The Ghost of Flight 401 by John Fuller – R.I.P. VII

I bought John Fuller’s The Ghost of Flight 401 at a book sale recently. The copy looked and smelled wonderfully old, and that combined with the word ‘ghost’ in the title is what made me buy it. It was only after I came home with my bag full of books, read the back cover and looked it up on the internet, that I discovered that it is supposed to be a non-fiction ghost story. Wow. I was hooked. A week-long vacation and my unfortunate choice of the travel read (Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago) interrupted my reading of this fascinating book, but as soon as I came back, just yesterday, in fact, I immersed myself into the book once again.

Summary: In the dead of night in December, 1972, Eastern Airlines
jumbo jet flight 401 plunged into the Florida Everglades killing 101 passengers
and crew. Months later, the ghosts of its pilot and flight engineer began to
appear on sister ships carrying parts salvaged from the crash.

Ace investigative reporter John Fuller heard rumors of the ghosts and swore he
would uncover the true story, no matter how bizarre. At first, airline
employee, fearful of retribution, refused to talk. But Fuller persisted and
finally, one after another, stewardesses, pilots, and ground crews came forth
to tell one of the most astonishing stories in recent aviation history. This is
their tale–a hair-raising jet-age ghost story that can no longer be denied!

My thoughts: I never thought I would actually like a book where the author is convinced that the ghosts do exist and has written the book in the form of a non-fiction. I was certain I’d find it ludicrous. I was surprised right at the very beginning, when I actually liked the way the author wrote about his experience with the planchet. The author tries repeatedly to convince the reader that this ghost story is not just a story and that even though it sounds entirely crazy, it’s not.

That being said, this is not really a horror story. It’s more like a detailed study of a horror story. There are scenes when you’re absolutely scared, but there are also parts where you are absolutely bored by the author’s repetitiveness. I thought the premise of the book was fascinating. Though it may be best to keep in mind that this makes a good read for someone who dives in not expecting a scary tale. The book does have a good flow, even if at times there are too many unnecessary details. The writer could have withheld some of his extensive research to avoid information dumps. A thing I loved was how writer-ly his obsession with the new story sounded, the way he conducted his research, just travelling and talking to people and it was the most romantic concept. I’m sure it’s not quite as pleasant being a writer but he made it sound amazing.

Of course, people have said that Fuller tweaked a lot of the facts and made up almost half of what he’s written. People have said that there is no way they could believe what he’s written, because half the details aren’t even true. Considering the fact that I wouldn’t believe what he’s written even if he stuck to the entire factual truth, I’m not really bothered by the inconsistencies in the facts. That makes the book neither a history lesson nor an entirely made-up horror story. Call it the author’s point of view on what must have happened or just a made-up non-fiction, if there is such a thing as that. Either way, I liked the book and am glad I bought it.

And that’s my last read for the R.I.P. Challenge. Before I forget, Happy Halloween!

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