Joe mentally massaged the waning motor of the massive monolith.
“C’mon. C’mon!” the frazzled bus driver pleaded beneath breath wreaking of black coffee and Winchell’s finest.
Through a veil of sweat, the coach operator fixed his gaze on the pinnacle of Union Pass two hundred yards in the distance. The bus’ air conditioning had committed suicide just outside of Wickenburg. Joe felt like the pie portion of a TV dinner, bubbling and sizzling inside this metal coffin baked by the Arizona Sun. Less than a quarter of a mile, now. The remainder of the way was a breezy, downhill slope into Laughlin. Blue smoke billowed from the rear of Number 777, obliterating the highway behind the “Bus from Hell.”
“You can do it, baby. You can do it!” Joe coaxed.
Snake eyes. Detroit steel groaned, emitting its death knell. Joe muscled the vanquished beast to the shoulder of the turnpike. Drenched in perspiration, the driver’s trembling palms never got a firm grip on the wheel. Even before applying the emergency brake, Joe caught sight of the irate passenger marching toward him from the back of the vehicle. Squinting into the rear-view mirror, the motor coach operator noticed a change in the commuter’s appearance. The once-elderly, feeble tourist now seemed a hulking beast, no longer human.
Joe gazed back just in time to see the hoard of passengers, an entire bus worth, descend upon him like a lynch mob. Docile Sun City geriatrics now sported hideous features only the mother of a demon could love.
The driver gasped in terror, as his world went black.
A breeze cooled the blanket of sweat covering Joe’s brow. Regaining consciousness, the coach operator opened his eyes. Mojave Desert Sun fried his pupils. Where the hell was he?
Joe glanced about. He was lying on his back in dried, red caliche. His once-crisp uniform was covered in the stuff. He detected the sounds of passing automobiles somewhere beyond his feet. By the position of the Sun, it couldn’t have been much later than noon.
Through a mire of heat, Joe recognized his bus, Number 777, now being pushed uphill by a gaggle of demons resembling his most recent passengers. At the helm of the vehicle was the old man-turned-Devil who had led the mutiny. An evil smile gracing his black lips, the senior citizen-cum-incubus glared back at the bus driver.
It was then Joe noticed the “icing on the cake.” Those blue-haired bastards had stolen his shoes. Barefoot and confused, the coach operator watched as the troupe of fiends pushed the deceased bus to the crest of Union Pass.
Did somebody spike his coffee this morning? Was any of this even possible?
Joe stared, mouth agape, recalling how fervent the elderly group had been in their quest to reach Laughlin, and gamble their pensions away. Sure, everybody loves sittin’ “shotgun” in Lady Luck’s Gran Torino. Even Joe secretly enjoyed a pull, or fifty, on a slot machine handle, but this bunch had been abnormally obsessed from the beginning.
After the air conditioning had gone on the fritz, the driver recalled asking the passengers if they wanted to head back to Phoenix. A collective “No!” thundered from the rear of the bus. Not a hint of doubt in a single voice.
When the behemoth began losing power around Wikieup, Joe had inquired if the assemblage of “Q-tips” prefer he radio back to headquarters for a climate controlled vehicle.
An old man, Metamucil caking the corners of his mouth, leaned in and croaked, “We’ll push this damned bus all the way to Laughlin if we have to, Sonny! Those slot machines ain’t waitin’ any longer. You just do your job.”
Had this little guy, all of 80 pounds, really threatened Joe? What’s more, had Joe really been scared?
Now, from the driver’s vantage point in the dirt, it appeared as though the geriatric was about to make good on his promise. Joe watched Bus 777 reach the top of Union Pass and disappear over the decline on the opposite side. The group of devilish seniors followed suit. Propping himself up on his elbows, the driver wondered, “Had it all been a nightmare?”
A hundred and twenty degree heat is nothing to fool with, but then how did he end up here along the shoulder of the highway, not a town in either direction for 10 miles? Plus, Joe recalled having kept in contact with dispatch throughout his entire ordeal, informing headquarters of the paranormal conundrum unfolding around him.
Wearily, the coach operator rose to his feet. He turned toward the crest of Union Pass, and stumbled forth. There was nothing else he could do. Laughlin was beyond the horizon, but he was certain to hitch a ride during midday. After all, spirits don’t appear until nightfall, right?
It’s known as the Ghost Bus of Highway 93; a.k.a. the “Grim Weeper,” and according to certain motorists between Kingman, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada, its ethereal form still exists. Weary wayfarers heading northwest from Wickenburg have reported sighting spectral Bus 777 careening across the desert. Most encounters occur in the small hours, when drivers are traveling alone.
The vehicular apparition appears suddenly in your rear-view mirror, headlights ablaze, purportedly weeping molten chrome. Without warning, the behemoth devours your car, as you fight to retain sanity. Clearing your front bumper, the beast dissolves into the roadway illuminated by your headlights. The vacant seats inside your automobile become inexplicably occupied by ghostly passengers. Before you’ve wrangled your car to the side of the road, your otherworldly travel companions have vanished. You’re left along the shoulder of a darkened highway, in the middle of nowhere, wondering if that signpost up ahead reads, “The Twilight Zone.”
To some traversing Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Wikieup, Arizona, this tale holds more than a shred of truth. The day trip from Phoenix to Laughlin for a few hours of moderate stakes gaming is one undertaken by folks all the time. Buses akin to that of the infamous 777 run the route on a constant basis, and the stretch between Turnpike 93 and 68 are well-traveled.
Should you find yourself in Arizona, thirstin’ for a duel with a “one-armed bandit,” take a leisurely bus trip to Laughlin. Besides the opportunity to win a fortune, you may be in for the ride of your life. The Ghost Bus of Highway 93 is spotted, to this day, anywhere from the former mining town of Wickenburg, to beyond Union Pass along Highway 68.
© 2010. Hugh Mungus
Treat, Wesley. (2007). Weird Arizona: Your Travel Guide to Arizona’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. pp. 178-179. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 13: 978-1-4027-3938-5