HAUNTED HIGHWAYS (URBAN LEGENDS OF KIRBY ROAD) – From the OCPRS Toronto, Canada.

Posted on May 22, 2011

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By: Demetrius (Co-Founder of the OCPRS Toronto, Canada.)

     Roads have often been used as metaphors for the journey of life and death. The perils of the roadways are very real. Death has come to be associated to roads and highways more often than life. It is for this reason that many people have come to associate superstitions with driving and travel. Even the Church recognizes patron saints of travellers, such as St. Christopher. Why the need for such intercessions if there wasn’t some truth to some of these superstitions and fears associated to roadways? It is not the superstitions that have motivated such saintly patronage, but there was something spiritual that turned people’s attentions onto the dangers of the roads. All over the world various side-roads and highways have come to be known as cursed or haunted.

     Here in Ontario, Canada, there are a few such so-called cursed and haunted roadways. There was once a highway numbered 666 between the small community of Redditt and the city of Kenora, which was renumbered to Highway 658 following a Church petition. Like other roadways numbered with the 666, any travel along a route identified to the number of the Beast (Revelation 13:18) is thought to bring about misfortune or even fatal accidents. Included among stories about cursed roads are legends about crossroads, whereby suicide victims or hanged men were once consigned. These crossroads are also thought to be the locations where one can make an infernal pact with the devil. Certainly, there are many superstitions concerning the roads and highways around the world.

     As for haunted roads, it is worth mentioning a popular legend found in Port Perry that supposedly goes back to 1968 about a motorcycle accident. Although there are no news reports from that time period to confirm such an accident, reports about a ghost motorcyclist are routinely made. A “ghost rider” is said to make an appearance in the night, on Mississauga Trail, where he then vanishes into thin air. Unsubstantiated stories like this one demonstrate a characteristic common to other urban legends.

     Reports of “ghosts” manifesting as cars, trucks, or pedestrians have all been connected to various haunted roadways. Many of these reports are based on very real auto accidents, while others are completely unsupported tales. Among the varieties of stories reported, some of these phantom vehicles and pedestrians are said to warn other travellers, or serve as omens of death. Other roadway “ghosts” are thought to experience their tragic demise over, and over again. In regards to reports based on very real tragedies, one such account is known to Kirby Road, located in the suburban community of Maple, Ontario.

     According to newspapers, on November 1, 1993, a group of teenage girls were driving in a minivan along Kirby Road. For uncertain reasons they lost control of their vehicle and crashed into a ditch. One of the girls was thrown from the vehicle and unfortunately died. Her name was Selina Degasperis (b. Jan. 15, 1978 – d. Nov. 1, 1993). She was 15 years of age. To honour Selina’s memory, a roadside memorial was erected by the side of the road. Unlike most roadside memorials marked by a wooden cross or flowers, the one found on Kirby Road is a tombstone. Selina’s memorial provides her first name, date of birth, and the day she died. There is also a peculiar inscription: “I’m a cute kid.” Roadside memorials are not uncommon, but somehow Selina’s memorial marker became a part of various urban legends.

     What should be mentioned before exploring the urban legends of Kirby Road, is that there were no reports of “ghosts” or a haunted house before Selina’s tragedy. The urban legends explored here will be exposed for what they truly are. More importantly, these urban legends will be exposed for the dishonour they represent to the memory of a young girl, and to the family who loved her. It is for this reason that these legends must be addressed so that fact can be separated from fiction.

     Many of the legends surrounding Kirby Road are inconsistent and often change, and this is owed to people who claim to have investigated Kirby Road. What has occurred through various “investigations” – conducted by paranormal enthusiasts – is that the urban legends have grown. Despite these so-called investigations, Selina’s roadside memorial remains somewhat consistent throughout all these sorted reports. Reports made by people exploring the urban legends have described an apparition of a little girl, who is eight or nine years of age with long dark coloured hair. Some people have claimed that she will appear if a car is parked nearby one of the homes located by Kirby Road. In such descriptions, Selina is thought to be that little girl. Other versions describe the same little girl sitting in a tree who will stare at the occupants of a parked car. What is obvious is that this could not be Selina Degasperis since she was fifteen years of age when she died and not eight or nine years old as described by people claiming to have seen the ghost of a little girl. The reports of an apparition of a little girl have become part of the overall urban legend of Kirby Road.

     The most common story told concerns a farm house that has been named, “Hell House.” In this particular version, long ago, KKK meetings were held at this house. One day, the father of the family living in “Hell House” went mad and murdered his entire family, including his daughter who has been associated to Selina. According to the story, the father discovered that his daughter was dating a black man. Infuriated, he drove his truck up Kirby Road looking for her. When he found her walking along the side of the road he drove his truck over her, killing her. This part of the urban legend is owed to reports made by people “investigating” the Kirby Road urban legend, and who have claimed to have seen a phantom truck. Once again, all such reports have become a part of the overall urban legend surrounding Kirby Road. Of course, the previous mention of an eight or nine year old girl is not consistent with this version of the urban legend but is nonetheless circulated among people.

     Whether or not the KKK actually held meetings in this area of Ontario remains unsubstantiated. What is certain, however, is that there were no meetings held by the KKK in that particular area during Selina’s lifetime. As for the rest of the “Hell House” story, there are no records of such a ghastly murder ever taking place there. Like all urban legends, sometimes real life tragedies are blended with fiction, and Selina’s tragedy is the only real incident recognized among these urban legends. A few other versions of the legend have claimed that Selina’s death was caused by other “ghosts” from the so-called “Hell House,” but such claims are desperate attempts to  promote Kirby Road as haunted.

     It becomes obvious that Selina Degasperis and her memory have been done a great injustice by these foolish urban legends. In addition to the disrespect to her memory, these urban legends promote an unhealthy interest in “ghosts” and the supernatural. Kirby Road is not haunted. The investigation conducted by the OCPRS found no paranormal activity at any of the locations associated to the urban legends. What people need to take into consideration about these stories about Selina is that they may be hurtful to her surviving family. Hopefully the investigation by the OCPRS will help make people aware of this problem. If anything can be learned from these stories about Kirby Road it is how such urban legends perpetuate misguided perceptions about real life tragedies. The roadside memorial to Selina should remind people that a real human being lost her life, and to caution people about the dangers of the roadways – not superstitions!

     Most highways and side-roads thought to be cursed or haunted are just misguided stories. The stories surrounding Kirby Road have much in common with other urban legends of the roads and highways. How many more roadway “ghost” stories are therefore true? It is the opinion of the OCPRS Toronto, Canada, that any such story may contain details that are true, but such details are ultimately twisted into fiction. This is not to say that certain phenomenon does not occur on the roadways. Certainly there could be paranormal phenomena taking place on the roadways of the world, but the urban legends about Kirby Road are simply not true.

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