A group photograph clearly showing the face of a dead man,
a terrible airplane flight through a storm into another reality, and a
frightening, death-predicting dream were for British Royal Air Force (RAF)
officer Victor Goddard glimpses into the mysterious world of the unexplained.
The Smirking Airman
Goddard’s first venture into the world of the unexplained involved a
photograph. In 1975, the seventy-eight year old retired Air Marshal Sir Victor
Goddard published the story of a photograph that he had kept for many years. It
was a group photograph of his squadron. It was taken in early 1919 at the end of
World War I and portrayed some 200 men and women who survived the fighting. It
was an official RAF photograph. Nobody could have tampered with either the
photograph or its negative at any time. When the photo was developed, it was
placed on the squadron bulletin board so that those who wanted copies could sign
up for them. There was one thing wrong, though. There was an extra face in the
photograph, a face belonging to the late Airman Freddy Jackson. Jackson was a
mechanic, who died by heedlessly walking into a spinning propeller two days
before the squadron, which was to be disbanded, posed for the photo. In fact,
his funeral took place on the day the squadron gathered for the photo. In the
photo (above), everyone is wearing a hat but Jackson. Everyone is looking grim
except Jackson, who is smiling enigmatically. The others had reason to look
grim-they had just returned from Jackson’s funeral.
Is the face in the photo really that of Jackson’s
spirit? Goddard and others of the squadron were convinced that it was. Goddard,
in his book Flight Towards Reality, suggests that Jackson’s expression seemed
to say: “My goodness me-I nearly failed to make it-They didn’t wait, or
leave a place for me, the blighters!”
A Flight Through Time
Goddard’s second trip into the unexplained involved an airplane flight. This
was a much more personally harrowing experience. In 1935, while a Wing
Commander, Goddard flew a Hawker Hart biplane to Edinburgh, Scotland, from his
home base in Andover, England, for a weekend visit. On the Sunday before flying
back, Goddard visited an abandoned airfield in Drem, near Edinburgh, this
location being closer to his final destination than the airport at which he
landed. The Drem airfield, constructed during the first World War, was a
shambles. The tarmac and four hangars were in disrepair, barbed wire divided the
field into numerous pastures, and cattle grazed everywhere. It was now a farm,
and completely useless as an airfield.
On Monday, Goddard began the flight back to his home base.
The weather was dark and ominous, with low clouds and heavy rain. Goddard was
flying in an open cockpit over mountainous terrain without radio navigational
aides or cloud flying instruments. Rain beating down on his forehead and onto
his flying goggles badly obscured his vision. He thought he could climb above
the clouds, but he was wrong. He made it to 8,000 feet, looking for a break in
the clouds. There was none.
Suddenly Goddard lost control of his plane. It began to
spiral downward. He struggled with the controls. He could speed up or slow down,
but he could not stop the spin. He was unsure of his location, but knew he was
falling rapidly and might smash into the mountains before coming out of the
clouds. The sky became darker, the clouds turning a strange yellowish-brown. The
rain came down even more heavily. Goddard’s altimeter showed he was only a
thousand feet above the ground and dropping rapidly. At two hundred feet and
still spiraling downward, he began to see a bit of daylight through the murky
gloom, but his spiral toward seemingly inevitable death was far from over.
Goddard was now flying at 150 miles per hour. He emerged
from the clouds over “rotating water” that he recognized as the Firth of
Forth. He was still falling. Suddenly, he saw directly before him a stone sea
wall with a path, a road, and railings on top of it. The road seemed to be
slowly rotating from left to right. The cloud cover was down to forty feet.
Goddard was now flying below twenty feet and was within an instant of tragedy. A
young girl with a baby carriage ran through the pouring rain. She ducked her
head just in time to avoid Hart’s wingtip. Goddard succeeded in leveling out
his plane after that. He barely missed striking the water after clearing the sea
wall by a few feet.
He was now flying only several feet above a stony beach.
Fog and rain obscured all distant visibility, but Goddard somehow located his
position. He identified the road to Edinburgh and soon was able to discern,
through the gloom, the black silhouettes of the Drem Airfield hangars ahead of
him, the same airfield he had visited the day before. The rain became a deluge,
the sky grew even darker, and Goddard’s plane was shaken violently by the
turbulent weather as it sped toward the Drem hangars-and into a different world.
Suddenly, the sky turned bright with golden sunlight. The
rain and the farm had vanished. The hangars and the tarmac appeared to have
somehow been rebuilt in a brand-new condition. There were four planes lined at
the end of the tarmac. Three were standard Avro 504N trainer biplanes; the
fourth was a monoplane of an unknown type-the RAF had no monoplanes in 1935. All
four airplanes were bright yellow. No RAF airplanes were painted yellow in 1935.
