Australian UFO Researcher
Jon Wyatt


by Jon Wyatt
Copyright © J. Wyatt 2003

“I was actually at a traffic light, and I was the first in line,” Lou Gentile, an American paranormal-talk-radio host, said to listeners, “... and, as I’m sitting there, I see this jet ... it was actually a really weird, funky-type plane that had on the wing tips ... triangles.

“Well, I saw this plane that was probably about, I’d say, at least 300 feet in the air, and it was moving so slow, I thought it was going to drop out of the air. I’m watching it circle probably about a mile away from me in the air - and it then just disappears!

“I’m looking around next to everybody asking has anybody else seen this? Am I having an hallucination from the traffic lights or something?”

Lou, as you are about to see, may not have been hallucinating.

‘Ghost planes’, defined by Jerome Clark as “UFOs perceived or theorised to be powered heavier-than-air aircraft”, first appeared in our skies only a few years after the Wright brothers’ Kitty Hawk flight in 1903, and they continue to intrigue to this day.

Many ufologists believe the majority of ghost-plane sightings are either exotic government ‘black ops’, or else ET craft, and there’s a third outlandish category, often overlooked: ‘ghost fliers from the other side’.

In 1947, Mervyn Nightingale, a Qantas employee, was posted to Darwin, Northern Territory. He initially stayed in barracks, about twenty kilometres out of town, where he often wandered alone into the bush to sketch; and at those times, he claims, he regularly witnessed a ghost Catalina seaplane. In a 1998 letter to Fortean Times he said:

“Some weeks after I arrived I was out in the bush when I heard an aircraft that sounded unusual. I cannot recall if it sounded laboured, was cutting out, or what the problem was, but it was sufficiently unusual that I stopped sketching and stood up to get a better look. The aircraft was flying at not much above tree height, and would pass almost directly overhead... I noticed two distinctly odd features: the port blister was armed with the gunner quite visible, his weapon at the ready, and the port engine was missing... It was just as though the fitters had forgotten to reinstall an engine...”

Mervyn didn’t believe the Catalina was paranormal, until an RAAF officer made enquiries, and told him there were no Catalinas operating in the Northern Territory, no record of an aircraft with the registration number he’d memorised, and no way a Catalina would regularly go on patrol with a huge hole in a wing.

“If I had seen the craft but once, it is probable that I could have been mistaken,” Mervyn concluded, “but to see it frequently, and at close quarters, rather rules that out. I can but conclude that it was just another casualty of war, the difference being that this crew was determined to continue their patrol, at least until such time as they received recognition”.

During the 1930s many people in Norway, Sweden and Finland also reported seeing a ghost plane. According to witnesses it was a large, solitary grey aircraft, with no insignia; and some people further described how the pilot cut the engines, silently circled low overhead, shine a brilliant search light, then gracefully hedge-hopped over mountain tops.

Many sightings occurred during winter blizzards, and north of the Arctic Circle; and determined searches at the time failed to locate a land or sea base. The experts agreed that the flights were basically ‘impossible’, given the known navigation and night flying technology of the day.

The Norwegian government recently opened its 1930s archives, and independent investigators who have studied the files, believe the earlier reports, in 1933 and 1934 in particular, appear genuine. This following case from the archives occurred off Norway on 28 January 1934.

Captain Sigvard Olsen and a sailor, Olsen, stated in an official report they were aboard the freighter Tordenskioldand, steaming from Kabelvag to Tromso - both are Norwegian Arctic ports, when a sea-plane suddenly loomed in front the bow out at night. The report says:

“When he reached only a few metres from the ship, the plane turned to the right and flew directly over it. A beam of light swooped over the deck, turning darkness into broad daylight for 15-20 seconds. The plane was a great greyish machine exactly like the French plane Latham which Roald Amundsen used on his last expedition. In the cabin of the craft captain Olsen saw a person, probably the pilot, dressed in some sort of ‘anorak’. He wore big glasses and had a hood over his head. The machine had no marks or insignia. It circled once around the vessel and then vanished.” (Amundsen’s Latham disappeared without trace, after taking off from Tromso Harbour, in 1928.)

Since the Wright brothers, there have also been many reports of ghost-plane ‘crashes’.

In 1929 Captain E.R. Scholefield and his mechanic, M.R. Cheret, died when their RAF Vickers Vanguard crashed into a field, near Shepperton, southwest of London, the last moments were apparently re-enacted for weeks afterwards.

An investigator Elliot O’Donnell, who visited the town, reported, “Not only was the phantom plane heard, but some residents told me they actually saw it, and that it was surrounded with a (lead-like) blue light. Just before it dived and crashed, the dogs in the houses round started howling dismally. Mrs Turpin, of the Anchor Hotel, on looking out one night just before the ghostly crash saw a white and misty aeroplane, and heard the droning of its engine... after making half a dozen regular appearances the phantom plane suddenly stopped its visits and was not seen again.”

