Previously: Hikaru-san’s Painting.
Type: PV (Phantom Vehicle).
Period/location of origin: Early 1990s, Union Pass, Arizona, just outside of Kingman; alternatively, 2003, the internet. (See: Additional notes.)
Appearance: Subject, known variously as the Ghost Bus of Highway 93, the Ghost Bus of U.S. 93, the Ghost Bus of Union Pass, and the Grim Weeper, appears to be a black and chrome tour or charter bus accented with red, aqua, and yellow trim. The bus is of standard size, with a capacity of approximately 56 passengers. It is sometimes referred to as Bus 777, and was seemingly operated by a driver under contract with a casino located in Laughlin, Nevada.
Although subject initially appears solid and substantial, it later reveals itself to be incorporeal — what some might describe as “ghostly.”
Hence: The Ghost Bus of Highway 93.
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Modus operandi: Subject selects targets based on where they are driving, and when: Should you take to the road late at night near Union Pass, around Morristown, or on U.S. 93 between Wickenburg and Wikieup in Arizona, you will have satisfied the conditions for selection. Subject will first make its presence known to selected targets by allowing itself to be sighted in target’s reviewer mirror. Targets will experience this introduction as the sudden arrival of a bus coming rapidly out of the darkness behind them and proceeding to tailgate them. Targets may attempt to speed up or change lanes in an effort to evade subject; however, subject’s approach typically occurs too quickly for targets to be able to react in these ways.
When subject has reached a close enough distance, targets will see not just subject’s headlights, clearance lights, or outline, but also something… dripping from the headlights. Something that resembles tears — silver, chrome-gilded tears. As if the vehicle were weeping.
By this point, subject will be so close that targets will have run out of time to react — if, that is, they ever really had time to do so in the first place. Targets will brace for impact — only to find that subject has, somehow, passed over them, or perhaps through them.
After subject passes through target’s vehicle, clearing target and emerging ahead of them on the road, subject will suddenly appear to melt, becoming a silvery pool of liquid. And then, even the liquid is gone, leaving targets alone on the road once more.
Alone… except for the sudden and inexplicable feeling that there are now passengers in what were previously empty seats within target’s vehicle.
There won’t be any, should target look, of course.
But the seats will still feel somehow… full.
It is unknown whether this feeling will ever fully depart from target or their vehicle.
Additional notes: Subject’s origins allegedly date back to roughly 1990, when, it has been reported, a bus full of gambling tourists on their way to Laughlin, Nevada from Phoenix, Arizona vanished without a trace.
According to these reports, the bus ran “turnaround” trips — short, quick vacations or trips that last a day or slightly longer, with no hotel stay in the middle. Turnaround trips may depart early in the morning and return again late that night, or they may depart at night and return sometime the next day. Casinos may sometimes make deals with bus operators to shuttle passengers back and forth between their home cities and the casinos themselves as a means of bringing outside customers and gamblers in. The driver of the bus that would eventually become subject reportedly worked with a casino in Laughlin in this fashion, although it is not known precisely which casino.
The distance between Phoenix and Laughlin is approximately 227 miles; the trip typically takes around four hours by car.
One day in July, the bus departed from Phoenix, made its typical pickups, and took on its final passengers in Sun City, just outside of Phoenix, before taking to the road in earnest. 48 passengers were aboard at the time, plus the driver. The driver has only ever been identified by his first name, “Joe.”
U.S. 60 turned into U.S. 93. When the bus passed through Wickenburg, it made a stop at a fast food restaurant, where the passengers were permitted to stretch their legs and purchase food and coffee if they wished. Shortly after the bus resumed the journey, however, the air conditioner began to fail. The driver pulled over and explained the issue to the passengers, then took a vote to decide whether they should turn around and return to Phoenix or continue to their destination. The vast majority of the passengers — 45 of the 48 — voted to continue onward. The bus started up again and continued traveling north.
The bus soon developed other issues, evinced by a trail of smoke left in its wake. When it reached Wikieup, about 75 miles north of Wickenburg and roughly two-thirds of the way to Laughlin, at around 10am, the driver pulled the bus over again and informed the passengers that, given the bus’ condition, they could (again) turn around, or he could send for another bus to come pick them up and take them the rest of the way.
Note that the distance between Phoenix and Wikieup is roughly 140 miles, which is a two-and-quarter-hour trip. The earliest the substitute bus would arrive to pick up the passengers would be 12:15pm, after which they would still have to travel another 88 miles — about an hour and a half — to reach Laughlin, giving them an arrival time of 1:45pm at the earliest.
