The Red-Headed Spectre of Route 44

No one knows his name. No one knows his motives. All that is known is where he lingers, what he looks like, how he haunts the living and the circumstances under which he appears. This is the stuff of nightmares, told around a campfire while the stars dance and the long shadows grow. What is known about him, whether it is from academic research or here-say, only creates more questions than answers.

This spirit can be found on Route 44 at the edge of Rehoboth, Massachusetts. The ghost usually looks like a red-headed man wearing a red flannel shirt and jeans. He has a large red beard as well as red hair. He is usually 6 feet tall and described as ‘well built’ by witnesses. Sometimes, he is very clean cut in his appearance and has his shirt tucked in. Other times, he is dirty and disheveled. The circumstances under which this ghost appears are as specific as the location, but not uncommon or desolate. Most witnesses who find this ghost usually drive on a stretch of Route 44 that is at the end of Rehoboth, Massachussets and on the edge of Seekonk. Usually, motorists chance upon this ghost either at or after 10:00 PM into the small hours of the morning.

While many accounts have surfaced over the years, the most detailed and reliable source on this spirit has been collected by Charles Turek Robinson in his book New England Ghost Files: An Authentic Compendium of Frightening Phantoms, a book that is sadly out-of-print. Originally an anthropologist, Charles took an interest in ghost files when he first received letters from people who described their own encounters with the supernatural. He began to see patterns in many of the accounts that made him question the authenticity of what he received. To screen out stories that are, for whatever reason, inauthentic, he devised a method of interviewing where he would have witnesses retell their accounts three times. If their retellings remained consistent, he considered the accounts to be from people who were not prone to superstition or lying. For the accounts relating to this ghost, most witnesses reported that even decades after the events, they were still shaken up.

One man recalled that he did not even have to stop his car to see the ghost. While driving by himself down this road one night, he looked towards the passenger side window and saw the red-headed man pressing his face against the glass, grinning at him. He immediately pulled over when he saw this and by then, the ghost was gone. It took the man ten minutes to calm down enough to continue his drive.

Another man’s experience with this ghost started like most hitch-hiking ghost stories: he saw the man on the side of the road hitchhiking and pulled over to pick him up. He then asked the man where he wanted to go. But the ghost did not reply, stared at him blankly and smiled at him. After trying to find out where his passenger was headed, the driver became unsettled and pulled over again. He ordered the ghost to leave the car, but instead of opening the car door, he faded away.

There is a more unsettling incident involving a woman who thought she had run him over. The ghost appeared right in front of her car and she had no time to stop. When she thought she had hit him, she stopped the car and got out to investigate. She did this despite the fact that she felt nothing under the car and heard no tell-tale thuds. When she turned to go back into her car, she suddenly heard disembodied laughter. It didn’t stop with her getting back in the car and driving off. Again, her car passed through the ghost. This time, she didn’t leave the car. Instead, she stuck her head out of her car window to look at the road ahead of her. She saw that there was nothing on the road ahead of her. Again, the disembodied laughter echoed, but was much closer this time. She put her foot to the acceleration pedal after rolling up her window. Ever since, this woman has always been scared of driving alone at night.

The most hair-raising account given regarding this ghost comes from a couple whose car broke down on this stretch of road after 10:00 PM.  The husband told his wife to stay with the car while he moved forward to find a house where he could call AAA to get a tow truck. As he walked down the road, he saw the ghost sitting by the roadside. He had his red plaid shirt and red hair and beard, but his clothing and hair were in disarray. Thinking this was a living man, the husband asked him if he knew where he could find a phone to use. He had to ask several times, because the only response he got from this ghost was  staring and grinning. When the ghost stared and grinned at him, the husband asked him if he was alright.

At this moment, the husband reported that the ghost’s mouth began to twist. The ghost’s eyes then glazed over into pure white. As the husband backed off slowly at first, then started to hurry. He heard the man’s eerie laughter, but when he stopped and turned around, the ghost wasn’t there. The laughter lingered, however. It also spontaneously switched location. One second it was in front of the husband and the next, it was behind him and then to one side or the other. The disembodied laughter continued to follow him until it stopped suddenly.

