Philly’s Phantom Bus to Nowhere

Stony Hollow Cliff
The Shadowy Silhouette on Stony Hollow Cliff
August 12, 2016
Paiute Legend at Pyramind Lake
Paiute Legend at Pyramind Lake
August 16, 2016

Philly’s Phantom Bus to Nowhere

Phantom Bus to Nowhere

Many people in big cities are used to using public transit to get from place to place.  They are no stranger to waiting at bus stops or using maps to select the best route to get them to their destination.  Many are even able to visualize the routes in their heads, just by seeing the number on the front of a bus marquee.

Phantom Bus to Nowhere

(images:ioanmargineanu/flickr)

What many people don’t do is aimlessly wander until seeing a bus, stop dead in their tracks, and then take off in a dead sprint right toward that bus.  And it’s probably even less common for that bus to sense that a person is running for it, pause ever so slightly to determine the depth of that need, before stopping and taking its passenger aboard.

This is, however, a more common occurrence in Philadelphia, and there is just such a bus.  Often referred to as the Wandering Bus or the Zero, Philadelphia’s phantom bus never shows a street, a route, or a destination, it just drives.  And just like the bus, many of its passengers have no predetermined street, route, or destination.

The bus to nowhere has been spotted at all points of the city by the hopeless and lost.  You wouldn’t notice it unless you were looking for it, but it has been commonly reported on West Powelton, Center City, Passyunk, Haverford, Dauphin, and at the Grad Hospital.  Some have even claimed that the bus has traveled to other cities.

The ghost version of the SEPTA picks up the travelers who have experienced awful things in their lives- things awful enough to push them to the lowest possible points of their despair.  Stories have surfaced about passengers who had gotten into a fight with a family member who then later was killed in a drunk driving accident, suffered a miscarriage as a result of a husband’s infidelity, lost everything they and their family owned to gambling, or even having committed a murder.

The bus is not on any route map and no number is displayed on its marquee.  It doesn’t even belong to the city.  It just seems to answer the internal call from an individual in their own personal hell, who just wants to get away from here- to go anywhere but here.

Phantom Bus to Nowhere

(images:_diiego_/flickr)

When they get on the bus, there is no noise, no conversation, no signs, and usually not even a fare requested.  There is no indication of where service is to, just a note that service is from the intersection of wherever you are currently standing.  Many passengers who have survived the ride report not remembering the driver, or if there even was one, any of the passengers, or stops.  It’s as if time, places, and things have no meaning on the phantom bus.

All the passengers can remember is sitting on that seat, in their own personal hell.  They ride around for hours, days, weeks, even years.  Those lucky enough to rouse themselves from the fog report almost seeming to start themselves back to a place of clarity.  They pull the cord and end up just where they needed to be.  Most patrons who get off the bus have no recollection or memory of even having ridden, just of getting off.

Those riders not so lucky just ride around in a state of perpetual despair.  Rumor has it that one day the bus will disappear forever, taking all its riders with it.  Others claim the bus will just give up waiting and take you to where your troubles began.  Either way, that is a one-way ticket with a hefty price.

Megan Borchert
Megan Borchert
Lover of all things unusual, Megan is a staff attorney for the state of South Dakota. When she's not stuffed in an office writing case synopses, you can find her at home with her army of Schnauzers, snuggled up with some strong wine and a good book.

1 Comment

  1. Hannah says:

    I have a school project to do for school based upon folklore. As we research different topics, my partner and I became interested in the Bus to Nowhere. For our project we must complete an interview with an expert on the topic we chose, and were wondering if you would consent to doing an interview with us. If you are able, please contact me at the provided email address to discuss further details.

Leave a Reply