The Blue Bell Hill Ghost
Vanishing / Phantom Hitchhikers
Though broadly a part of the returning-ghost motif in ghost lore, the Vanishing, or Phantom Hitchhiker, is best known as a classic urban / contemporary legend. The ghostly tale appears to be widespread throughout the world and though most published examples come from the U.S and the U.K, there are also cases from Sweden, Romania, East Africa and various other countries. Though this particular ghost story has many variants, the most well known version generally involves a young vulnerable-looking girl who stands at the edge of a lonely road late at night and hitches a ride from a passing motorist, usually a lone male. The ghost girl usually sits in the back seat and in some cases is completely silent for the whole trip, whilst in others she asks the driver to take her to a certain address.
At some point during the journey the phantom girl mysteriously vanishes while the car is in motion. Later the driver decides to go to the address given to him and inquire about the strange girl, but after giving a description of his passenger he learns that although she did indeed once live at the house, the girl had died in a car crash months or even years before. The fatal accident had often occurred on the very same date and in the exact spot where she was hitching a lift.
The Ghost of Blue Bell Hill
Perhaps the best known Vanishing Hitchhiker story from the U.K. is that from Blue Bell Hill, a steep stretch of road between Maidstone and Chatham in Kent.
Research by investigator Sean Tudor has shown that the earliest printed reference for this complicated case is from the Kent Messenger for December 8, 1967. A further article in The Maidstone Gazette from September 10, 1968 was based on investigations by local paranormal researcher Tom Harber. This article described the apparition of a mysterious girl who was seen on a number of occasions hitching a lift outside the Lower Bell pub. Motorists who gave her a lift into the center of Maidstone described a young girl who chatted happily throughout the journey before vanishing completely from the moving car.
However, although Harber had a number of second hand accounts of the Blue Bell Hill ghost, he was unable to find a single witness to the hitchhiker even after several months of research. Some years later however, Harber told author and researcher Michael Goss that he had in fact traced and interviewed no less than a dozen first-hand witnesses to the phantom girl, but that he was unfortunately unable to reveal their identities.
One person who claimed that he did actually see the Blue Bell Hill Hitchhiker ghost firsthand was a local bricklayer named Maurice Goodenough.
Early in the morning of July 13, 1974, Goodenough, then 35-years-old ran into Rochester Police Station claiming that he had just knocked down a young girl with his car on Blue Bell Hill. He informed the police that the girl had appeared suddenly in the middle of the road and he was unable to brake hard enough to avoid running into her. He immediately stopped the car and jumped out to find the young girl lying in the road with cuts to her forehead and knees.
Goodenough wrapped the girl in a blanket (or rug in some versions), carried her to the roadside and drove off to get help. When he returned to the scene of the accident with the police all they found was the blanket lying on the ground, the girl had disappeared. There were no traces of blood either on the car or on the road and despite an extensive police search of the area using tracker dogs the young girl was never found. Goodenough described the girl as about ten years of age, with shoulder length brown hair and wearing a lacy white blouse, white ankle socks and a skirt. Despite the difference in age between this girl and the Hitcher described in The Maidstone Gazette local tradition considers the two ghosts of Blue Bell Hill as the same.
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