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Literature / Ghost Roads

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Phantom prom date

"I hate ghost stories. Too many of them are autobiographical."

Rose Marshall is the Shadow of Sparrow Hill Road. She's the Lady in Green. She's the Phantom Prom Date.

Ghost Roads (previously Ghost Stories) is a series of short stories (later collected into a novel) by Seanan McGuire about a ghost named Rose Marshall, who crashed and burned on Sparrow Hill Road in 1952 and has been hitching the ghost roads ever since as an occasional psychopomp, trying to help wayward souls she meets along the way...and to get revenge for her own murder. Sparrow Hill Road is the first book in the now titled "Ghost Roads" Series. A sequel, titled The Girl in the Green Silk Gown was released on July 17, 2018. Book 3, Angel of the Overpass, was released on May 11, 2021. There's also a short story, "Train Yard Blues", published in the anthology Coins of Chaos and another, "Last Call at the Last Chance", available on the author's Patreon.

The stories are based on the various Urban Legends about Hitchhiking ghosts and on songs about roads, cars, dates, and broken hearts. Rose also has a lot to say about road culture, car culture, date culture and diner culture along the way.

The series originated as 12 short stories published online at over the course of 2010 as monthly installments:

  1. "Good Girls Go to Heaven"
  2. "Dead Man's Party"
  3. "Tell Laura I Love Her"
  4. "Building a Mystery"
  5. "El Viento Del Diablo"
  6. "Last Dance with Mary Jane"
  7. "Do You Want To Dance?"
  8. "Dead Man's Curve"
  9. "Last Train"
  10. "Bad Moon Rising"
  11. "Faithfully"
  12. "Thunder Road"

It only remained online for one year, though "Good Girls Go to Heaven" is still available at the author's web site as a teaser.

Revised versions of these stories (except "Bad Moon Rising") were collected into a novel, Sparrow Hill Road, which was released in 2014.

As one might suspect from the story titles, music plays an important role in Rose Marshall's story, as Seanan McGuire is also a musician and songwriter. Rose has been the subject of several of her songs, including "Pretty Little Dead Girl", "Graveyard Rose", "Waxen Wings", "When I Drive", "Counting Crows", "Hanging Tree", and "On Dead Man's Hill". Note that these songs mostly represent the Urban Legend version of Rose so they don't correspond exactly with the stories. You can read the lyrics on her website, or on the InCryptid Wiki.

Contains examples of:

