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Accidental Ghosts

(Written by Nickolaus A. Pacione)

Every ghost story has its macabre beginnings,  much as this one but what came about to the story was one that leaves one with a bit of question.  Beneath the snows of a dark, Midwestern winter this one has its beginning but it was one that didn’t start as macabre as some would say or have gruesome roots though one sees this ghost along the highway of Interstate 355 in some form or another.
             There had been some roots of this story being the reason why I moved away from the area since it happened but since I moved down to Savannah,  Georgia,  with its own ghost story,  I cannot help to think about the one that lived along the Interstate back in Illinois.  I know nothing about the ghosts of Savannah but what I know near the residence where I am staying at now has its history, and one that does haunt me from one time or another.  But the account I am going to share is the one that came about when I was still living in Illinois,  for what they say about the Christmas holiday being a cheerful time.  True for some, but for what I am going to relate would be one for the gothic novelists and short story writers to make account of.
             Every time I drive the interstate it gets me of that story I left behind in Illinois.  I’ve seen it in form of a truck driving down the road in the faint darkness, and in the faint darkness seen someone get carried off in an ambulance.  Each time when I drive the interstate to the editor’s office I kept hearing that truck riding up and down the road but never seen it.  It was described to be a phantom gray color;  just that it had it low roar never stopping at the toll stops only to disappear without a trace.  Seen this back in Illinois but never the though of this ghost being able to travel all the way down to Georgia,  namely around Noble.  I’ve been able to see the thing’s high beams about a mile away.
            I was driving along the road some time ago with a good friend of mine and he was the first one to spot the thing.  
             “Alex,  did you see that?  It was big enough to be a semi,  but it disappeared without warning,”  he commented, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.   
            It was near the place a van skidded off the road after hitting something dead on,  both the semi driver and the passengers in the van both died.”
             “I remember something about that in the news;  they were driving down to the prison to visit their family for the holidays.  It was quite tragic,  I mean that could be someone’s brother, wife, sister,  or mother.  Some had seen some of the passengers walking up and down the road asking for help then they disappear,”  I responded,  “I’ve never seen them but it was one thing I thought about all the time,  is it possible for an entire interstate to be haunted?”
            “Don’t ask me,  you are the one who is into this sort of thing when it comes to ghosts Alex,”  Jason calmly responded as he just saw someone standing in the road and they just passed right through the oncoming car.
           “Tell me that I didn’t just see that!”  He tried to keep calm but came close to having a chest buster.  
             “See what?”  I responded to him,  I knew exactly what he was referring to but I didn’t want to admit I saw it too.  The specter looked like a woman in her late forties walking with a signal flare but no one was able to respond to her S.O.S.  The van she died in was long pulled away from the accident, and the truck which killed everyone would often been seen up and down the roads but it too was phantom.  Flares glowing in the darkness of distress only to be displayed in vain;  the person who died in the accident don’t even know that their time passed without warning.  I could actually see how it happened,  it felt like it was sometime around Christmas when the horrific accident took place.  A brutal snowfall and icy roads with blinding winds that create a very low visibility.  It would usually be around this time when one could see the interstate ghosts wandering around.  
              A truck was driving overhead and slipped on a fresh patch of ice then falling into the van below,  knocking everyone but the driver to their deaths.  It is things like this that made me get out of Illinois when I had the chance,  yet at the same time in that dark allure I wind up missing it.
             “I swear I saw a woman walking around and went right through an oncoming car,  and the truck that was there was falling from the bridge.    The driver of the truck walked out of the thing, but no one was there!”  Jason said with a great amount of shock and disbelief in his voice,  “I swear these are the times when I wish I had my camera with me,  no one would even believe me.  Though they would not be even captured on film.  My wife would be all over this stuff,  being she always the ghost hunter in the family.  I don’t think I would of believed this if I saw it with my own two eyes.  The woman in the road looked like she had some broken arms and an opened wound from the sight of impact.  I’ve seen this kind of injury before while working on my shift as an EMT. Let’s get these gifts back to home so we can study this further.  I need to start packing for my move to Savannah.”
             It was about five o’clock in the evening when we’ve arrived to Jason’s place to drop off the presents. The wives were not back yet from their holiday shopping, and one of them had a book signing up the road with an anthology.  His wife, Jennifer was not able to walk because of unforeseen reasons so she gets around by a wheelchair.  My wife and I would help both of them from time to time,  and her interests in ghost hunting was the thing that got her into writing.  I was supposed to co-write a story with her the day she got into her accident,  the result of the accident forced her to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair but it wasn’t the same thing that happened to the van where everyone in the van was killed along the interstate.  
