A quite different type of ghost goes by the name of “crisis apparition” among investigators. A typical example occurred on 7 December 1918 at the Royal Air Force base at Scampton, Lincolnshire. A pilot named David McConnel was ordered to fly an aircraft to the RAF base at Tadcaster as it was wanted there the next day. He left at 11.30am, telling his room mate Lieutenant Larkin that he would return by train and be back in time for supper.
At 3.25pm that afternoon Larkin was sitting in the room he shared with McConnel reading a book. He heard footsteps coming up the corridor, the door opened and McConnel stood in the doorway wearing flying kit, with his flying helmet dangling from his left hand.
“Hello, my boy” said McConnel as was his usual greeting to Larkin.
“Hello,” replied Larkin. “You’re back early.”
“Yes,” agreed McConnel. “I had a good trip. Well, cheerio.” He then shut the door and Larkin heard his footsteps retreating back down the corridor. Larkin assumed his room mate was going to have tea or to file his flight report.
At 3.45pm another lieutenant, Garner Smith, came to Larkin’s room and asked when McConnel would be back as they had tickets to a show that evening. Larkin said that McConnel had already returned, but Smith was convinced that he had not. The two men went off to check and found that McConnel had not yet reported back, nor had the guard on the front gate seen him arrive. Larkin was adamant that he had seen McConnel and a search began. The search ended when a telegram arrived from Tadcaster announcing that McConnel’s aircraft had crashed as it landed. McConnel had been badly injured and he had died at 3.25pm - the exact time that Larkin had seen him arrive back at their room.
Hundreds of similar cases are on file. Most of these are difficult to verify as they involve a phantom being seen by a person who is alone at the time. There is usually only the word of that single person to rely on, but with the McConnel case is valuable because of the search made by Smith and Larkin. Dozens of men saw Smith and Larkin walking about the Scampton base, and knew the reason why, long before news arrived of McConnel’s death. Although there were no other witnesses to the apparition, there were plenty to the fact that Larkin said he had seen it before news of the tragedy arrived.