Aruban legends: Frenchman’s Pass

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(Oranjestad)—If you ever plan on taking a group tour of the island, you may pass through the Frenchman’s Pass in Balashi. The Frenchman’s pass (known to locals as “Franse Pas”) remains a mysterious—and spooky—road of which its legend is told from generation to generation.

The history of the Frenchman’s pass—and how it got its name—dates back to the colonization era, when the French tried to colonize the island, but were met with an angry mob of indigenous settlers, refusing to give up their land. However, as the French were heavily equipped with fire arms, the indigenous settlers began to retreat, and hid away in nearby caves. The French colonizers tried to smoke them out of the caves, but the indigenous settlers ended up inhaling too much smoke and most died in those caves. From then on, this passage was known as Frenchman’s Pass, and there have been many accounts of spirits roaming the area of Spanish Lagoon.

There are many ghost stories surrounding this area, but one of the most famous one involves a lonely hitchhiker, trying to find a ride back home in the dark rainy night.

Some time after trying to hitchhike, the man saw a car approaching, appearing almost ghost-like in the rain. However, since he needed a ride real bad, he didn’t think twice and jumped in. But to his horror, he noticed that the there was no driver in the front. Paralyzed with fear, he didn’t dare to get out, and the car started to move.

When approaching a sharp turn, the hitch hiker braced for impact, but just when he though the car might drive straight off the road and crash, he saw a hand appear out the window and turn the wheel. For the next few turns, the hand appeared again. After having had enough, the man decided to jump out and he ran to Santa Cruz.

Arriving at a nearby bar, he ordered a drink and began to tell everyone about his experience. Everyone grew quiet, because they realized he wasn’t some drunk messing around; he was telling the truth.

Some time later, two men walked into the bar and one of them noticed the hitchhiker. He called out to his buddy and said: “Look, there’s the idiot who sat in our car when we were pushing it!”

French man’s pass is one of the few sites on the island that keeps the locals on their toes. While most ghost stories may not have real grounds—or some may even be a set up story for a joke, this pass contributes a lot to our culture of folkloric story-telling.