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Air Force Ghost Stories


by Louis A. Arana-Barradas

Herb Robredo didn’t believe in ghosts — until he met one.

It happened on a hot and muggy July night last year. Mr. Robredo and two other aircraft mechanics parked a T-43 training jet on the Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, flightline. He’d been “riding the brakes” inside the plane. Before getting out, he went to check a light that hadn’t turned off in the back of the plane. Halfway there, a blast of cold air hit him. He felt a weird chill. That’s strange, he thought, because the plane’s air conditioning was off.

“My skin told me something wasn’t normal,” Mr. Robredo said. He decided on a hasty exit.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a shadowy figure staring at him. It spooked him. But it was dark, and he thought it was a co-worker who’d hitched a ride. Still, he sensed something wasn’t right. He got goose bumps, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end.

“There was a man in uniform looking right at me,” he said. “I got this eerie feeling.”

The man was sitting with his legs crossed and his hands clasped around his knee. Confused, Mr. Robredo didn’t want to look straight at the apparition. His heart raced, and he missed most of the stairs on the ladder as he flew off the plane.

“I know what I saw,” he said. “It was definitely a person looking at me.”

Problem is, there was nobody else on the plane. At least not alive.

Was it a ghost? Yes, Mr. Robredo said. His buddy, Mike Monsalvo, agrees. The two maintain the jets used to train navigators. That night, they’d worked on the plane with tail number 1154 — the same as Mr. Robredo’s identification number. Coincidence?

But it was Mr. Monsalvo who first saw the “visitor.” He’d walked through the plane while it was still parked in the hangar. He saw a tall figure standing at a training station, staring at him.

“I swear I saw a man — wearing glasses — glaring at me from a console,” he said. He, too, beat feet for the exit. Mr. Monsalvo blamed fatigue for what he’d seen. And, once outside, he didn’t tell his pal of his experience. “He probably would have thought I was crazy.”

The next day, Mr. Robredo went to order a part for the plane. The man who orders the parts, Allen Kirsh, sensed something was amiss. He asked the normally talkative mechanic what was wrong. Mr. Robredo told him of his encounter. Strangely, Mr. Kirsh had a friend at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., who’d worked on the same plane. So, without telling Mr. Robredo, he e-mailed his pal to relay the story and ask him if anything strange had happened on the plane. The friend replied that, in 1982, a crew chief died of a heart attack on the plane while on a training flight. The news stunned Mr. Robredo.

“I knew it had to be the crew chief I’d seen,” he said. “Who else could it have been?”

The mechanics know “something’s in the plane.” Is it haunted? Maybe, they said. But neither says it’s an evil spirit. Mr. Robredo believes the phantom Airman watches over aircrews.

“Just a dedicated crew chief who’s still on the job,” he said.

Strange Sights not Uncommon

Is this just another ghost story? Could be. But nobody will convince the two mechanics they didn’t see a ghost. And they’re not alone. Many Air Force people swear they’ve seen strange sights. Things that go bump in the night. Not the kind of phenomenon that should perplex a high-tech outfit like the Air Force, right?

But something’s happening, and the explanations are as fleeting as the sightings.

At Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, “Charley” has haunted the halls of the Pacific Air Forces headquarters building since the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Known as Hale Makai, Hawaiian for “house by the sea,” it was once the largest building in the U.S. military. In 1941 it was a 3,200-man dormitory on that day of infamy. More than 60 Soldiers — most eating breakfast — died in the building during the attack. Today, it’s still an ominous place.

“It can be spooky here at night. Sound tends to migrate through the long hallways,” Bill Harris said. The deputy command historian won’t say he believes in ghosts. “But I’m not going to say he’s not out there, either.”

There were a rash of Charley sightings in the 1980’s. People heard loud footsteps and keys jangling in empty hallways. Two women said “something” switched their radio to other stations. A janitor saw a water faucet in a bathroom suddenly turn on by itself. And a sergeant ran out of the building when heavy glass doors started to swing open — back and fourth — rapidly.

The standard answer people use to explain the strange goings-on: “That’s just Charley.”

The command historian at the time, Lea Arakaki, documented the strange events in her histories. Proof that Charley was part of the command. One entry read: Security forces didn’t like walking the halls at night because they were “nervous about ghosts wandering around.”

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