(Photos are identified at the bottom of the article)
On March 5, 1967, a freezing rain was falling over the tiny village of Marseilles in rural Wyandot County, Ohio. It was 8 o’clock, and many of the residents had just tuned into the Ed Sullivan Show as they settled in for a cozy Sunday evening.
But any notion of a mundane Sabbath was shattered at 8:05 p.m. when a series of explosions cut across the night sky. Those closest to the blast immediately realized this was not just a routine sonic boom. This explosion would have an aftermath so vividly heartbreaking that it would haunt some residents for the rest of their days.
Lake Central Airline Flight 527 had been en route from Columbus to Toledo. The pilot, Capt. John Horn, was beginning his descent just as all four blades on the right propeller separated as the result of a manufacturer’s defect. The No. 2 propeller blade ripped through the fuselage, causing the twin engine prop jet to burst into flames over a field of soybean stubble 2 miles west of Marseilles on TH 94.
A total of 38 passengers and crew were on board.
There were no survivors.
Fifty years later, at a memorial service to honor the memory of those who perished, a group of area residents remembered that horrific night.
The wreckage was strewn a mile wide across parts of Wyandot, Hardin and Marion counties. But the majority of the bodies and personal effects had landed on the farms owned by Charles Redding and Robert Heckathorn. Within minutes, neighbors pulled on their muck boots, grabbed flashlights and were heading out of their respective homes.
Jim Fitch was an ambulance driver for a nearby funeral home when he got the call that “a plane had wrecked.” Like the others, he immediately made his way to the scene.
“It was freezing rain that had followed a snow. The field had a top layer of thin ice, patches of snow and lots of mud,” he recalled. “The Price ambulance had just arrived when I pulled up. I was the second one there. Before long there were 20-30 ambulances.”
With only flashlights to illuminate the crash site, the men trudged through ankle-deep mud. As they began to survey the carnage, it became excruciatingly apparent that they were participants in a recovery – not a rescue – mission.
It was beyond difficult to scour the landscape in those conditions. Every once in awhile, a responder would stumble across a spattering of blood on the snow. That was a sure indication that a victim was probably within spitting distance. Most of the dead came to rest not more than 200 yards from the wreckage, except for the infant Heckathorn found in his yard and the small boy Iber Heilman and his son discovered lying in a nearby ditch.
One gentleman vividly recalled that he had the gut-wrenching task of assisting in the process of identifying the victims.
“Our job was to mark down what kind of clothes they were wearing and what kind of jewelry they had on. We also marked down the seat numbers,” he explained, adding that sometimes pairing the seat number with a specific individual wasn’t difficult. “In this field right here we found two men still strapped into their plane seats. They were sitting the way they looked in the plane. They weren’t messed up, they were just strapped in their seats.”
The man also remembered the eerie silence that enveloped the site.
“Nobody said anything. The only ones who were talking were the ones who were identifying the victims and telling it to the ones who were writing it down,” he recalled.
Each time a body was pulled from the wreckage or discovered on the mud-soaked ground, it was carefully placed on the wing of the aircraft. There were very few 4-wheel drive vehicles at that time, and regular pickup trucks didn’t stand a chance in that muck, so Max Heilman hitched a flatbed wagon onto his bulldozer and maneuvered through the field collecting the deceased. Another volunteer carried a couple bodies on the hood of his 4-wheel-drive Jeep.
At the road, the remains were transferred to the ambulances and taken to a temporary morgue at the abandoned Miflin School. They were laid in a row covered with white sheets, while the luggage was placed near the bleachers.
On Sunday, March 5, 2017, the team from the Haunted Tiffin Ghost Walk/Dead Time Connections attended the memorial service. Anna Kimmet had talked about the crash of Flight 527 since last summer. Her father was 9 years old in 1967, and her grandfather was one of only a handful of men in the Marseilles area who owned a 4-wheel-drive truck. Anna’s dad tagged along that fateful night. It became his job was to scope out the field and gather wallets and other personal effects.
To this day, he has never flown in an airplane.
As a writer, historian and paranormal investigator, working with psychic medium Lindsey Lawson on cases such as this is the ultimate in teamwork. I do the preliminary historical research without telling Lindsey anything about what I uncover. In return, Lindsey is able to visualize the events that transpired. In a nutshell, she can see and talk to dead people. We validate each other.
Such was the case at the site of Flight 527.
On our way to the memorial service that afternoon, we were less than 10 miles from the scene when Lindsey began to experience some preliminary sensitivity. We believe (and this has certainly become the case with the ghost walks) that spirits tend to know when we will be visiting a particular place. It’s akin to them expecting company. It soon became evident that someone was expecting us that day.
As we neared Marseilles, Lindsey suddenly felt a sudden “drop,” like the type one feels when turbulence causes a plane’s descent. That was almost immediately followed by her becoming extremely cold. Her head hurt and her body ached.
