Haunted Airfields

For Halloween, a collection of weird tales about airports and aircraft



(Peter Thoeny)

A number of people claim to have seen ghosts on the aircraft carrier Hornet, a floating museum berthed at Pier 3 at the former Naval Air Station Alameda, California.

As Lily Iona MacKenzie noted in the December 2000 issue of Naval History, a ship named Hornet has been around (in one form or another) since 1775. The modern-day ship (pictured is its Combat Information Center) was commissioned on November 29, 1943, and served as an attack aircraft carrier and antisubmarine warfare support carrier, taking part in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The ship also recovered the Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts (Neil Armstrong's steps are marked on the museum's floor).

Some 300 people died while working on the Hornet during the carrier's active service, which spanned 1943 to 1970.

MacKenzie interviewed several of the museum's volunteers, including electrician Derek Lyon-McKeil, who related a story of five volunteers who slept on the Hornet during Fleet Week in 1995. Lyon-McKeil said, "We'd all just bunked down, and we had a rule. No exploring. All of a sudden, I heard this banging noise like someone was opening the hatches who shouldn't have been. Peter Clayton, our supervisor, came charging around, saying, 'Okay, who's sneaking around opening hatches?' We realized that everyone in the group was there. As we were all standing there staring at each other, we heard it again. At that point, we were pretty secure. It couldn't have been anyone who'd gotten aboard."

In 1998, museum volunteer Keith LaDue and a crewmate were putting up a 15-foot Christmas tree in hangar bay 1. They saw someone run into the tree. LaDue told MacKenzie, "It looked to me like he was wearing one of those long pea coats and a dark blue Navy uniform. [I said to the other crew member] 'Did you see that?' My buddy said, 'Yeah, I did, with my own flashlight. Let's go investigate.' We walked all around the perimeter of the tree, and no one was there."

Museum employee Daphne Tallmadge told MacKenzie, "On my way down [to the flight mess lounge], I saw an image and I said 'Hi.' It was a man. I couldn't really see his age; it was dim down below. I saw a shape and a little of his image. I could see enough to know it was a man, wearing khaki. I thought he was someone from the Hornet. I was sitting down and eating when I thought, wait a minute. He made no response to me. He didn't say anything. He just stared. I saw him full front just standing there, still, arms to his side. Right then I went back to see if the guy was there, but he wasn't. I hadn't heard anything about ghosts on the Hornet before that."

The museum offers flashlight tours and mystery tours; see details here.


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