When the husband returned to the car, he found his wife sobbing. When he asked her what was wrong, she told him that while he was gone, something impossible happened. She was sitting in the car when her husband left and turned on the radio to pass the time. After a few minutes, a voice interrupted the song. She assumed it was the DJ at first, but the voice then addressed the wife by her name: something the DJ should not be able to do. After this, the ghost then began to mock her and laugh in an unsettling way. The wife got out of the car to escape this, but she was so frightened by what happened, she remained outside of the car until her husband came back. While the couple was able to flag down another driver and get back home, the husband believed that this incident made his wife a much more nervous woman.

Further research was conducted, to see if there was any additional information available on who this person was (if he was ever human, that is). It was also hoped that the identity of the ghost would be named and with it, an explanation for why he did not cross over and instead haunts the living. If he also has a name, it would answer the question of what he is as well. Also, Charles Turek Robinson conducted the interviews for this book in the 1990s. Since the Internet has grown in size and users, more information might be available that was otherwise difficult to acquire. Unfortunately, the most information that can be gleaned did not go through the same rigorous process that Charles used when he collected accounts for his book. According to various online articles which include blog posts and newspaper articles, there are records of someone who died on the road that matches the description of the ghost.It has proven difficult to confirm this, because whatever information can be found creates more questions than answers.

The closest that this author can come to a name is “Herbie Redd”, from comments written in a Youtube video published by user “Creepy Places of New England”. According to these comments, mostly written by the publisher of the video series: “NinjaCthulu”, the phantom was a man who was a farmer who was hit and killed on the same stretch of road he haunts while trying to change a tire. The commentator further adds that he knew a police officer who once knew the phantom in life. He did not list the name of the officer or any details about the conversation with said officer. All he said was that the officer spoke fondly of this man, suggesting that he liked this person in life.On the same comment feed, this same commentator goes on to say that the man was drunk and was hit by a car while stumbling home.

While looking up obituaries under this name, no obituary relating to the right time period or place showed up. Accounts of this ghost started in the 1960s, suggesting that if this ghost was once a living man, he would have died in that decade. A quick Google search of obituaries from this time period for anyone under that name in the area of Rehoboth and Seekonk, Massachussets turned up very little to match this description.

It isn’t common for people commenting on Youtube videos to cite their references or for those who post the video to screen out irrelevant or inaccurate information. This makes the ‘Creepy Places of New England” theories the product of Internet folklore at best. No obituaries or news articles were uncovered which could support any claim made on the comments section of the Youtube video or any evidence that there was a man who died on that road who fit that description in the 1960s.

So whether the accounts come from genuinely frightened people whom an academic has screened for authenticity, vague articles or cryptic messages on a Youtube video, the hitchhiking spectre of Route 44 continues to elude explanation or naming. Because a name and purpose cannot be put on him, the dread he continues to inspire in travelers passing through Seekonk and Rehoboth. If you ever do find yourself driving that isolated road on a dark night, beware of the red-headed stranger who lingers at the side of the road, quietly laughing to himself. He may be laughing at you. Keep driving. Don’t stop…unless you have to.

 

Bibliography

The New England Ghost Files: An authentic compendium of frightening phantoms by Charles Turek Robinson

What-When-How.com  The Red-Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44

Shadowlands Haunted Places-Massachussets

The Most Haunted Place in Massachussets

Creepy Places of New England-Route 44

New England Folklore-Red-Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44

Racket Communications.com-Need a ride? Looking for a Vanishing Hitchhiker

The Bridgewater Triangle-The Red Headed Hitchhiker

The Sun Chronicle-Local Ghost Stories Haunt Cumberland This Weekend

Wikipedia-Route 44

Paranormal Encyclopedia-The Bridgewater Triangle

UFO Info Roundup, Volume 4, Number 27, October 28th, 1999-1994, Rehobath’s Haunted Cemetary

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