The Hairy-Armed Hitchhiker

An Urban Legend

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Also known as "The Hatchet in the Handbag," "The Knife in the Briefcase," or "The Assailant in Disguise"

As told by Huw Llewelyn-Jones:

I first heard this story in 1980 in North Wales. I believed it until I was told it again a matter of days later. It is usually told as happening to a friend or relative.

A young woman returns to her car from a day's shopping. She had parked her car in the town's multi-story car park.

As she approaches the car she notices someone sitting in the back seat. She cautiously checks the registration plate to see if it is indeed her car, as it is a popular model and color. The car is indeed hers, and as she gets closer she sees that it's an old woman sitting in the back seat.

She asks the woman how and why she is sitting in her car.

The old woman replies that she had been shopping with her son and family but felt unwell and returned to the car to rest. She obviously had mistaken the young woman's car for her son's, as it was the same model and color. The old woman then asks to be driven to a hospital, as she is still feeling unwell. The young woman agrees.

As she gets into the driver's seat something makes her very nervous about the situation and she asks the old woman if she is feeling well enough to direct her as she reverses the car out of the parking place. The old woman agrees, gets out of the car and proceeds to direct the reversing maneuver.

As soon as the young woman has the car out of the parking space she speeds out of the car park, leaving the old woman stranded. She then drives straight to the nearest police station and reports the incident.

A police officer then searched the car and found an axe concealed under the driver's seat.

The young woman had had a lucky escape!

Analysis: The tale of hairy-armed hitchhiker goes back to the early 1800s in England. In those days, the disguised axe murderer was said to have awaited his victim in the back seat of a horse-drawn carriage. More recently the legend has resurfaced with the malefactor posing as good samaritan whose briefcase just happens to be stuffed with deadly weapons.

Two hundred years old and still going strong, proof that a great story never dies.

More: The Knife in the Briefcase