USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Ghost Car’
Legends
Narrative

New Jersey “Vanishing Camaro” Legend

Main Piece: “On this really tough stretch of road, there is a part that has a severe turn which can be difficult for drivers to make when going at highs speeds. Well one night, a woman was driving her Camaro down this road and she lost control and got into an accident, which immediately killed her. However, this was not the last time she was to be seen… In fact… apparently at night if people are driving down the road, this very same Camaro will randomly appear and chase the driver until it finally vanishes into thin air. There really isn’t much that triggers the sighting, but most people say that if you or someone in the car talks about the woman who died and her car, it will act as a call to her and she will appear.

 

Background: KC said that this one is what scared him the most after he heard it from his friends. Because he has to do a lot of driving, and sometimes he will pass that road late at night, he said that he was always keeping an extra head over his shoulder to ensure nothing happened to him. He also said that he saw this story as a way to remind young people about the dangers of unsafe driving, and what the consequences of that can be on someone so young.

 

Context of the Performance: KC told me this story while we were in my apartment discussing some of our most memorable stories about haunted houses, or ghost stories from our areas that we grew up in. He knew this one very well, and was delighted to tell the story of how creepy the vanishing Camaro was. He wanted me to understand just how much spooky stuff happened in and around the area from which he grew up. He even said that because driving was always something that kind of had him on edge, this idea of a spectral Camaro chasing him really had an impact, so much so that he remembered it pretty well.

 

Analysis: This legend is another interesting ghost story that I think definitely has a deliberate point to it. Much like KC said that he believes that this story could potentially be a warning to young people so that they do not make the same mistakes as the woman who died in her Camaro. I also find the symbolism of the car following the people on the road to be very fascinating. Personally I read this as a literal specter and a reminder of the past, and I think in some ways this story is trying to tell people: “No matter what, the consequences of your actions will follow you until the day you die. And if your mistakes hurt others, then that is something that will be with them until the day they die.” So while it is most certainly a ghost story to tell to friends and families, I think its themes are indicative of New Jersey’s paranoia to keep people safe, as they have seen a lot of death, and they don’t want to lose anymore young men or women.

general
Narrative

The Ghosts that Stop Your Car

Jack is currently a freshman studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He grew up in a small suburb in New Jersey, and because of this, it was very easy for local legends to form and be spread. This is one of the local legends he remembers hearing while growing up.
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“My dad used to take me to this windy road about 10 minutes from where I lived. According to him, a little girl and her mom were driving down a hill when the brakes stopped working. Because of that, they ended up going down the hill and crashing into either a tree or another car; honestly I forget, but regardless of what they hit, both the mother and the daughter died. The legend, according to my dad, was that if you put your car in neutral towards the bottom of the hill, the ghost of either the mother or daughter would possess your car and hit the break for you. It was to make sure your car stopped so that you wouldn’t get into the same accident that they did. Like I said, my dad used to take me to that hill a lot when I was younger and we wanted to go a drive. He would put the car in neutral, and just as he said we would roll down the hill for a little bit, and slowly but surely the car would stop. Of course I was younger so my dad totally could have made this up, and he definitely could have just been hitting the breaks himself, and even while thinking about it now I didn’t even realize that ghosts could possess cars and other types of machinery, but regardless my dad is very religious, so I don’t think he would even entertain the idea of a ghost unless he truly believed it.”
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The small town that Jack lived in is common amongst some ghost stories, especially the local legends that are well known by people living in the area yet completely foreign and unheard of by people living outside the town. Some of my friends had also heard of the legend, but again, they were my friends and our parents were friends, so the legend could have spread that way, regardless of whether or not it was true. Assuming the legend is true, it’s interesting that the ghost possesses the car in order to stop it before rolling into the middle of the street. In other stories, the ghost might simply possess just the driver and have him/her hit the bakes, but since the mother and daughter died because of a brake malfunction, it makes sense that the ghosts would possess the car. That is more related to their cause of death. This might show that mechanical ghosts are born if the death of the ghost is directly related to/directly caused by something mechanical. Possessing or becoming a part of that machinery makes the “haunting” closer to the cause of death, and as we’ve learned with other ghost stories, a lot of souls remain near the person/thing/place that killed them.

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