             “Just put the presents on the table and help yourself to something to drink in the fridge. I know that you are driving home so don’t drink anything with alcohol in it,”  Jason shouted back from the kitchen;  trying to figure out how the hell was he going to hide what he got for the wife.  All that he seen today would be inspiration for his wife to actually pick up  the typewriter and begin writing,  but it would hard to say how it would begin to say the least;  only that when the holidays come around in the Othello household,  nothing is really what it seems. I best describe this as something Rod Serling would find inspiring in some odd way.
             “Oh d*mn,  don’t tell me you actually got her copies of Weird Tales!”  I joked,  “After all we’ve seen today you got her a copy of Weird Tales?”
             Jason and Jennifer had this weird sense of humor when comes to the holidays,  last year she got him a dog with a third eye attached to it.  She was brought up to be a bit of a tomboy,  but she did act like a lady around her friends –  just had the habit of playing gross pranks.  Her father was a horror film director so the genre was in her blood. One Christmas she gave him a fake toe, and then decided to play more of a joke on him with it in the bathroom one year.  She was moaning in the bathroom saying,  “I want my toe.”  It scared the living hell out of him when she did that.  Her idea of Christmas was more like Halloween than anything,  she thought Halloween was everyday;  especially around Christmas.
              She didn’t know much about the car accident that happened on HW 355,  but she did read briefly about the fatalities involved with the thing.  
              In fact, she had managed to have the article cut out from the newspaper,  it was actually in the local paper from Morris on the front page.  She doesn’t know that Jason or I saw the ghost rig driving down the road,  but she knew of deaths that happened along the highway. The possibility of a ghost roaming the roads had always played in the back of her mind.  
             The type of thing I will miss when I leave for Savannah after the Christmas holiday,  but something is telling me that I need to stay around.  The thought of the phantom rig driving around,  or possibly the woman who disappears in the street when cars are driving up and down HW 355.
             “She [Jennifer] always had a weird interest in ghosts,”  Jason commented while pointing to a picture of her when she was still able to walk,  “even before her accident she liked to go ghost hunting.    In a freak accident when she was traveling to Alton, Illinois, she fell on some ghostly water causing her to go head first into the stairs of the hotel.  She lived,  but the doctors told her that she was never able to walk again.  What triggered her to fall from the water covered stairs was a face in the wall staring at her.  She coaxed your wife to go with her on that one.”  
             “I remember when that happened,    I was working as a dispatch for a trucking company when I got the call.  It was like our wives were always doing things together long before we both got married,”  I replied with a grin,  “my brother was best friends with her cousin.  He remembered how they would come over dressed up in black clothing to go out on the town.  That was when that photo was taken,  they both had copies of the photograph.”
             When I learned about when Jennifer lost her ability to walk,  it didn’t register with me at first.  It was the reason because she was always a bit of a jokester and when my wife called me about the accident,  it finally sank in of the magnitude.  That was my first real exposure of hearing about a ghost story because long before that,  ghosts were something that wasn’t spoken of out loud in my household.  Namely because it was a strongly Pentecostal background. The experience about her encountering the ghost became something of talk among her side of the family, and with Jason’s family being his side of the family; the older brother was the ghost chaser. They saw him becoming an EMT,  knowing of the morbid curiosity that goes with the job of all the blood seen every day.
             The encounter with a ghost was the first with him,  just never really registered with him until today.  Seeing that entity walking around on the interstate, and when I was driving around on my own seeing the phantom rig.  It would drive me insane when the thing would appear and disappear on various points of HW 355,  and then again off of Illinois HW Route 30.  Some others have said to seen this thing but it was its slate gray paint job that made it distinctive; that truck fell off the bridge to the highway below.
             They’ve even seen the driver of the rig walk through various cars on the road as well as near the toll plazas heading into Downers Grove.  One would never of known how mobile some ghosts could be;  though it was one thing that always played in the back of my mind about the question of it.    Who knows?    Perhaps a folklorist would find their way to this area, and then document it for a book such as  the various haunted places around the Chicago area;  just something one can never really say for sure.
             Her curiosity for the Alton story was what drawn her down there on a backpacking trip.  I didn’t know how long she was going to be down there but Jason sort of known in some sense.  She and him were not married yet, but the plans for the marriage were in the works at the time.  Even when she lost her ability to walk they still got married;  the incident made her want to become a folklorist.  The ghost stories along the interstate intrigued her but she never read enough about them to actually make some record of them.  I knew of the curiosity for this sort of thing, but never really knew the extent of it.  