  • Age Without Youth: Part of Bobby Cross' Deal with the Devil. Getting the youth he has to do on his own.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Subverted. Gary wanted Rose, and the queens of the school couldn't understand what he saw in the poor girl wearing thrift store clothes.
  • Artistic License – History: Rose supposedly died in 1945 in the original stories but the car culture references are all more appropriate to The '50s. The novel retcons the year of Rose's death to 1952 but still mentions rock and roll music three years too soon. The original song "Pretty Little Dead Girl" gives her year of death as 1953, but "1952" doesn't rhyme with "cemetery".
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: On the part of Rose's older brother Arthur, who can't believe things about Bethany without also believing things about Rose.
  • The Archmage: Apple, the Queen of the Routewitches, is naturally the most powerful among them.
  • Arc Words: Bobby Cross is coming.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Angel of the Overpass, Rose insults Bobby (who is a murderer and arsonist) by saying he's a coward and a bully, and that his movies weren't that good, he was just wearing very tight pants.
  • At the Crossroads: Where Bobby made his Deal with the Devil, and where Bethany tried to.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Partially, McGuire has an amazing vocabulary but some words have people reaching for the dictionary. Who ever heard of the word "palimpsest" before especially when poetically applied to America's road network?
  • Back from the Dead: In the second book, Rose temporarily becomes alive again on Halloween, but then can't turn back into a ghost.
  • Batman Gambit: Bobby negating Rose's Power Tattoo with Dana's blood makes her vulnerable to him again, so she goes to the routewitches for help, who tell her to become incarnate and "die" to reverse it. It turns out he knew she would do that, and blackmailed the family overseeing her incarnation to make her stay alive, and even more vulnerable to him.
    • And then it's revealed that he enlisted Laura's help from the beginning, knowing that Rose would ask her for help if she got away from Bobby, and the only reason she survives his Xanatos Gambit is she's able to convince Laura to do a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Beware Of Hitch Hiking Ghosts: Played with. The legends speak of Rose as a malevolent spirit or at least a harbinger of death. The truth is a lot more nuanced.
    • Homecomers, a slightly different permutation of hitchhiking ghosts from Rose, are a straight example. Their fate shows what endlessly trying to get home, never being able to, and finally watching that home inevitably disappear (as time passes, people move, etc) would do to somebody's mind. They basically can't help killing after a certain point.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Apple escaped from Manzanar Internment Camp. Her name is likely a reference to that, since "Manzanar" means "apple orchard" in Spanish.
  • Blessed with Suck: Routewitches are fundamentally nomadic; they get their power from traveling and have a deep need to be on the move. As queen, Apple is immensely strong, eternally young, gifted with extra powers, able to commune directly with their goddess...and can't go anywhere. Well, she could—there's no actual physical barrier or geas preventing her—but things usually go haywire if the monarch leaves the Ocean Lady and she's much too responsible. So, until she steps down (and stepping down usually leads to death), Apple can only experience travel through the tribute of her subjects.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The crossroads guardians aren't evil, they just only care about the interests of the crossroads. Anyone who can pay can play. The crossroads ghosts are supposed to be a check on this, as having once been human they care about the damage bargains can do, but an inexperienced ghost can be taken advantage of. Like Bobby took advantage of Mary Dunlavy.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Played with. Rose does sometimes have sex with the living, but only when she's wearing a coat, which makes her functionally alive until sunrise (or she takes off the coat). The only boy she ever truly loved was Gary, her boyfriend before she died, and after he dies they're Together in Death. The Filk Song "On Dead Man's Hill" is from the point of view of a guy deliberately seeking out a ghostly romance.
  • Canon Discontinuity "Bad Moon Rising", a stand alone Halloween story, did not match the tone of rest of the series or fit into Rose's character arc so it was left out of Sparrow Hill Road. It was later incorporated into the sequel as a chapter.
  • Canon Welding: Rose's story takes place in the InCryptid universe. She guest-stars in the Incryptid short story "The Ghosts of Bourbon Street" (free on the author's website) and later appeared in book seven of the main series Tricks For Free, and the Patreon-exclusive short story "By Any Other Name". Mary Dunlavy also appears in both series, and the "editor's note" in Sparrow Hill Road is by Kevin and Evelyn Price, the parents of the InCryptid protagonists.
    • Further as Angel of the Overpass deals with the aftermath of the banishment of the Crossroads, we find out their origin: they stepped into the space that a series of resets in reality tore in the fabric of the universe, as the result of "mathematicans" messing with them. According to the Axis Mundi, the soul of the earth, at least. Math obsessed reality resetters is almost certainly a reference to the Johrlac from InCryptid.
  • Car Fu: Bobby Cross' weapon of choice is his Diabolical car that never saw the inside of a factory.
