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Lydia, the phantom hitchhiker of North Carolina

4 min read

Phantom hitchhiker stories are not rare. Most entail someone driving on a road or highway when they come upon a person walking along side, flagging them down for a ride. A kind person might stop to get them a ride, only to discover the hitchhiker has disappeared.
The Lydia’s story is no different.

North Carolina has it share of ghost stories, unexplained phenomena, and tales of the supernatural. One such tale comes from Jamestown, in Guilford County.
The legend begins in late December 1923 (the 23rd or 31st depending on the version you listening to). Lydia was leaving a dance in Raleigh, some say with her boyfriend, on her way home.
It was raining and she lost control of the car and hit the Southern Railroad Underpass Bridge. In one version, her partner died instantly while Lydia attempted to get help and succumbed to her injuries on the side of the road. The other has her dying instantly in the car accident.
Is there any truth to this story?
It seems there might be.
Back in the 1920s, car accidents weren’t an everyday occurrence as they are today, and it seems someone has come across what is believed to be Lydia’s death certificate: it states a Lydia really died on December 31, 1923 from “fatal injuries from a motoring accident”. Is it the same Lydia from the legend?
It’s unknown of course and this is a phantom hitchhiker story after all.

In any case, there have been many reports since 1924 of motorists picking up a young woman in a white dress along US Highway 70. According to the stories, the drivers are frequently male and alone in the car.
On certain rainy nights, drivers will see a young woman in a white evening dress standing by the side of the road. She will be desperately trying to flag down any passing car. If anyone pulls over to help the girl, she climbs meekly into the back seat of the car and says that her name is Lydia. She will tell the driver that she’s just been to a dance and now she’s trying to get home. She gives the driver an address not too far away, and he kindly agrees to take her there. The driver may try to engage Lydia in conversation, but she seems distracted and in a world of her own, so he just leaves her in a respectful silence and concentrates on the road ahead. When the car pulls in to the address that the girl gave, the driver in all stories hops out to open the door for her — only to discover that she has vanished. Sometimes an article of clothing is left in the car waiting to be returned.
Perplexed, in all stories, he goes to the door and rings the bell. An old woman answers. In all stories, the man explains that he’s picked up a young lady named Lydia by the overpass who asked to be brought to this address, but she’s no longer in the car. He wonders if she may have run out before he could open the door, and he just wants to know if she’s safe at home.
A faint, pained smile of recognition passes over the old woman’s face, as she reaches for a picture in a silver frame sitting on a table by the door. It’s a photograph of the young lady the man drove to the house.
The old woman says that Lydia was her daughter, she died in a car wreck by that overpass in 1923.
“You’re not the first one, and I suppose you won’t be the last”, she added, and every so often, her spirit flags down a passing driver. She suppose Lydia still doesn’t understand what happened to her, and she’s still trying to get home.

It is hard to believe, true?
In addition, Lydia’s Bridge isn’t a bridge at all.
It is actually a culvert covered in vegetation once used to carry railroad tracks over a dry steam bed. There are several other paranormal stories associated with the Lydia’s Bridge.
Some have witnessed a pale woman standing just past the bridge, heard screams and had feelings of being watched….

A Wikipedia’s curiosity: this is a County Surveyors sign on Lydia Bridge. These signs are becoming rarer now. They were placed on bridges many years ago to show that the bridge, in this case Lydia Bridge itself, was owned by the County Council and that vehicles over the usual weight of the locality had to get the Surveyors permission to use it. An indicator of past rural peace from the days before overly large trucks, mobile phones and satnavs!

Images from web – Google Research

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