Phantom vehicle

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"Ghost car" redirects here. For usage referring to an unmarked police car, see Police car § Functional types. For custom car usage for a hypothetical model, see Custom car § Language.

Phantom vehicle may refer to a supposed ghostly or haunted vehicle, or, for insurance purposes, a vehicle that causes injury, death, or damage without making physical contact.


In legal terms for insurance purposes, a phantom vehicle is one that causes bodily injury, death, or property damage to an insured vehicle, but has no physical contact;[1] for example, a run-off-road accident caused by a car in the opposing direction drifting partly over the centre line of a highway.

More popularly, a phantom vehicle is a supposed ghostly or haunted vehicle. No such phenomena have been scientifically verified and no research on this topic appears in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. However, many people find such stories fascinating and they are common in urban legends and entertainment.

Types of phantom vehicles[edit]

Cars and trucks[edit]

  • In 1982, two people in Lanikai, Hawaii reported seeing a mysterious black car which disappeared and reappeared again a second later.[2]
  • In 1995, an eyewitness saw a brown 1960s car that had bumper stickers, the witness passed the car but it mysteriously reappeared ahead of the witness's car at several stoplights. Also the witness noticed that the driver was a man in his teens and that he never turned his head and he never moved the steering wheel when the man drove around the "dead man's curve" the witness said.[3]
  • 2004, In Cape Town, South Africa, a Renault sedan mysteriously rolled up an embankment and hit a fence, despite the fact that the handbrake was engaged and the engine was off. Some say the car was "jumping".[4]
  • In the mid-1980s, three people in a sedan reported seeing a gray van heading straight towards them. Then suddenly the van vanished.[5]
  • The Curse of "Little Bastard": the mid-1950s Porsche 550 Spyder in which James Dean died is said to be cursed after the accidents in which it has been later involved.[6]
  • In Australia there is a story of the ghost truck of Kaniva where a driver was 'driven through' by a mysterious, 1940s' style big rig truck painted green.
  • In Germany, a car mysteriously started up by itself and rammed a wall.[7]
  • In 2000, an eyewitness claimed that an old truck started up by itself and blinked at him as he walked past an old house.[8]
  • Early 1980s - a British motorist crashed his car in order to avoid a truck that suddenly appeared coming straight towards him and then vanished.[9]
  • The curved road at the junction of St. Marks Road and Cambridge Gardens in Ladbroke Grove was reported to be haunted by a phantom bus with a route marker "7" which caused numerous accidents, one of which was fatal. The reports subsided when the area of road was straightened.[10]



  • Spirits of passengers and crew have allegedly been seen on planes containing parts from Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 which crashed in Florida in 1972.
  • In 1997, eyewitnesses claimed they saw a single-engine plane crash. But when the coast guard searched the waters off Connecticut, they could not find any wreckage or bodies. Also none of the airports reported any planes missing.[14]

Boats and ships[edit]

Main article: List of ghost ships
  • The Flying Dutchman, a ship manned by a captain condemned to eternally sail the seas, has long been the main legend of ghost ships.
  • The Mary Celeste is perhaps the most historically famous derelict.

Popular culture[edit]

  • My Mother the Car, a 1966 TV sitcom about the spirit of a man's mother inhabiting a restored 1928 Porter touring car
  • Duel, a 1971 made-for-TV film about a large old tanker truck that continually attempts to kill a motorist (played by Dennis Weaver). As the driver's face of the truck is never seen, the truck itself is considered the villain.
  • An episode of The X-Files, "Triangle", concerns a ship that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle and reappeared 60 years later
  • Supernatural features an episode in which a truck is haunted and kills people to exact revenge.
  • The Car
  • Christine
  • Maximum Overdrive
  • Wheels of Terror
  • "Trucks"
  • Ghost Ship
  • The Fog
  • Nightmares
  • The Wraith
  • The Ghost Train, 1923 play, and numerous film, television, and radio adaptations
  • The Haunted Car
  • The Hearse
  • Killdozer
  • Road Train
  • The Wrecker
  • Super Hybrid
  • Blades (1989 film)[15]
  • "The Honking", a Futurama episode in which an evil car (Project S.A.T.A.N.) attacks robots and turns them into "were-cars".
  • Herbie Both Herbie and Horace (from the 1997 film) the Hate Bug are possessed cars. Herbie, however is possessed by accident, when a photo of his creator Gustav Von Stumpfel's beloved Elsa fell in a vat of molten steel used for the car.
  • Phantom 309 from the song of the same name, and from the song "Big Joe, Red Sovine, & Phantom 309" (which was based upon Red Sovine's version of the song "Phantom 309"). Driven by the ghost of "Big Joe", who sometimes gives rides to hitchhikers. In the latter song, it is suggested that the ghost of Red Sovine is also riding with Big Joe in Phantom 309.
  • Riding with Private Malone, a 2001 country song recorded by David Ball
  • The Godfather II: The Video Game, in Havana sometimes a ghost car would drive along the roads.
  • The Ride (song) has the 1950s Cadillac driven by the ghost of Hank Williams, Sr. An updated version of the song involves Dale Earnheart giving the singer a ride with his NASCAR Cup car "A stock car painted black" (Earnhardt was infamously killed in a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500 race).
  • GTA: San Andreas: The player can discover a "Glendale" (a Chrysler New Yorker) in the backwoods on occasion. Sometimes the vehicle will begin driving itself, with no NPC visible inside the vehicle. This has spawned many rumors in the GTA community. However, the true reason for the "ghost car's" existence is so that the player could work their way out of the woods if they totaled their previous vehicle. The reason that it sometimes begins to move is that the car will occasionally spawn on a hill, with the parking brake disengaged, letting the car roll forward.
  • "You Drive", an episode of The Twilight Zone that aired originally on January 3, 1964, features a 1956 Ford Fairlane whose driver is involved in a hit-and-run accident that injures a young boy. The boy later dies. The car engages in a series of "malfunctions", including blasting its own horn, blinking its headlights, and turning on its radio, that escalate until it starts itself up and follows its owner as he walks to work one day. The door opens, at which point the man gets in and the car drives him to the police station to confess.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ RCW 48.22.030: Underinsured, hit-and-run, phantom vehicle coverage to be provided — Purpose — Definitions
  2. ^ "Ghost Car In Lanikai". Castle of Spirits. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "Ghost Car in Broad Daylight Afternoon". Castle of Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  4. ^ Carin Smith (2004-11-21). "'Haunted' car goes haywire". News24 (Somerset West). Archived from the original on Dec 8, 2004. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "The Ghost Car". Your True Tales. October 2003. p. 22. 
  6. ^ Curse of James Dean
  7. ^ "Wreck ignition for 'ghost car' that started on its own". Cape Times (Kempten, Germany). November 7, 2005. Archived from the original on Apr 27, 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  8. ^ The Old Rusty Ghost truck
  9. ^ "Coventry and Warwickshire - Places - Spooky tales to chill your spine". BBC Online. 2003-09-10. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Jeffrey, Martin. "The Ghost Bus of Ladbroke Grove". Haunted Britain. Mystery magazine. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  11. ^ af Klintberg, Bengt, Råttan i pizzan. Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag, 1992. ISBN 91-1-893831-0
  12. ^ Yanko, Dave. "Mystery Solved?". Virtual Saskatchewan. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Abe Lincoln's Ghost Train". HallowFreaks. Archived from the original on Oct 5, 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  14. ^ Phantom Plane Crashes
  15. ^ Blades at the Internet Movie Database