Phantom vehicles are the ghost ships of the land (and, occasionally, air). They come in many forms—some are ghosts in their own right, some are cursed by a malevolent force, and some are merely unsolved mysteries.
Of course, as with all ghost stories, it’s good to remember that the ”hauntings” behind these vehicles are usually urban legends. Some even have a very reasonable explanation. But regardless of the truth behind them, they are definitely unnerving.
10. Eastern Airlines Flight 401
One of the strangest cases of alleged ghost vehicles is Eastern Airlines Flight 401, a Tri-Star jetliner that crashed in December, 1972 into a Florida swamp. The accident killed 101 people, including pilot Bob Loft and flight engineer Don Repo.
The accident quickly earned an eerie reputation. This was not because the plane itself was haunted (after all, it was smashed to pieces), but because it created other haunted planes. A number of working parts of the plane were salvaged from the crash site and subsequently fitted into other planes, where the crews soon reported strange visions: the ghosts of Loft and Repo were frequently claimed to be quietly sitting among the passengers and occasionally even engaging the crew in conversation. The apparitions were said to be extremely lifelike, right up until they vanished in thin air.
The creepy ghost crew usually appeared in or near parts of planes that had been salvaged from 401. Once, one of them appeared to a flight engineer and casually informed the terrified man he’d already made the pre-flight check for him. Another time, the face of Don Repo was reported to have manifested in an oven (salvaged, of course, from Flight 401), warning three crew members of a fire that would take place during the flight. The plane later experienced an engine fire and had to cancel the last leg of its route.
Officially, Eastern Airlines doesn’t comment on the phenomenon. Still, the guarding ghosts of Flight 401 are said to be something of a legend within the company—rumors say even the company’s vice president has encountered the ghosts once.
9. The Black Volga
During the ’60s and ’70s, the people under Soviet rule had plenty to be worried about. From the Cold War to the many dangers and shortcomings of their own governmental system, their daily life was laced with small doses of terror. However, there was one entity that was particularly frightening: the Black Volga.
Nobody knew who drove the Black Volga. Some said it was priests, some said nuns, some swore it was Satan worshipers—some even claimed the devil himself was behind the steering wheel. The Black Volga was a Volga limousine with white rims and curtains that came out of nowhere. Sometimes, its rearview mirrors were actually horns. It abducted children and killed anyone who approached it (sometimes instantly, sometimes the victim would mysteriously drop dead exactly 24 hours later). No one knew why it took the children; maybe they were sold for rich Arabs who needed their blood as a cure for leukemia, maybe the kids were just harvested for their organs.
The myth of the Black Volga was widely spread throughout the vast areas of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, and Mongolia. Although there is no hard evidence to support (or, for that matter, debunk) the story, it’s worth noting that Volga limos were the most expensive cars available to the Soviets at the time. As such, they were mostly driven by politruks (Soviet political commissars) and other Communist Party officials—the very class responsible for the people’s plight.
Stockholm, the capital of peaceful and prosperous Sweden, hides a ghastly secret in its subway system. A silvery, shining ghost train called Silverpilen (”the Silver Arrow”) lurks there, stopping at random stations at random intervals. Its interiors are sometimes completely empty, sometimes filled with ghostly passengers. If you’re unlucky enough to board it, you may end up in Kymlinge, the subway station of the dead (which is actually a real, abandoned subway station). You might never be seen again, or emerge back into the world weeks or even years later.
Haunted or not, Silverpilen is a very real train. It’s an experimental vehicle that was put together from eight aluminum-colored C5 carts. While Silverpilen never made it to mass production, this test unit was occasionally used as a backup train during rush hours. As the train was not in everyday use, its cars have no advertisements and their only interior markings are remains of partially removed graffiti. Its unpainted, silvery look also differs radically from the usual color scheme of Stockholm subway trains. As such, it could be quite an eerie sight when arriving at a station. This could give a passenger a nasty shock, especially after a hard night of partying.
Although Silverpilen was only rarely in active service and completely retired in 1996, it gained a very frightening reputation and is still rumored to haunt subway workers in abandoned tunnels to this very day.
