12 March 2011

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The One About The Ghosts Of The Eastern Flight 401

Eastern Airlines Flight 401Image via Wikipedia

Do not attempt to adjust your monitor for we are controlling what you see. In front of you lies a door. You unlock the door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... The LoupDargent.com Zone.

Ah come on, now...  I had to do it.
It was impossible for me to resist the temptation after reading what Bill Knell - our Guest Writer for today, had in store for us this time.

He's brought us a ghost story, but not just any ghost story...
This is modern ghost story that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat (especially if you're in a plane while reading it).


Loup Dargent

Haunted Skies: Ghosts Of The Eastern 401 Disaster
Bill Knell

My experience with the story of Eastern Flight 401 began early
in 1973. I flew from Tampa, Florida, to New York City and back
several times that year. Most of my close relatives lived in the
New York City area. During school breaks, I took the opportunity
to combine visits with them with opportunities to attend various
paranormal seminars scheduled for that year.

At sixteen, I was an experienced traveler and made most of my
own airline reservations and arrangements. I hated crowds and
loved red eye flights. Traveling at odd hours was no big deal
for me. During the middle of Summer Break 1973, I was aboard a
Sunday afternoon EAL flight that seemed almost empty. In those
days there were always more flight attendants than needed on the
off peak hours flights. The younger, less experienced crew
members tended to hob knob with passengers. That's how I met
Susan. (I am being polite: Flight Attendants were called
Stewardesses if they were women and Stewards if they were men in
those days)

Her attention was drawn to a book I was reading about Flying
Saucers. Like most of the flight attendants that I met during
the 1970s, Susan was from the South. She seemed about twenty
years old and had a pleasant personality. We talked on and off
as her free time allowed. I had enough time in the air to know
that there were several topics that you never brought up on a
plane. These included UFOs and Airline Crashes, but both
subjects came up anyway.

Susan was obviously well read on the UFO subject. Like me, she
had relatives in the Air Force. She also knew people that had
personally seen UFOs while on commercial flights. Most were not
spectacular sightings, but strange enough to cause concern. What
really got her started were some of the ghost stories I told. It
turned out that hers was much better than mine.

I didn't know much about the Flight 401 Air Disaster except
that it involved an Eastern Airlines Passenger Jet which went
down in the Florida Everglades about six months before.
Personally, I was more concerned about airline hijackers in
those days than crashes. Susan asked if I had heard any of the
stories about ghosts from that flight appearing to people. I
hadn't. Before she could utter another word, a male flight
attendant walking by grabbed her by the arm. Both vanished into
the First Class section.

After a few minutes the male flight attendant reappeared.
Although he worked in First Class, he came up to my seat and
asked how I was doing? I said I was fine and didn't need
anything. He introduced himself as Bobby and asked if I wanted
to move up to First Class. I accepted the invitation. While
walking through the curtain that separated the sections, Susan
whizzed by me with just a quick smile and stuffed some folded
mimeographed papers into my hand. I shoved them into my pocket.

The five folded pages that Susan stuffed into my hand looked
like some kind of insider's newsletter. Something a Flight
Attendant had put together for other Flight Attendants. It made
reference to the 401 crash and how that some flight crews were
seeing ghosts from the 401 crash. The pages were badly worn and
had obviously been passed around and handled a lot. Although
names and specifics were left out, it was obvious that this was
a how-to sheet for crew members that wanted to avoid being on
planes known for the 401 ghost appearances.

After we landed, I told Bobby that I left something in my seat
back in coach. Before he could say anything, I headed back to
speak to Susan. She was putting away pillows, so I thanked her
for being so nice, pulled the mimeographed sheets out of my
pocket and asked her, "Did you see any of the ghosts?" She
looked down and thanked me for flying Eastern. Cold! I felt as
if I had been dumped by a prom date! I mean, it wasn't like I
expected her to give me her telephone number. I just wanted to
talk Airline spooks.

While in New York, I went to a library and looked up more
information about the crash. It seems that the whole thing began
when Flight 401 left Tampa for New York on December 29, 1972.
The flight crew was Pilot Bob Loft, First Officer Albert
Stockstill and Flight Engineer Don Repo. On the return leg to
Miami, a problem developed. While on approach to Miami
International at 11:30pm, a landing gear light failed to come
on. As a result, the crew attempted to be sure the gear was

While trying to remedy the landing gear light issue, it's
likely that someone bumped the aircraft control column and
deactivated the auto pilot. This caused a slow decent that
wasn't noticed by the flight crew until it was too late. Loft
and Stockstill perished in the cockpit, although Loft hung on
for a while after the crash. Stockstill was thirty-nine and Loft
was fifty-five years old. Don Repo, fifty-one years old,
initially survived the crash and died a day later in the
hospital. In the end, ninety-six of one hundred and sixty-three
passengers died.

Two weeks later I flew back to Tampa, Florida. I wondered if it
had been sheer luck that caused me to learn about the 401 ghost
stories on a flight from Tampa and to New York. Maybe, but I
wasn't lucky enough to end up on a flight with Susan again. My
off peak flight took off on a late Sunday afternoon with a
completely different crew. There were maybe thirty people on
board and we ended up with an experienced Flight Attendant. She
was kind of bossy, so I sat and read quietly.

