Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

The darkness on the moors late at night is like ink. Distant orange glows may softly illuminate the horizon, but within the hills and deep dark valleys, away from the towns with their lights and sounds, the stillness and murk takes over.

And it is quiet. It may be interrupted by the call of a grouse from time to time, but the remote, high moorland late at night is a quiet, still, isolated place to be.

Which is why in early 1997 the explosion heard by thousands of people from up on the remote, silent Howden Moors was totally, completely unexpected.

And it wasn’t just locals fearing that something had happened – across the area emergency calls were made; a low flying aircraft had gone down on the moors… smoke was seen rising in the hills.. Something was ablaze in the heather…

Soon emergency services were racing to the dark hills joined by the volunteers from mountain rescue. Local hospitals were put on high alert. They searched through the night and found…nothing.

No wreckage. No fire. No aircraft.

Nothing.

Yet people had seen something.

Stories vary. A light aircraft crashing. An aircraft going down. An aircraft pursued by jets. An unidentified object pursued by military jets across the moorland.

But none of those stories has any evidence to support them. All are nothing. All are ghosts.

Yet people still believe they saw something. Was it a cover up? Or was it something else above the moors around Cut Gate? Today, nearly a quarter of a century on, there are still no answers. The MOD knows something happened up there…the locals know something happened up there….but nobody knows what….

So when you’re riding Cut Gate late night and you catch something passing over you out of the corner of your eye, maybe ask the question… “what was that?”…because maybe, just maybe, you caught a glimpse of one of the ghost planes of the Peak District.

Happy Halloween.

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