Short Story: Phantom Driver
Video Length 7:18. A man gets lost on a lonely road near Mount Shasta.
Written By Adam Leon
Read By Matt Johnson
"Back in 2011, I had a really strange paranormal encounter that I've mostly kept to myself because it seems pretty unbelievable. Even by the standards of most ghost stories, it's pretty absurd. I only told my girlfriend about it after we had been dating for more than four years and it was more of a "oh yeah, here's a scary thing that once happened to me that I'm sure you'll think is fake" but other than her, I haven't really told anyone about it.
Like in nearly every scary ghost story, it was raining pretty badly at the time of my encounter. I was driving through Siskiyou County, and I had forgotten to replace my windshield wipers so they weren't doing a good job of clearing my view and would make a really creepy screeching sound with each swipe. The reason why I was out there at the time was because I had wanted to take a short camping trip to Mount Shasta. Without really any preparation, I drove out to the area with only a few things in my car for a short weekend trip and just planned to sleep out of my car through the night. Given the sudden rain and my ability to get lost even with the help of my phone, I regretted my impulsiveness pretty quickly. I was pretty much alone, on a creepy drive, out in the middle of nowhere.
But it was at around that moment that I noticed this figure walking at the side of the road ahead of me. To be honest, "Road" is a very generous title. It was more like a wide dirt pathway that had been paved out maybe decades prior, and saw only a handful of vehicles a year, if even that. I guess that's why it initially caught me off guard and creeped me out to find somebody just walking through this thunderstorm, all alone.
At the time, I had this voice in my head telling me to keep driving. I don't know why, I just assumed that the worry was more or less caused by the fact that I had already freaked myself out pretty badly from all of the other factors; getting lost, driving out in the middle of a rainstorm, loud screeching windshield wipers and my general regret. It's because of that reason that I steeled my nerves and pulled over to ask this mysterious stranger if they needed a ride.
Of course, it's not all that uncommon to come across a hiker when travelling through the area, but the most peculiar thing about this mysterious stranger was that she was wearing a very casual set of clothes; A faded pink t-shirt with a yellow flower print on it, torn jeans and a small cloth handbag.
Almost immediately after stopping my vehicle, my internal monologue was screaming at me to get away. It was so bad, in fact, that my hands were shaking on the steering wheel. The lady was just too weird. After stopping my vehicle shortly behind her, she stopped walking but just stood there, staring forward, not turning around to face the vehicle, almost like she was too stiff to move her neck or upper body. I think I let out an awkward laugh at first to try to ease the tension before asking if she needed a ride.
She responded with this unbelievably creepy shaking gesture where she wiggled her shoulders back and forth and slowly turned around to face me. As she turned, I could feel this knot in my stomach getting tighter. I almost started to believe that when she turned around, I would see that she had no face or something really scary. But I was relieved to see that she, in fact, did have a face and looked like a pretty normal person. It was hard to tell at the time but I would guess that she was somewhere between her late 20's, early 30's. Her face looked almost deathly pale, but the cold air and sudden rain seemed like the more likely culprit for her lack of color.
She tried to smile at me but that didn't help at all. The best way I can explain it is that when she smiled, her eyes stared off into space as if she were looking through me and not at me, and the way her skin wrinkled and folded around her cheeks and the edges of her mouth almost made me feel that rather than smiling, some invisible creature was pulling at the corners of her mouth against her will. It was as if she were trying to convince me that she knew what a smile was but didn't know what it meant.
She also couldn't seem to open the car door on her own. After walking over to the back passenger seat door, I could hear her trying to grab the door handle but it would soon snap back, like she couldn't get a good grip on the handle or was unsure of how it worked. I would tell her several times to pull on it harder and that the door was unlocked, even double checking a few times myself, but she would just silently smile at me and continue to limply grab at the handle and let it go.
After about a minute of this, I thought about getting out of the car and opening the door for her but had a terrible feeling that if I stepped away from my vehicle, even for a moment, I wouldn't be able to return. Instead, I awkwardly reached from the driver's seat, into the backseat and opened the door outward from the inside. I scrambled back to the driver's seat pretty quickly after opening the door, and was kind of nervous that my frantic movements would offend the woman but, either she didn't really notice how creeped out I was, or she didn't care, because she just got into the backseat of the car like it was nothing. Smiling at me and nodding her head in an almost fast-paced rhythm.
Although we were immediately driving once she was in, I pretty much kept my eyes locked onto the woman the entire time through the rear-view mirror and only caught occasional glances of the road. We drove in total silence. I was too scared to try to make any conversation and she just kept her head down as she was nodding to herself and clutching a small handbag.
After what felt like a few miles of some of the most tense driving I've ever experienced in my life, I asked her if there was anywhere she wanted me to drop her off at, nearby, and that I didn't mind getting her to where she needed to go.
I almost jumped out of my seat when I heard her voice for the first time, it was incredibly high pitched, but scratchy, like an old whistling sound. She didn't say her name, where she was going, or anything else for that matter. She just repeated an address to me a few times but It was hard for me to understand what she was saying. I tried putting in what I thought was the address into google maps but nothing was coming up for the area or anywhere nearby.
I repeated the address back to her a few times to see if I was getting it right, but she wouldn't clarify if I was hearing her correctly or not, she would just repeat the address over and over again without any change in tempo or pronunciation. I tried a few slight variations into the Google Maps but still nothing would come up, so I looked back at her to hand her my phone and ask her to put it in herself but when I turned to face her, there was no one there.
I almost couldn't believe it. I looked around at the backseat, in the rear-view mirror, at the side-mirrors to see if she had jumped out of the car but I didn't see any trace of her. At that point, I pretty much lost it and just drove out of there as fast as I could, hyperventilating and glancing around my car. I just wanted to get out of the area as quickly as possible. Even though she was gone, I couldn't help but glance at the backseat and stare into the rearview mirror. It was almost like I could feel her presence still there in my car. In my mind, I could see her plastered smile, rhythmic nodding and deathly pale face.
After about an hour, I was finally on a paved road and the sight of other vehicles on the road helped me to calm down, but I didn't really feel normal until I was back home and away from my car. I would spend maybe the next few weeks after the incident, before and after work just looking up stories on the internet of similar phantom passenger encounters and freak myself out even more.
For some reason, a lot of people have experienced picking up these weird people who aren't people and disappear shortly after getting in their vehicle. Some theories claimed that it was connected to alien abductions or ghostly apparitions of people who died in the area, but almost everyone just assumes that they're made up legends and never actually happened, despite the hundreds of stories about them from all over the world."