Odd and Eerie RAF Woodbridge

Ghost chasers were locals who would appear at one of the two gates and, quite seriously, ask if we’d seen any spooks, specters, or other unworldly phenomena.

The strangest place I’ve ever lived, by no insubstantial margin, was RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk County, England. The dimensions of its peculiarity were many. For one it was the site of one of the most famous alleged UFO sightings in the world. In fact, those who supposedly saw the anomalous lights in the Rendlesham Forest were, like me, Law Enforcement Specialists posted to the United States Air Force base located there. That event occurred eight years before I was stationed there, and it took place right outside the base in dense evergreen woods. It has been suggested that the incident was nothing more than a prank performed by a patrolman running his patrol car’s light bar. This is certainly believable to me as it is just the kind of jocularity that we engaged in to pass long nights on a tiny airbase that went to sleep by 20:00 hours nightly. Furthermore, the night fog made an interesting canvas upon which light could dance about and play its tricks. I once saw a strange light myself; it was nowhere near the East Gate where the UFO had allegedly been seen in 1980. Rather, it was to the north of the main drag through the base.

When I reported it to the desk, after a time, I was told it was a shopping center opening or something of that mundane, entirely believable sort - or at least more believable than that an interstellar intelligence picked that quiet patch of countryside to acquaint themselves with humanity.

Another part of Woodbridge’s curious feel resulted from its abundance of ghost stories and the occasional visits from ghost chasers. Ghost chasers were locals who would appear at one of the two gates and, quite seriously, ask if we’d seen any spooks, specters, or other unworldly phenomena. One person I knew claimed to have seen a person walk right across the flight-line road in front of his patrol car only to vanish into thin air between the road and the eight-foot-tall chain-link fence topped with angled barbed-wire that enclosed an area of hardened aircraft shelters housing A-10 Warthogs. Maybe he was yanking my chain. I was still recovering from a hard fall off the turnip truck in those days.

The most famous of the ghosts of local lore was “East End Charlie.” Woodbridge had a huge runway for a base of its size. It had been built that way during World War II so they could crash land the damaged planes that sputtered back across the Channel in a place that would cause minimal disruption to flight operations. I don’t know what the death toll was at Woodbridge during the war years, but one could easily imagine that at least a few airmen experienced horrific, untimely deaths in bombers that belly landed with torn-up landing gear scraping and screeching to a stop. A rumor circulated that a female-enlisted airman working the East Gate had been disciplined years before for leaving her post in panic when a man in a leather bomber jacket asked her for a light and then vanished into thin air all in the time it took her to turn briefly to accommodate his request.

I once saw, at a great distance and in an area in which no one else should have been, what looked like a person holding a flashlight. There were tales of a wraith much less famous than East End Charlie who went by the name “Flashlight Freddie.” I suspect what I actually saw was a light at a greater distance than it appeared next to some random shape that my brain interpreted as being human silhouette-like, but I observed it on the creepiest of posts: the Non-Nuclear Munitions Storage Area (usually shortened to Nimsa). The Nimsa was creepy because, when posted there, a person was essentially locked into an area of several acres all alone. It was just you and the spectral, layered fog. If there weren’t enough patrol vehicles or trucks to go around, this post became a walking patrol. There was always the possibility that there was someone skulking around and, by the time I got to the beam from which the light seemed to originate, they had slipped away. The local anti-nuke groups operated on woefully outdated information. They had learned that there were (at one time) tactical nuclear weapons stored at the base. The truth, which they refused to believe, was that any tactical nuclear weapons had been gone years or, perhaps, decades by the time I got there. The once doubled-fenced secure area within the larger double-fenced Nimsa (making, if you are counting, a quadruple fenced security zone) had long since been opened up. Holes had been cut in the fence and the internal gates had been permanently removed making it no more secure than any other part of the Nimsa. This did not stop anti-nuclear protestors from trying and, perhaps, occasionally succeeding in breaking in for short periods of time. They were never present, that I heard of, long enough that they could have gotten through the massive slabs of hardened steel lock, the steel doors, or the walls of steel-reinforced concrete. At any rate, by the time I was there the row of once high security storage units contained mostly 30 millimeter ammunition for A-10s as well as shotgun shells and other small-arms ammunition for the Para-Rescue unit assigned to the base.

What was it that made this place so odd and eerie? The northern latitude translated into infinitesimally short winter days. Its climate and proximity to the sea made for almost palpable fog that often hung in striated layers. It was so quiet as to inspire imaginations to combat tedium. There were also endogenous explanations; it was my first experience living in a foreign country. All these made for a perfect storm of the odd.


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