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In the Valley of Shadows

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What were those balls of light fighters saw in World War II? What were those balls of light fighters saw in World War II?

The decade after - with foo fighters

The accounts I was originally asked to write for the River Journal were chapters from a book of local and area ghost stories, each column being a chapter from that collection. However, over the last year, family remembrances and stories told to me by friends and co-workers have led me to expand from this original subject matter as related in the first half-dozen Valley of Shadows and its former subtitle: Local ghost stories by ‘Me.’ I’m surprised that Trish has not acquiesced and added the amended subtitle: Local stories of ghosts and unusual phenomenon.

Well, this month, next, and likely most of the rest of the year I will delve back into the world of phantoms.

With this in mind, the decade after the Second World War was a brief time of healing and recovery, the Marshall Plan being the centerpiece of this endeavor.

Similar, though smaller, programs were started to help Japan. One such healing effort took place in the early ‘50s, when a group of women who suffered scarring from nuclear blasts, called the Hiroshima maidens, were brought to this country in an effort to improve their appearances with plastic surgery.

Underlying this era were accounts, reports and stories of unusual happenings, sightings and otherwise weird tales that only occasionally made their way into the mainstream media of the time.

Worldwide, these included not only ghostly encounters, the first of which actually began before the end of the war. Suspected then of being last-minute Nazi secret devices, Foo Fighters were increasingly reported by World War II pilots. This is not the current rock and roll band, but small red and orange balls that would zip and fly around our bombers. No evidence was found to indicate they were German. (Ed. note: after the war it was learned that German pilots also reported similar sightings; ironically, the Germans feared they might be an Allied secret weapon.)

Some thought they  might be the souls of the fallen, but the most common theory was that these were the forerunner of the UFO phenomenon.

A few years later came reports of “Ghost Rockets” over the Norwegian Sea, between and over Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. Many thought they were the first test rockets built with the help of captured German scientists.

There was and reportedly still is a Bermuda Triangle-like area off the coast of Japan which the entertainer and pilot Arthur Godfrey got caught up in. In this country, the infamous tale of a crashed saucer(s) happened in 1947, near Roswell, New Mexico.

Locally, this area experienced happenings that were told to me by a few older neighbors in the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

While unusual aerial displays have occasionally happened here, for the most part the accounts were of ghosts or poltergeists.

With all the deaths, most of which were of a horrendous nature that took place during the war, some psychic residue would remain and even unlock areas of reality which only a select few are even remotely aware of.

One neighbor, whose yard I mowed in my mid-teens, told me over lemonade and cookies (yes, more innocent times) of 20 years earlier, when she received phone calls from no one. The phone would ring at odd hours until, when tiring of it, she and her husband would leave the receiver off the hook. (You couldn’t easily disconnect the line or turn the ringer off in those days.)

While only once did she think she heard a distant, wispy voice in the background, what they would usually hear would be a rushing sound, such as the wind blowing. Or sometimes a pinging, neither of which would respond to their requests for who it was on the other end.

A second neighbor related that several times when he went out to the Farragut area to camp, hunt or visit a friend, he would hear in his tent at night the sound of ‘40s music wafting through the trees, reminding him of USO dances during the war.

In another account, a driver winding his way along U.S. 2 to Priest River one gloomy day in the late 40s, said that as he came around the then-35 mph curve to the right just a mile this side of Laclede, he was confronted by what appeared to be a large, army troop truck sitting across the road only feet in front of him. So amazed, he was unable to even jam on the brakes even if he had had time. When nothing happened, he narrowed his eyes, looked back and saw... nothing. He was alone on the narrow highway, no other vehicle in sight.

Finally, a downtown cafe, long since out of business, on the nights when a waitress would be closing up. She would put the chairs on the tables after the last customer left, but would find them all upright on the floor the next morning. This is a precursor to an upcoming column which may indicate this poltergeist is still around.


Next month: The Scarecrow of Sagle


Got your own ghostly tales of this area? We’d love to hear ‘em! Email them to editorial(at)riverjournal.com.

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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