John G. Fuller in The Airmen Who Would Not Die (1981), a non-fiction book about the alleged appearances of the ghosts of air pilots and crew, also relates this tale: “Sir Peter Masefield, nephew of the Poet Laureate [John Masefield], former pilot and later chief executive of British European Airways, reported that he was preparing to land at a small airfield in Britain, when an ancient biplane loomed ahead of him, faltered, then crashed close to the field. When he brought his ship down, there was no sign of the ancient plane, nor had any mechanic seen a crash. Sir Peter learned later, however, that years before, such a plane had crashed at the field in identical circumstances.”

Perhaps the most celebrated ‘crash’ of recent years also occurred in England.

During WWII, Howden Moors, Peak District, northwest of Sheffield, England, was home to several Allied airfields, and it was also the scene of 50-plus real-life air crashes (their wreckage still strews the area), and many local people believe ‘ghost pilots’ are still coming in to land. Sightings of stricken WWII-era planes in the sky are apparently so common, a local farmer, Ron Collier, set up a reporting centre.

On 24 March 1997, skywatchers in this area, who were out observing the Hale-Bopp comet, were alarmed to see a propeller-driven plane with its lights on, fly over very low, then dive into the moors. A farmer claimed it flew so low, he instinctively ducked his head as it passed. Instruments at the University of Edinburgh actually registered two sonic booms at 9.32 pm and 10.06 pm that evening.

The many sightings of this ‘crash’ prompted a massive search by more than 200 police, fire and military personnel, who were assisted by helicopters. They scoured an area of over 40 sq. miles, but found no signs of the wreckage.

British UFO Magazine in its May/June 1997 edition reported locals also saw “a huge triangular-shaped UFO” pass over at 9.30 pm, with six RAF Tornado fighters in hot pursuit, and that one these fighters had crashed. In a written statement the Minister of Defence’s ‘UFO Desk’ said, “We did not chase a UFO and there has been no cover-up. We responded to a request by the police to help to search for a crashed aircraft and sent a helicopter from RAF Leconfield. We don’t know what caused the sonic events, and the whole thing is a mystery to us, too.”

The Peak District is only one of many places in Britain that are said to be haunted by ‘ghost fliers’. Visitors to the scores of disused WWII-era airfields and bases in Britain have long been reporting apparitions of pilots and aircraft.

If solo ‘ghost fliers’ weren’t enough; there have also been reports of ‘phantom squadrons’.

In 1932 journalist J. Bernard Hutton (pseudonym) and photographer Joachim Brandt drove out to the Hamburg-Altona shipyards, Germany, to do a story for their Hamburg newspaper. After their arrival a shipyard executive showed the news hounds around the yards.

The newsmen later claimed they were departing the yards when they heard the steady drone of overhead aircraft. They believed at first, it must have been an air force drill ... until a strange darkness descended, and they then experienced what they believed was a heavy ‘air raid’ on the yards.

They related how they fled from the yard, only stopping briefly to speak with an angry guard, with bombs falling all around and with anti-aircraft guns roaring a reply.

Then, as they sped back to Hamburg, the normal late-afternoon light resumed, and they glanced back and were astonished to see the shipyards were intact. Photographs that Brandt took during the ‘air attack’ were later developed and these also revealed nothing unusual.

In 1939 Hutton fled Nazi Germany, and while he was living in England he studied newspaper reports of the RAF’s successful 1943 raid on the Hamburg shipyards; and the details matched the ‘raid’ of eleven years before. J. Bernard Hutton, later became a noted paranormal investigator and lecturer.

On 4 August 1951, two English sisters-in-law were sleeping at Puys, a French seaside town, a few kilometres east of Dieppe, when they were rudely awoken by the noise of a furious land and air battle. The ‘battle’ lasted three hours, and psychic investigators, who investigated this case, found the details the women provided matched those of an action fought in the area during WWII.

In the early hours of 19 August 1942, more than 6,000 Canadian and British commandos landed along the Dieppe coast, at five points, and were subsequently slaughtered by the waiting Germans. At Puys, hundreds of Canadian commandos came ashore, but were trapped on a narrow beach by heavy cliff-top fire, and over 200 lost their lives.
While the ground fighting took place, a ferocious air battle raged in the skies, during which the RAF lost 106 aircraft. The ladies’ 1951 Puys ‘battle’ timetable reads:

About 4.00 am: sounds of men’s cries ‘as if above a storm’, distinct sound of gun fire, and roar of dive bombers

4.50: abrupt silence

5.07: waves of loud noise, mainly dive bombers, with faint men’s cries in background

5.50: sounds of aircraft in large numbers, fainter background noises

6.00: all noise died

6.25: more men’s cries, growing fainter

6.55: silence.

The BBC’s website also has this report of ‘phantom squadron’ sighting at Knowsley, near Liverpool, England: “...there have been a number of these timeslips in the Knowsley area. In one case, dozens of people heard a low droning sound in the sky, and when they looked up, they saw a formation of planes. Seconds later the planes weren’t there. A man in Prescot who looked at the phantom planes with binoculars said they were World War Two German bombers.”

If ‘phantom squadrons’ are weird, then what about ‘phantom airfields’?

