“Get your kicks on Route 66”, the old song by Nat King Cole says– but Route 66 wasn’t always Route 66. Before it was designated Route 66, it was called Route 60, and there was a lot of controversy over the U.S. 60 designation. According to the Federal Highway Administration:
[There were several] complaints from Kentucky and other States in the East that “60” should have been assigned to a transcontinental route through their States, the number “60” became the subject of the most protracted and bitter controversy involving the numbering plan. The compromise solution was to assign “60” to a route from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Springfield, Missouri, and “66” to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route. AASHO sent ballots to the States involved seeking approval. By August 7, 1926, enough States had approved the change for AASHO to consider the matter closed.
With this change, the former branches of U.S. 60 had to be renumbered, and the sixth branch of the new route became U.S. 666 in August 1926, beginning a long saga of strange happenings along this stretch of road. Through the numbering system of the Federal Highway Administration became known as “The Devil’s Highway”. Since that time, the stretch of highway between Monticello, Utah and Gallup, New Mexico has been rampant with stories of sign theft, hellhounds, phantom hitchhikers, and ghostly cars running people off the road.
Although it was “orphaned” in 1985 when Route 66 was eliminated, Route 666 still kept its mark until May 2003 when the name of the road was officially changed to U.S. 491. Unfortunately, the Utah and New Mexico state government agencies could not recover any of the Route 666 signs when it was announced that the road would be getting a name change. Treasure hunters and looters ripped down all the signs before they could be replaced. (At a cost to the state of about $250 per sign, that adds up.)
Aside from rampant sign theft, there isn’t really anything unusual about this stretch of road… unless you’re talking about the reports of Hellhounds and other abnormal phenomenon that occur on this short segment of highway. According to the book Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places a Dr. Avery Teicher of Phoenix documented several of the stories from the Devil’s Highway. One of those accounts is of a pack of hellhounds which attacked a group of motorbikers– two of the bikers had been mauled by the dogs and lost arms. A third biker was attacked and bit on the face by the hounds from hell.
Another account from the book is of a female hitchhiker who doesn’t seem to want a ride– she vanishes any time someone makes an attempt to stop and pick her up. Not much is known about this specter. Perhaps she is the ghost of a hitchhiker who was picked up by a not-so-friendly passer-by and ended up buried in the desert? Who knows…
Lastly the book discusses the ghost of a black 1930’s Pierce-Arrow roadster, which has allegedly been the cause of several vehicle crashes despite the unusually normal number of crashes for this road. The vehicle has been linked to at least five deaths, most of which occurred on the night of the full moon which is when the vehicle is said to appear.
Since it wasn’t called “666” until after 1926, it’s hard to believe these strange sightings were a product of the unusual roadway designation. Then again, a 1930’s roadster wouldn’t have been around in the late 1920’s. Did the ghosts come before or during the period of time the road was known as “Route 666”? I guess that’s part of the mystery of 666.
* Steiger, Brad. Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press, 2003. PP 408-409.
* “Renaming U.S. 666 Prompts a Run on ‘Satanic’ Souvenirs”. New York Times. 20 July 2003.