Residence: Salinas CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 18, 2020
Primary Language: English
Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (CH).
CH: “So Old Stage Road runs along back behind, you remember my grandma’s house? It runs out there, but connects you now to what’s called Salinas Road, but it used to be called Old Stagecoach Road and it would get you all the way to San Juan Bautista and to Hollister, and it’s now a historic road in San Juan Bautista, but its blocked off to a certain point here in Salinas. And so on the road there’s this hangman tree that was apparently used quite a bit, there were quite a few unfortunate events. And I’m assuming that it probably goes back pretty far. And supposedly if you were driving by this tree at night and you would flash your lights, then a body would fall, like you could see him fall on a noose. And it was an apparition so of course you’d drive right through it.”
CB: “Why do you think that people tell that sort of story?”
CH: “I think there must be more history with that tree, you know actual history. Because like there was a cross that was under that tree. And so you have kids who want to go and desecrate it because like, they’d go oh it was just a tale. And then you have other kids who’d be like oh no you don’t mess with that because my aunt or my grandma or whoever told me that there were actual murders there and you need to be respectful. Honestly when I was younger I thought that it was just lore people made up to be afraid of.”
CB: “Do you know where you heard the story?”
CH: “Oh gosh. It’s a story that’s been told by many people, you know classmates, or people older than me, there’s no one particular story everyone in the community just knows about it and has a different take on it. I think that some people tell it for reverence, you know. Whatever ever happened in that tree was a terrible thing. But I think that other people tell it because they just want to have something cool to talk about to kinda creep you out.”
My informant grew up in Salinas, and was raised by her mother and grandmother who grew up in the area as well. As a kid and teenager she spent a large amount of her time at or around Old Stage Road. The ghost stories surrounding the road are so notorious that I’ve heard many of them without having lived in Salinas, or ever even been to the road. Old Stage Road was a very popular teenage hangout spot, particularly in the 80’s for cruising.
I interviewed my informant over the phone, and we had a light and casual conversation. I had heard of the road and that it was haunted many times before, but this was the first time I heard the details of some of the stories associated with the road.
I think that it’s most interesting that the stories surrounding Old Stage Road are often associated with a car. This story in particular discusses how you would only see the ghost after flashing your car’s headlights. I think this association reflects the importance of teenage car culture as my informant was growing up. My informant also discusses how she believes that the ghost stories reflect a reverence for the history of the tree. I personally know that the tree is associated with past hate crimes, and do the ghost stories act as a reminder of the injustices of the past. In this way, the ghost stories are a warning against repeating past mistakes, and reflect a large social intolerance for similar behaviors.
For another variation of Old Stage Road haunting see Reddit post “Old Stage Road” posted by u/moonriver7811. https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/2op9ed/old_stage_road/