In 1935 Wing Commander (later Air Marshall Sir) Victor Goddard (1897-1987) flew from Andover, England, to Edinburgh, Scotland, in an RAF Hawker Hart biplane for a weekend stay. When he was about forty kilometres from the Scottish capital, he passed by a disused WWI airfield called Drem.

After landing near Edinburgh, Goddard drove out to Drem, and was shown around by the farmer. Goddard noted that the airfield was in a sad and sorry state: the four brick hangars now housed hay, farm machinery and animals, and the runways were fenced off with barbed wire and were now home to grazing cattle. The pilot returned to Edinburgh that afternoon.

The very next day, Goddard took off for the return flight to Andover, but he soon ran into a storm - and a terrifying wind shear that forced his Hart to plummet thousands of metres towards the ground. He reported, he eventually wrested control only metres above the ground barely missing a mother and child.

Moments later he spotted Drem, and he flew low over it to get his bearings, and what he saw forever changed his world view.

In his book Flights to Reality (1975) Goddard says: “Suddenly the scene was lit with brilliant light which I supposed was sunshine. The airfield was clear, new-mown and clean, the nearest hangar doors were open and on the tarmac apron, wet with recent rain, stood, parked, four aeroplanes - three biplanes (Avro 504s) and then a monoplane of unknown type. Emerging through the hangar doors there was a second monoplane being pushed by two mechanics, one on the tail, one on the starboard wing. All five machines were brilliant yellow chrome. The mechanics who were there, attending them, were all in dungarees of blue.”

Goddard, in those brief seconds, realised: that the RAF did not have any yellow-chromed aeroplanes, or monoplanes, in 1935; and RAF mechanics wore blue, not brown, overalls. Most surprising of all the ground staff didn’t notice his Hart roaring past only metres above their heads.

Goddard, who told few people of this until years later, was soon transferred to air force intelligence and so had no say in RAF procurement policy. Then, as war drums in Europe grew louder, he watched in amazement as his ‘vision’ materialised: by 1939 not only was Drem Airfield re-commissioned, but it was used as a RAF flying training school for a time, where trainees apparently flew yellow-chromed aircraft - and RAF mechanics by then wore brown overalls.

“It took me by surprise and shook me more alarmingly than had that vision shaken me when I experienced it in 1935,” he concluded. “For I had then to rationalise the fact that time and happenings are not as I supposed.”

Victor Goddard later became influential in British UFO circles; and he is credited with being the person who coined the term ‘ufology’.

Martin Caidin author of the book Ghosts of the Sky also tells this ‘phantom airfield’ story.

Judge Ken Bacon, a respected member of the Nebraska court system, and an experienced pilot, took off for a private flight from his home airfield. He encountered bad weather, and, when he spotted an airfield, decided to land. After touching terra firma he noticed the place was called the ‘Hangover Mining Company Air Field’.

Ken, so the story goes, alighted and walked across the airfield through wind gusts, and noticed dozens of parked aircraft, but not a soul in sight. He entered one hangar, which was also used as living quarters, and discovered half-eaten sandwiches and half-swallowed cups of coffee, but still not a soul. Later, when the weather lifted, he flew out of the apparently deserted airfield and returned directly from whence he came.

Back at his home port Ken was seen studying a large wall map, and friends soon converged and asked him what was looking for, and he said “The Hangover Mining Company Air Field”. Then somebody said, “You found it also.” ... and a chill suddenly seemed to enter the room. Ken had been to a legendary non-existent US airfield.

“I believe it happened,” said Martin Caidin. “I believe Ken Bacon is as truthful a man as ever lived and believe his report of what happened. But what actually happened, where the field disappeared to, we don’t know... All we know is he found a field, he’s landed on it, he took off on it, and the damned thing disappeared.”

Perhaps Lou Gentile really did see that ghost plane after all?

Main references:
• Lou Gentile Show Radio Archives, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2002, 1:12 in., found at
• Letters, Fortean Times magazine, October 1998, p 54
• ‘The Norwegian “Ghost Fliers” of 1933-37’ by Ole Jonny Braenne found at
• ‘The Ghost Plane of Shepperton’ found at
• The Airman Who Would Not Die by John G Fuller (Corgi Books 1981) p342
• “Battle Trapped in Time’ , The Readers Digest Books of Strange Stories, Amazing Facts (Reader’s Digest Services Pty Limited, Sydney) p384
• ‘Preview of an Air Raid’ found at, ‘Time Travelers’ article, p2.
• ‘Ghost Wings Over England’ by James L Choron found at
• ‘Did Giant Triangular UFO Shoot Down Attacking RAF Fighter? found at Jeff Rense Sightings,
• ‘Knowsley’ found at
• From Flight to Reality by Air Marshall Sir Victor Goddard (Turnstone Books 1975) pp 23-27
• Martin Caidin Interview, Paranet Radio Archives #98 25/2/1996, 16 mins in, found at

Source: The Australasian Ufologist Magazine Vol. 8 No.1 Pgs 8-11 (Illustrations)


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