“They all died, but not all of them died on impact,” she said softly. “The ones who didn’t die right away didn’t last long, though.”
Lindsey then asked to borrow the paranormal journal I carry on investigations. She flipped it open to a blank page and drew a curved path with an arrow on the left side. She explained that the arrow pointed to a tree line where she suspected some of the victims were located. When we got to the crash site, I noticed TH 94 is a relatively straight, one-lane road. About halfway through the memorial service, I turned to face the field. Straight ahead of me was a slightly curved farm lane that led through the acreage directly to a small grove of trees – just like in Lindsey’s drawing.
The night before, an entity she referred to as the “Dark Man” had come to her. Lindsey saw him again at the crash site, walking toward her. He was backlit in the darkness by a glow of orange and yellow that we speculated was fire. That’s why Lindsey couldn’t see the Dark Man’s facial features. She also witnessed several males crawling across the field on their bellies.
Dozens of orbs, or energy balls, flitted across the sky toward the tree line. Lindsey could see them with the naked eye. I took a succession of photos to try to capture the images, but only one photo showed up on my device.
That’s not unusual.
I guess the spirits were camera shy that day.
We will be returning someday when the weather improves. I’m sure that when we do, the spirits that remain from Flight 527 will be expecting us. Perhaps we will be able to move some of them on and help them find peace.
Pictured at the side of the article are some of the victims of Flight 527. From top to bottom: Martha Meunzer, Toledo, a 19-year-old college student; James J. Reuff, 26, from Louisville, Ky.; Colleen McCormick, 21, West Lafayette, Ind.; Lynn Mayhew, 23, Adrian, Mich.; and George Windiate, 51, Flint, Mich. Above: Lindsey Lawson's drawing in Lisa Swickard's paranormal journal.
The following is a list of victims. I have compiled most of their ages as well as their home cities as well as any other available information. There is only 37 names listed here. These were the only names provided to the author. The final name will be added as soon as possible.
Capt. John Horn, 45, Indianapolis, Ind. (pilot)
Roger Skillman, 33, Greenwood, Ind. (first officer)
Miss Barbara Littman, 23, Indianapolis, Ind. (stewardess)
Miss Colleen McCormick, 21, West Lafayette, Ind.
Paul O’Rourke, Columbus
Evelyn Kennard, 41, Dearborn, Mich.
Miss Karen Kennard, 13, Dearborn, Mich.
Louis J. Ollier, 55, Toledo
Miss Martha Muenzer, 19, Toledo (returning to Sienna Heights College, Adrian, Mich.)
Miss Cheri O’Brien, 18, Athens, Ohio (returning to Sienna Heights College, Adrian, Mich.)
James J. Rueff, 26, Louisville, Kentucky
Miss M. Freedenberg, Detroit
Sadie Williamson, 60, Toledo
Richard Melton, Columbus
Margaret Esplin, 43, Toledo (Last name spelled incorrectly “Estlin” in official record)
Michael Edinger, 1, Toledo, (infant grandson of Margaret Esplin)
Larry E. Finks, 27, Columbus
John W. Campbell, 40, Toledo
Richard Hull, 44, Dearborn, Mich.
Dr. Edward Frobase, 51, Toledo
Miss Kay Marie Edmunds, 19, Toledo
1st Lt. Joseph B. Craig, 54, Los Angeles, Calif., (WWII veteran)
George W. Windiate, 51, Flint, Mich.
Miss Lynn Mayhew, 23, Adrian, Mich.
Glenn O. Merchant, Jr., 26, Columbus, (making a business trip to Detroit)
Leland C. Cornwell, 58, Charleston, West Virginia
Miss Jean Reagan, 19, Lorain, Ohio (senior at Sienna Heights College, Adrian, Mich. was returning to college. She was an accomplished musician, specializing in organ.)
Pvt. 1st Class Charles L. Ferguson, 40, Flint, Mich., (WWII veteran)
Army Specialist 4 Jerry W. Martin, 22, Chillicothe, Ohio (Vietnam veteran)
E. Northamber, Charleston, West Virginia
William S. Black, Jr., 24, Quincy, Ill.
J. Prueitt, Vestavia, Alabama
Orville P. Edwards, Sr., 48, Tulsa, Oklahoma
H.T. James, 39, Columbia, Tennessee (An engineer, he had been transferred to Fostoria, OH. He and his wife, Beverly, were on their way there to set up a new home before moving their family to Ohio. They left three children.)
Beverly James, 36, Columbia, Tennessee
George C. Benson, 30, Columbus
Frank J. Boitz, 58, Pueblo, Colorado
The death certificate for Beverly James, who was relocating to Fostoria with her husband, Herbert.