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  • Writer's pictureAeryn Avilla

That Time People Thought Launch Complex 34 was Haunted

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

On January 27, 1967, the crew of Apollo 1— Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee— were killed when a fire erupted in their capsule during a test on the launch pad. This site, Launch Complex-34, was deactivated in 1969 and mothballed in 1971 after technicians and launch controllers became superstitious and slightly paranoid that a disaster was bound to happen again, despite the successful launch of Apollo 7 in October 1968. The ghostly words "Abandon In Place" were sprayed onto one of its sides and the place has been deserted ever since. More than fifty years later, the launch complex has become more of a tourist attraction: The Kennedy Space Center, through a partnership with the US Air Force, sends a small tour group out to the pad almost every day. Though physically it resembles every other eroding launch complex out there, it is the only one I know of with reports of paranormal activity.

Some tourists and USAF/NASA employees alike have reported hearing human screams near the remains of the pad, most likely matching the crewmen's screams during the handful of seconds the fire and smoke took to kill them (audio of this exists and is quite easy to find but I have never listened to it and never will). There have also been sightings of the ghosts of Apollo 1's three astronauts, particularly Grissom. Others have reported being overcome by intense feelings of sadness, fear, and dread. Legend has it some of these reports were so bad that KSC temporarily cancelled tours out to the site.

However, I have visited this site multiple times over the years and can tell you exactly what it is like there. I have never heard any screams nor have I seen any ghosts. The remains of the pad are warm from the sun rather than cool to the touch, as is commonly associated with the presence of spirits. I think I would remember seeing Gus Grissom wandering around an abandoned launch complex. The only one of my personal experiences that even comes close to all of this is the feeling of sadness, but it comes with knowing that some of my biggest heroes died right there.

The remains of LC-34 with LC-37 visible in the background. After nearly fifty years, "Abandon In Place" has somewhat faded away yet still reminds us all of the tragedy that occurred that January evening.

(image source: Aeryn Avilla)

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