New England Plane Crashes That Never Happened

New England Plane Crashes That Never Happened 

By Jim Ignasher

Updated May 6, 2016

Updated May 12, 2016

     The following stories are about New England aviation accidents that never happened, although in some cases they were reported as fact.  Perhaps this is how legends get started.        

    On April 3, 1906, great excitement rippled through the populace of the small town of Franklin, Massachusetts, as word spread that an airship had crashed in the northern part of town.  Dozens flocked to the area, but found nothing. Had the airship been repaired and left?  Hardly.  It wasn’t exactly April Fools, but it was close enough for a man identified only as a “practical joker” living in north Franklin near the Medway town line.  The day before, a large number of people reported seeing what they thought was an airship pass over the town.  The joker took it one step further and told several people that the airship had broken down, and landed in a field near his farm.  As with the childhood game of “Telephone”, the landing became a crash, as the facts were twisted with each retelling.  

     The following three incidents took place in 1942 at a time when our country was immersed in the Second World War.  Were they the result of wartime jitters, overactive imaginations, or something else? 

     On April 25, 1942, the North Providence, (R.I.) police department began to receive reports that an army bomber had crashed and burst into flames somewhere in the town.  Some reported seeing a column of smoke, but couldn’t tell the exact location from where it originated. A search was instituted, and army officials were notified, and as word spread citizens were on the alert.     

     By the afternoon the Associated Press was carrying the story.  An army public relations officer in Boston stated he believed the craft to be an army bomber, and although he didn’t know how many men were aboard, the usual number was five.

     An army observation plane was brought in to assist with the search, but by the end of the day nothing had been found, and no military aircraft were unaccounted for.

     Less than a week later, a man in Bellingham, Massachusetts, reported that he saw a twin-engine army aircraft flying at tree-top level and assumed it crashed in a wooded area near Silver Lake.  Apparently his assumption was based on the fact the engines weren’t making any sound, and that at one pint he saw the wings clip the trees. 

     Bellingham police notified the army, and a search was instituted.  Residents in the Spring Street section told officers they had seen an army aircraft pass low in the sky with its engines throttled down, but didn’t know anything about a crash.  One citizen stated the plane had passed directly over him and then suddenly disappeared.  

     Police officers, firefighters, and civilian volunteers searched through the woods for several hours, but didn’t find anything, and the army determined that none of its planes were missing.   

    The fourth case didn’t involve a report of an actual plane crash, but of parachutes descending from the sky – possibly from a disabled aircraft.  

     At about 5:45 p.m. on November 4 1942, Sgt. Michael Ryan of the Fall River police was stopped by a motorist who reported seeing parachutists descending over the area of the Fall River Reservoir located in the northern part of the city.   A short time later another person approached him with the same report.  One claimed to have seen one parachute and a plane, the other, three parachutes. 

     At about the same time frame, Patrolman Michael Hart received a report of parachutes as he patrolled the central portion of the city. 

     At 6:30 p.m. another call about parachutes was received at police headquarters. 

     Patrol cars sent to investigate found nothing, and aircraft spotters stationed in a fire tower near the reservoir hadn’t seen any parachutes. 

     Yet reports kept coming, and chutes were also allegedly seen over Fall River’s neighboring communities, and in nearby Rhode Island.  Strangely, nobody had reported a plane crash, only parachutes, which raised the possibility of enemy saboteurs. 

     State and local police, aided by auxiliary volunteers, and the army, scoured the landscape in both states, but nothing was found.  At one point excitement rose when one group of volunteers reported that the parachutists were “bottled up” in Narragansett Bay, but this too was false.

     Authorities learned that neither the army nor the navy was missing any aircraft, and there had been no reported bailouts or scheduled parachute jumps in the area.  No explanation for the sightings was ever given. 

     Updated May 12, 2016

     On January 8, 1988, a heavy snow storm was blowing across central New Hampshire.  It was during this storm that authorities received an s.o.s. radio message from a man identifying himself only as “Dale”, a survivor of a small jet crash.  Dale claimed five people had been aboard; one was dead, and the other three seriously injured.

     The May Day call sparked a large scale search and rescue operation that later involved up to 20 aircraft.  One aircraft in particular was a navy plane that was re-routed to begin the search.  The pilot flew low level search patterns in dangerous weather conditions for over four hours, all the while remaining in radio contact with “Dale”.  Unfortunately the plane was forced to leave the area due to deteriorating weather and low fuel capacity.  The following day the downed plane report was determined to be a hoax.   

     Investigation led authorities to a 29-year-old man from Laconia, New Hampshire, who was charged and put on trial in May of 1988.  He was convicted, and sentenced to one year in a federal prison, and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation.   

     Coincidentally, it was about the time of the man’s trial that the following incident occurred.  

     Updated May 6, 2016

     On the night October 3, 1988, a man identifying himself as a Captain from Pease Air Force Base contacted authorities in the town of Milford, New Hampshire to report that a B-1 bomber aircraft with two men aboard had crashed in a wooded area behind Chappell Tractor Sales Inc. on Route 13 South.  The man further reported that the pilot had managed to eject from the aircraft before it crashed. 

     Milford Fire and Police responded to the area, as did members of the U.S. Air Force, but within an hour it was determined that the call had been a hoax. 

 

Sources:  

The (Woonsocket) Evening Reporter, “Joker Causes Excitement” , April 4, 1906, Pg. 3

Woonsocket Call, “Bomber Crashes In No. Providence”, April 25, 1942, Pg.1

Woonsocket Call, Army Plane Crash Report Probed”, May 4, 1942 Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crash Report Proves Franklin Hoax”, May 5, 1942, Pg. 2

Woonsocket Call, “Chutists Sought Near Fall River”, November 5, 1942, Pg. 1

Bangor Daily News, “”N.H. man Indicted In Plane Crash Hoax”, February 25, 1988

Bangor Daily News, “Trial Opens In Case Of Staged Plane Crash”, May 3, 1988

Bangor Daily News, “N.H. Man Convicted Of Faking Plane Crash”, May 5, 1988  

Nashua Telegraph, “Jet Crash Hoax Draws Searchers”, October 4, 1988

 

 

 

 

 

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