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New Facts Concerning Goddard Squadron Photo

Jul. 31, 2015 by | Comments (9)
This post continues Blake’s exploration of the “Goddard’s Squadron Ghost” photo. Read his first post on the topic, “Should Goddard’s Squadron Drop Dead Fred?” (published February 2, 2015).
Photo of squadron allegedly including the ghost of Freddy Jackson.

Squadron photo allegedly showing the ghost of Freddy Jackson.

I’m no scientist. I sometimes wish I were, but at the end of the day I’m merely an enthusiast who tries to use scientific methodology in my daily life whenever it is appropriate to do so. One aspect of science which I am keenly aware of is that it is self-correcting. When evidence appears which is contrary to the hypothesis one is testing, science demands that the new evidence be accounted for and that if the evidence is sound, the hypothesis must be amended or discarded.

A few months ago I shared my research on the Freddie Jackson “ghost” photo (aka Goddard’s Squadron Ghost). I have been looking into the history of this photo for some time, and with the databases I was using to search for the existence of Freddie Jackson, I did not find evidence that such a person existed. But, to my delight, a reader of that article reached out to me and he had found the very proof I had been looking for. So, to answer my own question on the matter, should we drop dead Fred? Apparently, the answer is “no.” There really was a Freddie Jackson in the RAF whose personal details parallel elements of the Goddard/Capel story.

Frederick George Jackson death record

Death record for one Frederick George Jackson. (Click to enlarge.)

Here is a detail of his death record. Registry number 591269 records the death of a George Frederick Jackson, who had worked in the R.A.F. Aeroplane Repair Section. He died on April 13, 1918 at the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. When I first got this information I was curious about why the date didn’t come close to the Armistice Day (end of WWI) date that was part of Bobbie Capel and Goddard’s version of the story.

The RAF took over Lee on Solent in April of 1918. Could it be that Goddard and Capel were misremembering and that the photo was actually taken when the RAF took over in April? Perhaps this explains the variety of uniforms present—perhaps by November when the war ended the RAF uniforms would have been more unified? Here is a reminder of what Goddard said of it in the early 1970s.

Well, there he was, and no mistake, although a little fainter than the rest. Indeed he looked as though he was not altogether there; not really with the group, for he alone was capless, smiling, all the rest were serious and set and wearing service caps. Most had not long returned from Church Parade and marching in a military funeral. For Freddy Jackson had, upon that very spot—the Squadron tarmac—three days before, walked heedlessly into the whirling propeller of an aeroplane. He had been killed stone dead instantly. He, evidently, was still quite unaware of it.
— Sir Victor Goddard

So Goddard remembered that Jackson had died instantly there on the tarmac, but the death record indicates Jackson died at the hospital—in Sheffield. Geographically observant readers may already be muttering the other salient observation here: that it is a distance of over 225 miles from the base where the photo was taken to the hospital where Jackson died. He couldn’t have died simultaneously in two places so far apart.

Both Goddard and Capel recollected that Jackson died right before the squadron photo. Goddard stated that he died right where the photo was taken. Jackson was in the RAF and perhaps is the very man that Bobbie Capel knew, but the facts uncovered here seem to propel her story further into doubt.

I suspect this ghost-photo story has still got wings, and I’ll update with further developments.

Special thanks to Geoffry Way for passing on his own research into Sir Goddard’s squadron to me and providing this useful update.
Blake Smith

Blake Smith is the producer and host of MonsterTalk, an official podcast of Skeptic magazine. He’s had a lifelong interest in science and the paranormal and enjoys researching the strange and unusual. By day he’s a computer consultant and by night he hunts monsters. He is married and has children. Puns are intentional; don’t bother alerting the management. Read Blake’s other posts on this blog.

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