  • Cessation of Existence: What happens to a ghost killed in the Halloween rites, or one who kills one of the living but fails to do so next year. Also the fate of those unfortunate souls fed to Bobby's car.
  • The Charmer: Bobby Cross, although he's the nightmare version, who now uses it as a weapon. It's in Girl in the Green Silk Gown where you really see it, given he's the main antagonist. Among other things, he talks a young routewitch into killing herself so her blood can be used to damage Rose's protection against him. Then when Rose undergoes a dangerous ritual to restore it, he entraps the daughter of the family running said ritual to blackmail them into becoming his accomplices in hunting Rose.
  • Charm Person: Apple automatically has this effect whenever she takes tribute from someone, because even though she means well, giving up your distance hurts, both physically and once you realize she took all the emotions and most of the memories that went with the miles in the bargain. If routewitch monarchs didn't have this power nobody would ever do it.
  • Claimed by the Supernatural: Rose already is supernatural, but the routewitches give her a Power Tattoo that protects her from Bobby Cross.
  • Cool Car: Gary the car.
  • Comfort Food: In this case, diner food. Malts, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, golden fries and pie — especially comforting to ghosts who only get to sample the pleasures of the living when wearing a borrowed coat. Food tastes like ashes any other time. Also, at one point Verity Price remarks that Aunt Rose will go a long way for a good beer.
  • Covers Always Lie: Sort of. Rose is shown on the cover with dark hair, jeans, and what looks like a 50's diner uniform's top. In the book, the jeans are the only thing that is correct - her hair was bleached with lemon juice at the time of her death, and her normal attire is either a tank top with jeans or the green silk prom dress she died in. But as a ghost, Rose can alter her clothing, makeup, and hair however she likes as long as it doesn't involve altering her phantom body (no piercings, but clamp earrings mimicking piercings work fine) and seems to prefer having short, brown hair. Word of God is the cover represents Rose as McGuire has always envisioned her.
  • Crossover Cosmology: The Greek afterlife is real, and it's implied the Egyptian and Norse ones are too, plus there are appearances by bean sidhe and dullahans from Celtic mythology.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The series deals with fatal car crashes. Comes with the territory.
  • Cue the Sun: The borrowed life Rose gets from a borrowed jacket dissipates at sunup.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Corletta, seven years old when she died, spends a lonely afterlife at the ghost of her family's farm. After Rose meets her, she sends other ghostly children there to play with her.
  • Dangerous Clifftop Road: The backstory involves Rose going for a drive at "Sidewinder Ravine", where Bobby Cross rammed her car over the edge. Recounted in the Image Song "Pretty Little Dead Girl":
The sheriff said she'd been doing ninety
Along the edge of the ravine;
Two sets of tracks — but here's the strange thing —
The other car was never seen.
Whoever clipped Rose, well, they got away clean.
  • Deal with the Devil: Bobby Cross made one for immortality, and occasionally makes other ones.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The novel irons out some inconsistencies found in the original stories, like the distinction between crossroads guardians and crossroads ghosts.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: Road entities like road ghosts can show people shortcuts that involve dipping into the twilight to cover the needed distance, they have to be careful not to break the Masquerade.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Everybody hates Bobby Cross, even the crossroads that made him what he is—Rose manages to stun a guardian into silence when she snarkily reminds it who exactly set Bobby loose.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Bobby is a fairly charming individual who speaks in a fairly calm and polite voice but none of that is genuine. Beneath the façade lies a sadist and sociopath who murders so he can selfishly live forever.
  • First-Person Smartass: Rose
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: A downplayed example in the second book. Rose has been dead since 1952, but in 2016 is brought Back from the Dead via an Unwanted Revival. She has some experience with the modern world, since she's been interacting with living people all that time, but she's never had a reason to carry money, or go inside, say, a Target, or on a plane. She also has no ID and everyone she knew in life is now dead.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Rose, who has met some of the divine creatures that hang out on the ghostroads, but refuses to believe just the same. She considers any beings that call themselves gods to be questionably sane and quite full of themselves. After she actually meets Hades and Persephone she shifts into more of a Nay-Theist.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Routewitch HQ looks like whatever the viewer associates with a stop for weary travelers, at least on the outside — it settles on a diner for Rose.
  • Genius Loci:
    • Rose and Mary encounter a haunted stretch of highway that kills anyone who tries to travel on it. They discover it's due to the ghost of a murdered hitchhiker who was buried beneath the road.
    • The Ocean Lady is the semi-dormant ghost of the Old Atlantic Highway, whose power was broken by replacing her with dozens of smaller roads and cutting her off from the main highway network. She's still unbelievably powerful, and is the goddess of the routewitches.
