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The Devil's Highway

For some ambiance, I recommend listening to the song Route 666 on You Tube in the background while you are reading the post this week. Here is the link: Route 666 NO INTRO - YouTube

Let’s talk about the Devil’s Highway (US Route 666) or, as some call it, the Highway to Hell. It has a definite connection to my story and who doesn’t like a good ghost story? Highway 666 was the 6th branch of Route 66 – starting at the Mexican border in Douglas, AZ and threading its way along the eastern edge of Arizona through towns like Safford, Morenci, Springerville, St. Johns and intersecting with US 66 (I-40) at Sanders, AZ - a path that took it across ancient Apache hunting grounds. From Sanders, it turned east and overlapped Route 66 (Interstate 40) to Gallup, NM (a distance of 43 miles) where it branched off again to the north, transiting the Navajo reservation through Shiprock, NM; Cortez, CO and ending with the intersection of US 191 in Monticello, UT.

Why call it the "Devil's Highway"? It was because of the highway number. In the Bible, Revelation 13:18 says “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.” Because of that biblical reference, the number 666 is commonly associated with the anti-Christ or the devil.

The stories about the macabre highway are many and widespread. These demonic sightings include reports of a girl in a white dress or nightgown wandering alongside the road and disappearing when approached on foot, or Satan’s black sedan - a dark car that appears suddenly from out of nowhere and threatens other drivers along the route. Some have reported being stalked by the hounds of hell - a pack of satanic dogs who run alongside vehicles at highway speeds flashing evil burning red eyes and trying to get into cars or shredding tires with their teeth. Along US 666 in Navajo country, there were reported sightings of skinwalkers (Ye Naldooshi), who are shapeshifting entities that can take on the appearance of different animals. And there is the evil spirit of a semi-truck reportedly chasing down and threatening to run cars off of the road. This is reminiscent of a 1971 Steven Spielberg movie called Duel and starring Dennis Weaver, a businessman being chased in his car on a remote roadway by a rogue tanker truck. And finally, there are stories of people disappearing along the route, or losing time and finding themselves somewhere else without knowing how they got there. From a government perspective, US 666 was concern because of the inordinate number of fatal traffic accidents along the route, especially those involving pedestrians.

Highway 666 was featured in other movies as well, including Route 666 starring Lou Diamond Phillips, about a federal witness on the run and taking the highway only to be attacked by zombies. And there was the 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie directed by Oliver Stone named Natural Born Killers. In that movie, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis (playing demonic killers Mickey and Mallory), slaughter 48 victims along Route 666 during a much bigger murderous rampage. Some camera shots around Gallup are featured in that film.

Arizona quietly did away with their part of the Devil’s Highway in 1992, when they renumbered the highway from Sanders south to Douglas to US 191, making it an extension of the northern part of Highway 191 that intersected I-40 only seven miles west at Chambers. That number change actually made sense, because the northern branch of US 191 was closer along I-40 to the southern branch than the branch out of Gallup, and the new number was odd, which fit in with a system where north/south highways bore odd numbers while even numbered highways generally ran east to west. Many say that Arizona’s real purpose for the renumber was because of the tainted history of the satanically numbered roadway. When Arizona changed US 666 to US 191, the segment of Highway 666 from Sanders to Gallup was decommissioned, leaving only the 200-mile piece of US 666 running north out of Gallup. But complaints from the three remaining US 666 states (New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah), resulted in New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson spearheading an effort to renumber of the remaining part of US 666 to US 491 in 2003. Some say the renumbering got rid of the evil triple digit label, but didn't actually change the hauntings along the roadway.

You may ask, what is the relationship of Highway 666 to this story? All of the murders in my book, except for the one in California, were committed by Greenberg in a span of about 35 miles and less than an hour of each other along the stretch where US 66 / I-40 was overlapped by US 666. Greenberg killed these innocent people along Satan’s Highway, and that should make your blood run cold.

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