The Red Headed Hitchhiker: The Four Stories That Made Him Infamous & And the Author Behind the Legend


Ask anyone familiar with the Bridgewater Triangle, "Who is the most famous resident ghost?" and they'll tell you: It's "The Red Headed Hitchhiker of Route 44. This menacing, disheveled-looking phantom, dressed in a red plaid shirt with a messy red beard and crazy hair is said to haunt a five-mile stretch of road at the beginning of 38-mile long route 44. The legend of "The Red Headed Hitchhiker" was first laid out by Rehoboth historian, anthropologist, and archaeologist, Charles Turek Robinson in his 1994 classic, "The New England Ghost Files: An Authentic Compendium of Frightening Phantoms." Robinson called the hitchhiker  "The Red-Headed Phantom of Route 44" and labeled the legends of this maniacal, horrific spirit,  "Ghost File #7." Robinson includes 57 "Ghost Files" in his book, although he collected close to 200 first hand accounts of run-ins with ghosts in his research for this work. Robinson meticulously interviewed each witness three times, as to ensure their authenticity.

Five different local residents came forward to Robinson with similar accounts about a strange man sighted on the dark leg of route 44 that connects Seekonk with Rehoboth. In each of the accounts, the red-headed man looks 100% real, but never speaks, his countenance and blank, his eyes are empty, yet he smiles eerily. And often laughs frantically.

The first witness of "Ghost File #7" is a man Robinson calls, "Joe." Joe reported:  "I saw a man's face outside the car, pressed against the passenger-side window. This was physically impossible...my car was traveling about fifty miles an hour. The face was looking in at me, grinning. I could see that the man had red hair and was wearing a red plaid shirt. I swerved off the highway and brought my car to a stop. But that time, the man had vanished. After about ten minutes I finally calmed down enough to restart my car and drive home. That incident has left me shaken up for the past twenty-five years." Joe's encounter took place in the winter of 1969.


Robinson calls the next witness, "Fred Durpis." One summer night at around 10 o'clock back in 1973, "Fred" saw the "hitchhiker." Fred pulled over to give him a lift and saw the man running toward his truck in his rear-view mirror. The "man" climbed in and Fred asked him where he was headed. The man just sat there in silence, smiling. Again, Fred asked, "Where are you going?" The man just sat there in the cab of the truck, smiling. That was enough for "Fred." He pulled the truck over and ordered the man out. The hitchhiker complied. But instead of opening truck door, he simply disappeared.  "He just stared to get very hazy until I could behind to see through him."

The next tale Robinson tells is of a woman who named "Barbara" who encountered the phantom in February of 1981. The woman was driving along route 44--going about sixty miles per hour--when suddenly she hit a man fitting the description of the infamous hitchhiker: Red hair, red plaid shirt. Only when she hit the man, her car drove right through him.

"There was no time to brake or even swerve the car. In a matter of seconds I ran him over. I mean, I thought I had." Barbara stopped the car, thinking she had just killed someone. Only, no one was there. Walking back to her car after thoroughly checking the road, the woman heard something that chilled her to the bone.

"I heard this loud, horrible laughter coming from the woods to the side of the road, right near the spot where thought I hit the man...The laughter was terrible." She got into her car and drove away, stunned. To her horror, after driving down route 44 not even a mile, there was the man again in the middle of the road and again she drove right through him. Again she stopped the car, but this time she did not get out, only rolled down the car window. Again, she heard the laughter. At that point the woman booked it out of there.

The last story in Robinson's chapter on "Ghost File #7" is about a Swansea couple he calls "Harry and Sheena Hanson." Harry and Sheena were driving route 44 in October of 1984 when their car broke down. Harry told Sheena to stay in the car, while he tried to find a pay phone to call AAA road service. The man makes his way down the dark road when he spots what he describes as a "sloppy looking guy with red messy hair" sitting on the side of the road.

The man asked the stranger if he knew where the closest pay phone is. The stranger didn't answer. The man asked him again. The messy red-haired man only sat in silence staring at him. So the man asked again. And again. And there was silence. One more time the man asked and now he notices what he describes as an "odd grin" upon the stranger's face. The man asked the stranger if he is okay. Upon posing the question, the stranger's face changed. The man described  the eerie nighttime encounter with the "hitchhiker" this way: “Suddenly, the man’s face got very strange. He stopped grinning, he twisted his mouth and I noticed that there was something wrong with his eyes. They were all clouded over--no pupils or anything. Just blank and all white. I began to feel weird and started to walk away from him. As I hurried away, I heard the man laughing. I turned around, but he was no longer there. I mean, I could no longer see him there, but I still heard the laughing. It was coming from just a few feet away from me. And the laughing kept switching locations. First in front of me, then behind me, then to the left of me. It was bizarre."

The man ran back to the car in fright only to find his wife standing outside of it, visibly terrified. She tells her husband that after he left she had turned on the car radio and was listening to a song when to her horror suddenly the song wasn't coming out of the radio anymore: A very creepy man's voice came out of the car's speakers instead. The voice taunted her, called her by name, all the while laughing hysterically.

"Is it just the spread of local folklore that accounts for so many separate reports involving the same alleged phantom? The skeptics among us might say so, though it should be noted that the witnesses interviewed by the author were intelligent, non-superstitious people who related their accounts sincerely, consistently, and credibly. In all cases, they had clearly been affected by their very strange experiences," Robinson states in "Ghost Files."


Charles Turek Robinson at Village Cemetery, Rehoboth. Copyright Taunton Gazette. For full article, click here. 

Robinson--a Harvard educated anthropologist, archaeologist, and writer--was thrown into the world of tracking and recording local ghost stories quite by accident, after running an article one Halloween featuring the work of one of the country's first ghost hunters, Hans Holtzer. In his research, a story about a poltergeist in his hometown of Rehoboth emerged. Soon after the article was published, Robinson's editor started receiving letters addressed to " Charles Turek Robinson" from locals, eager to relay their own accounts of supernatural activity. And the father of a legend was born. In an interview in the May, 2002 edition of "Cyril Magazine," Robinson revealed: "Many of the accounts that were related to me by readers were silly and contained many of the usual stereotypes....I rejected those. However, there were a few that were very provocative in their originality. They did not contain the usual stereotypes and sensationalism. They contained elements so unusual and so original that if these people hadn't really had these experiences, they should have been writing or telescripting in Hollywood."

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