On this night (December 29) in 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401, a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft, crashed into the Florida Everglades near Miami International Airport, killing 101 of the 175 people on board -- and has since become one of the most famous aircraft flights in the annals of the supernatural.
Due to malfunctioning lights and displays, the airplane crashed northwest of Miami, almost nineteen miles from the end of runway Nine Left, in the heart of the Everglades, a vast swamp region of water, saw-grass, marshland and alligators. Flight 401 was traveling 227 miles an hour when it hit the ground. The left wingtip hit first, then the left engine and the left landing gear. Together, they slashed three long trails through the heavy saw-grass. Each trail was five feet wide and more than one hundred feet long.
When the main part of the fuselage hit the ground, it continued to move through the grass and water, coming apart as it went. It hit once, lifted into the air and then slammed back down again with a hard, grinding sound. About halfway along its path, the nose of the plane spun clockwise and careened around until it was sliding backwards. As the plane was skidding through the swamp, a fireball rushed through the cabin, from front to rear. Passengers felt a blast of cold air and then a wet wave of fuel as the plane broke apart. The huge white fuselage crumpled and tore into five large sections and countless smaller pieces. From the first impact to the point that it came to a shuddering halt, the plane traveled more than one-third of a mile.
As it happened, the crash of Flight 401 was not the end of the story.
Captain Bob Loft and flight engineer Dan Repo were among the one hundred and three people who lost their lives when Flight 401 crashed. Both of the men would be found to be at fault by the NTSB investigation, although most of the blame fell on Loft’s shoulders. They were accused of being preoccupied with finding a source for an indicator light problem and ignoring the fact that the plane was steadily losing altitude. When they discovered what was wrong it was too late – a fact that apparently haunted both men after their deaths, for their ghosts soon began to be encountered aboard other Eastern L-1011 jets.
(Left) Captain Bob Loft (Right) Flight Engineer Dan Repo
Apparently, to save costs, Eastern ordered the salvageable parts of the aircraft to be removed and incorporated into other Eastern planes. Soon after, reports of the ghosts of Repo, Lofts and even some unidentified flight attendants were encountered on various Eastern flights. For the next year or so, they were most often seen on Eastern flights that contained the salvaged parts. Eastern crew members and passengers saw the ghosts or heard them speak on the plane’s intercom systems or received verbal messages and warnings from them. Witnesses also experienced cold sensations and sensed invisible presences, aircraft power turning on by its own volition and a tool inexplicably appearing in a mechanics hand when no one was in the area.
Substantiation of the sightings was difficult, however. Eyewitness reports made to Eastern’s management were met with skepticism and a fear of further damaging the airline’s reputation and causing a further loss of business. The crash had done enough damage and for the public to hear that the ghosts of some of the lost plane’s crew were visiting other flights could make for a public relations disaster. For the most part, eyewitness crew members were told that perhaps seeing a psychiatrist would be in order, which most took as a precursor to being fired. After that, most were reluctant to talk to anyone investigating the hauntings and the sightings that did occur were often covered up. Log sheets that contained the sighting reports, as well as the names of witnesses, mysteriously disappeared from the planes where they occurred. Normally, a logbook would contain entries for several months, but these pages vanished. To this day, many hotly deny the stories of the ghosts from Flight 401, despite the scores of credible witnesses that eventually came forward.
Eventually, once the parts from Flight 401 were removed from the various planes, the hauntings came to an end. Eastern Airlines ceased operations in January 1991, leaving behind a mystery of what actually happened in the planes that were said to have been visited by ghosts.
You can read the whole story of Flight 401 -- and the salvaged parts -- in Troy Taylor's recent book CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, available in Kindle, Nook and print editions at https://www.prairieghosts.com/cabinet.html