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The Story …
Giving a ride to a teenage girl hitch-hiking in the middle of nowhere can be a bad idea, especially if they slip into the back seat unseen — because they’re a lost and troubled spirit condemned to wander the lonely roads forever. Teenagers can be obsessive, angry, unreasonable and possessive, and they’ll fall in love in a heartbeat. Being dead doesn’t make any difference. Darren and Jean Madden should never have opened the car doors that night when their Ford mysteriously broke down.
A long time ago when I first started writing horror I came across a library book called “350 Famous Ghost Photographs” (or something like that). It was filled with—not surprisingly—pictures of ghosts, fairies, strange events involving sticky stuff called ectoplasm, the odd close encounter with a UFO and a couple of supposedly genuine circus freaks that justified the possibility of werewolves.
I say “supposedly” with a level of cynicism with which I figure most people would view the book, but the editors did point out something very interesting in their foreword. Every single picture was claimed to be bona fide as far as the photographers who took them were concerned. In other words, yes it was possible they were victims of a hoax, but no one contributing to the book had deliberately used trick photography or tried to fool anybody.
Which means that it only needed just one of those photographs to be genuine and suddenly our world is a different, spooky place—and at odds of 350 to 1 in favour of there being an authentic picture on those pages, guess who might end up with ectoplasm on their face?
One photo in particular was very thought-provoking (and therefore damned scary) and I was always going write about it one day. I won’t describe it here and spoil anything, although you can probably guess something from the story title. What was especially striking about the picture wasn’t so much its content or what it showed—of which there was no doubt, by the way—but rather the completely random, unexceptional circumstances in which it was taken, very similar to the way I’ve portrayed things in this story.
That’s the trouble with ghosts. Sure, you can sleep a night in the Tower of London and have any number of unhappy, headless spirits rattle chains under your nose. It goes with the territory. No, it’s the ghosts you don’t expect that you should worry about. The ones you don’t see coming.
Like the ghost standing silently in the corner of your room right now.