My informant, DK, is a undergraduate student at Arizona State University studying aerospace engineering. He lives in Tempe, Arizona. His family is American and he was born and raised in Arizona, where he has lived his entire life.
My informant, DK, and I are friends, after meeting online through a mutual friend during the pandemic. I asked him if he had any folklore to share.
DK: “Alright. Uhh… My middle-school math teacher, his name was (REDACTED), uh, very interesting guy. He fled home when he was 18, and I think he joined… he joined up with a traveling circus. (DK laughs). Like, I’m not making this up he legitimately joined a traveling circus. Uh, and then, at another point he decided to hitchhike across America. You know, hitchhike from point A to point B… uh, not really caring where he was going, you know… it’s the 70s. Uh, and so he is on the West Coast, in California during this time… And uh, he is hitching of course, like I said… and so he gets picked up by some guy, guy is giving him real creepy vibes. Just like a no-good dude kind of situation. Uh, and the guy keeps asking like creepy questions like… “Do you have any family? Do you live nearby?” Like that kind of stuff. And eventually my math teacher gets creeped out SO much the decides to bail from the car, literally like jumps out of the car while it is still rolling and runs away. And… you know, and normally that’s the end of the story except my math teacher saw on the news later that day, err…. The next day, actually, that there was a hitchhiker found who was found dead on the beach, uh, nearby where he was. And that… probably was the like same guy picking up another hitchhiker and killing him. And that that was like a serial killer who was doing that stuff so… that’s the story of my awesome math teacher who was almost killed by a serial killer when he was a young lad.
AT: “Ok, did you hear this from your math teacher?”
AT: “Ok, what was the context in which he told you the story?”
DK: “Uh… It was math class. (DK laughs.) We didn’t have much to talk about at the time. He was a really neat dude, he had a lot of stories like that.”
AT: “Was it a known or a famous serial killer?”
DK: “I think it was, but… it… it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten which serial killer.”
Serial killers have played a prominent role in American culture and folklore ever since the late twentieth century, if not earlier. While serial killings still occur in modern American society, the rise of mass shootings and other large-scale violence and killings such as the rise of domestic terrorism have in a way pushed serial killings and serial killers away from the limelight, and at least in the collective conscious they have become a almost quaint thing of the past. Television shows such as Netflix’s Mindhunter, or it’s various documentaries about real-life serial killers have propelled the murderers of the late twentieth century into the status of myths and legends. This particular story seems a perfect encapsulation of this kind of serial killer tale. The time period is the late twentieth century, with the setup of the story being that the informant’s teacher is hitchhiking, a phenomenon that has widely fallen out of practice as it is nowadays deemed “unsafe”, primarily because of stories such as this one. Popular American media is also full of such stories, such as in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where a group of hitchhikers find themselves at the mercy of a family of hillbilly serial killers. The scary and widely now considered relatively unsafe times of the late twentieth century in America lead themselves to all sorts of morbid tales, cults, serial killings, and the like were at the forefront of American cultural consciousness at the time, and as a result many such tales of the period, such as the one found in this article, have lasted to this day.