Ticket booths for American Expeditions—the Night Bus—appear in major bus terminals across America every night. Yet, hardly anyone has ever heard of American Expeditions. This is because the company does not exist.
Of course most travelers take no notice of these unusual booths, as they have already purchased their tickets. American Expeditions attracts the desperate and those who seek cheap prices above all else. For just $5 USD, you can buy a ticket to any city in the United States. And there’s always a bus that arrives immediately after purchase. Convenient, no?
I think so. Unfortunately for you and I, most riders on the “Night Bus” tend to disappear forever. Those who do reach their destination have a hard time recounting their time on the bus, as it all seems like a dream to them in retrospect. A small group of travelers though, have it worse and think that this is the dream and the bus is real.
Before getting into the details, I’d like to share some background information on American Expeditions. Information on the non-existent company is, as you can imagine, beyond hard to come by: even stories of the Night Bus take keen ears to uncover. However, after some serious detective work, I present to you as full a picture as I could gather of the fabled “Night Bus”.
Appearances by the Night Bus go all the way back to the early days of the United States interstate system in the 1950s. I found a verified magazine advertisement for American Expeditions from the early 1960s. It appears at one point, the company was real.
No public information or company charters have ever been found concerning American Expeditions in any state. The address given in the ad is now home to a contemporary office building belonging to a Silicon Valley company.
I have heard many theories about what happened to the company. Some claim that an AE bus passed near Area 51 one night and was caught in an experiment gone wrong, which caused the bus to vanish. The company was then shut down and erased from history by the federal government. It is true the bus company was based in San Francisco—it’s ad said that—and serviced the Southwest region of America.
Another version of the story has it that a man named Jerry Benjamin, a scientist involved with the Manhattan Project during the war, got aboard an AE bus with a large briefcase. When the bus was out in the deserts of southern California, Benjamin opened the briefcase and detonated the inside device which caused a massive explosion.
Whatever the case may be, American Expeditions popped up but just as quickly disappeared. Over the decades however, stories of it and its ghostly Night Bus have surfaced. The Night Bus has recently become a very popular subject among paranormal enthusiasts, much like UFO sightings and abductions.
Like UFOs, there are people who claim to have ridden on the Night Bus and survived to tell about it. the first thing that struck me after reading through travelers’ accounts and hearing some in person, is that it appears there is only one “Night Bus”. Everyone describes the same bus—a white 1960s-era passenger bus with blue stripes and the company name on its sides. There is no designating number or ID. The driver seems to be the same person as well. He is described as a short man in his 60s or 70s. Gray-haired with watery blue eyes and large glasses, he wears overalls, a bow tie, and a cap.
Another constant is the desert landscape that passes by outside the windows. No matter where the passengers started from or where they are going, they always see deserts outside. Occasionally too, they see cities far out in the desert like oases of lights. The cities seem strange though: they appear as clusters of skyscrapers and high-rises, radiating with light, but they end abruptly. There are no suburbs. It is like the downtown of a large city, New York or Los Angeles, was cut out and dropped in the middle of a Californian or Nevadan desert.
The Night Bus carries passengers from any location in the United States to another in a single night. That is what self-claimed riders of the bus say. In 2006, Andrew Smith missed his bus, leaving him stranded in Chicago. It was late: around 10 at night. He knew that missing his meant he had missed his flight back to northern Virginia. He was low on cash too. That was when he noticed a ticket booth. A sign by the booth advertised low fares and an incoming arrival. He purchased a ticket to Baltimore for five dollars; immediately an old, retro bus pulled up to the designated terminal.
He reported all the experiences I’ve described above: desert landscapes passing by, even though he was going from Chicago to Baltimore; The little, old driver cradled in his large seat seat; and a sense of timelessness. Andrew describes how tired he became once he boarded the bus. He desperately wanted to sleep, but kept himself awake. Andrew is a veteran of the Marine Corps and is used to sleep deprivation. he also doesn’t like falling asleep while traveling. The bus made a stop at a hotel. Andrew had no idea where they were—empty desert surrounded them on all sides. This hotel is another recurring element of the Night Bus story.
The American Travelers Overnight Bus Stop & Hotel filled Andrew with two extremes. He wanted desperately to go inside, get a room, and collapse on a soft bed. Yet at the same time he wanted to stay far away from the hotel. There was something sinister about the large building and its blocky construction. It had too many windows; Andrew felt many eyes watching him from the windows. Inside the lobby, he saw the figures of the bellhops in uniform. There was a strange, unkind look in their gaunt faces that made Andrew decide to stay on the bus. A handful of passengers got off and went inside. Later, Andrew had a gut feeling that they would never leave that hotel.
Other travelers have reported similar experiences with the hotel. A strong combination of allure and terror. No obvious sign of alarm can be given about the hotel. People simply report a feeling of dread when they look at the building. No Night Bus rider has ever stopped at the hotel. Presumably those who have are there still, which is what Andrew believes.
Andrew could not tell me when exactly the desert gave way to the outskirts of Baltimore, but it happened so seamlessly he didn’t even think about it until later. When the bus pulled into the station, Andrew checked his watch. Sure enough the trip had only taken the night: he had gone from Chicago to Baltimore in 7 hours. At the time, Andrew was too exhausted for this to have any affect on him. Andrew was so tired, he wasn’t prepared at all for the shock that awaited him in Baltimore.