    • Explained in more depth in the related InCryptid series, the Crossroads is an Eldritch Abomination, a "dimensional parasite" that usurped the true Genius Loci of Earth, making its bargains much more malicious than before. It can show up wherever two roads cross, though old, established sites are the best for calling upon it.
  • Geometric Magic: Rose gets trapped in a Seal of Solomon by a Professor Laura Moorhead, who blames her for her boyfriend's death. In the InCryptid series set in the same universe, Antimony summons her other ghost aunt Mary into a magic circle to protect her from the Crossroads that Mary is forced to serve.
  • Ghostly Goals: Type A mainly. Ghosts can hang around long enough to find their killer and that **can** be it. Other times they fall into a pattern that prolongs their existence like giving directions, hitching rides or killing people. Bobby Cross makes the claim that Rose achieved all that she did because she had her "task" of dealing with him over the decades which is why she had to build herself into the force she was, Rose calls this bull of course.
    • The crossover The Ghost of Bourbon Street notes that ghosts usually solve their violent murders by themselves and enlisting help, especially from among the living is considered gauche.
  • God of the Dead: The afterlife and spirits that end up there are managed by various deities, each ruling over their own version based on what mythology they come from, some can even give up their role and leave.
  • Good Bad Girl: Rose thoroughly enjoys fast food, alcohol and is even perfectly fine with sex as a way to repay people for rides or meals that she receives. She's also a genuinely good person who does mean well and strives to do the right thing usually.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Last Dance (Last Chance when it's feeling ominous) diner in the twilight is this for road ghosts, related entities and those that can get there. There are more mundane versions of them too which Rose visits as part of her own route, some of which the owners even know who she is and see her as a good omen.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Bobby Cross, the primary villain of the series and the one responsible for murdering Rose and turning her into a ghost, would be nothing without the powers given to him in his deal with the Crossroads. Rose hardly ever sees the Crossroads firsthand, and never faces them — they're actually Killed Offscreen in this series, though their defeat is shown in the InCryptid books set in the same universe.
  • Greek Chorus: The Rosettes in "Pretty Little Dead Girl" get a series of asides about how their various boyfriends' character traits led them to fatal encounters with Rose Marshall, culminating in "Harry... was an idiot." with no further elaboration.
  • Haunted Fetter: An inverted version called Ghost-Tokens. If one of the living keeps something of a ghost in memory of them and reminisces strongly enough about them, it can be used to call and manifest an existing Ghost.
    • Rose's is the corsage Gary was going to give her for Prom. As soon as she's free she makes sure to destroy it.
  • Headless Horseman: Pippa the dullahan, though she doesn't have a horse. Dullahans, like bean sidhe, are beings that were never "alive" in the first place, and they take the form of a parasitic head that manipulates a headless corpse.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Thanks to the urban legends, Rose is typically blamed for all the deaths that either happen while she is present or that she's actively trying to prevent. In reality, the worst she's done to an innocent driver is run away when she sensed Bobby Cross coming for him (which she still feels bad about).
  • Hitchhiker Heroes: Played with. Rose doesn't really build a quest party, but she's on a hero's journey nonetheless.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The Halloween rites are a twisted version in which living humans hunt temporarily incarnated ghosts. If they kill a ghost, they get an extra year of life, and the ghost ceases to exist. However, ghosts can fight back (though they only have farm tools against guns), and if they kill one of the living, they get to stay alive for another year. However, they must repeat this the next year, or they will also cease to exist.
  • I Gave My Word: In the twilight, your word is your bond, and lying to other dead inevitably leads to bad consequences. Breaking a crossroads bargain is worse: even cheating on it a little entails great risks. The dead owe no truth to the living, however.
  • I Have Many Names: Rose, Graveyard Rose, the Girl in the Diner, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown, the Phantom Prom Date.
  • Image Song: Rose has no fewer than 8:
    • "Pretty Little Dead Girl" tells the urban legend (or as McGuire puts it, the "filthy libel") version of Rose's story.
    • "Graveyard Rose" tells the flipside of Rose's legend as the "Lady in the Diner"/truckdriver's psychopomp.
    • "Sparrow Hill Road" is another song, about her role as a psychopomp.
  • Immortality Immorality: Played straight with Bobby Cross, but inverted with Routewitches and Ambulomancers, who get long life in return for the jobs they do on the highways and the ghostroads.
  • Invincible Boogeyman: Bobby Cross. The only way to escape him is to run to somewhere he can't follow, or get a magic tattoo from the routewitches.
  • Invoked Trope: In the second book, Rose is brought back to life through an Unwanted Revival, so she and her allies devise a plan to invoke and then subvert Rescued from the Underworld. Rose will descend to the Greek underworld with a companion, ask Persephone and Hades to let her leave, and then have her companion deliberately look back at the last moment, returning her to her ghostly existence.
