Get In -or- The Stranger in the Passenger Seat
When I was around nine years old, the young boy that lived across the street from me told this story. He told it to me as a first hand experience, but as the years have gone by I have heard a variation of this story and realize it may be an urban legend. All the same, it truly still gives me chills thinking about it,
It was an overcast Tuesday afternoon, and my neighbor Matthew had stayed home from school for the day. He was asleep when his mother entered the room and told him that she had to run to the grocery store. He was not old enough at the time to stay at home by himself, so he had no choice but to go to the market with her. He rolled out of bed and threw some pants on before heading to the car. His mother was in a hurry, hoping to be home before her other children got off of the school bus. She hurried Matthew threw the super market, and toward the cash register.
Matthew bounded out of the store, racing ahead of his mother and her shopping cart toward the car. She had parked their beaten up station wagon with the wood paneling on the sides fairly close to the entrance, as there were very few cars in the lot that day, but it wasn't until he was around ten feet from the car that Matthew saw it. He stopped dead in his tracks before his mother saw it too. There in the passenger seat was an old woman, who appeared to be in a hospital gown or something of the sort. She was staring straight ahead, seemingly unaware that there were two people staring at her through the drivers seat window. Her hair was messy and disheveled, and her skin was pallid.
Matthew's mother grabbed his arm tightly and held it for a few seconds before she spoke. "I want you to stay here. I'm just going to talk to her." This happened in a fairly small town in the early 80's, where many people left their car doors unlocked or the windows down, so the details of how the woman got into the car seem pretty simple. His mom approached the driver's side door, stopping about a foot from the car. She called in through the open window to the woman, "Can I help you, ma'am?"
The woman's head swung around toward his mother quickly, and she smiled eerily at both of them. She did not respond. She just smiled, with an almost blank look in her eyes. Matthew caught himself take a step back as his mom repeated, "Excuse me, ma'am. Can I help you?"
It took a moment, but the woman finally responded. Her voice was shaky. "Get in." She said beckoning toward them. His mother quickly replied, holding up her hand toward her son, as if telling him to stay back, "Ma'am. I'm very sorry, but is there someone we can call to come get you?" There was a pause, before the woman replied "Please. Get in." Again, she beckoned them toward the vehicle.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry but I can't give you a ride. But I would be happy to call someone that can come get you. Okay?" The woman now seemed mildly agitated, and her retort was extremely forceful and sharp, "GET IN."
Nothing about this felt right to Matthew, and apparently his mother felt the same way. She turned to her son and told him to run back inside and tell the manager to call the police. He ran. He told the manager exactly what was happening, and without taking a breath, he instructed him to call 911. Not wanting to leave his mother alone outside with this seemingly unstable woman, Matthew dragged the manager with him back into the parking lot. His mother was still trying to negotiate with this woman, who was becoming more and more aggressive in her demands. "GET IN THE CAR!"
As I have said, this was a very small town, so the police arrived very quickly. Two male officers arrived on the scene in under ten minutes, and quickly approached Matthew and his mother to ask for the details. After getting the story from his mom, the officers approached the vehicle and began to speak to the woman. "Ma'am. Please step out of the vehicle."
The woman did not respond. "Ma'am, step out of the vehicle. We need to speak to you." Still nothing from the old woman. The officer motioned toward his partner who drew his weapon and nodded. He approached the passenger side door slowly. "Ma'am?" He put his hand on the handle. "Let's do this the easy way, okay?" He pulled the handle. The door opened. "Now, step out of the car." She looked at him, wild eyed, but said nothing. Now the door had swung all the way open. The officer placed his hand on the woman's arm and slowly pulled the woman up and out of the vehicle.
And then chills went up Matthew's spine. Not when he saw the first officer drag the woman out of the vehicle, not when she locked eyes with him and smiled that awful smile. It was when the second officer revealed what the woman had been concealing.
A small hatchet.
To this day, I still think of Matthew and his mom, and those chilling words.
- Written by Leo Francis