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Haunted roads, phantom hitchhikers, I’ve always loved stories about ghosts of the roads.  Possibly, because when I was growing up I spent a few years in Devon and nearly every road there seems to have its own ghost story.  So when the story of the ghost of the road near Tannum Sands, Queensland, Australia, caught my eye, I couldn’t resist a further read.

Phantom figure

The report was featured in the Daily Mail from 17th July and concerned a woman who received a bad scare while travelling the road from Gladstone to Bernarby near the town of Tannum Sands.  What makes the story interesting is that the sighting didn’t occur in the dead of night but at 11am in the morning.  The woman was driving along when she saw a female figure with dark hair, wearing a white top and black pants standing at the side of the road.  As she approached the woman, she vanished.  The driver glanced in the rear view mirror as she heard an odd swishing noise and was shaken to see the same figure sitting on her back seat.

She swerved in shock and got back in control of the car before pulling over to the side of the road.  She checked the car and could find no trace of the woman.

Center map

Previous sightings

Nor are these the only sightings of a strange woman along that particular stretch of road.  On 21st March, there was a call to the police from another driver who believed she had almost hit a woman walking erratically along the side of the same road.  She described the woman as looking very upset but when she glanced in her mirror after passing her, the woman was nowhere to be seen.  Officers on the scene even caught a glimpse of the woman and the dog squad was called to find her but no trace of her found.

Another witness was a resident of Gladstone who had been travelling the road at 11:30pm back in 2003 with her friend.  The pair saw a woman standing at the side of the road and wondered to each other what she was doing but were too scared to stop.  They did call the police when they reached their destination to report what they had seen.

Tannum Sands – doesn’t look haunted, does it? wood26 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Vanishing hitchhiker

The history of the vanishing hitchhiker or mysterious ghost haunting a specific road isn’t a recent one.  As long as there have been roads and vehicles travelling them, there have been stories about spirits connected with them.  Some classify this type of ghost as an urban legend but there’s little doubt that the women in these stories are among many who will confirm there is nothing legendary about seeing a ghostly figure by the road.  Or even worse, in the very same car as you are traveling in!

In fact, in 1942-34 two American folklorists Richard Beardsley and Rosalie Hankey conducted a study of some 79 written accounts of hitchhikers from the US and from that information, categorised the sightings into four types.

The most common was the type where the hitchhiker gives the driver an address to take them to and vanishes, only for the driver to reach the address and discover their passenger was a dead former resident.  The next category was where the hitchhiker spoke and either made some kind of prophecy or said something that indicated she wasn’t a living person.  The third involved a person meeting the spirit somewhere and giving them a lift, only for them to vanish.  The final category is one where the spirit is identified with a local divinity or deity.

So the ghost on the road in Queensland seems to be a little of the third category and a little of a traditional ghost haunting the area where she perhaps died.  Only further sightings will offer any more insight into the case.