Throughout history, there have been tales of ghostly travellers continuing their journeys after death often in the form of how they travelled in life. Spectral horse-drawn carriages, phantom trains, haunted cars and ghost ships are all well documented and embedded in myth but in recent years a new dimension has been added to this aspect of the paranormal – ghosts in flight.
Humanity has been harnessing the benefits of powered flight for over a hundred years now, but it has not come without cost in human life. Here are five sightings of ghosts that are truly between heaven and earth.
5The Biggin Hill Spitfire
Biggin Hill was an RAF station that housed a number of Spitfire fighters during the Second World War and being located close to the centre of London it was heavily involved in the fighting during the Battle of Britain. Today, Biggin Hill is home to a museum commemorating the battle and wartime fighters regularly fly displays for the public from the historic runway.
However, one frequent flyer over the airfield is not on any earthly flight schedule. Since the end of the war, the skies around the base have rumbled with the sound of a Spitfire’s Rolls-Royce engine despite there being no aircraft reportedly flying in the region. Add to this a number of sightings of a solitary Spitfire making its way towards the runway before vanishing into thin air and one is left with the feeling that at least one of “the few” is still yet to find the peace he was so desperately fighting for in those dark days.
4Wittering’s Crashing Ghost Bomber
RAF Wittering has long been one of Britain’s major military airfields and during the Second World War, the base was a hive of activity with British and American warplanes taking off from there on operations over Nazi-occupied Europe.
A curious incident occurred one night in August 1944 when a young US soldier on guard duty spotted a bomber apparently coming into land, but its wheels failed to make contact with the tarmac. Instead, it ballooned down the runway before, to the young soldier’s horror, he watched it charge into the control tower. Bracing himself for the resulting explosion and fire, he was amazed to find instead that the bomber disappeared in front of him just as it was about to hit the control tower.
When he reported the incident to his bemused superiors, the story got around the base until it was revealed that during the early days of the war a bomber did indeed crash into the tower in a manner similar to how the soldier described his sighting. Since the war, the new control tower built at the base has had a history of paranormal activity such as the sound of ghostly footsteps in the stairwell but the phantom bomber has so far failed to make a reappearance.
The Airbus A320-series of airliners are among the most prolific types of airliner in scheduled service today, but one example has developed such a reputation for ghostly goings-on that flight crew have nicknamed it the “Scairbus”.
The aircraft in question, registered as OO-COL and operated by Constellation International Airlines, had no unusual history regarding its construction or operation until a stewardess became severely ill while going through her pre-flight checks of the cabin. Knowing she was in no fit state to fly, the captain ordered her off the plane so she got in her car and began to drive home. Sadly, she was involved in a collision and died.
Ever since then her spirit is said to have haunted OO-COL. Cabin crew have reported hearing her voice on numerous occasions whispering to them. Other times they have reported hearing her screaming in terror as though she were about to relive her fatal crash. Additionally, while the A320 is known as a reliable aircraft, OO-COL became notorious for equipment failures following the start of the haunting.
2The Barnoldswick Lancaster
It is rare for more than a handful of people to encounter a ghost in a single incident and often they are groups of friends or family. However, in January 2004 over 30 people the majority of whom had no connection to one another came forward with an incredible story concerning what they could only describe as a ghost plane over the skies of Barnoldswick in Yorkshire.
The witnesses, some of whom were walking or picnicking in the picturesque countryside or driving on the road, reported spotting a large four-engined World War II bomber swoop down out of a thick mist nearly hitting the ground before pulling up over the road and vanishing. What’s even stranger is that while the witnesses clearly reported seeing the propellers turning, the aircraft made no sound as it passed overhead.
Most of the witnesses agree that it was a British bomber, and it has generally been agreed to be an Avro Lancaster, a common bomber in World War II that was powered by Rolls-Royce engines manufactured at a site not far from where the ghostly bomber was seen. However, in 2004 there was only one airworthy example in the UK, and it was nowhere near the area at the time of the sighting nor would it have been performing such daredevil antics if it had.
After the news of the sighting broke, others came forward admitting they had seen almost exactly the same thing several years earlier meaning the sighting was not an isolated incident.
1The Ghosts of Flight 401
This final case is not just fascinating for its aviation setting. It is also one of the most incredible stories of haunting in recorded history involving many independent witnesses and several aircraft. The story begins in December 1971 when an Eastern Airlines L-1011 TriStar airliner, Flight 401, crashed into a swamp in Florida.
The cause of the accident was traced to a relatively minor flaw in the cockpit design but one that would cost 101 people their lives. Among those killed was pilot Bob Loft and engineer Don Repo but it seems both men were not through with this world yet.
In the wake of the crash, a number of parts of Flight 401 were salvaged and then used in other aircraft in the Eastern Airlines fleet. In the years that followed many of the aircraft that received parts from 401 found they often had an extra crewmember or two on board in the form of the spirits of the dead crewmembers. At first, crew members who knew the two men reported seeing them during flights but many chalked these sightings up to mistaken identity mixed with the emotions of having lost two colleagues.
However, it was not long before passengers began reporting seeing them. In one extraordinary incident, a woman found that a man in an Eastern Airlines uniform had somehow managed to sit down next to her without her noticing. Concerned about the rather ill-look of the man who was apparently unconscious she called the stewardess. Both of them watched in amazement as the man simply faded away in front of them sending the passenger into a fit of hysterics. Both the stewardess and the passenger later identified him as Don Repo from pictures shown to them of Eastern Airlines employees.
Indeed, of the two dead men, Repo appeared most frequently to crew and passengers and apparently wasn’t content with just performing disappearing acts. He seemed to be actively trying to prevent another accident, appearing to other flight engineers reportedly telling them that he had done his own pre-flight check and the aircraft was fine. Perhaps his most dramatic appearance was when a stewardess saw his face in the galley oven which reportedly was also a piece from Flight 401. The stewardess called another crewmember, and the two of them heard the dead man warn them of an impending fire. Later in the flight, the aircraft suffered an engine fire and was forced to land, but fortunately, no one was hurt.
Over time the sightings dissipated (or were suppressed by Eastern Airlines who were worried about their reputation) and with the drawdown of the TriStar fleet it is unlikely they will return...