  • Irony: The reason Bobby wanted to live forever was the fame and glory he got from his youthful good looks. After making his Deal with the Devil, he vanished, and most people assume he crashed somewhere in the desert.
  • I Will Wait for You: Tommy could move on, but he stays as a phantom rider, for which he can't stop moving, so he can be reunited with Laura when she finally dies.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Played with. Rose appears in the green silk prom dress she died in unless she concentrates otherwise and/or is wearing a borrowed coat. Her preferred appearance is the white tank top she once borrowed from Gary and the blue jeans her mother didn't like her to wear, and short brown hair. She reverts to the prom dress under stress, which invariably means in the worst possible situations.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Rose, as a first-person smartass narrator, does this constantly. Particularly in regards to her appearance, which reverts to a teenage girl in a prom dress at the most inconvenient times.
  • Layered World: Aside from the daylight (the living world) there's the twilight, midnight and the starlight, the first is the afterlife but you tend to get more abstract and mythological as you go deeper. Human ghosts don't tend to stray from the twilight, and for good reason. Some among the living, like routewitches and Bobby Cross, can travel through the twilight without dying.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Bethany is Rose's grand niece.
  • Loophole Abuse: Bobby Cross is supposed to only be able to hunt drivers. This doesn't stop him locking onto pedestrians when he thinks the crossroads isn't watching—after all, they're on the road even if they're not in cars, right?
  • Losing Your Head: Pippa the dullahan. Apparently dullahans are parasitic heads that control a dead body.
  • Love Transcends Spacetime: Rose and Gary forever, to the point of the latter spending sixty years pining for her, and then magicking himself into a ghost car to be with her in the ghostroads.
  • Magical Gesture: When Rose returns to Buckley, she walks widdershins around the gym checking for trouble.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Rose ends up on the bad end of this trope in The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. When she is made flesh again during Halloween and then gets stuck that way, it’s only supposed to last the night, it's hard to deal with all the sensations and glands and sweat and the blushing and having to figure out the damn bathroom again.
  • Mirror Character: A dual example with the Together in Death couples of Rose and Gary, and Laura and Tommy. Rose died young, and Gary never stopped loving her, finding a way to be with her after he died 60 years later. Tommy also died young, but refused to move on until he could be together with Laura again. Rose even lampshades how they're a dark mirror of her and Gary.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The ghost dinosaur Rose meets in Angel of the Overpass is a patchwork of aspects from many different dinosaur species, all of which turned into oil over millions of years.
  • The Mourning After:
    • Gary never gets over Rose. In fact, he figures out a way to be reunited with her in the afterlife - as a car.
    • Likewise, Laura never gets over Tommy's death, though she eventually stops blaming Rose for it.
  • Muggle with a Degree in Magic: Laura Moorhead is the premier researcher on the Phantom Prom Date and ghosts in general. Despite not having any innate magical ability of her own, she is able to trap Rose in a Seal of Solomon.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The King of the North American Routewitches helped Bobby get to the crossroads and witnessed his bargain. After seeing what Bobby became, he abdicated, voluntarily exiling himself and cutting himself off from magic (which he knew would result in his death). Also applies to Mary Dunlavy, the dead witness at that bargain, who was too inexperienced to swing it into more reasonable territory.
  • A Mythology Is True: Rose's story neatly ties together some common variations of the hitchhiking ghost and phantom prom date urban legends, and provides an explanation for the borrowed coat that shows up in so many of them.
  • Naked on Revival: Ghosts can become alive on Halloween for various reasons, there's other stuff but pertinent to this trope is that they can tumble from the fields clothed only in their 'birthday suit'.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Rose's self-appointed duties as a Psychopomp has given her the reputation of a rapacious, malicious reaper of the unwary.
  • No Immortal Inertia: Bobby Cross's cursed car keeps him young by outrunning mortality. Staying in one place too long would allow mortality to catch up. Finding a way to stop his car would literally result in A Fate Worse Than Death for Bobby, who cannot be harmed by ordinary means.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Rose and several of the other ghosts and supernatural creatures she meets along the ghost roads. Rose has been 16 since 1952.
    • Routewitches who spend enough time in the twilight will age much more slowly, although they do eventually die. Apple, the Queen, looks about Rose's age, and has since she escaped from Manzanar. Another routewitch, Paul, is actually around 70 years old, but was reverted to a teenage body as penance for trying to overthrow Apple.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The bean sidhe seem to be the only ones that turn up in the series. Considering one of the other Urban Fantasy series McGuire writes this puts the two of them into firmly separate continuities.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • Rose can be brought back to life, temporarily, by borrowing a sweater, jacket or coat. Only then can she enjoy a meal, a good cup of coffee, sex, etc. and only if those things are freely given to her by another.
