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November 6, 2019

Here is your Wednesday Wisdom series from the Family Assistance Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D., and distributed by the Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., www.fafonline.org. Reprint is available with written permission from the Foundation.

The Scientific Explanation of a Well-Known Paranormal Aviation Story

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We now know that microorganisms can leave behind an electromagnetic trace, so why not people? Here’s the new science of ghosts.”

Michael Jawer, Anatomy of A Haunting,

Spirituality and Health, January 27, 2012


    Paranormal experiences are a regular part of many survivors' stories. By 'paranormal experiences,' I am referring to everything involving our human senses. Unusual Sights, sounds, smells, dreams, and the like are often experienced in the aftermath of the death of a loved one. These experiences often bring a sense of peace that advances healing like nothing I have seen. Similarly, primary survivors (those who live through trauma) frequently report experiences that provide them a sense of peace that can last a lifetime. 

    In the late eighties and early nineties, when I was conducting interviews for my doctoral degree, I used a lengthy interview that evaluated symptoms for the five disorders associated with trauma. While this information was very useful in determining how employees and other responders influenced the survivors psychologically, it was the personal stories that fascinated me. After the diagnostic symptoms were identified, my favorite question in the interview was, “Did anything unusual happen in your experience?”

    There was never a time when I needed to explain what I meant by the question. The answers came quickly and without restraint. Without hesitation, stories of passengers appearing on flights, who were never seen again, rescuers who could not be located after the rescue phase ended, deceased family members who appeared at critical times in the person’s survival and vanished, and so on.

    A recent discussion in the Foundation’s annual Care Team training caused me to recommend a book that provides an explanation of a classic paranormal story captured in a popular book and movie, The Ghost of Flight 401. In the 2019 fall issue of the Foundation’s newsletter, Sharing the Journey, I briefly introduced the book, The Anatomy of Emotion by Michael Jawer and Marc Micozzi. The authors used the famous L-1011 story as an example of the paranormal phenomenon. Michael Jawer later wrote an article in the magazine, Spirituality and Health, using the account to explain newer research that he saw as related to the science behind apparitions.


The Ghosts of Eastern Flight 401

    Eastern Airlines was one of the first airlines to fly the Lockheed L-1011 in the early seventies. On December 29, 1972, Flight 401, the late flight between JFK and MIA, crashed on approach into the Florida Everglades. The death toll quickly climbed to 99, including 2 of the eight working flight attendants and the three pilots.

    During 1973 and 1974, passengers and crew members reported sightings of Captain Bob Loft and Engineer Don Repo, on multiple 

L-1011s. The flight attendants, pilots, flight engineers, and passengers said the “ghosts” would disappear right in front of their eyes. As an emergency response trainer for flight attendants, I heard countless stories in recurrent training about sightings. One of my friends, Kay was the manager of the three New York flight attendant bases, including JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, NJ, where a large percentage of our 5500 flight attendants were domiciled—and many were L-1011 crew members. One week, while at JFK and training her crew members, I asked about the sightings.

    Kay’s response caught me off guard. “The stories are true,” she said and continued to provide details. “One Sunday night a few months back, it was snowing and very cold. Late in the evening, I received a call from crew scheduling telling me that I should come to JFK for the arrival of the 

L-1011 returning from San Juan, Puerto Rico. They told me there had been a sighting.” Kay declined, due to lateness of the evening and the weather conditions.

    “When they told me the names of the crew, I told them I was putting my coat on and would indeed meet the flight.” When she shared with me the names of the flight attendants, I never questioned the stories again. These men and women were among the elite who we trained to work with new hires as the last phase of their training before receiving their wings. These dedicated professionals would never do or say anything to harm the reputation of the airline.

    In 1976, when the book was released, The Miami Herald published a story announcing when the book would be available for the public. The night before the book was to be released in bookstores; I saw a neighbor who happened to be Eastern’s Vice President of Public Affairs. I asked him the airline’s official position on the book. Bob took an extended drag on his cigarette, and his response surprised me as the NY Base Manager’s had. “We will not be commenting on the book. The pilots and flight attendants are too credible to dispute, and we certainly won’t insult our passengers who have taken the time to tell us about their experiences.”


A Summary of the Science Behind the Ghosts

    About 18 months before Jawer’s article appeared in Spirituality and Health magazine, Luc Antoine Montagnier, a French virologist and Nobel laureate for work identifying the HIV virus, found that some supposedly sterile solutions which were carefully filtered to remove pathogenic bacteria, turned out to have bacteria colonies after two or three weeks of incubation. The holes in the filters were much too small to allow any of the bacteria to get through, yet somehow the bacteria reappeared. Montagnier then diluted some newly filtered solutions in water and found something odd—extremely high dilutions of the "sterile" solution carried electromagnetic traces of the bacteria. These electromagnetic traces contain genetic information that Montagnier is now using to detect minute traces of disease, but this work raises more significant implications. If bacteria leave behind measurable energetic trace evidence, why not people?

    Jawer believes that intense emotion can cause energetic traces of some people to become amplified and therefore detectable, as in apparitions.  There was great emotion expressed post-crash by Captain Bob Loft and engineer Don Repo, it was evident in the details of their rescue. In the aftermath of the crash, both men were found to be critically injured. Captain Loft, in his shocked state struggled as if trying to escape, as he was being rescued. He was lucid enough to tell the responders, “I am going to die!” He died an hour later. Engineer Repo was found in the watery compartment beneath the cockpit floor. He was heard calling out that he did not want to drown. Rescuers reported that he seemed to be very angry. He was flown to the hospital where he died 30 hours later.

    Jawer suggests the reader consider that both men lived beyond the impact and were conscious of their dire situation. It is most plausible that both men experienced a combination of pain, intense fear and anguish over what had happened to them, their plane, and their passengers. Both men had a notable stake in their profession. Captain Loft was fiftieth in seniority of Eastern’s 4,000 pilots and was known as being conscientious and a perfectionist. Don Repo worked his way up to Flight Engineer from being a mechanic. Other engineers and pilots knew his affinity for the 

L-1011.

    Both men would have felt responsible for what had happened, but due to their injuries, were unable to do anything about it. The author explains the dilemma of not being able to act on a concern or preoccupation amidst a threat to physical safety that summons tremendous fear or anger, and can be considered a "flashpoint" for the creation of apparitions. In the case of both pilots, their distress level had to create an enormous amount of energy to "do something" but neither were able to do anything to help themselves, their crew, or the passengers. This energy is in effect, held in abeyance with no outlet for its extreme urgency. 

    We now return to the original question raised by researchers—"What can cause energetic traces of some people to become amplified to become detectable, as in apparitions?” Jawer believes this question can be answered by the intense emotions felt by these two pilots. Another interesting point that provides credence to the theory of the pilots returning for a period of two years pertains to the fact that the sightings ceased when Eastern no longer used parts of the crashed airliner in the repair of other L-1011s. 

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    Those in leadership positions often have the opportunity to influence what may or may not be discussed in the aftermath of a tragedy in the workplace. Being aware that an entire range of experiences may be helpful in the healing of survivors is important. I would encourage all to be open—regardless of personal beliefs and choices.

    Many people do not believe in anything that cannot be explained by the five senses—no doubt many at Eastern in the seventies may have been in that group. But I believe that leadership at Eastern made the right decision, remaining open to the stories of their employees and customers--and likely protected their own credibility, by not denying others their right to share their experiences with the sightings. A follow-up article will expand the discussion of the role of paranormal experiences in the healing of both primary and family survivors. 

© 2019 Higher Resources, Inc./Aviem International, Inc.

   
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