For many years, The North East Aircraft Museum has been simply called ‘NEAM’, including its appearances on TV’s Most Haunted. However, it is now known as NELSAM (North East Land, Sea and Aircraft Museum).
My first ever ghost hunt here in January 2010. I had just started my own radio show, and this was the first location that got back to us to say we could do a live ghost hunt in there.
Planes have landed on this site since 1916, but it was during WWII that facilities at RAF Usworth were upgraded, and it saw plenty of action. After the war, it was well maintained until the site was bought by Sunderland Corporation for £27,000 and turned into Sunderland Airport in 1962. It served as a small airport until it closed on the 31st May 1984, when the land was sold to Nissan, who planned to built a car factory on the location of the runways. As of 2019, Nissan is still the largest employer in the area, with over 7,000 workers working there.
The Callender-Hamilton hangar and the old camp area from the old RAF Usworth site now form part of NEAM, and it houses many aircraft.
What about the ghosts of this site? In my research, I have found 15 plane crashes occurred either at RAF Usworth, or were flying from ot to Usworth.There have been many fatalities in the area. One is said to be a Canadian man called George Hamilton who died here. One source claims he died falling from the top of a hangar after he had been sunbathing there, another claims he died in an accident. A guard at the RAF base he was locking up the Lamella hangar when he saw a WWII airman “hovering about a foot above the ground”. Guard dogs would refuse to go anywhere near the same hangar at night.
Members of the Flying Club were based in this hangar, and they are said to have witnessed the ghost several times. One time, an instructor called Steve was working late one night on a plane, when a man in WWII RAF clothes walked up to him. He did not speak, but gave a thumbs up, and vanished into thin air.
One man who worked at the Nissan car plant, which is built on the site, claims to have seen the ghost of an airman on 3 different occasions. He claimed one one occasion, he and several colleagues also saw the same man, who had a mustache and an RAF uniform on.
The aircraft museum is also very much said to be haunted. A pilot called Sgt. Shaw is said to haunt the museum after a Spitfire was recovered and stored inside one of its collections. He is to blame for footsteps heard in the museum and canteen area at night. His boots are kept in a storage cupboard containing other parts of wreckage, and he is believed to be looking for them. Others claim to have seen a pair of black trousers walking from beneath the planes. When they go to see who is there, they find that they are the only ones in the area. Historical research by Dead Air’s historian Georgia has found that a Edgar Grenville Shaw aged 21, was in fact stationed here, and died in a crash close to Wingate, in the area around White Hurworth farm.
There is the story of a man and a woman who haunt the area where a medical facility once stood. It is believed they met and had an affair together, and one night they were both killed in a car crash. Strange flashes of light, the sounds of talking and cold spots are often experienced here.
The sounds of ‘click click click’ are blamed on a ghost called Frank who required the use of a walking stick to get around after his leg was badly injured in action.
The ghost of a Czech spy called Augustine Preucil has been picked up by mediums around the site on many occasions, and he is believed to be the same dark shadow that people witness walking between buildings and peeping out from around corners in the dark shadows. He was based here during the war, but has sympathies towards the Nazis, who had invaded his home country prior. He managed to infiltrate the RAF and gained many secrets in doing so. One day, on a dog chase practice mission over the North Sea, Augustine sent his plane into a downward spiral, leading other pilots to believe he was a goner. He had really managed to bring the plane back up and flew it to Belgium where he landed it. An elderly couple working for the resistance took him in, but he soon fled and reported them to the German army, who killed them. After the war, he was hanged by his own country for spying.
Another area of interest is a former Westland Whirlwind XN258 search and rescue helicopter. It has been involved in a number of rescue missions around the world since the 1950s, but most notably, it was involved in a rescue mission in the 1960s when a boat race hit bad weather. A number of people died onboard the vessel that day. Volunteers at the museum feel uneasy around this aircraft, and it is often said to rock from side to side on its own. Photographs have also captured strange lights inside.
You get the idea – this place has many stories. Children have apparently had full conversations with WWII pilots inside the hangars, and when they’ve told their parents, it has been apparent that there was nobody else inside. Workers at Nissan still blame ‘the ghost’ whenever something goes wrong or there is a malfunction. This place is active. On my first visit here in 2010, I saw a small stone land at my feet while I was alone in one of the hangars, and one of the NEAM volunteers claimed he saw a shadow walking across a grassy area at the back of the site.
Visit The North East Aircraft Museum