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The Vanishing Hitchhiker and Other Urban Legends


The Vanishing Hitchhiker - give he/she a lift at your peril!

I am married to a folklorist–a folklorist by temperament and also by her fancy degrees. Happily, this means that I have another storyteller in the house.

One of the great joys of our early marriage, at least for me, was unpacking all of those boxes of books that she brought and seeing my own library grow.

Alas, most of her books were dry-looking folklore textbooks. But they have not turned out to be dry or dull in the slightest. In particular I’d like to mention The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings.

If you’re not familiar with that particular urban legend, it goes more or less like this:

Someone picks up a hitchhiker. At some point in the journey…The hitchhiker disappears! Sometimes from RIGHT OUT OF THE VEHICLE! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, but yes.

This book takes a look at this and many other urban legends and provides background, analysis, and debunking whenever possible. These days for we web-happy, Snopes.com does pretty much the same thing.

I’m including it today as part of horrorfest because these were the sorts of stories we told each other on Boy Scout camp outs. The stories seemed pretty horrifying back then.

Also, unless you know that it is Jack Reacher, I’d encourage you not to pick up hitchhikers.





Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Janette Hanagarne October 25, 2011, 2:08 pm

    Just so everyone knows, the study of urban legends is not really about whether or not the story is true, but instead why the story is told to begin with.

    Most stories are warnings of a sort, don’t pick up strangers, don’t have sex in cars on deserted lanes (the hook man will get you!), etc. Folklore is all about what’s going on today in society. What social mores are being reinforced by the story? Who tells it? When do they tell it? What does that all mean?

    That’s why it’s so awesome.