Ghostly Passengers Board the Spirit of St. Louis

ImageIn 1927, twenty-five year old Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. He recounted his thirty-two hours piloting  The Spirit of St. Louis in his 1953 autobiography.

“While I’m staring at the instruments, during an unearthly age of time, both conscious and asleep, the fuselage behind me becomes filled with ghostly presences– vaguely outlined forms, transparent, moving, riding weightless with me in the plane. I feel no surprise at their coming. There’s no suddenness to their appearance. Without turning my head, I see them as clearly as though in my normal field of vision. There’s no limit to my sight– my skull is one great eye, seeing everywhere at once.

These phantoms speak with human voices–friendly, vapor-like shapes, without substance, able to vanish  or appear at will, to pass in and out through the walls of the fuselage as though no walls were there. Now, many are crowded behind me. Now, only a few remain. First one and then another presses forward to my shoulder to speak above the engine’s noise, and then draws back among the group behind. At times, voices come out of the air itself, clear yet far away, traveling through distances that can’t be measured by the scale of human miles; familiar voices, conversing and advising me on my flight, discussing problems of my navigation, reassuring me, giving me messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life.

Apprehension spreads over time and space until their old meanings disappear. I’m not conscious of time’s direction. Figures of miles from New York and miles to Paris lose their interest. All sense of substance leaves. There’s no longer weight to my body, no longer hardness to the stick. The feeling of flesh is gone. I become independent of physical laws– of food, of shelter, of life. I’m almost one with these vaporlike forms behind me, less tangible than air, universal as aether. I’m still attached to life; they, not at all; but at any moment some thin band may snap and there’ll be no difference between us.”

The Spirit of St. Louis, Charles A. Lindbergh, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953

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