My Town Monday: Haunted Aircraft at the USAF Museum

The first time I heard about hauntings at Wright Patterson Air Force Base was several years ago, when I heard that The Atlantic Paranormal Society was coming to film an episode of Ghost Hunters. Supposedly, a couple of office and storage buildings on base are haunted, as well as the Hap Arnold House.

What I learned more recently, is that there’s a much more haunted place on base: the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

It shouldn’t be any surprise, considering how much death is associated with some of these aircraft and artifacts.

The Black Mariah

The more recent hauntings are from the Vietnam war, both of which were involved in rescue/medical evacuation missions. The Black Mariah is a Sikorsky CH-3E amphibious transport helicopter that saw many highly classified runs. The Black Mariah is riddled with bullet holes. Supposedly, many soldiers died aboard the Black Mariah, and their voices and moans can still be heard where it sits in the museum today. (Note: according to its Fact Sheet dated 12/2010, the Black Mariah is undergoing restoration and can only be seen as part of the museum’s Behind the Scenes tour.)

 

The Hopalong, at the National Museum of the USAF

The Hopalong is a Sikorsky UH-19B Chickasaw that served as a medevac chopper in both the Vietnam war and in Korea. It’s also home to an apparition of its last pilot, who the museum’s night staff claim they sometimes see in the pilot’s seat, flipping switches and trying to steer the craft to safety. The seat is still stained with the pilot’s blood.

Bockscar, shown when it was delivered to the USAF Museum in 1961, with a group of its original crew. The nose art was added after the Nagasaki mission.

One of the museum’s more dramatic exhibits is the Bockscar, “the aircraft that ended WWII.” Named after its pilot, Frederick C. Bock, this Boeing B-29 bomber dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, which led to Japan’s surrender. Supposedly, people have seen the ghost of a young Japanese boy near the plane at night.

The ill-fated crew of the Lady Be Good

The Lady Be Good was a B-24D that disappeared after departing for a bombing mission over Italy on April 4, 1943. The other 24 bombers sent to Naples that day returned safely. But the Lady Be Good wasn’t found until sixteen years later, after a group of British archaeologists spotted wreckage while flying over the Libyan desert. After an intensive search of the area, remains of eight crew members were recovered, one of whom had trekked over 100 miles from the wreckage. The ninth crew member was never found. The aircraft was recovered in pieces, many of its instruments and equipment still in usable condition. Some of these parts were installed in other aircraft. According to the Lady Be Good fact sheet, a C-54 with autosyn transmitters from the Lady experienced propeller trouble; it managed to land safely only by ditching cargo. A C-47 with a radio receiver from the Lady had to be abandoned in the Mediterranean. An Army “Otter” plane got an armrest from the Lady Be Good, then crashed in the Gulf of Sidra. None of the ten men aboard were ever found. Some parts were, however – including the armrest. Now housed in the museum, the parts inexplicably rearrange themselves.

The Strawberry Bitch

Another WWII-era B24D, the Strawberry Bitch is one of the museum’s more popular attractions. With a range of over 2,800 miles laden with 5,000 lbs. bomb load, the B24 was well-suited for longer range missions like the raid on the¬†Ploesti oil fields in Rumania, which were estimated to supply 60 percent of Germany’s crude oil. Visitors and museum staff have reported hearing rattles and clanks from the undercage where the gunner sat, and some even claim to have seen a shadowy figure inside. Others say they’ve seen strange lights inside the aircraft. Whatever its/their nature, the spirit(s) haunting the Strawberry Bitch are the only ones said to be violent: a former janitor from the museum claims one slapped him in the face once. Who knows, maybe he made a comment about the plane’s pinup girl nose art. :D

Prisoners of War exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

There’s one exhibit at the museum that isn’t an aircraft, but evokes a sense of dread and unease in more people than any other: the POW exhibit. With my skeptical nature, I’d be more inclined to believe this is simply due to knowing the horrible experiences suffered by our prisoners of war, rather than any paranormal activity. Still, it makes one wonder!

I have to admit, I didn’t see or hear any evidence of ghostly activity when I visited the museum. If you’ve been there, did you? Do you know of any haunted museums in your home town?

More at the My Town Monday blog

16 Responses to \

  1. Terrific post! Makes me wish I had other reasons to visit Ohio. ;) I don’t know of any haunted museums in California, but the Queen Mary is said to house ghosts of previous passengers. I’ve stayed on it a few times and have to say…I got a little creeped out! It’s fascinating, though, particularly when ghost stories involve so much history. We learn from them, real or not. ;) Have a happy Halloween!

  2. I’ve been to the museum twice, and didn’t see it all either time! That place is HUGE!

    Can’t say I saw any ghosts, though. Not that I don’t believe. Sometimes I think I’m just not sensitive to them.

  3. Jeanette, This was very interesting, and makes total sense that since objects can be haunted that aircraft can certainly harbor spirits! You’ve got my mind racing with all sorts of new story ideas! Thanks for the post!

  4. I wish I knew about haunted museums in my town – in fact, I just might have my daughter do some research on that very subject!

    These stories were fascinating. I kind of agree with your opinion that knowing the history behind the POW exhibit can be what brings about feelings of dread. However, after my experiences on the Gettysburg Battlefield, I also believe the trauma connected to artifacts in the exhibit hold energy that reflects the emotions of the people and time in which they were used. I guess I have trouble believing that once we’re dead, we’re ‘gone’. I think a part of us, the energy and powerful emotions inside of us, somehow leave an imprint on people and things around us.

    Great post. I loved this – even though you are a skeptic. ;-)
    Debora Dale recently posted..Trick-or-Treat OR Grab-and-GoMy Profile

  5. @Louise- the National Museum of the USAF is fascinating! I was amazed how much, even if you’re not interested in aircraft! Hopefully you’ll make it here someday.:)

  6. Deborah, I was surprised at this myself! I was going to write about the buildings on base but this was more interesting. Have fun with your research!

  7. August, so sorry I didn’t see your comment – but thanks for visiting! I’d love to see the QM sometime…

  8. I just read your article on the air force museum , I live close to the place and have been there many times , There are many stories about unexplained happenings , The one I have heard from years ago , is of a worker early in the morning seeing 2 Nazi officers and a man in a white lab coat standing in the extreme corner of the WW2 section . That is where there was on display 2 German jets and a V-2 rocket engine , When the worker yelled at the men they all looked towards him and faded a way , The museum has been rearranged and none of the German air craft and the V-2 rocket engine are in the same place now ,
    Lately since my children have gotten older , they too have experienced feelings of depression and almost dread when going in to the WW2 section,

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