At some point, I took out the folded pages that Susan gave me.
I tucked them into a notebook I purchased at the airport and had
been trying to decode the worn mimeo sheets for days. It proved
difficult and was very frustrating, but I thought I would use
the flight time back to Florida to try again. While I was using
a magnifying glass to try and make out the words and letters, a
member of the flight crew passed by. It was the First Officer
headed to the back of the aircraft.

I probably wouldn't have noticed him, but he stopped at my seat
and looked at the sheets. He asked, "Pardon me, did someone on
this flight or at the airport give that to you?" I told him no
and made the mistake of saying that I found it in one of the
magazines on board. I didn't want to get Susan in trouble. He
reached over and grabbed it out of my hands saying it was a
scandal sheet passed around by ill-informed employees.

I had no way of knowing that I was flying Eastern at a time
when the Flight 401 ghost sightings were at their high point.
The sightings began in January of 1973 and continued in earnest
until the summer of 1974. These events were exposed to the world
Fuller is one of my favorite authors. His book, Interrupted
Journey chronicled the famous Betty and Barney Hill UFO
Abduction Case and there were others like Incident at Exeter
that I enjoyed as well.

Fuller's book came out a couple of years after the ghost
sightings ended. His wife, Elizabeth, was an Eastern Flight
Attendant that helped him get the goods on the 401 ghost
sightings. Her book, My Search for the Ghost of Flight 401, was
just as good as his and I read both with equal enthusiasm.
Anyone interested the paranormal should dig up copies of these
and read them cover to cover.

The film, The Ghost of Flight 401, starred Ernest Borgnine and
was a part of a one-two punch delivered by Hollywood. The second
was the release of Crash, another film about the 401 disaster.
This one starred William Shatner. Both films were shown on
Broadcast Television in the USA and released in theaters in some
other Countries. All told, the films were well received and
probably gave Frank Borman more sleepless nights than the ghosts

In The Ghost of Flight 401, the ghosts appear as any human
would. For example, during a 1973 flight from Newark to Miami, A
Flight Attendant was doing a head count when she noticed a man
in an Eastern Airlines Pilot uniform seated with the passengers.
He refused to acknowledge her, so she contacted the flight crew.
The Captain of that flight came back to see what was going on
and recognized the man as Bob Loft. He cried out, "Oh my God,
that's Bob Loft!" At that point Loft vanished. Everyone present
saw it happen.

During a 1974 flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Newark, NJ,
the Pilot sees Don Repo sitting in the Flight Engineer's seat.
Repo says, "There will never be another crash of an L-1011, we
will not allow it." Repo vanishes after speaking. During another
sighting, Repo appeared to a Flight Crew member and said he had
completed the preflight check.

On another occasion, a Flight Attendant saw a man in a Flight
Engineer uniform fixing a microwave oven. Thinking nothing of
it, she went about her business. Later she asked the Flight
Engineer what was wrong with the microwave. He had no idea what
she was talking about. Repo also appeared several times in the
Hell Hole (electronics room) beneath the cockpit after crew
members heard knocking in that area and went to investigate.

While boarding a flight that would take him from JFK in New
York to Miami International in 1973, a Vice President of Eastern
Airlines entered the First Class Cabin and saw an Eastern Pilot
sitting there. When he got close enough to see his face, it was
Bob Loft. Loft vanished before his eyes. Loft was seen by a
number of flight crews and spoke occasionally warning about
problems or potential problems on board an aircraft.

There were some other types of appearances as well. Flight
Attendant Faye Merryweather saw the face of Don Repo staring at
her from an oven in the galley of Tri-Star 318. The galley was
salvaged from the wreckage of 401. Merryweather summoned two
other Flight Attendants. One was a friend of Repo and recognized
his face. Repo spoke and said, "Watch out for fire on this
airplane." The airliner ended up having engine trouble a short
time later on route to Acapulco. After landing, the rest of its
flight was cancelled.

And it wasn't just flight crews that saw the deceased crew

Several Marriott Food Service workers saw a Flight Engineer
vanish in the galley of an airliner being stocked for the next
flight and refused to continue their work. That flight was
delayed for over an hour. Airline cleaners and mechanics began
to find reasons to avoid working on or in Ship #318 where most
of the sightings took place. Some believe that's because parts
were salvaged from the aircraft involved in the 401 crash and
transplanted into #318. It's as good as explanation as any.

Although the details remain sketchy and there's a great deal of
disagreement about it, the end of the ghost sightings may have
had something to do with a psychic intervention of sorts. It's
been reported that one or more people who knew Loft and Repo
managed to contact them through the help of a psychic medium who
persuaded them to move on. The ghost sightings ended about a
year and a half after the crash.

A haunting of this intensity and frequency reveals how woefully
inadequate our attempts to understand or investigate the
paranormal have been. This is especially true of those who do
not care to acknowledge paranormal events in the first place.
Rather than believe their own people, Eastern chose to ignore
the ghost reports and recommend mental health evaluations and
treatment for those who saw them. If the ghosts that appeared
after the 401 crash have taught us anything, I would hope it is
that simply ignoring paranormal events will not make them vanish
into thin air. 

In-flight safety demonstration on board a Luft...Image via Wikipedia

About The Author: 
Read more true stories from Bill Knell about the Unexplained, 
order paranormal DVDs and experience the unexplained at www.UFOguy.com

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