             I too was a bit intrigued by Alton, Illinois, as well but that was a night I had to work.  Read some about them in a book of haunted places, but the one they omitted was the interstate.  The stories of Alton, Illinois, are that the entire town of Alton is as haunted as parts of Chicago or Glen Ellyn, Illinois. When it comes to the eyes of the great equalizer,    as the case when the truck fell off the underpass;  the thoughts of it had always crossed the mind.  Knowing what I bared the witness to will be an event of either belief or disbelief;  no matter what one believes in God or have some understanding of the dead and the afterlife.  All that played out,  is what becomes vivid within my own memory of the events.  The known thing of who was in the van might have been someone’s wife,  girlfriend or sister.  The dark thought of the reality for their families having an empty seat for where they used to sit. The kind of thing his wife, Jennifer would quip about.  
             “Alex,  come in here they are talking about the accident again!”  Jason called from the next room, while he took a sip of his beer.  
             “Damn,  I see it but I don’t believe it.  It was about the place were we were driving past,”  I responded.
            “Are you going to tape this for Jennifer?”  
            “Why not?”  Jason mentioned with grin,  “Figured she would end up writing a story about it when she gets done with it.    No one is going to believe us that the area was haunted by the ghosts from the accident.  It was always a question of the street being haunted by someone who died in a car wreck,  the saying is true about a haunting resulting from a suicide or a homicide.  Though it is a thought of it being true with a car accident or some other kind of vehicle accident.”
             It was a morbid grin on his face,  almost if he had shown some great interest in the accident.  Much as when someone sees a high speed chase on the news.    It was about ten minutes into the broadcast when Jennifer pushed her self through the door,  and my wife was with her.
             “Hey guys, we’re home!”  They shouted,  “we’ve seen the weirdest thing on the road.    A gray semi passing through a toll plaza but disappearing without a trace!  It was almost a type of thing one can describe of being on The World’s Scariest Places.  Reminded me some of when we went down to Alton, Illinois.”
            It seemed they noticed the ghosts as well along the highways;  they noticed they were driving into an area that resembled a passage from Night Gallery.  
           “You’ve seen them then,  the accidental ghosts walking the roads?  One being of a woman carrying a signal flare trying to flag down for help but disappears through the cars passing up and down Interstate HW 355?”  I replied with a bit a nervous grin, “that made me a little nervous,  but still that kind of thing intrigues me.”  
            “Alex,  I’ve seen it.”  Jennifer said in response,  her answer was quite calm,  but my wife was more nervous about seeing it.  In fact, she almost got into an accident when the ghost materialized on the road.  The moment she got in the door she was looking for a bottle of beer or something alcoholic to drink.
             “It was eerie as hell,  almost if somebody died there recently,”  Patricia said with a bit of a scared look in her face.  She never seen a ghost before, but knew what happened down in Alton.  She couldn’t make sense of it, but Jennifer was intrigued by the thing and was looking for the typewriter.  
            “Where the hell is the typewriter,  I got something to write.”
            “In the community office!”    Jason laughed.    
             Jennifer started typing some about the ghost on the highway but couldn’t find the words to describe for what she’s seen.    Patricia was the one who was always the skeptic when it came to the supernatural,  but her parents raised her to not believe in ghosts.  Jennifer coaxed her to go with her down to Alton, Illinois,  but Patricia seen nothing out of the ordinary when they were down there. Not until Jennifer took the spill from the stairs head first;  when she was at the hospital facing the horror of knowing her best friend wasn’t able to walk.  The reasons came to be of the reality of how it happened,  forces beyond those of nature had some hand in it.  Jennifer had great fun in ghost chasing,  this was the first time Patricia was with her.  
             Patricia’s parents were the type who influenced her to go to church on Sunday and Wednesday;  much like how my parents are.  The thought of ghosts were never spoken of in her house, but everyone around her knew that the house she lived in had a haunted history of its own.  Just something about her parents place drawn a crowd,  either its Neo-Romanesque construction or the history it has.  I knew some of the history behind the house; the previous family died of mysterious circumstances,  well a few members from the old family.  Some have seen these ghosts but they learned to live with them, especially when it came closer to the holidays.  The haunting they lived with was one that became the makings of ghost stories; folklorists who were drawn to the supernatural flocked around the house hoping to get a glimpse of the ghosts within the house.  
             That was how I ended up meeting her.  My younger brother dragged me to the house because of the supposed haunting.  He was chasing a ghost and told me the house happened to belong to a local video journalist.  The mother worked for the local Christian radio station,  she would not dare whisper the word “ghost” around the station because they would give her an eye.
             “Patricia,  how you holding up about seeing what you’ve seen out there?”  Jason asked with some concern.  
            “I am doing fine, Jay, just that when I saw the phantoms on the highway  just never crossed my mind that even the highways can be haunted.”  She responded with some assurance that she going to be fine,  “I noticed you and my husband did a little holiday shopping of your own.”  