Sure, he had arrived home in record time, yet it wasn’t his time that he arrived in. Andrew had left Chicago in the year 2006, yet the clocks and newspapers in Baltimore said it was 1985. The local fashion and models of cars showed Andrew that this was true and not a hoax. When he turned back to look for the bus, it was already gone.
Andrew Smith, born in 1971, served in the Marines in the Gulf War and the American invasion of Iraq. He went missing in 2006. His parents were both dead and he was divorced, and had no close family or friends. His disappearance took a while to be noticed.
A man named Andrew Smith, a native of Baltimore, claims to be the same man. Andrew turned 68 this year. He lives with his wife and has three grown daughters.
From Andrew Smith’s story comes one of the biggest elements of the Night Bus story: the difficulty of passengers in reaching the right place and time. From other stories it is gathered that one must order a ticket and tell the driver where and when you want to go in precise language, otherwise you might end up in a completely different year—or even a different world as one man claimed.
Joe Garcia arrived home in San Francisco two days early thanks to American Expeditions. He arrived at his home on Russian Hill. His wife came to the door to greet him—except the woman wasn’t his wife. Joe was married to a woman named Theresa; this woman was named Becky. She knew him and tried to give him a kiss. Becky clearly thought they were married. Joe was stunned. When he regained his senses, he thought he’d made a mistake. But the house was his: it was the same building with the same address.
Inside, the house was clearly his, yet things were different. The rug in the living room was a different color—green instead of brown. The countertops in the kitchen were granite instead of concrete. And there hanging on the wall were pictures of Joe Garcia with Becky and children that weren’t Joe’s.
Joe’s reaction obviously distressed Becky. She brought down their four children—except that Joe had two children, a girl and a boy. After knowing for sure this was the right address and that was him in the pictures, Joe tried to settle in with his new family. Except that as he tried to go about his days, things about the city were different. He worked at a different job. The mayor of the city was a different person. Even some newer streets and buildings were changed—or missing altogether.
After eight months, Joe could take no more. He wanted to go back to his real family. He distanced himself from this alternate family. This was too much for Becky. Joe had been acting strange for almost a year. She overdosed on prescription pills three months later. Distraught, Joe left everything behind. While wandering the strange streets of this altered San Francisco, Joe remembered he had known a girl named Becky in high school. She had had a huge crush on him, but had committed suicide because of troubles at home.
Joe Garcia wandered into a bus terminal and spent his last five dollars on a Night Bus ticket. He wanted to get out of the city and hardly cared where he went. After a restless night, Joe was dropped off in Augusta, Maine. After earning enough cash for a plane ticket at a fish processing plant, Joe flew to San Francisco where he found an ongoing police search into his disappearance and his real wife, Theresa, waiting for him.
Time and space appear not to be a barrier for the Night Bus. The highways the Night Bus traverses are made of more than asphalt.
However, if you happen to lose your ticket while onboard, then you will never really be able to leave the bus, as Rosie Hendricks has experienced for the past five years or so. Rosie Hendricks lives in a rundown trailer home in Montana. She suffers from an incurable form of insomnia. Her many doctors claim it was brought on by stress and deep-rooted psychological problems. Rosie tells a different story.
Rosie Hendricks bought an AE ticket because it was the cheapest. She was fleeing a life of prostitution in rural southern Texas to go to Montana. However, while on the bus, she dozed off. When she awoke, she found her ticket was gone. When the bus stopped, the driver just looked at her with his sad, watery eyes when she explained her ticket had been taken.
She was allowed to leave and soon she was settled into her new Montana life. But every single night she woke back up on the Night Bus. The same empty desert and eerie cities, radiating with electric light, passed by. Just when the sun started to show on the eastern horizon, Rosie woke back up in Montana. She often found herself outside. She quickly discovered she walked in her sleep. In fact, locked doors wouldn’t even keep her contained.
Each and every night, bus stops at the American Travelers Hotel. Rosie, like the others, finds the place frightening just to look at, yet its allure has grown on her over the years. She told me in the interview that she has become fascinated by what might be inside and she might one day finally get off the bus.
After five years of this, Rosie Hendricks is in poor health. Nights give her no rest: her mind is always on. It has gotten to the point where Rosie believes this life is the dream and the bus is real. She believes this so much, she has taken to doing life-threatening stunts in an attempt to truly wake up. She once leapt off the bridge near her house into a shallow river. She was rushed to the hospital with two broken legs and internal bleeding. However, Rosie did miraculously survive and walks around quite fine. She treats life around her with dream-like serenity, taking nothing seriously.
So, the Night Bus. Is it real or just a myth? Like UFOs, it is hard to say for sure. After speaking to passengers of the bus, I cannot just discount it as a myth. What do you think of it? It is a legend? A victim of a government experiment?
Some have claimed the Night Bus is a modern American Charon, the ancient greek ferryman of the dead. Like the obol coin paid to him, so the Night Bus requires a mere $5. The old bus driver has been likened to Charon himself. Could the Night Bus be a ferry taking unwitting travelers into a sort of “underworld”. Might that explain what the American Travelers Hotel is? Perhaps what makes it so frightening and yet alluring is that the hotel is a gateway into another world or another mode of existence.
Who can say for sure. Tell me what you think.