spooky1Ever have one of those “Alfred Hitchcock moments” where everything seemed totally normal and then turned weird? Such a moment happened to me when flying to Phoenix, Arizona a few years ago. Recently, I flew out there once again, and it caused me to remember that earlier trip.



That strange flight began on the Thursday of Halloween weekend, and I intended to fly back on Monday. Fast trip to see the grandchildren and their costumes and then head home because I was still teaching at the college level. Perfectly normal. Nothing unusual … nothing, that is, until I boarded that plane.

Yes, this is a true story. Honest. I wouldn’t dissemble.

spooky2After sitting down and buckling my seat belt, I settled back to read a book during the flight. But first I looked around at the other passengers. In front of me was a teenager reading Great Expectations, probably for his high school English class.  To my right, and over two seats, was a nun dressed in a modern habit. This, of course, was a good sign. Surely God would not let a plane with a nun for a passenger go down over Nebraska. A young family was two rows up on the right, the father talking quietly to his little girl. Just in front of them was a lady about my age reading a magazine. It was orderly and quiet, the bags stowed away, and everyone was anticipating take-off.

The captain’s voice filled the cabin, announcing our time of arrival at the Phoenix/Mesa airport, and then we felt the plane begin to slowly move forward to the gate. Just as we reached our point of turning to take off, someone in the back shouted, “A woman back here has fainted!” I saw the stewardess say something quickly into a hand-held walkie-talkie, evidently to the pilot, and then two of the stewardesses ran to the back. One came forward again, spoke to the captain, and then his voice came over the loudspeaker once again. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have to go back because we have to allow a passenger to leave the plane. Then we’ll add some fuel and be on our way.”

No problem. They moved the passenger off the plane, refueled, and we were on our way.

spooky3Now what, you may ask, is Alfred Hitchcockian about that? Simple. Normal. Not a big deal. And, it wasn’t, until the following Tuesday when I boarded another plane to go back to Illinois.


Same smiling stewardesses, same captain, same flight crew altogether. I sat down in the same seat I had sat in on the way to Arizona, settled in, found my book to read, and looked around. That is when I felt like I was on the Hitchcock hour I used to watch on television when I was growing up.

In front of me was the same teenager reading Great Expectations. He hadn’t made much progress.  To my right, and over two seats, was the same nun. The same young family was two rows up, the father talking to his daughter. Just in front of them was the same lady, once again reading a magazine. “Whoa,” I thought to myself. “This is just too weird.”

And it would become more so.

The captain readied all for take-off and we taxied out to the runway gate. Then, suddenly, a voice from the back of the cabin shouted, “Hey, there’s a lady back here who is sick!”




All the stewardesses ran back once again and checked. Sure enough, we had to coast back to the beginning of the trip, refuel, and take the passenger off the plane. We were idling in the same spot for some time.

Honest … I kid you not.

Then, the little girl, two seats up with her family, shouted loud and clear in an excited voice, “Are we there, Daddy?” Everyone laughed and the spell was broken.

This year I planned my Arizona trip a week before Halloween. Now you know why.