             “Why yes we did,  while Jennifer is writing in the other room,  let me pull out something that would interest her.    I figured you would be surprised by this as well,”  he grinned.  The type of grin he was giving off was the one described as the cat ate the canary look.  
            “Damn,  it was almost if I was living in the home of Rod Serling or Edgar Allan Poe.    I cannot believe you got her a copy of Weird Tales,”  Patricia responded,  “After all I’ve seen today,  she would be writing pages after pages about the ghost roaming around. It could not be much worst than moving down to Savannah, namely since that city is just as haunted as Alton, Illinois.  The macabre thing was how they built their city over the dead.  I don’t think I could ever live in a city like that,  but Alex’s job as a rig dispatcher called him to move to Savannah.”  
             It was hard to really tell what was going through her mind of what she’s seen traveling up and down the road, but usually when the truck is seen on the road it would appear during broad daylight.  My reaction was the same as hers,  but it was one that couldn’t be explained by religion.  Especially if one sees this kind of ghost around the holidays.  How to describe this ghost was one of an accidental nature.  The possibility of an accidental ghost was always the thing in question, and was the subject of discussion among the various ghost hunter friends Jennifer Crawford had kept around.  They’ve always came during all hours of the night with their notes for her to write up;  no notes were kept of this account.  According to them, they too seen this phantom rig that all of us seen in the duration of the day.
             In this ritual which would go on for days,  of the people going in and out with pages of notes to give Jennifer.  Especially about the interstate phantom rig riding up and down HW 355.  Their hands were whiteknuckled in horror because they’ve never seen anything such as what they’ve seen.  It was long before Jason or myself seen the thing roaming the roads, and the wandering ghostly passenger from the tragic accident.
             A tragic accident for those who’ve left behind family needing to bury them, and the idea of ghosts on the highway are a thought they don’t want to look at.  The void is there from them knowing and perhaps what they knew of the accident was on the news first before they even got word of the thing.  The horror that draws off that becomes the thing in their mind,  especially during a time of the holidays seems to draw into a darker turn.  All the empty tables resembling all who’ve passed in car accidents,  the expecting families to await the homecoming that never was.  Even from those observed from the perspective of those who traveled the interstate on a number of occasions they’ve might of seen some kind of ghost driving up and down the roads as well.  When the traffic passes into the darkness,  the flares shown their glare but only to disappear through the various trucks and cars in the toll plazas.
            In the words one can only speculate,  or make some collective from the account seen in the highways and back roads; just that it appears to not register with the sensory systems. Just as what lives within the cold heartland,  all that remained among the records but no one was able to really relate the ghost story revolving around I-355. Where it stands among the highways of the ghosts becoming there because of accidental reasons,  the eyes of those who understand them but cannot figure out why they’ve been there.  In them which they are witnessed from four pairs of eyes on different periods, these ghosts foretold a period of fate that was unforeseen.  Even from memory,  God sometimes has a way for playing his unkind hand to remind how he’s still there;  while they don’t believe in Him,  they have their  reminders while they walk the roads passing through various cars on the highway.  
             A cruel hand though it is always the innocent that pass without warning,  and in the conditions of a cold,  long winter become the evident setting for various ghost stories.  From the variants it shows from one way or another how they wander the highways,  with a small flare or flashlight in hand but then disappearing again within the snows without a trace.  Then in more within the holidays always drawn within the mortality, despite all the time when families become closer together. When they are close in the times of Christmas,  it becomes the details that follow in the years that relate more to the winters after everything dies and passes.  As it becomes God’s cruel fate when a truck travels up and down the highways;  no one sees it fall from the underpass.
             All that stands within the night as the eye was able to see,  one might never tell when there would be the carrying of a small flare or a flashlight.  When that flashlight appears it might be from a ghostly hand that carries it,  no matter where the person would try to flag down for help.  It would never come to them because they don’t even know that they touched their own passing.
             This played into my thoughts to this day as I live down in Savannah, Georgia, with the ghost stories that dwell around the streets.  How they built the city over its dead,  but it would equal that to the highway ghosts in Illinois then sometimes that phantom rig would make its final run here then it would disappear with out a trace,  almost if it was rooted here to begin with.  It always either  traveled north or east pending on where one sees the thing;  all that one remembers of it was that it was often known as the interstate ghost story. It was a few weeks from moving from Northeast Illinois,  even when living in Savannah, Georgia,  I can feel the Illinois haunting down here in some way or form.  But as I live in Georgia,  I will always remember the Christmas holiday when living up in Illinois of the woman walking the road carrying a flare.  When she tries to flag down for help,  no one sees her and disappears without a trace.  Even then there was no chance of telling, or a way to describe it without any sign of speculation.
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