7. The Phantom Bus Of London
In 1934, a London motorist suddenly performed an emergency swerve while driving along Cambridge Gardens. He died a horrible death when his car hit a wall and exploded in flames. Although no reason for his behavior could be found, many witnesses stepped forward and offered a potential reason for the poor driver’s demise: the Phantom Bus of London.
Allegedly seen by many London natives between the ’30s and the ’90s, the Ghost Bus is a very real-looking red London double-decker, carrying the line number “7.” It always appears at a certain point at 1:15 AM, thundering along the road straight toward terrified drivers. Its lights are never on, and no driver is ever visible. As the panicked drivers steer to narrowly avoid collision and turn to look behind them, the bus is nowhere to be seen or heard.
6. Pippo, The Ghost Plane
In World War II, the Italian population was taking quite a beating. Their own fascist government and its Nazi allies terrorized them, while the Allied forces considered them an enemy. Still, the people in Northern Italy had an even bigger (and stranger) fear: something was out to get them, and it was personal.
That something was a mysterious plane called Pippo.
No one knew where Pippo came from, what type of plane it was, or who piloted it. Even its allegiance (whether it was loyal to the fascists or the Allied forces) remained a mystery. Pippo came from nowhere, and it was said that it fired its machine guns at anyone foolish enough to get in its way. It was recognized by the distinctive “pip-pip” sound of its engines (hence the name) and was mostly heard at night. Mostly.
Many people were terrified of Pippo, which they felt was a mystical presence that was specifically after them. You had to block all lights in your house or Pippo might open fire. Its various lethal payloads were said to include exploding pens, poisoned candy, and powerful bombs. If Pippo was bored, it would open fire on innocent farm workers.
Although Pippo sounds like a bogeyman-like ghost character, historians agree that there was something behind the myth. In reality, the plane known as Pippo was probably a series of British reconnaissance planes of the de Havilland Mosquito type (the plane model had a distinctive engine sound similar to that of Pippo) that flew all over the countryside at night. Still, Pippo the demon plane remained a ghost in collective consciousness, a means to make the horrors of war tangible. Even in the ’90s, it was still a well-known memory in Northern Italy.
5. The Jumping Car Of Cape Town
It’s always a bad sign when your car starts moving on its own. A Cape Town, South Africa family and their guests found this out the hard way when they woke up to a loud crash in the middle of the night. Hurrying outside, they found the guests’ Renault was jerkily jumping around the yard, eventually breaking a sturdy fence before coming to a stop. Initially, they thought that someone had tried to steal the car . . . yet, no driver could be found. The perimeter of their yard had not been breached, the car was locked, and its windows were intact. Even the hand brake was still on. The car had been moving by itself.
When the police arrived, they wouldn’t believe a word of the story . . . that is, until the car ignited itself right in front of the officers. The Renault roared to life and started jumping backwards until a hibiscus tree stopped it.
After investigating, Renault offered the explanation that the events were caused by a rusty starter cable. However, they could not explain the roaring sounds the car supposedly made.
4. Abraham Lincoln’s Phantom Train
Perhaps one of the most famous phantom vehicles in American history, this eerie ghost steam engine is said to progress through 180 cities every April. It is essentially the ghost of the real funeral train in which Abraham Lincoln (who was allegedly keenly interested in the supernatural and even encountered his own doppelganger once) made his last trip. People claim that in the ghost train’s presence, watches and clocks stop. While the president himself is not seen (he’s only present as a coffin covered by an American flag), his ghostly remains are guarded by the spirits of soldiers dressed in Union uniforms.
The train is said to emerge from a cloud of thick, black fog, towing its dark cars. Its arrival makes the air noticeably heavier and colder to all living souls present. Its progress appears to emulate the 2,700-kilometer (1,650-mile) funeral procession of the actual funeral train, except that it never arrives at its historical destination of Springfield, Illinois.
3. The Cursed Car Of Franz Ferdinand
The Graf & Stift company is one of the unsung heroes of the automobile business. Before World War I, their cars were actually quite successful and had some fairly famous clientele.
Sadly, one of their models happened to be the car Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in.