The passengers vetoed both options, voting to continue along their current path in their current vehicle. The bus resumed driving.
U.S. 93 turned into I-40, and the bus passed through Kingman. At Union Pass, however — about 34 miles away from Laughlin, a journey of roughly 45 minutes — the driver pulled the severely struggling bus over and stopped. He informed the passengers that the bus simply could not go any further; it was too broken-down and overheated to move.
The passengers refused to accept this reality and ousted the driver, removing him from not just his seat, but from the bus entirely. They also took his shoes for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained.
They then began pushing the bus from the rear. Once it had gained enough momentum and began to head down the west side of Union Pass, the passengers managed to climb aboard and continue on, leaving the driver, stranded and shoeless, by the side of the road.
The last time subject was sighted was by a tourist from Iowa who was driving the other direction. He reported seeing subject speeding towards him before it rounded a steep curve and disappeared out of visual range.
Subject did not reach its destination. No other trace of subject, nor its passengers, was ever found along the route it should have taken to get there. It simply disappeared.
According to some reports, one passenger in particular, sometimes identified as “Danny” and notable for performing magic tricks along the journey to entertain the other passengers, ran the charge on pushing the bus to continue its trip. These reports position Danny as the instigator of the mutiny, describing him during the final confrontation between the passengers and driver as having “a malevolent look on his face,” eyes that resembled “slits of hot coals,” and “pointed ears” which had “turned red.”
The close resemblance between these descriptors and those often used to describe demons or devils is… curious.
Reports of encounters with subject as previously described (see: Modus operandi) allegedly began emerging approximately three years after Bus 777’s disappearance.
However, it is worth noting that virtually every detail about subject — from its origin story to its very existence — may be traced back to a single article written by Jim Cook and published online in October of 2003. Cook’s account has since been reproduced more or less word for word in a number of other sources, including the book Weird Arizona, published in 2007. No definitive evidence of a disappearance resembling the one described by Cook in his 2003 article has ever emerged; nor are there any earlier mentions of subject or its alleged history currently accessible online.
Cook was, for many decades, a “gentlemanly, painstaking reporter” with the Arizona Republic who was “bulletproof accurate,” according to former colleague Richard E. Meyer. However, after leaving journalism, he built a career in his later years around lying. Playful lying — the kinds of lies tone might classify as tall tales, or which ultimately land as witty and good-natured jokes — but lying nonetheless. He claimed the title of “Official Arizona State Liar” and, after moving to Wickenburg, claimed to have started the “Wickenburg Institute For Factual Diversity,” of which his dog, Willie, was reportedly the admissions director. The author of numerous books focused on colorful lies and Arizona’s unique sense of humor, he also wrote the long-running newsletter Journal of Prevarication, which was syndicated at the now-defunct independent local news site wickenburg-az.com.
To prevaricate is to deviate from the truth — that is, to lie. Prevarication is lying. The Journal of Prevarication is literally the journal of lying.
The 2003 article 2003 featuring Cook’s account of subject was, in fact, a syndicated issue of the Journal of Prevarication published at wickenburg-az.com.
It is therefore this researcher’s opinion that the subject known as the Ghost Bus of Highway 93 is more akin to the previously-documented subject the Wandering Bus, also known as Philadelphia’s Bus to Nowhere, than subjects such as the Black Volga or Yellow Volkswagon: That is, that it is a manufactured legend created by a single, enormously imaginative and creative writer that soon gained legs of its own — so much so that it may have become a sort of tulpa, willed into existence by the many who believe in it.
Jim Cook passed away in 2012. However, he would probably find the fact of his invention’s continued life very amusing, indeed.
Recommendation: Stay off the road at night — especially U.S. 93 between Phoenix and Laughlin.
Also, take everything you read with a grain of salt — especially online.
“Ghost Bus Prowls Highway 93” by Jim Cook (via the Wayback Machine).
Ghost Bus of Highway 93 at Obscurban Legend.
Destinations Across Paranormal America, chapter one – published 2010, by Hugh Mungus.
Weird Arizona, chapter nine: “Roads Less Traveled” – published 2007, by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran.
“Here Lies Jim Cook, Arizona’s Official State Fibber” at the Lost Angeles Times.
James E. Cook’s obituary at Legacy.com.
The Journal of Prevarication archives at wickenburg-az.com (via the Wayback Machine).
Follow The Ghost In My Machine on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And for more games, don’t forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!
[Photo via Bailey Hall/Unsplash, remixed by Lucia Peters]