One of my personal favorite urban legends/folk tales. Here’s how I remember it:
One night a man was traveling alone down a back road in a convertible. suddenly it started to rain, and as he got out to lift the hood he noticed a boy walking ahead. Not wanting the boy to catch pneumonia the man drove up and asked if the boy would like a ride. The boy said he would, and climbed into the passenger seat. He was shaking profusely, and had a hard time saying “thank you” through his chattering teeth.
“You’re soaked from head to toe,” the man said. “Here, take this sweater before you catch cold.” The boy took the sweater, and said thank you. As they drove the man asked the boy where he lived and the boy said “Maple Ave, a few blocks away”. The man asked his name and he said it was Eddie. As they drove on the man could tell the boy was finally warming up. On Maple Ave Eddie pointed out his house to the man, a red brick house with white shutters. The porch light was on. He pulled into the driveway and Eddie started to take off the sweater. “No kid,” the man said. “Wear it in so you stay warm. I”ll pick it up tomorrow afternoon, okay?” “Sure,” he said, then, “and…thanks for the ride, sir.” When he reached the door, under the porch lamp he turned back to the man and waved, and the man waved back and left.
The next day around noon the man made his way back to Eddie’s house. The man rang the doorbell, and an older woman came to the door. She almost seemed surprised to have company, so the man smiled and introduced himself. “Good afternoon, mam. Are you Eddie’s mother?” “What’s this about?” she said. She looked frightened and began to back into the door. The man quickly explained how He’d given Eddie a ride the night before in the pouring rain, and had lent him his sweater. “I’m just here to pick up the sweater.” She stood still, staring at the man, her eyes watery with tears. Tears of sorrow? Tears of rage? Maybe a bit of both.
“I’m sorry sir,” she said. “My son Eddie died 20 years ago”.
Confused, and even a bit frightened the man gave his condolences, and left the property. He caught site of the mail box out front. EVERETT. Getting what little signal he could on his phone, the man ran a search. Eddie Everett born 1986 died 1997, buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. “That was where I stopped to put my car’s top up”, the man thought. He drove back down the same stretch of road he had the night before, and made his way into the Greenwood Cemetery.
Walking back and forth he checked the tombstones and markers, finally there it was. It was small tombstone, almost forgotten by the years past. And lying on the ground over Eddie’s grave was the man’s sweater.
Origins & Variations: This type of tale is what’s known as the “vanishing hitchhiker” story and has multiple variations. In most, a ghost takes the form of a human and is offered a ride home by a non-ghost. In one version, the young man upon hearing that his passenger was really a ghost loses his mind.
This is a tale that probably dates as far back as ancient Rome. There was a story of a young woman named Philinnion who died, then was seen with the man she loved who had no idea of her death. When her parents find out that she has “come back” they rush to see her. Philinnion accuses them of interfering with her “life? and dies a second time. Typical teenager!
In other forms of media: This urban legend, having the long history it does, eventually made it’s way to 45 rpm. The late 50’s and early 60’s was the time of dead teenager songs. This morbid phenomenon saw big hits for: J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers (Last Kiss), Mark Dinning (Teen Angel), and Jody Reynolds (Endless Sleep)-and for Dickey Lee in 1965 Laurie (Strange Things Happen). In this variation of the tale the singer falls in love with an “angel of a girl” only to find out “she died a year ago today.” Bummer!
–Brian McTamaney, 5/27/17