    • Routewitches usually end up as ghosts after their deaths.
    • Roads and diners and cars, if loved and traveled and thought of enough, can become ghosts too.
    • There are various specific kinds of ghost. Road ghosts include hitchers, homecomers, and white ladies, and there are non-road ghosts as well.
    • Apparently there are people out there who love their cornfields, houses, and even spiders enough to create ghosts of them in the twilight, as Rose finds out when she makes her way through a ghost cornfield with ghost spiders.
  • Person with the Clothing: One of Rose's epithets and the title of the second book is "The Girl in the Green Silk Gown".
  • Place of Power:
    • The Ocean Lady straddles the line between this and Genius Loci.
    • The British Museum, thanks to all the Greek artifacts in it, holds the gateway to the Greek underworld. It's implied the Met is the same for the Egyptian underworld.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: In The Pretty Little Girl in the Green Silk Gown a large team of them turn out to be Valkyries who Rose explains relates her Backstory to, this earns her their blessing.
  • Position of Literal Power: It seems that becoming a Fury is something that one chooses for themselves though it helps to have a sponsor or two to help you get there.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Bobby Cross' car is powered by road ghosts like Rose, and he needs a constant supply to keep him young and able to drive the ghostroads. And he's perfectly happy to kill people to get them.
  • Power Incontinence: If Rose hadn't died, she'd have grown up to be a routewitch. Routewitches get their power from travel. Combine Rose suddenly being made alive, having an anti-magic charm washed out of her system, and having traveled thousands and thousands of miles throughout the continental US, and you get nearly every road in the country shouting in her head at the same time. Ouch.
  • Power Tattoo: The Queen of the Routewitches gives one to Rose to protect her from Bobby, sanctifying her to Persephone.
  • The Professor: Laura Moorhead, a magical female version of this, shows up to make trouble for Rose. She blames Rose for the death of her boyfriend Tommy, and has built her entire career around becoming the premier expert on Rose.
  • Psychopomp: Rose has ended up in this role more than once, it eventually becomes part of her duty as a Fury.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Bethany makes up for trying to sell Rose out to Bobby Cross by becoming a crossroads ghost who makes sure he sticks to the terms of his deal. Likewise, Laura Moorhead makes up for the same thing (Bobby gets around) by making her last act fulfilling the ritual to make Rose a hitcher again.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Inverted in the second book. Rose is brought back to life through an Unwanted Revival, so she and her allies devise a plan where she will descend to the Greek underworld with a companion, ask Persephone and Hades to let her leave, and then have her companion deliberately look back at the last moment, returning her to her ghostly existence. Her boyfriend is already dead, and Apple can't leave her Place of Power, so the only person who can be Rose's Orpheus is Laura, her former (?) enemy.
  • Retcon: Sparrow Hill Road resets Rose's death to 1952.
  • Sentient Vehicle: Gary Daniels has his soul bound to a custom-built car, then has the car destroyed when he dies, so he can be with Rose again as the car's ghost.
  • Serial Killer: Bobby is an immortal murderer who's been hunting people for over 60 years.
  • Shout-Out:
    Rose: ...people being a little reluctant to stop in the middle of a cornfield to pick up an unfamiliar teenage girl. Thanks for that one, Stephen King. You and your goddamn children of the corn can go piss up a rope for all the walking that you've made me do.
    • Rose also says Gary the car doesn't "go all Christine" on her.
    • The stories are all named after popular songs. "Tell Laura I Love Her" is notable because it's an example of the "lost my baby in a car wreck" genre that was popular in the late 50's to early 60's; "Dead Man's Curve" because it's about a wreck similar to the one that claimed Rose.
    • A scene in the third book where a ghost dinosaur attacks a car brings to mind Jurassic Park.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Rose is legendary in-story, but most of the stories about her contain a small kernel of the truth at best or are libelous at worst.
  • Sinister Car: Bobby Cross has a "car that never rolled off any assembly line", given to him by the Crossroads after he made a Deal with the Devil with them for immortality. As long as he has the car, he's immortal and doesn't age. It runs on the souls of people killed on the road, usually by him.
  • Sinister Subway: In Angel of the Overpass, Rose visits a spectral subway station in the starlight, where human ghosts aren't meant to go. While waiting for Persephone's messenger to return, she's attacked by a creature made up of a swarm of flies and narrowly avoids being devoured by a demonic train.
  • The Sociopath: Bobby Cross is a very charismatic individual but is described as a man who'd murder the world if he got to live a little longer. In order to keep himself immortal, he's destroyed the various ghosts he's met over the decades by feeding them to his car in order to outrun mortality itself. He is also devoid of any remorse for this and is a manipulative killer who's willing to dispose of anyone who is not of use to him.