The airplane mechanics were wearing blue overalls. RAF mechanics never wore
anything but brown overalls when working in hangars in 1935.
It took Goddard only an instant to fly over the airfield.
He was only a few feet above the ground-just high enough to clear the
hangars-but apparently none of the mechanics saw him or even heard his plane. As
he sped away from the airfield, he was again engulfed by the storm. He forced
his plane upward, flying at 17,000 feet and then, for a time, at 21,000 feet. He
managed to return to his home base safely.
Goddard felt elated when he landed. He then made the
mistake of telling fellow officers about his eerie experience. They looked at
him as if he were drunk or crazy. Goddard decided to keep silent about what had
happened to him. He did not want a discharge from the RAF on mental grounds.
In 1939, Goddard watched as RAF trainers began to be
painted yellow and the mechanics switched to blue coveralls. The RAF introduced
a new training monoplane exactly like the one he had seen in his flight over
Drem. It was called the Magister. He learned that the airfield at Drem had been
Another twenty-seven years went by, but Goddard never
forgot what had happened. He played it through over and over in his mind. It was
not until 1966 that he wrote of this experience. Over the years he had become
convinced that there was no way he could have known that the RAF would change
the colors of their trainers and their mechanics’ overalls four years before
these changes took place. Goddard finally concluded that he must have glimpsed
the future-or even traveled into it-for a brief moment in time.
Was this conclusion so unreasonable? Our senses determine
our reality. Goddard was under extreme stress, and thought he might die. Perhaps
the bonds controlling Goddard’s senses cracked for an instant, in the face of
mortal danger, freeing him to glimpse another reality.
The Skipper’s Dream
Victor Goddard’s third encounter with the mysterious, this time involving a
frightening dream, took place in the Far East, just after the end of World War
It began at a cocktail party given in his honor. It was a
party he would never forget. How would you feel if you were at a cocktail party
given in your honor and overheard someone talking sadly but in vivid detail
about your death in an airplane crash, and you knew you were going to fly the
next day? What would you feel if you had learned at the party that your death
had been described in a powerful dream, and the dream accurately predicted
events that soon started to take place?
The afternoon cocktail party for Air Marshal Sir Victor
Goddard took place in Shanghai in January 1946. The war against Japan had ended
five months earlier, and Goddard was transferring to a new assignment. The man
who was grimly talking about his death was Captain Gerald Gladstone, commander
of the Royal Navy cruiser H.M.S. Black Prince. Gladstone’s tone of sad
certainty instantly collapsed into confusion when he saw the Air Marshal
standing a few feet from him.
Goddard smiled at the flustered officer. “I’m not
quite dead yet,” he said. “What made you think I was?”
Gladstone hesitated before replying but when he did, it
was with grim conviction. He told Goddard of a vivid and horrifying dream he had
experienced the previous night. Goddard, now quite interested, pressed Gladstone
for details, which the naval officer nervously supplied. In the dream, Goddard
and three British civilians-two men and a woman-were flying over a rocky shore,
off the coast of either China or Japan. It was evening, and they were flying
through a ghastly storm. They had just flown over the mountains when their plane
“I watched it all happen,” Gladstone emphatically
confirmed. “You were killed.” Gladstone further stated that the crashed
aircraft was “an ordinary sort of transport passenger plane. Might have been a
Later that evening, at a dinner the British Consul General
gave in honor of Goddard, the Air Marshal learned to his surprise and shock that
his military flight would also be taking civilian passengers, something not
usually done. Goddard had understood that it would be impossible that the plane
which had been assigned to take him to Tokyo could also ferry civilians, but
this now proved to be the case. There were three civilian passengers: the Consul
General, a journalist, and a young female stenographer-two men and a woman, all
British, exactly as reported in the dream-who would accompany him. Given the
dream, it is easy to understand why Goddard was especially reluctant to allow
the young woman to travel with him and face what he began to feel was certain
death in a plane crash.
Their plane was a Dakota transport-also as indicated in
the dream. It left Shanghai for Tokyo early the next morning. There was a
terrible flight through clouds, exactly as in the dream, some of it over the
mountains of Japan, again exactly as in the dream. The Dakota captain was forced
to crash-land his plane in the early evening during a snowstorm. He crashed on
the rocky, shingle shore on an island off the coast of Japan, again as in the
dream, but this time with one vital difference. Everyone survived.
