What constitutes a real ghost story? If there is no official documentation of an encounter, does that mean it never existed or happened? When is a ghost story not a ghost story? And, what about all those tales of ghostly hitch hikers and knocks on the door, are they not ghost stories or are they just urban legends?
Many of these ghostly stories have similar details; a car with one or more people driving on a lonely stretch of highway when they spot an old man, hitch hiking on the side of the road. Mostly all the motorists had apprehensions of picking up the person but all eventually do. The driver stops, sometimes the person disappears right then, or gets into the car then disappears, some even stay awhile and talk. They often leave something behind; a piece of clothing, a locket, a scarf etc. which the astonished good samaritan finds and tries to return but finds out that person has died years ago.
According to the book of Mormon, it is said Christ visited South America soon after dying on the cross. Apparently, Jesus chose three men to be his apostles who requested to stay on earth after death for eternity. Jesus granted them their wish (Chapter 28, Nephi in the Book of Mormon). These three men are called the "Three Nephites," and are said to be walking among us today, both physically and spiritually.
Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was settled in Salt Lake city these stories I'm going to tell you originate from that area. Here are some examples;
- A Utah couple, driving south on Highway 15, the date unspecified, when they came upon one such Nephite, an old man hitch hiking a ride on a deserted part of the highway. They stopped and he crawled into the back seat, expressing his gratitude to them for stopping. They enjoyed a lively conversation for a short while, and as in any conversation, there is always a moment of silence After a few miles the driver started the conversation again but received no reply, when he looked in the rear view mirror the man had disappeared. Relating this story to a waitress when they stopped at a diner, she told them she had heard other stories similar to the one just described to her, on that same stretch of the highway.
- The offer of food is not uncommon. Again, this story takes place in Utah during the hot summer of 1874. Mr. Edwin Squires and his wife and three daughters lived in a humble shack just east of Salt Lake City. Mrs. Squires and the three girls were left home as Mr. Squires went off to rustle up the cattle, he informed his wife he'd be back at 7 that evening. Nearing suppertime when Mr. Squires failed to show up at 7, then 8 they became worried. A knock came to the door. When Mrs. Squires opened the door, an old man, with long white hair and beard, a beggar. He asked for some food. "Could you give me a meal," the stranger asked. Hestitantly, she invited him in and gave him something to eat. As he was eating the stranger surprised her saying that she was not well. She told him about her painful shoulder. He told her she wouldn't feel anymore pain, then got up after finishing the meal and thanked her for her hospitality and left, adding going out the door that she will never be in need again for the rest of her life. When she rushed to the door to see him off, he had disappeared. Finally, when her husband returned and entered the kitchen he was surprised his wife had his meal ready and laid out at the table. Mrs. Squires was amazed to find on the table, the meal she offered the stranger, untouched. Mrs. Squires lived to be over 90 and never was in need for anything after the incident, her shoulder had never hurt since the day the stranger came to the door.
- This incident took place in 1944. Again, a couple come across a very old hitch hiker as they were diving in their pick-up truck at night. They talked as they rode. The man was well versed in politics. On a lonely part of the highway the man wanted out. Reluctantly, they let him out and as he exited the car he thanked them for their kindness and added, "On returning from wherever you are going you will be carrying a corpse in the back of your truck, and the War will end in August." He then walked away and disappeared and as the old man said, on their return they happened upon an accident. A man was dying, he was loaded into their pickup truck and they were ordered to take him to the hospital. The man died. The war didn't end that August of 1944, it ended in August of the next year, 1945.
Usually, Nephites appear by themselves but there have been incidents where the three have appeared together as in the case that happened in Holden, Utah, where a woman answered the door to three strange men, who immediately went to her sick and dying child's bedroom then disappeared after tending the child. The next morning the child was up and about, healthy as ever, in fact was never sick in its long life afterwards.
These old men have appeared here and there throughout Utah's history, usually, on the side of the road hitch hiking, or knocking on someone's door, begging for food or requesting a bed for the night.
The next time you pick up a hitch hiker or answer the door, it may be one of the three Nephites. Either a ghost story or a ghostly legend, these are just some of the strange happenings and amazing events that people experience in the Rocky Mountains. The Three Nephites, blessed by Jesus to "Never Taste Death."
Related Blog: The Lady Hitchhiker of UBC