A legend had been told by wandering minstrels about the apparition of a screaming skull seen wafting in the mist at the dark of night above the shadows of the crags and hillocks of the Yorkshire moors. Fearsome as the screaming skull's terrible cry, its relentless horror persisted even when it was silent. The dome's apparition, grinning and hollowed eyed, had in the past years taken its grim toll from mortal beings it shared in death and in life. The tales spun into the minds of the avid listeners the sight of images and faces from the depth of a grave, from the deep gulf things that might have been....
Far be it from me to ascertain that what tellers of tales had told in their ballads must be true. Everybody was, often, as likely to be wrong as right. Such was the lore pertaining to the wish of a certain Lady Alica Boscomb of Yorkshire, which could be believed or not. It was related that on her deathbed she managed to blurt out her dying, yet strange wish. Lady Boscomb, near her last breath, exacted a promise from her two spinsterish sisters to sever her head from her remains; then to keep the fleshless skull in the Boscomb Manor where she lived through the years.
The Boscomb Manor, now in ruins, was a secluded building located on the rocky mooorland in the county of Yorkshire. It was a house constructed about the time of Mad King George, stiff and formal in the mood and in the bad taste of the times. The manor was a stone two story edifice of twelve rooms with a moss-covered tiled roof. The house and its grounds were so solitary and isolated - a weathered dark edifice that seemed to be shunned by the nearest village.
Those few brave scientists, doctors and researchers willing to risk their careers and reputation to come up front with the most helpful and detailed explanations ever as to what to expect beyond the death the physical body, are often ridiculed by their contemporaries and put aside. Even worse too many physicians just emphasize that physical life is all there is, and no consciousness can possibly "escape" the confines of the physical brain, and when the physical brain dies, that's it, no more consciousness! In this great and terrible "valley of the shadow of death" I am simply appalled at the universal lack of understanding regarding spiritualism. So little is known about the reality of life after death, it is shocking.
It was set in a spread of a half acre or so with the grim view of the stark and bleak moors. A high wall of black basalt, topped with broken glass, enclosed the sadly neglected grounds that was strewn with the debris of nature. Two stunted oaks, struggling for life on the stone strewn ground, guarded the manor with their waving branches.
The interior of the manor was equally remote in fashion; so quiet, yet when a voice was raised or a door slammed the sounds echoed through the dark corridors and empty rooms. Light was grudingly allowed into the rooms through the thick panes covered by heavy damask curtains.The ground floor rooms were of thick oak that were overlaid with thread worn carpets that silenced the tread of foosteps. Its ceilings were of worm-eaten beams of grayish whitewash, discolored to the sight; and the high walls were of polished panneled wood of dark maple. The sturdy floors of the large salon and dining hall shelved downward to great stone hearths with feeble flames on pine logs. The library alongside, rank with the smell of old volumes, was cold and univiting to a visitor.
The high-panneled walls of the salon, dining room and corridors were affixed with oils of grim faced ancestors that stared malevolantly at those who dared to look at them. Here and there were banners of heraldy and arms of steel showing their hereditary power. The varied artifacts faced the furnishings of dark mahogany, heavy in weight, yet servicable in their need.
The bedrooms on the upper storey was equally gloomy and dark that offered rest on curtained four poster beds. Thickly woven drapes covered the lead-lined windows that was rarely opened to the dismal sight of the bleak moors. The cloth closed the haunting sounds when the winds were blowing, shrill and shrewd, upon the setting of the blurred sun. Yet the heavy shades didn't close the damp air that invaded the chambers with the icy fingers of storm.
The life of Lady Alica Boscomb, from her childhood to the very door to death itself, was centered in this gloomy atmosphere of the manor. She never knew the love of a man, nor did she ever hear the cryof a mewling child. Her acquaintenances were few in number and their visits were equally few in number. Only at rare occasions would there be a festive celebration that would lighten the dark and dismal interior and liven the mood of Lady Boscom.
The somber black of her dress, trailing on the floors and swishing through the manor was fitting to the harsh mood of the manor. Her angular features was stamped with sterness, a gift of her late mother a former consort to the queen of the realm. Her regal snobbish manner, taught with the rod and shout by her father, a lamented squire of the royal court, added to the dismal atmosphere.
Boscomb Manor was the only home the dear lady knew; she rarely left the dreariness of its bounds to more pleasant climes. Lady Alica Boscomb, being the elder of the children, inherited the property and she shared it with her two unmarried sisters grudgingly. Both charming ladies were wooed by courtly gentlemen, but denied marriage by their elder sister's refusal to offer them ample doweries.
At the end of her days her macabre dying wish was to have her skull to enshrined in the manor where she spend her entire life. A wish cast aside when the grim reaper called. But her close kin had little time for quiet mourning after the somber funeral attended by a few close relatives and loyal servants.
