Ghost Stories

Phantom Fleetwood

When I was in college in Kerrville, Texas, I always traveled back home via US Highway 83. It was a two-lane asphalt road that went in almost a straight line north, but traversed the small hills of that part of the state. Over each little hill opened a new vista of beautiful evergreen live-oak trees, wildflowers, cactus and cows. I fell in love with that drive from the first trip.

Between Junction and Menard, on that very first trip back home, in an area of hills that made passing very dangerous, a yellow Cadillac Fleetwood bore down on me. I noticed it in the rear-view mirror. I thought, "This old guy is nuts! He can't pass me here!" I scanned the highway ahead, as much as the hilly countryside would allow. Signs on the side of the road read DO NOT PASS. Double yellow lines between the lanes reinforced the warning. Looking in the mirror, the Caddy was very impatient, driving slightly over the double yellow lines.

I increased my speed to 85 miles-per-hour. I didn't know what this man was going to do. He was right on my back bumper and still weaving over to the left as if to pass. There was no way to see what was over the next hill because the hills were coming too fast. My heart was racing as fast as the Mercury Cougar I was driving. I was really afraid. One thing goes wrong and we'd both be in serious trouble.

I felt a sudden surge of dread, looked up in the rear-view mirror and saw the Cadillac swerve over into the other lane to pass me. We were going down a small ravine right before a big hill. No way an oncoming car could be spotted in time! I couldn't swallow, I was so scared. I immediately took myfoot off the accelerator and started to brake. I looked over to my left where the yellow Caddy should have been and saw--nothing.

I looked in the rear-view mirror, thinking he had changed his mind and had pulled back in behind me. Nothing. I looked ahead, thinking he had already passed me and I was too busy worrying to notice. Nothing. I looked around the area beside the highway, thinking he had pulled off. Nothing.

That enormous car was just plain gone.

I puzzled over that incident the rest of the way home.

The next trip north to home, on the same stretch of road, I saw the Caddy approaching from the rear. I didn't even remember the first time as months had passed, and my thoughts were on my studies (at least in theory). This time I saw a little of the driver. He was an old man in a straw cowboy hat seated comfortably in that huge yellow car. Again he was on my back bumper, acting like he was going to pass, then pulling out into the other lane, then vanishing. I looked around, there was no place he could have gone. He was just nowhere. And then I remembered. And again I pondered these two occurances all the way home.

Over the course of four years, every time I was headed north on that stretch of highway, and only going north, never south, that same yellow Cadillac Fleetwood would zoom up in my rear-view mirror, try to pass me and vanish. Not on any trip did I fail to have that encounter. I never learned or even tried to find out who he was or how he died. I finally did figure out that he was a ghost re-inacting the last moments of his life. But it took a while for that to sink in. I think it was about the fourth or fifth time that the light in my mental attic clicked on and I realized, "Oh, this isn't real!"

I haven't been down that highway in fifteen years. I feel sure, though, that he's still flying over those hills in that great big yellow Cadillac, flying towards a destiny he can never accept....