Fortean Times

Strange hitchhiker


Helen Sharp’s recollecti­on of a strange figure encountere­d at a lonely crossroads [FT428:67] brought to mind an incident that happened to me 28 years ago that I still find odd on reflection.

On 25 February 1995 I was returning to Lancashire from a concert in Leeds. This was at the height of ‘BritPop’ and the bands Supergrass and the Bluetones had been performing at the Duchess of York – an excellent and much-missed rock venue. After the gig, I drove slowly back along the A59 through a real pea-souper fog which limited visibility to 20 or so yards. The road was very quiet with little or no traffic about. The journey was taking much longer than usual and it must have been close to midnight by the time we reached the village of Gisburn just over the border into Lancashire. Both of my passengers (my girlfriend – now wife – and my younger cousin) were asleep.

Driving slowly though the foggy village, illuminate­d by pools of light from the streetlamp­s, I was astonished to suddenly see a man thumbing a lift at the junction of the A59 and the A682 to Nelson (often dubbed “Britain’s most dangerous road”). The fact that someone was looking to hitch a lift at that time of night was surprising to say the least, but it was the man’s outfit that really gave the encounter an uncanny edge.

As I slowly drove by (I had no intention of stopping), the man had his left ‘thumbing’ arm extended, while the other held an old-fashioned squarish suitcase. He wore a long 1950s style trenchcoat, belted at the waist. His hair was slicked back and he wore a pair of thick, round-framed glasses. He looked entirely ‘out of time’ as if he’d stepped out of another era. The encounter was over in a few seconds – I was so startled that I shook my cousin awake, but of course he’d seen nothing.

The man may well have been some poor down-and-out; the time, location and weather conditions make a practical joke seem unlikely. I’ve driven that road hundreds of times since but have seen nothing else unusual.

Nick Harling Ribchester, Lancashire

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