face eaten away,” Steiger says.

Linda Dunning, author of “Lost Landscapes: Utah’s Ghosts, Mysterious Creatures and Aliens,” tells of her husband’s account of traveling down this road. Her husband was driving toward Gallup, N.M.,on his way to Texas. Having not seen a car for miles, the sudden appearance of a truck startled him. “He saw a truck that looked like it was on fire heading straight for him, right down the middle of the highway,” she says. “The truck was going so fast that sparks were flying up off the wheels and flames from the smokestack. He pulled over and got out of his car and walked way off the road into the desert till the truck passed him going what he estimated was 130 miles an hour.”

Marie Patrick says when people see or think they see something like this their first instinct is to slow down. “Don’t slow down,” she says. “Use common sense. Stopping only puts you in danger.”

Something to believe

Danny and Freda Cooper of Birmingham, Ala., have never seen any ghosts or spirits while on the road, but they believe such things exist. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to see,” says Danny, a trucker for a temp agency. “I’ve seen stuff like spirits in our home, but in 15 years of trucking, never anything on the road.”

But some drivers are more skeptical. Dan Dye of Jamestown, N.Y., doesn’t believe in hauntings and says they are just stories that come from accidents that could be prevented. “If people would just pay attention on the road, things like this wouldn’t happen,” says Dye, a driver with Sitton Motor Lines.

Michael Sherrod, a trucker with Southern Refrigerated Transport, says he doesn’t believe in ghosts, really, but will entertain the reality of spirits. “The term ghost just sounds bad,” he says. “Spirits seem like they are more willing to help you or are nicer.” When truckers tell stories of strange things happening on the highway, Sherrod credits it to being “brain tired.”

“It’s just a tired and sleepy imagination,” he says. “I’ve often thought I’ve seen trucks that weren’t there and heard voices, but it’s not real. I’m just tired.”

There is one incident, however, that Sherrod does credit to “something strange” taking place.

Sherrod recalls a time he and a friend were south of San Antonio, Texas. The two crossed a railroad track in their car, and on their way back over the track, Sherrod’s friend pulled the car onto a flat stretch of roadway directly in front of the train tracks. His friend got out of the car, sprinkled baby powder on the back hood and bumper, then put the car in neutral.

“I asked him what he was doing and he said, ‘You’ll see,’” Sherrod says.

Minutes later the car began to move, picking up speed and crossing the tracks. When Sherrod got out of the car, there were about “20 to 30 handprints” in the baby powder.

Sherrod’s story isn’t new, and the tiny hands along Ghostly Gravity Hill have been safely transporting drivers over the tracks for years. The train track intersects Shane Road on the southeastern edge of San Antonio right off Interstate 410, exit 42. In the 1930s, a school bus full of children was stalled on the railroad tracks and a train smashed into the bus, killing the driver and 10 passengers. It’s said the spirits of the children push cars safely across the tracks.

Speculation about the incidents swarms with various explanations. Some say the area has natural uphill elevations that cause cars to roll up and over the tracks. As for the handprints, some say they are previous handprints already on the vehicle. No matter the explanation, the results of stopping in front of the tracks remain.

Fact or fiction?

Whether you believe the stories or not, their legacies live, and with them the question of what is real and what is fiction emerges.

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