  • Soul Jar: Methods of catching ghosts.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Gary the car, using radio songs and announcements.
  • Spirit Advisor: Emma is Rose's, and Rose, however briefly, is one for the various souls she helps along.
  • Spotting the Thread: Bethany gets Rose a wrap for her dress, so she'll have a "coat" that won't stand out at the dance. She says she was able to match the color from the yearbook picture. Thing is, though, Rose died before she made it to prom, so there aren't any pictures of her in her dress. This is an early clue that Bethany is working with Bobby Cross.
  • Supernatural Aid: Rose often has to turn to the routewitches or the gods themselves for aid.
    • In the first book, she goes to their queen's court, where she gets a Power Tattoo that imbues her with the blessing of Persephone, protecting her from Bobby Cross.
    • In the third book, when she's finally about to confront Bobby, she prays for a weapon, and finds a scythe in the dirt. It becomes part of her when her act of vengeance turns her into one of the Furies.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Bethany, although Rose kind of understands it and is reluctantly sympathetic to a point.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: When Rose is brought back to life, she contacts her old sort-of enemy Laura Moorhead, since she's the only person Rose knows who's still alive and has publically available contact info (the Price family doesn't like strangers knowing how to reach them, and at that point, Rose counts as a stranger).
  • Thicker Than Water: Nope. Not in the least. At least not in the Marshall family.
  • Together in Death: After Gary dies, he and Rose can be together on the ghostroads forever.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The college-age ghost hunters put up to it by an enemy of Rose's. Know enough to get themselves in danger, but not enough to keep themselves alive.
  • Valkyries: They show up as cheerleaders to hear Rose's Origin Story. They're a bit hard to deal with but they give her their blessing all the same.
  • Undead Fossils: Angel of the Overpass applies this to gasoline, the distilled essence of all those dead animals had to have gone somewhere didn't it?
  • Undead Tax Exemption: When Rose is forcibly incarnated and goes to Laura for help, Laura gets her a fake ID so they can take a plane to Portland, Maine.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Hitchhiker ghosts can only receive favors freely given, and sex is the only way Rose has to repay people for rides or meals. She doesn't particularly mind because there can be no consequencesnote  and it's an experience she wished she'd had in life. She's also not above using "a trip to the woods" to delay someone long enough to miss their appointment with death. As a "hitcher"-type ghost Rose is fueled by "borrowed life" and describes herself addicted to things she can only really experience while wearing a borrowed coat - cheeseburgers, coffee, and sex, though sex seems to be more something she enjoys in passing than craves.
  • Unwanted Revival: In The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Rose was only supposed to be alive for one Halloween night to shuck a curse, but instead she has to deal with being alive again decades after her death and play catch-up even when she really doesn't want to. And now, not only is Bobby Cross hunting her down to kill her again, she doesn't have any of her ghostly powers anymore.
  • Urban Legend: Rose is based on the well-known "vanishing hitchhiker" ghost story, and her story (as well as the stories told about her in the book) tie together several of the more popular variations of the legend. Other legends are referenced as well.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Rose spends most of the series trying to stay away from Bobby Cross, but in the third book he's finally vulnerable and she goes on the offensive to take him down. In the process, she becomes one of the Furies, whose job is literally being a spirit of vengeance.
  • Weird Sun: Despite its name, there is a sun in the Twilight, but it has a scary face and hisses at people.
  • Whatever Mancy: Ambulomancers, Routewitches, and Trainspotters all garner past, present, and future information by interfacing with their respective travel means.
  • Writer on Board: The characters' comments are sometimes an obvious mouthpiece for the author's (admittedly valid) views on colonialism and archaeological repatriation (e.g. the repeated mentions of how most of the British Museum's collection is stolen from other countries).
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Where Rose grew up. Couldn't afford bleach to blonde her hair, so had to make do with lemon juice. So many other things she couldn't afford.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: At the end of The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Bobby murders the woman he's manipulated into helping him because he thinks she's done what he needed her for and he wants another ghost for his tank. Only he doesn't quite kill her, and his betrayal means she turns on him and helps Rose at the last second.
  • You Must Be Cold: Rose frequently takes advantage of this to get loaned jackets and other outerwear - she can ask but cannot just take, they must be freely given - but it's also true: Rose is always cold, except when she's wearing a borrowed coat or sweater.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: Bobby Cross in order to keep his immortality going which is directly linked to his ability to outrun mortality with his car, captures the souls of ghosts and feeds them to his car to act as fuel. This destroys said souls in the process.

Alternative Title(s): Sparrow Hill Road, Ghost Stories