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The Ghost of Comanche Road

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Not many people travel the narrow road from the little village of Camanche to Clinton, Iowa, at any time of day, but the few who have done so late at night can tell you about the man walking the shoulder of Camanche Road. Should you find yourself on Camanche Road, be warned. Over the years, those who have stopped to pick the man up, have found themselves the recipient of an expensive gift.

Those who have seen him agree that he is from young to middle-aged, always wearing a top hat. He never solicits a ride but accepts one when offered.

Such a ride ends with the man pulling a small gift out of his coat pocket in return for the ride. The gifts have varied over the years, but the end result is always the same: the gift ends up costing the recipient far more than it's worth.

Jan Mote of Sterling, Illinois, knows. She received a beautiful lady's watch. When Jan began wearing it, she noticed it needed some minor adjustment. A more serious problem turned up in the watch shop, and that was corrected, too, which turned up another problem until Jan had gone way over budget.

Anita Pellman of Port Byron received a small vial of expensive perfume from the mystery man. She turned out to be allergic to it, and the treatment for the resulting skin condition cost three times the value of the perfume.

In the early 1950s, Neil Gunther gave the man on the Camanche road a ride and was rewarded with a pair of tickets for a dinner theater in Davenport. How did the man know that Neil could use those tickets to take his serious girlfriend out for an elegant evening? Neil's girl was impressed. This was more than just another movie date.

The evening went even better than Neil had imagined—until some small idea expressed in the third act caused a minor disagreement between the loving couple. The debate flared into an argument on the spot. Neil's girl jilted him, and shortly joined a bowling league in order to meet new men.

After these stories, would you pick up the mysterious stranger late at night along the Camanche Road? Perhaps not, but aren't you just the least bit curious about what your special gift might be?

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.