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the final straw in the long-building tension between various European nations, and marked the beginning of World War I. Everyone knows the political and historical consequences of the killing, but not many are aware of the strange ghost story that is associated with it. According to legend, the car (a 1910 Graf & Stift Double Phaeton) itself was so shocked by the events that every single subsequent owner met a violent fate.
During the following 12 years, Franz Ferdinand’s car saw 15 different owners. During the same time, it was involved in several accidents that led to 13 deaths. One owner, an Austrian general, became insane and died in an asylum. Another, a captain, fatally ran into two peasants and a tree (despite attempting to avoid the accident) only nine days after purchasing the car. Yet another owner committed a suicide.
And it gets worse. The governor of Yugoslavia had four separate accidents during his possession of the vehicle—one of which cost him an arm. When his friend, a doctor, later bought the “cursed” car for a dare, but it flipped over, and the doctor was crushed. The same fate later met another owner, a Swiss racing driver. A Serbian farmer never even had a chance to drive the car—the car fell over and crushed him during the towing process.
The last owner of the car, a Romanian man, was arguably the most unlucky: while on his way to a wedding with five friends, the vehicle suddenly spun out of control. All five were killed in the crash.
That’s the legend, anyway. The ”jinxed” nature of the car has been called into question since the story emerged in the 1950s. We may never find out the car’s true nature for certain; these days it’s just a broken-down artifact in an Austrian museum.
2. James Dean’s Porsche Spyder
James Dean was the Heath Ledger of his era: a handsome, talented actor whose promising future was tragically cut short when he died at the peak of his youth (and arguably fame). Dean’s untimely demise was caused by a traffic accident—he fatally crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder, which he affectionately called Little B*stard. Of course, the Porsche was soon found to be haunted.
The remains of Little B*stard were purchased by George Barris, the car customizer whose shop would later build the Batmobile for the 1960s TV series and a number of other famous popular culture vehicles. In his possession, the restored Porsche (now divided in two: a Lotus husk powered by the Porsche’s restored engine, and the totaled remains of the actual Porsche) soon gained a frightening reputation. It was involved in a number of mysterious accidents, at least one of them fatal. Not all of the mysterious situations surrounding the car were on the street or the racetrack, either: once, it caught fire in a storing garage. Another time, it mysteriously disappeared from a sealed boxcar.
Although the story of Dean’s haunted car is well known, the majority of these tales are thought to have been invented by none other than George Barris himself. According to some, he wanted to turn the wrecked car into profit and came up with the legend of haunting in order to achieve this.
Even so, there’s one more eerie fact that surrounds Dean’s death. His fatal crash was supposedly predicted by fellow actor Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy). According to legend, Dean asked Guinness what he thought of the vehicle. Guinness responded with: “If you get in that Porsche, you will be dead next week.”
Dean died exactly seven days later.
1. The Haunted German War Submarine
During World War I, submarines were powerful weapons. One of the more dangerous types was the German UB III class. Submarines of this type managed to sink 507 enemy ships during the conflict, including the feared battleship HMS Britannia.
One UB III submarine was particularly dangerous, both to its enemies and its crew. First off, its building process was a disaster: three builders suffocated on diesel fumes, and two more were crushed by a falling girder. During its testing stage, one crew member was swept overboard and was never seen again. The very first test drive sank the submarine to the bottom of the sea because of a ruptured ballast tank. The crew lay helpless on the ocean floor for hours, as the interior slowly filled with poisonous gases released by a damaged battery. Though the vessel was rescued, every man became violently sick and two of them died from exposure to the gas.
Somehow, the submarine was still declared seaworthy. During its early missions, a freak torpedo explosion killed eight crewmen and an officer. Soon, the officer’s ghost was reported haunting the ship. Soon after that, the captain was decapitated by flying shrapnel. That night, several crewmembers reported seeing the dead officer’s ghost guarding his headless body.
At that point, the entire crew of U-65 decided they’d had enough and requested a transfer—but the German Navy couldn’t find a replacement crew until they agreed to perform an exorcism on the ship. This didn’t help, though: just a few months later, an American submarine ambushed U-65 and exploded it with torpedoes . . . or did they? The American captain later told that they never had a chance to fire. According to him, U-65 exploded all by itself.