The Ghostly Tale of the Redheaded Hitchhiker of Route 44
These days, hardly anyone hitchhikes anymore. In the era of “stranger danger” and human trafficking, it’s hard to believe people would be dumb enough to thumb for a ride, or even worse, pick up someone else who was.
But you should definitely never pick up any hitchhikers on the stretch of Route 44 in the area of the Seekonk-Rehoboth line—especially ones with red hair.
The legend of the Redheaded Hitchhiker of Route 44 was made famous by The New England Ghost Files, a book by the late Charles Turek Robinson that chronicled many of the ghost stories of Rehoboth. But locals have been reporting the Hitchhiker for decades, and the description is almost always the same: red flannel shirt, dirty jeans, boots, longish red hair and a big, bushy red beard. But even more harrowing are his dark, empty, soulless eyes.
Travelers down that portion of Route 44 will pick him up after seeing him wandering down the road, sometimes with his thumb out for a ride, sometimes not. He’ll only get into the back seat, even if there is no one else in the car but the driver. They’ll ask where he is headed, but he’ll give no response. He will simply point down that same direction of road the driver was already headed.
After traveling down the road aways in complete silence, the Hitchhiker will suddenly begin to giggle. Those giggles will soon turn into maniacal, uncontrollable laughter that pierces the ears of those in the vehicle. The driver, fed up with the Hitchhiker’s behavior, will threaten to pull over and force him out of the car if he doesn’t stop—and then, in an instant, the Redheaded Hitchhiker is gone. He simply disappears, even with the car moving at a pace of about 50 miles per hour.
But although he vanishes from the back seat, his presence never leaves the motorists.
One witness said that as he drove down the road, the face of the Hitchhiker appeared in the side window of his car, as if he was floating alongside the vehicle as it sped down Route 44. Another claimed that not long after he vanished from her car, the music cut out on the radio and his crazed laughter began filling the car once again, this time taunting her by name.
Who is, or rather was, this ghostly Hitchhiker? Nobody is really sure. Some believe he may have been involved in a horrible crash on that stretch of road, or clipped by a car while he was walking alongside it. He could even be the ghost of someone that predates there even being a road at all, some 19th century farmer whose spirit has never been put to rest.
I like to think that he may have never been a person at all. Instead, he is something that was created, a thought form willed into existence, to serve as the horrid reminder of what can befall someone when they pick up a stranger on the side of the road.
*This story comes from the stage show 'An Evening of Ghost Stories and New England Legends.' Check out the documentary about the making of the show on Amazon Prime Video.