As time went on, as with the flight over Drem Airfield,
Goddard could not get the event out of his mind. On January 2, 1947, about a
year after the crash, he wrote Gladstone and asked for more particulars
regarding the harrowing dream. In his letter he told the naval officer, “For
the next 48 hours I was quite convinced that I was going to die and wondered how
many unfortunate passengers would share the experience with me.”
Gladstone’s reply, dated January 30, 1947, stated in
part: “I am sorry to say that I am unable to fill in any details of the
dream…I clearly remember now what I remembered of my dream at the time: and
that was a conviction that YOU WERE DEAD…I have never made a point…of
recalling every detail of my dreams the instant I awake.” Gladstone thus
claimed to have remembered absolutely none of the details Goddard attributed to
Both officers were of unimpeachable character and both
agreed that this was a precognitive experience. Why is there a vital difference
in their two accounts? There is the possibility that Gladstone related the
specific details of his dream to Goddard at the cocktail party and then later
forgot both the details and that he had told them to the Air Marshal.
In 1950, four years after the party, Goddard, still
disturbed by the event, wrote an article about the incident for the Saturday
Evening Post. The article, printed on May 26, 1951, was the first time the
story became public. Goddard did not use Gladstone’s real name or that of his
cruiser, but he did send a copy of the manuscript to the naval officer for
suggestion and comment before it was printed. Gladstone again stressed that he
had not remembered any of the specific details of his dream. Does that matter?
What matters are the awful power and certainty of the dream to the dreamer.
Gladstone awoke absolutely convinced that Goddard was dead. All day before the
cocktail party the naval officer expected to be informed of the Air Marshal’s
death. He only went to the party when no such news was received, but was still
positive of Goddard’s death and kept vehemently saying so at the party where
the Air Marshal overheard him. Gladstone also maintained that he had never
experienced anything like this dream and remained at a complete loss to explain
it. If we also cannot explain it, we still might further wonder why Gladstone
experienced it in the first place. If it was meant to be a warning, why was it
not sent to someone closer to Goddard, or to Goddard himself?
Is there a bottom line here? Did Gladstone glimpse a
future? Was there an alternate or probable future in which a Sir Victor Goddard
did indeed perish in an air crash? Gladstone reported that in his dream he
“watched it all happen.” Just where was he while he was watching?
In 1954, Goddard’s experience with Gladstone’s dream
was made into a British motion picture, The Night My Number Came Up,
starring Michael Redgrave as Air Marshal “Hardie.” Although this is an
entertaining film, the scriptwriter made significant changes in regard to the
actual events that weakened the power and significance of the true story.
Goddard had two other earlier encounters with the
unexplained. In August 1911, while he was an eleven-year-old naval cadet, he
learned that his mother was fearful that the “Agadir (Morocco) Crisis” would
explode into a world war. German naval units were sent to Morocco to block
French expansion in that country and many feared that the crisis would erupt
into a war between France and Germany with England then being dragged into it.
The young Goddard instantly assured his mother that war would not come until
August 1914, which indeed was the case, that being the start of World War I. On
August 4, 1914, Goddard, now fourteen, was watching a sunset from the
quarterdeck of a British battleship. He states in the preface to his book, Flight
Towards Reality, that he was given a “clear presentation by the cloud
movements and their colors in the sky” of how long the war, which was to begin
that night, would take and how it would end. He had no idea why these particular
events happened to him, but he never forgot them.
Father of Ufology?
Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard had a long and successful career. He joined the
Royal Navy in 1910 when he was 13 years old, later transferring to the RAF in
1918. He is thus considered one of the founders of the RAF. As Deputy Head of
the RAF Delegation to the United States, he was stationed in Washington, D.C.,
from 1946 until 1948. He represented the RAF on the combined Chiefs of Staff
Advisory Committee and coined the word ufology in 1946 when there was an
outbreak of UFO sightings. During this period, he was convinced that UFOs were a
hoax. He was instrumental in convincing President Harry Truman (through USAF
Chief of Staff Carl A. Spaatz) to halt the US Air Force search for UFOs, a
search Truman had ordered to help investigate the rumors of prowlers in American
air space. Goddard later regretted this decision and changed his mind about UFOs
after his retirement from the RAF in 1951. In his 1975 book, Flight Towards
Reality, he wrote of his belief in the existence of UFOs and speculated that
they might come from a psychic or spiritual world parallel to ours.
After his retirement from the RAF, Sir Victor spent twenty
years in research in psychology, psychical research, and healing. He died in
1987 at the age of 90.