The RAF Museum at Cosford houses hundreds of aircraft, but only one gets ghost hunters reaching for their notebooks. Avro Lincoln RF398 is as likely to be visited by paranormal investigators as aircraft enthusiasts! After a few of the stories came to light, a BBC team moved in to find out what all the fuss was about.
Brian Redfern is one of many visitors to wonder if they’d seen a ghost in the Avro Lincoln After all, it wasn’t merely the insistence of ghost hunters that suggested the aeroplane is haunted. Many staff have experienced strange goings on near and in the aircraft. In 1991, the BBC’s Gwyn Richards investigated the bomber aided by paranormal investigator Ivan Spenceley. As well as listening to archived audio recordings and some of the first hand stories, the pair spent a couple of nights inside the aircraft, armed with recording equipment. They captured a number of mechanical sounds… sounds (it was claimed) that were difficult to attribute to either the building cooling down or the aircraft settling.
In trying to identify some of the strange sounds, Gwyn and Ivan took an ex Lincoln air crew to visit the infamous aircraft and introduced them to a few of the recorded noises. Phil Pritchett, Gareth Lewis and Peter Palma even claimed to be able to identify a few of the individual sounds – attributing them to actions that would be typically carried out by a pilot and his crew in preparation for (and during) flight.
The first known incident involving the plane occurred when, in 1980, a member of the museum’s staff was locking the hangar for the night. Looking back he believed that he saw someone move in the old aircraft and so he switched the lights back on. Having searched all the corners of the aircraft he turned to switch the lights off again when a “cloudy thing” appeared. Later that week a mechanic was working alone on the Lincoln. He felt around in the dark for a spanner which had just fallen, when it felt as if it was thrust into his hand.
Could it be the ghost of ‘Master Pilot’ Hiller who loved the aircraft and was at the controls for its last ever flight in 1963. It’s said that Hiller promised to “haunt his baby”. Hiller was killed near Cosford in an air crash not long after the Lincoln’s last flight. More recently the secretary to the museum society was busy preparing a notice board about the Lincoln when she heard her name being called. Thinking it was one of the museum staff calling her for a cup of tea she looked toward the Lincoln, then towards the door but saw no one. To this day she will not enter the hangar alone.
The story is also told about an electrician working 15 feet above the ground when he suddenly fell. He remembers thinking “this is it” because he had already injured his spine in a similar fall from another aeroplane. But instead of hitting the concrete floor with expected force, he floated to a stop “as if”, he said, “some invisible force had prevented his fall from being fatal”. Very few claim to have seen the ghost, and those who have, say he is in the gun-turret at the rear, or in the navigator’s seat in the cockpit.