Some driving commutes are worse than others. If a fellow named Charlie Wetzel is to believed, on one of these drives home he encountered something even more annoying than traffic jams and potholes: a hitchhiking monster. From the "Greenville News," November 10, 1958:
Riverside, Calif.--A funny thing happened to Charlie Wetzel on the way home Saturday night.
A monster jumped out at him.
That's what he told authorities who planned to continue an investigation of the incredible story.
Wetzel, 24, a resident of nearby Bloomington, reported soberly that he was driving on a street near Riverside when a frightening creature jumped in front of his car.
"It had a round, scarecrowish head," he said, "like something out of Halloween.
"It wasn't human. It had a longer arm than anything I'd ever seen. When it saw me in the car it reached all the way back to the windshield and began clawing at me.
"It didn't have any ears. The face was all round. The eyes were shining like something fluorescent and it had a protuberant mouth. It was scaley, like leaves."
Wetzel said he became terrified when the creature reached over the hood of his car and began clawing at the windshield. He said he reached for a .22 pistol he had in the car.
"I held that pistol and stomped on the gas," he said. "The thing fell back from the car and it gurgled.
"The noise it made didn't sound human. I think I hit it. I heard something hit the pan under the car."
Sheriff's officers said Wetzel pointed at some thin, sweeping marks he said the creature made on his windshield. They went to the scene of the claimed apparition but said they could find nothing to prove or disprove Wetzel's story.
The scene is at a point where North Main Street dips and crosses the Santa Ana River bed, which is usually almost dry.
Wetzel said he told the story to his wife and she induced him to phone authorities. "I kept saying no one would believe a story like this," he said.
Sheriff's Sgt. E. R. Holmes said he thought perhaps a large vulture might have flopped on the hood of Wetzel's car--"Sometimes cars hit them when they're in the road eating rabbits cars have killed," he said. So he searched the area himself Sunday. "But," said Holmes, "I didn't even find a feather."
In a later story about the alleged encounter, Wetzel grumbled about the press coverage he had received. "They are trying to make me look like a fool," he complained, "and I don't believe I care to say anything more about it. But I did see something, and it wasn't a vulture, either."
So far as I can find, no one else reported seeing Wetzel's monster. However, as a Californian, I can vouch that far worse things can be seen on our roads.