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Phantom Hitchhiker: Real Phenomenon or Tiredness?

I’ve been receiving an extraordinary amount of stories from Wirral Globe readers regarding ghosts and other strange entities they have encountered on the roads of the peninsula in the past as well as recently.

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Some of these accounts date back decades, while others describe encounters that have occurred in fairly recent times.

Here are just two of them.

I’ll start with a very unusual encounter that took place on the approach to the roundabout where Clatterbridge Road, Thornton Common Road and Willaston Road meet.

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There is a triangular traffic island just before the roundabout at the end of Clatterbridge Road, and on the Saturday evening of May 18, 2019, a man in his thirties named Chris from Higher Bebington was approaching this island on the way to his mother’s house in Raby.

The time was around 9pm and a full moon was hanging over the horizon in the east.

Chris saw the figure of a man in a striped blazer and dark trousers standing on the triangular traffic island ahead and he appeared to have something on his head. As Chris neared the man he saw it was some type of bag.

The man had his right arm extended towards Chris and his thumb raised upwards. Chris normally never stopped for hitch-hikers but thought that this smartly-dressed one looked harmless and he just had to know why the man was wearing a brown paper bag with two eyes holes on his head.

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He pulled up at the island and wound down his window and asked the hitcher, ‘What’s with the bag?’

‘If you’ll kindly give me a lift I’ll explain,’ replied the man, and to Chris his voice sounded quite distinguished with its clear enunciation.

Chris unlocked the door and the man got in – with the ridiculous squarish brown paper bag covering his head. The eyeholes were perfectly circular dark holes and Chris could see no eyes peeping through them.

‘Where are you going?’ asked Chris, and then he quickly added, ‘I’m just going to Raby.’

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‘Nowhere in particular,’ said the hitcher, and this reply naturally worried Chris about the stranger’s intentions.

‘You just said if I kindly gave you a lift – so what are you talking about?’ asked Chris, concerned for his safety. Did the stranger have some weapon on him?

‘Anyway, guess why I wear this bag on my head?’ asked the strange thumb-traveller, leaning awfully close to Chris.

‘I haven’t a clue and you’re getting out my car now,’ said Chris, driving through the roundabout, ready to pull over on Willaston Road.

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The sinister well-spoken passenger said: ‘’You’ve heard of that saying, “If looks could kill”? Well I can kill just by looking at someone. My face is so frightening, just a glance from me will kill you or leave you a gibbering wreck.’

Chris pulled over and said, ‘Okay pal, out you go. You can leave the bag on if you want.’

The man pulled the bag off his head saying, ‘Peek-a-boo!’

Chris saw the man’s face; it was horrific, unearthly. ‘Oh!’ Chris thought the shock of seeing such a terrifying face would stop his heart.

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It was a grotesque mass of writhing worm-like things, their squirming bodies melding together in a nightmarish mosaic.

Bulging, staring eyes protruded from the wriggling morass, and those swollen eyes fixated on Chris with an intensity that added to the horrifying shock.

The undulating movements of the face created an eerie, hypnotic effect, sending a chill down Chris’s spine and leaving him literally paralyzed with fear.

It was a face so horrifying, so utterly beyond comprehension, that Chris felt as though his mind couldn’t fully grasp the terror before him. His breath caught in his throat, his heart thundering in his chest as he struggled to comprehend the nightmare unfolding before his eyes.

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Chris thought he would die from the effect on his heart caused by this terror which was unlike anything he had ever known.

The man – or whatever he was – put the bag back on his head and laughed as he got out of the car. He walked away, and Chris eventually recovered from the unprecedented trauma.

When his mother opened the door to him in her Raby home, she knew immediate that something terrible had happened to her son.

Chris couldn’t talk for a while, and then he came out with what must have sounded like a very far-fetched story, and his mother knew Chris rarely touched alcohol so she asked him if he had taken any drugs and Chris said he hadn’t.

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He was a hypochondriac and wondered if the hitch-hiker had been some hallucination brought on by a neurological disorder.

The same type of hitch-hiker with the bag on his head has been reported to me many times, both in Wirral, Liverpool and parts of North Wales, often with a hood obscuring the face of the hitcher instead of the brown paper bag Chris saw.

Chris went to his doctor, told him about the frightening encounter and his doctor advised Chris to see a psychologist for an evaluation of his mental health.

Chris decided not to seek the evaluation of a psychologist. He read up on the subject of phantom hitch-hikers and discovered that psychologists typically refrain from accepting the firsthand accounts of individuals who claim to have encountered vanishing hitchers. Instead, they consistently attribute such experiences to underlying psychological factors.

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On the dark morning of Monday, January 1, 1940, at 6am, a 46-year-old Wallasey man named Robert Jones was driving home from a New Year’s Eve party.

As the car was travelling down Cliff Road, a little old woman waved frantically at Robert from the roadside.

He pulled over and the lady, who was a little under five feet in height, said, ‘Can you take me to the Breck? I live by there.’

Robert nodded and said, yes of course, and reached behind his seat to open the rear passenger door.

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The old lady climbed in and Robert drove off remarking on the cold weather but the old lady, dressed in a black long coat, just sat there and smiled in silence.

As the car was travelling up Breck Road, Robert turned in his seat and said, ‘Where about do you live?’

He saw a small coffin lying across the rear seats – but no old woman.

Robert was so startled at what he saw, he almost skidded on black ice into a lamp post. He got out the car, numb with shock and gingerly opened the rear door.

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The coffin had gone now – the car was empty.

When Robert told his mother what had happened she said she’d heard of the old lady and ‘her coffin’ before, and said it was a warning of death.

She urged Robert to be extra-careful, but he had three serious accidents after that spooky encounter. He almost set fire to himself burning wood on his allotment when he knocked over a can of paraffin, he tripped and fell down a flight of stairs at his house days after that, knocking out a front tooth, and then, on Wednesday January 10 that year, at 5pm, he got in the railway station lift at Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, with about 70 people and for some unknown reason that lift plunged 80 feet from the street level to the subway, injuring fifty of the seventy people.

Robert found himself in a mass of screaming, bloodied men, women and children.

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Fortunately, no one died but many had life-changing injuries. Robert escaped with a badly-sprained ankle.

A fortnight after this he was driving along Cliff Road, and there was that little old lady again, standing at the kerb at the exact same spot where he had picked her up on that cold morning.

Robert Jones looked straight ahead and drove on.

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Tom Slemen

Tom Slemen is a Liverpool writer, known foremostly as the author of the best-selling Haunted Liverpool series of books which document paranormal incidents and unsolved or unusual crimes. Check his Books on Amazon here.

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