Road Phantoms

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FALL 2004 (APPROXIMATE)

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was prone to hallucinations. I suffered from depressive episodes and manic episodes, and took a lot of medication to deal with it. Sometimes I’d joke that most people take drugs to trip, and all I had to do was not take them. These problems were made worse by my persistent regimen of marijuana. None of this describes who I am today, and looking back it seems like someone else’s life entirely…
I say all this in the interest of full disclosure, ahead of the weird ghost tale I’m adding to the map. I used to see what I called Road Phantoms. Because of my condition at the time, I assumed they were purely hallucinatory and, as such, didn’t feel the need to talk about them. Sometimes I’d see one in the middle of the road and freak out a bit as a passenger, and whoever was driving would ask what was wrong – at which point the Phantom would be gone, and I’d have to shrug and say it was nothing.
Usually the Road Phantoms were fairly distinct figures standing in or alongside the road, and on some occasions would only be partial people – two that spring to mind immediately that were almost assuredly hallucinations were a headless family of three and a hovering torso that turned out to be a mailbox.
The night in question I was closing up the cafe where I worked, and my fellow barista who was on with me that night proposed we go across town for a drink at the bar. We took the long way there to allow time for pot smoking, and on the home stretch of Franklin St I saw her – a tall, pale woman with curly hair in a polka dot dress, standing just enough in the road to be alarming. She appeared to be soaked from head to toe and she gazed at us from a tilted forward neck position as we approached. I was holding a hit and had just passed the joint when my friend swerved around her. It took me a second to realize – wait, he saw it too?
“Damn!” He said, “did you see that chick? She’s gonna get hit standing there!”
I informed him that she wasn’t there. At least, she wouldn’t be if we went back. Just another Road Phantom…

He stopped the car and did a three point turn. Less than a minute had elapsed when we drove back there to find no trace of the woman in the polka dot dress. Franklin St overlooks part of the city, down an embankment that’s pretty steep. Aside from a few mechanics on that road, there’s no place to go but down or into thin air. The woman was soaked although it wasn’t raining. We were high and I was prone to seeing things, but could we have seen the same thing if it was hallucinatory?

I’m more recent years I’ve brought the story up to the friend in question, he doesn’t remember it happening. I find a lot of folks conveniently forget things that they can’t rationalize. I’ve also met other people who have seen the Road Phantoms. Who knows what’s going on with that – straight up ghosts or drug induced visions? At least on that one night I had a little bit of vindication that these things weren’t just in my head…

Submitted by A.P. Strange