Truckers all around the world have their own distinctive sets of myths and legends. The trucking lifestyle is one that is uniquely suited to the spreading of distinctive cultural traditions and stories. Truckers live a nomadic life, only meeting other truckers at rest stops and motels along their routes. They make a living in a highly variable and superstition prone environment. They are always moving around – making the exchange of stories around the world possible.
The Alure of The Road
There has always been a romantic, folklore rich side to the trucking industry. The nomadic truckers of America inhabit the liminal world of the road. This has drawn in a whole cadre of people interested in trucking not just for the money – but for the experience. Learn more here about how truckers find shipping work and get out onto the road.
Route 666 is graced with an otherworldly and ominous name. Technically speaking, Route 666 is the 6th section of the famous Route 66 – the part of the road that travels through Utah. This so-called ‘highway to hell’ has long been the source of myths and legends within the trucking community. Stories of a ‘mad trucker’ chasing motorists along the highway persist to the present day. Some truckers tell of a ghostly girl in a white dress that flags down trucks – only to mysteriously disappear when she is approached. Stretches of the road have recently been renamed to dispel its devilish reputation. Route 66 is now more of a tourist trail than a functioning trucking highway, and tourists need to be kept happy! Some truckers do still travel down this famous highway – especially hot shot truckers conducting small scale shipping work. For some Americana enthusiasts, the sixth section of Route 66 is the most exciting and folklore rich of all.
Stories about ghostly drivers have always been popular among truckers, and none is more popular than the tale of Phantom 309. The tale is a popular late night drinker’s story or tall tale to tell new driver’s mates. It goes a little something like this:
A lonely hitch hiker is picked up by a friendly trucker, who gives him a dime to get a coffee after dropping him off. The hitch hiker goes into a nearby diner to get his coffee – letting the waitress know about the generosity of the trucker and describing their appearance. The shocked waitress tells the hitch hiker that he was picked up by a famous ghost driver, who sacrificed himself to save a bus of schoolchildren many years ago. The unknowing traveler has been blessed by a restless ghost!
The story was based on the death of a real trucker and was immortalized in song by Red Sovine and Tommy Faile in 1967. The song was one of the first truly popular ‘trucking songs’ released in the USA. It is likely that the legend was inspired by traditional English folkloric tales of benevolent spirits met on the roadside, or the folkloric character of the boggart. Boggarts were mischievous (and sometimes nasty) creatures that lived on roadsides or in liminal spaces in English folklore. Mysterious creatures have always inhabited the wild, borderlands of the world in the popular imagination.