Tuesday, March 29, 2016

“Ghost Driver" Haunts Lorain County Highway – March 1952

Did you know that a spooky “Ghost Driver” – also known as “The Phantom" – haunted Ohio highways in 1952? And that he paid a visit to Lorain County in late March of that same year?

But before we get to his Lorain County appearance, let’s learn a little bit about the man (or ghost if you prefer). The Chicago Tribune of Friday, March 7, 1952 included the background story below.

The Phantom Rides Again – on Ohio Road

Dayton, March 6 (AP) – A motorist who wears a macabre mask and a luminous skeleton suit has been frightening truck drivers and eluding police on U. S. 40.

The Phantom, as the truckers call him, has been appearing on stormy nights for three months. Roy Fitzwater, 30, a Greenville, O., trucker described his encounter with the Phantom:

“About three weeks ago I was driving down route 40 at about 3 a. m. It was spitting snow and freezing rain, and it was very dark. I saw a car approaching and dimmed my lights. He dimmed his too.

“When he got about 200 feet from me, he put his lights out. Then a little light came on inside the car, and I saw this thing. It was horrible looking. It scared me. I jammed my throttle down and got out of there fast.”

Reports to State Police
Fitzwater told his story to the Ohio highway patrol. For a long time the truckers didn’t report the Phantom. They were afraid the police would scoff.

The stories truckers exchanged in restaurants were all similar. The dim light appears inside the car. The car glows luminously. The driver wears a rubber mask. Sometimes he gets out of the car and reveals his skeleton suit, with bones outlined in luminous paint.

Three truckers cornered him a week ago on the nearby Englewood dam across the Stillwater river, but he zoomed away, scraping his car against one of the trucks.

5 Tell of Encounters
State Highway Patrol Cor. William Harrell said encounters with the Phantom have been reported by five truckers at the Vandalia patrol post in recent weeks. Patrolmen have been alerted from Springfield, O., to the Indiana border, a distance of 57 miles.

Harrell was at a loss for a motive. Maybe the Phantom is mentally ill, or maybe he just has a weird sense of humor, he said.

“We have a man under suspicion and may make an arrest,” he said.

The Sandusky Register also covered the story.

In its March 13, 1952 edition, the newspaper reported, "The ghostly skeleton who danced on Route 40 may have moved to Route 7. A nervous truck driver, Louis B. Martel of Pawtucket, R. I., stopped in Yorkville last night to tell his story to Police Chief Roger Lollini. Martel was driving north on Route 7. which follows the Ohio river. Near a small airport, he saw an automobile approaching. It veered toward him and its lights went out. Then a figure jumped from the car. Glowing in the lights of the truck was a skeleton, topped by some sort of mask in the shape of a skull and crossbones. The skeleton danced. Martel departed."

The spooky story eventually achieved national prominence. The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Massachusetts also include the story about the Phantom in its March 14, 1952 edition. 

About a week later, the small item below appeared on the front page of the Lorain Journal on March 20, 1952. Apparently, the “Phantom Driver” had been seen on Route 18 near Wellington.

So what finally became of the Phantom Driver? Apparently he was never caught, or perhaps an arrest was never publicized.

Chris Woodyard, author of the seven-volume Haunted Ohio series, has a section of hauntedohiobooks.com (here) that includes reports of even more Phantom sightings on Ohio highways. There’s also an interesting psychological opinion as to why a person would dress up like a skeleton and scare complete strangers.

1 comment:

-Alan D Hopewell said...

I thought I'd heard every strange, spooky tale from out our way, but this is a new one on me.

I do remember an old (1930's)National Geographic article I read years ago about a guy dressed like the Grim Reaper who drove around on the Memorial Day weekend, warning people about the dangers of drunk driving-this seems to be a whole 'nother smoke.

Thanks for posting this.