Several days after the internment of Lady Alica's remains in the stone vault, the sisters awoke in terror as a ghoulish whispering was heard at the late hours of darkness throughout the manor; mirth and grief intermingled with sighs rang from every corner. They shivered in cold flesh as the eerie sounds rang though the dark corridors. Only at the light of early dawn they were able to put their fears aside and rest their weary bodies.
The force of the winds added to the wierd noises; the gust that blew from open windows slammed doors nd caused the sighing of the wood panels and staircase. Curtains and cloth hangings were shadowed in a dance of the macabre in their frightening movements.
The following night hours released the misty shadows that gathered like mustering swarms of spirits that stole from their hidden retreats in the likeness of forms. Then the sight of a screaming skull rose above in phantom illusions and added to the misery of the night hours; it plagued the manor house with strange and gory guttural sounds. The haunting of the boned apparition with its unearthly screams and groans came on the heavy toll of midnight and fell silent on the twelfth stroke.
At various times stalwart young men, guests of the sisters, prowled the corridors with the light of candlesticks, upon the gory sight; and they tried to follow the eerie sounds echoeing throught the manor. Nightshirt clad and with daggers in their hands, the brave gentlemen searched out every space from the cellar to the attic, but the source of the strange sighting and the wierd sounds eluded them.
Night after night the noisy commotion of the skull upon the toll of the nighly hour continued in all its terror. The cursed shrieks faded with the shining dome in a final ending of gibbering sounds and lamenting sighs of dying. But if the sisters had put aside their fright they would of heard the dying wish of their late lamented kin. The two sister's proud bearing faded slowly from their stance and their once handsome features were lined with haggard signs of weariness.
Then, in desparation, the sisters decided to seek the council and advice from the parish vicar. The entire story was the revealed without ommiting anything. They told of the dying wish of lady Boscome, which in their insight was most strange. After a moment's pause, the elder cleric reminded them that the wish of the Lady Alicia Boscomb must be adhered to in all its forms or the screaming skull will appear on the chiming hour; it would call upon the sister to abide by her request before her last breath. Upon this note, he suggested that they open her tomb and fulfill the request.
The sisters went on the following day to the ornate vault with trepidation in their steps. The stone-faced tomb was set back on the grounds of the cemetery to the village church; The wide stone step to its entrance was strewn with withered flowers from the recent burial. The shriveled blooms were swept aside as one of the sisters made her way to its massive door, and placed the iron key in the lock. Upon the turn of the key the candle-bearing kin, together with a trusty servant, opened the bronze portal and descended into the vault's fetid atmosphere.
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When they pushed aside the lid of the stone sarcophagus they saw that the vicar's sound advice was correct in its wording. The horrific sight of the remains of Lady Alice Boscomb reflected her dying wish. The withered corpse was somehow not decayed with the odour of death, but the head of the remains was bare of flesh and mysteriously severed from her shroud dressed body. The grinning skull rested on the corpse's chest with shadows dancing in it's empty sockets.
The sight of the remains in such a state caused shivers of fear through the bodies of the sisters. Yet, despite the horror of the terrible vision, the kinsfolk's course was clear in their minds. They decided to follow Lady Alica's wish to fulfillment and, with fear of the sacred word, removed the skull from the coffin.
After the tomb was resealed and the bronze to the vault locked once again, the skull was taken to the manor house. The boned dome was encased in glass and placed as a ghoulish centerpiece in the center of a side table in the salon... and Boscomb Manor was quiet that night and every following night for many years to come.
Yet, at the toll of midnight, a glow of brilliance was emited from the glass case on the salon table till the final stroke of the chimes.
Norman A. Rubin - About the Author:
The author is a former correspondent for the Continental News Service (USA), Now retired.
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.
The Collision of Dreams and Reality - We shall explore the very fringes of human knowledge where dreams and reality merge into what can only be called a "twilight zone" where orbs of light and mysterious space craft pop in and out of our perception, and various types of humanoids and other creatures are discovered to our shock and amazement to momentarily appear and disappear. They often appear, like ghosts, semitransparent and can only stay in our vibration rate for a short time before dematerializing back into their own dimension. Some visitors may be able to stay longer than others, and the most physical ones may even be inhabiting our earth, sometimes intermixing with our own kind before too many people become aware of them.
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 down.
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 in The Ghost of Flight 401, a book written by John G. Fuller. 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 themselves.
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.
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And it wasn't just flight crews that saw the deceased crew members.
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.
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Bill Knell - About the Author:
Author: Bill Knell Author's Website: http://www.ufoguy.com Terms To Use Article: Permission is granted to use this article for free online or in print with the addition of a link to http://www.ufoguy.com or that URL printed with the article.