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Ghostly Planes in The Peak District

The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in the British Isles. It is split into the wonderfully white limestone walled 'White Peak' and the wilderness and grit stone areas of the 'Dark Peak'. But it's not just the grits tone, which gives the Dark Peak its name. There have been over 50 plane crashes and over 100 deaths spread over three decades, in just one area of the Dark Peak, and we have tried to find out if there is any explanation for these unusual events.

 The Dark Peak is the remote moorland area of the North of the Peak District and is home to tales of ghosts and witchcraft and a place where over 100 deaths have taken place in plane crashes in the decades before, during and after World War II. Many of the crashes remain unexplained and it is often said that this area of the Dark Peak is the UK's Bermuda Triangle.

A great many of the wrecks of from World War II and include Lancaster's, Halifax and Wellington bombers but also American Liberator planes and Super Fortress bombers and a Thunderbolt. There are also some jet aircraft from the 50s and 60s. There are evidence of plane wrecks at Ashop Moor, Shelf Moor, Higher Shelf Stones and Mill HIll , but there are also lots more sightings all around the area, particularly on the moors of Kinder Scout. Here is one particular wreck story.

On December 18, 1943 the PB4Y - 1 Liberator, had been searching for submarines in the Bay of Biscay, but was recalled due to poor weather conditions. On its journey home the crew became hopelessly lost and they began an aerial game of hide and seek as they try to pinpoint their whereabouts, rising and dipping in search of home and safety. Panic began to set in amongst the crew and they thought they were over Lincolnshire on the East coast of England. The pilot gave orders to abandon the aircraft and set the auto pilot to a heading of 290°, unfortunately this put it directly on course to the city of Manchester. It was carrying 16 depth charges, which contained a high explosive and basically made it a flying bomb. The empty plane crashed forward and scraped rooftops as hundreds poured from their homes to see the roaring black shape and it crossed the town of Mosley, crashing into an area known as Broken Ground, 1500 m above sea level in the Dark Peak. At dusk, sightings of at plane passing so low that witnesses duck as it passes over their heads have regularly been reported in the last 60 years, yet no fresh crash sites have been discovered despite numerous police and mountain rescue searches.

The Devil's Bonfires is another ghostly tale which fans the flames of the mystery of ghosts in the Peak District and the devil is prominently cited in the Dark Peak's local legends. The Devil's Elbow is a road with a dangerous bend and Devil's Bridge goes over a fast flowing stream, just two of the numerous place names named after Beelzebub. Tales of mysterious lights which appear on the hillsides are commonplace, and folklore accuses them of acting as evil agents, guiding pilots to their death and known locally as the Devil's bonfires. These bonfires do exist, but are likely to be natural methane, which is formed from rotting vegetation which spontaneously combust to produce standing frames on marshy ground, which covers a lot of this area.

The tragic number of crashes seems to be a cocktail of nature but also circumstances but there is wreckage still strewn across the Dark Peak as a memorial to the dead.

Magnetic anomalies are often discussed in relation to the Bermuda Triangle, so this has also been investigated to see if it is responsible for the high number of crashes on the Dark Peak. Solar and magnetic activity can have a profound effect on compass direction in planes and the sun's magnetism affects the Earth's magnetic fields. The naturally occurring magnetic rocks in The Dark Peak can cause local 'deflection of compass direction. Although research has found the records of solar activity don't correspond with the crashes in the area and that magnetic rocks are nothing new in the UK and highly unlikely to be the cause of air disaster, so this theory has been ruled out.

The main reason it is thought for the frequency of the accidents around this time could be due to a lack of relevant training but also the weather around the Peak District, which changes so quickly. The need for urgent pilot recruitment during World War II resulted in some British pilots being trained in Canada and Texas and these training regimes tend to be over flatland in good visibility which doesn't prepare a pilot for flying in the Peak District, particularly over the high ground in poor weather when clouds and the horizon can merge with the devastating consequences of crash.

The sightings of ghost planes today on the Dark Peak still remain a mystery and many people have dedicated their time to writing lots of books about each one.