The ghost of Maria Roux.
by Jason Day
Tales of phantom hitchhikers and road ghosts span the centuries; since the invention of transport, there have been numerous reports of spectral figures with unfinished business to attend to, or a journey they must complete that was cut tragically short.
As a consequence of the volume of reports amassed over such a long period of time, some of the more remarkable of these encounters are forgotten. The following account is one such haunting.
On Good Friday, March 1968, a young couple were driving along the Barandas-Willomere Road in the Karoo Desert, 200 miles east of Cape Town, South Africa. Maria Roux and her fiancé were driving to her parents’ house to discuss plans for their upcoming wedding. As they traveled along the N9 towards Uniondale, high winds began, quickly becoming so fierce they blew the car across the road. Maria’s fiancé lost control of the car and careened into a ditch. Although her fiancé survived the accident, it was later determined that Maria had died on impact. What should have been a tragic end to our story merely became the start of one of the most enduring paranormal stories on file.
In 1976, while driving along the Barandas-Willomere Road during Easter, Anton Le Grange saw a young woman at the side of the road. He pulled over and the woman got in the passenger side rear door; Le Grange drove off again asking the young woman where she was heading to. Receiving no reply, Le Grange then commented on how dangerous it was for a young woman to be hitchhiking so late at night on a lonely road. Receiving no answer he turned to his passenger only to find the rear seat completely empty. Le Grange immediately stopped the vehicle and got out to look around. He could find no sign of the girl. She had vanished into thin air!
Confused and scared, Le Grange jumped back into his car and headed for the nearest police station, in this case the one in Uniondale. Le Grange recounted the bizarre experience to the desk sergeant, the only officer on duty that night, who believed that Le Grange was wasting his time and possibly under the influence of alcohol. Le Grange pleaded with the sergeant to accompany him back to the site of his encounter. Sensing something might be amiss, the sergeant agreed to go with him. He followed Le Grange back to the site on the N9 where the girl had vanished. As they reached the spot, the sergeant watched from his van as Le Grange’s rear passenger door opened and shut. Le Grange immediately stopped the car and got out, rushing to the police car to ask the sergeant if he had just witnessed what happened.
Believing that Le Grange had arranged the stunt, although he heard a woman’s laughter as the door opened and closed, the sergeant remained skeptical.
Irritable and not wanting to be a victim to an elaborate prank, the sergeant said that they would drive past the spot once more. This time Le Grange was to keep his interior vehicle lights on, lock all the doors, and keep both of his hands on the steering wheel. He made sure Le Grange knew that he would be watching very closely.
The men set off once again and came back to the same spot, Le Grange followed by the sergeant in the police vehicle. As they approached the spot where the girl had vanished previously, the passenger-side rear door once again opened and shut. Le Grange pulled over and asked the sergeant what he had seen. Realizing that there was no possible way that Le Grange could have opened and closed the door on his own and more than a little shaken and bemused, the sergeant got back in his car and drove back to the police station. He was so disturbed by the events that he locked the police station for the night and went straight home.
The following Sunday, the police sergeant contacted his colleague, Sgt. Pat MacDonald, and asked him if he remembered the young woman who had been killed in a car accident on the stretch of road where the sergeant and Le Grange had encountered the paranormal phenomenon. MacDonald had been the first officer at the scene of the accident that killed Maria Roux that night in 1968 on the N9. MacDonald told the sergeant that he remembered the woman and gave him a description of Maria Roux, a description that exactly matched the report given by Le Grange of the disappearing girl he had given a ride.
Within days the story had spread to the media, and journalists had contacted Maria Roux’s mother. Le Grange was shown a selection of photos to see if he could identify the girl he had given a ride that night. Without hesitation, he picked out the picture of Maria Roux. With the mysterious hitchhiker now identified as Roux, there would be no more sightings for almost two years.
Cpl. Dawie Van Jaarsveld was doing his National Service at Oudtshoorn army base 100 miles from Uniondale in 1978. He was on his motorcycle travelling along the N9 towards Uniondale to spend the Easter with his girlfriend when he noticed a girl at a junction in the road.
“When I reached the intersection, I saw somebody standing at the side of the road; just as I turned to the right, she kind of lifted her arms up as if to say ‘Oh no, you aren’t going to stop.’”
Van Jaarsveld pulled his motorcycle over to the side of the road and asked the girl if she wanted a lift into town. She nodded. He passed her his spare crash helmet, which she put on as she climbed onto the back of the motorcycle. Van Jaarsveld then gave her an earpiece for his stereo, which she put into her ear, and they set off.
“I asked her to please hold tight around my waist so I could feel if something went wrong. After a kilometer or two, I felt the bike twitch; I thought she’d fallen off. A lot of things went through my mind. I turned to see if I still had somebody with me, but there was nobody there. I turned around and went back with the motorcycle. I looked to see if there was anyone lying along the road, and then I got a fright. I saw the helmet was back on the bike and the earphone was just lying there…”
Van Jaarsveld was badly shaken; not knowing what had happened to his passenger he sped to Uniondale. Upon reaching the town, he entered a shop and recounted his experience to the shopkeeper. The description he gave of the girl he had picked up matched the one given by Anton Le Grange two years previously. Van Jaarsveld, it seemed, had just encountered the ghost of Maria Roux.
“I didn’t think there was something wrong. At that time I didn’t know that it was a spirit or something but I did feel strange.”
When he returned to his motorcycle, Van Jaarsveld realized that his headset was ruined. The earpiece that the girl had used was melted and completely unusable. Although there was nothing technically wrong with the crash helmet she had used, Van Jaarsveld claimed that everybody, including his girlfriend, refused to use the crash helmet that had been worn by the ghost of Maria Roux.
It would be another two years before the next significant encounter with Maria would happen, and once more it would occur during the Easter holidays.
On Good Friday 1980, Andre Coetzee was looking for a friend who he believed might have run out of gas. Coetzee was riding his motorcycle along the N9 past Uniondale when his bizarre encounter occurred.
“All of a sudden I felt hands around my waist. I could actually feel the pressure, and as I looked down I saw the hands. I was very, very scared. I thought, I must get away from this place and that’s when I accelerated. At 159 to 160 kilometers an hour, she gave me a few whacks around the head and then she just disappeared!”
Terrified, Coetzee sped to the nearest town, Uniondale. Coetzee ran into a café and told the proprietor that he thought he had seen a ghost. He told the woman how he had been riding his motorcycle along the N9 and a phantom girl had appeared on the back of his bike and then vanished.
Coetzee was the third confirmed encounter with the ghost of Maria Roux. Since then, there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of the phantom hitchhiker.
There have been various theories as to why Maria Roux’s ghost continues to haunt the N9 since her tragic death during Easter of 1968.
Uniondale journalist Jani Mayer followed the story for more than 30 years.
“One of the theories of why she apparently can’t go to rest is that she was fast asleep in the car when the accident happened and she didn’t prepare herself for death. She wanted to finalize her wedding arrangements, and the theory is that she will carry on until she reaches her destination.”
The ghost of Maria Roux continues to walk the N9 to this day in the hope, it would seem, that one day she will indeed make it home and complete her final journey.
Jason Day is an author and radio host in southeast England with a passion for paranormal investigation and writing. He is a Founder Member of the Society of Paranormal Investigation, Research, Information and Truth (SPIRIT).