IT was after midnight when Joe Finn saw what looked like the light from a Harley Davidson motorcycle approaching in the distance along Lemon Tree Passage Road.
It was Saturday night, he'd had a couple of beers and was sitting in the passenger seat of his mate's car - a P-plater - on the way to a party.
"I was looking in the side mirror and then all of a sudden this light appeared, approaching really fast behind us," the Anna Bay resident told the Newcastle Herald.
"It came from nowhere, I'd been watching it for about 20 seconds when my mate noticed too, it was sitting maybe 20 or 30 metres off the car, I couldn't see anything but the light."
They hit a bend in the road and another car went by in the opposite direction; the light vanished the moment it passed.
Mr Finn didn't realise at the time, but he'd witnessed the legend of the Lemon Tree Passage Ghost, an urban myth that has captured imaginations in Port Stephens for years, and is now the inspiration behind a feature film.
Lemon Tree Passage, filmed last year and starring Jessica Tovey (Wonderland) and Pippa Black (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), follows three American backpackers who learn about the ghost of a motorcyclist that stalks young motorists.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: WARNING, STRONG HORROR THEMES
The idea for the film came in 2010 when YouTube clips popped up showing terrified teenagers screaming as a single circular light follows them through the night.
The film has been shown at South Korea's PiFan Festival but is looking for an Australian distributor.
Like all urban legends the Lemon Tree Passage Ghost has a contested history, but the one constant is the death of a motorcyclist on the strip.
The story usually involves two young men in an accident in the late 1980s: the rider supposedly lost his leg while the other, a pillion passenger, died.
There's a few different interpretations around how the legend works.
You must have P-plates on the car and be driving after midnight on a Saturday.
Mr Finn's encounter took place back in 2007. He'd never heard of the legend but later he realised all the rules fit the description of his experience - and he was "creeped out" by what he was told.
But there's one other crucial element of the story that makes it a particularly controversial tale.
All versions of the legend include the same dangerous element - that you must be doing in excess of 100km/h.
It has made the legend a burden to police - in one night in 2010 police caught seven motorists speeding on the road.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
Inspector Guy Flaherty from the Port Stephens Local Area Command knows all about the ghost, like most Port police he's spent plenty of cold nights patrolling the dangerous road.
He's never seen a ghost, but has seen plenty of young people doing stupid things.
"I think it would be prudent for people to realise the basis of this myth - and it is a myth - was that someone died exceeding the speed limit," he said.
"The whole thing has arisen because of someone going beyond their abilities as a driver, breaking the law, and tragically paying the price for that."
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
Locals know that police maintain a heavy patrol of the road and the most common lights sighted in the rear-view mirror are blue and red.
According to Newcastle paranormal investigator Murray Byfield, motorists don't need to speed to see the famous apparition.
A true believer, Mr Byfield has investigated Lemon Tree Passage and doesn't believe it's an act of the paranormal.
He's seen the light but says that rather than being a ghost, it's a trick of the terrain.
Lemon Tree Passage Road is long and straight - there's a stretch of about four kilometres that runs dead straight and flat - from Rookes Road in the west to Oyster Cove Road in the east.
"Because your line of sight isn't interrupted for that whole stretch, you can see the light in the distance, but because it's so far away you can only see the one beam of light coming towards you," Mr Byfield explained.
"Then you hit that bend, and what I'm almost sure happens is the terrain blocks it off so it looks like it disappears, the car's still a long way behind you so the light doesn't reappear."
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