Your Unkle Lancifer has never had much love for the television movie THE GHOST OF FLIGHT 401. It’s not a terrible movie, but it could never live up to the exaggerated expectations in my mind. You see, I remember the paperback book lying about in our house when I was young and its cover scared the living crap out of me. The image of the dead pilot, his eyes glowing white with imagined evil power seemed to fry itself into my skull and promise a demonic tale not unlike THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN. Based on the book’s cover my young mind conjured up a story of vengeful spirits that pounced on passengers and strangled stewardesses rather than an ambiguous apparition eyed in an appliance; ERNEST BORGNINE was the furthest thing from my mind.
Looking at that book cover again as an adult still brings me back to the horror taunting mind frame of my youth. With the author’s name in a tombstone font, the jet black ominous background and yes, of course, those horrible blank eyes, it reminds me of just how concrete and real the supernatural seemed to me back then. I recall imagining unknown forces around every corner waiting patiently for the slightest misstep on my part. In reality the tale of FLIGHT 401 is more eerie urban legend than outright horror tale. It’s popularity was probably due more to its implied promise of an afterlife in which the dead might return to issue warnings to the living as opposed to offering them glimpses of hell as in the equally ubiquitous seventies paperback THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.
Much as with the AMITYVILLE case there are many who still question the authenticity of THE GHOST OF FLIGHT 401, but it’s of little concern or comfort to me either way. In both cases it’s not really the details of the story itself or the question of its validity that terrified the young me. The truth is, both legends, regardless of how familiar I was with them at the time, had the power to ignite my unknown fears and let loose the dark beast of my imagination. What kept me up at night were the phantasms that they merely inspired but that I myself planted and sowed. Consequently, even now when a film or book fails to send those harder to come by shivers down my spine I am left asking is it the art of storytelling that has died or is it just a little piece of my imagination itself that is resting in pieces? THE GHOST OF FLIGHT 401 may have never existed at all, but something tells me that the entity that book cover’s illustration created within my mind still waits, biding its time…
Ugh, I always hated images where the eyes are blank white. Somehow they’re the worst of all! And I, too, find that with time it’s harder and harder for a movie or film to scare me the way I remember them getting to me when I was younger. Maybe it’s overexposure; maybe it’s the death of imagination. It makes me sad!
Isn’t it funny, the impression a book cover can leave on someone? I’m reading a yellowed paperback I bought at a used bookstore recently because the cover is just so creepy. Luckily, the book is turning out to be a good read! My entire book collection is probably based on the covers – minus Jackie Collins because I don’t care what the cover looks like, it’s going to be total candy inside!
There are two book covers that I have seen that have creeped me out as a child.Â One was for “Audrey Rose”.Â Those creepy eyes!Â The other one was for the early 70’s paperback eddition of “Sybil”.Â I don’t know, maybe it’s the black background in back of the split up face.Â Whatever the case, I found that pic hard to look at!Â In fact, to this day I haven’t seen either the mid 70’s TV version or the recent version cause of that uneasy feeling c/o that cover.Â Â I did see “Audrey Rose’.Â Not bad.Â “Sybil”?Â Not yet though I do have it WAY down the list in my Netflix list.