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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Category Archives: Unbelievable

Man Sucked into Jet Engine

On May 14, 1956 Airman Third Class Fred E. Higinbotham was working with his fellow Air Force crew to refuel an F-86F Sabre jet on the island of Okinawa in Japan. Their goal was to move quickly and get the jet back in the air as soon as possible.

Higinbotham’s job was to secure a static line cable onto the nose gear of the plane as soon as it stopped. This line prevented the buildup of static electricity which could produce sparks and potentially ignite the fumes produced during the refueling process.

The Air Force had strict rules in place that prohibited anyone from getting too close to the intake duct of the fighter’s jet engine. Since this was their last servicing job for the day, the crew was anxious to get the job done.

As part of the post-flight procedure, the pilot advanced the throttle to 65% power, which he was supposed to do for a period of two minutes before shutting the engine down. Just as this was happening, Higinbotham felt the tug of the jet’s intake on his back, but continued to hold on to the static cable. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he had gotten too close to the engine’s intake.

Suddenly, his hat was pulled off of his head and Higginbotham instinctively turned around to grab it. The next thing you know, he was flying through the air and was sucked right into the jet engine. One would have expected Higginbotham to have been torn to shreds by the blades of the engine, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, he was stopped by the engine’s power take-off case cover, which projected outward from the blades in a cone shape. He used all his might to keep away from the whirling blades, which were just 6” (15 cm) from his head.

About thirty seconds after the pilot advanced the throttle, he felt a bump in the engine’s operation. He also spotted a mechanic frantically waving a rag in the air to get his attention. That worked. The pilot immediately cut power to the engine and the rotors began to slow down.

Just as Higginbotham started to back out of the engine, someone grabbed his legs and pulled him out of the engine completely. Amazingly, he still had the static cable in his hands, although it was wrapped twice around both his waist and legs. Later investigation determined that the cable had become fully extended when Higginbotham was sucked into the engine and that most likely saved his life.

Higginbotham’s injuries were minor: he had some cable burns and minor abrasions, but that’s it. He was released from the hospital and was back on the job the very next day.

Fred Higinbotham was sucked into a jet engine and survived.
Image of Fred Higinbotham from the February 3, 1957 publication of the Sunday magazine American Weekly on page 15.
 

Where There’s a Wilby, There’s a Way

Between 1942 and 1943 Ralph Marshall Wilby appeared to pull off what appeared to be the perfect crime. An incredible story which has many of the elements of an international thriller: deception, false identities, international kidnapping, and the drop dead gorgeous woman who brought his capture.

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A Miracle Birth in Mexico

On March 5, 2000, Ines Ramirez Perez went into labor but was unable to get any medical care to help with the delivery. In a panic, Ines concluded that she had no other option than to deliver the baby herself. She used an ordinary kitchen knife to perform a cesarean on herself. Find out what happened afterward and stories of other self-cesareans.

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Unfit to Teach

In the past, teachers could be fired some of the craziest reasons such as wearing turtleneck sweaters, pantsuits, not going to church, or smoking a cigarette at home. Check out this story to learn about one of the more unusual ways a teacher could be denied a teaching license.

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That’s the Ticket

Back in 1955, Evert Stenmark was out hunting alone for ptarmigan when he became buried by an avalanche.  Day after day he remained trapped under the snow.  Learn how he survived and the one thing that he had in his wallet that probably saved his life.

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The Great Venus Swindle

In 1953 Harold Jesse Berney, head of a Washington, DC television antenna manufacturing operation, was chosen by the US government to be its main contact with Uccelles, a prince visiting our planet from Venus.  If that sounds a bit bizarre, check out this story to learn about one of the most fantastic swindles ever conceived.

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William Cimillo – Busman’s Holiday

Every day for sixteen years, bus driver William Cimillo drove his passenger bus out of its garage in the Bronx.  One morning he decided to make a left turn off of his usual route and ended up taking a ride that he would never forget.

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Operation Bodysnatch

At the end of World War II, the United States was faced with the task of reburying four bodies of former German nobility. Three members of the Monuments Men were assigned this task and ran into obstacle after obstacle.

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