Real Name: West End Baptist Church
Case: Unexplained Phenomenon
Location: Beatrice, Nebraska
Date: March 1, 1950
Details: Between 1920 and 1950, Martha Paul was the stern choir director at West End Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska. She demanded punctuality in her choir members; they all had to be at the church at 7:25pm for practice. In the past, they had arrived on time with very few exceptions.
However, on the night of March 1, 1950, they were all delayed for various reasons as they readied to leave for practice.
- Marilyn Ruth Klempl, the pastor's daughter, spilled food on her dress and her mother needed to iron a new one.
- Herbert Kipf was trying to get a letter in the mail on time. He planned to be a few minutes late, deciding that he could drop it off on the way.
- Lucille Jones was too busy listening to a radio program and was late along with Dorothy Wood, whom she was supposed to pick up.
- Royena Estes and her sister, Sadie, were late because their car wouldn't start.
- Joyce Black, who lived across the street from the church, was ready but too tired to get up.
- LaDonna Vandergrift was having trouble with a geometry problem.
- Mrs. Leonard Schuster would've ordinarily arrived at 7:20 with her daughter, Susan. But on this particular evening, she had to go to her mother's house to help her get ready for a missionary meeting.
- Because his wife was away, Harvey Ahl was taking care of his two sons. He was going to take them to practice with him but somehow he got wound up talking. When he looked at his watch, he saw that he was already late.
- Marilyn Paul, the pianist, had planned to arrive half an hour early. However, she fell asleep after dinner, and when her mother awakened her at 7:15, she only had time to tidy up and start out.
- Martha Paul, the choir director and Marilyn's mother, was simply late because Marilyn was. She had tried unsuccessfully to awaken her earlier.
At 4:30pm, the pastor, Walter Klempl, turned on the heat to warm the church and departed. Instead, it filled with gas and exploded at 7:27pm, two minutes after practice was supposed to begin. However, since none of the members had arrived, not a single one was harmed in the explosion in what was deemed an incredible coincidence or an extreme miracle.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 3, 1990 episode. It was also featured on Urban Legends and was the basis for a "Fact" segment on Beyond Belief.
For the footage of the explosion, the producers chose a church in Unadilla, Nebraska that was slated for demolition and planned to blow it up. They flew a special effects expert to the site and surrounded the church with five cameras framed by plywood boxes that would protect the gear and the cameramen.
"We were supposed to cave in the roof, and we framed [the shot] slightly above the roof." Rosenfeld, who directed the segment, recalled. "[The special effects guy] blew it up way bigger than we expected. A fireball went into the air, probably a quarter mile. We were all scared."
The explosion used ninety-five sticks of dynamite and three 10-gallon tubs of gasoline with debris raining down for twenty minutes. Shrapnel also speared the plywood boxes around the cameras and their operators.
Results: Unsolved. Of the people involved in this case, Harvey Ahl and Herbert Kipf passed away in 1997.
- Big blast wrecks church
- Gas is blamed for church explosion
- Remember the miracle - Church explosion 60 years ago not forgotten
- 10 Unlikely Events That Actually Happened
- Church explosion spares choir - Snopes.com
- Harvey Ahl on Find a Grave