The Harrowing True Crime Story That Changed The Way We Travel

Have you ever wondered why some laws are established? History has proven that it only takes one person to change the way we handle things. 

9/11 was a catastrophic event that took place in America. We all watched as the planes hit the two towers in NYC. For months, that is all that anyone talked about. The aftermath affected everyone. Airport security became much higher, now having to take off our shoes and have our luggage thoroughly searched. You have to arrive hours before your flight to get through the gates. All because a terrorist group decided to end the lives of over three thousand people with our planes.

But have you ever looked at less publicized events that also altered our reality? 

It’s strange to think that until 1955, there were no laws in place making it illegal to bomb an airplane. It was unheard of until John Gilbert Graham did just that. 

John and his mother, Daisie, had an estranged relationship. He was born during the Great Depression, and due to that and the death of his father, Daisie had to make the tough choice to send Jack to an orphanage. 

After the death of Daisie’s third husband, she became a successful restaurant owner, which was started because of the large amount of money that he left behind. Despite this, she did not collect John from the orphanage. Until he was 22 years old, Graham did not have any type of relationship with his mother. Even after their reunion, things were not good between them. 

Mysteriously, there was a gas explosion at the restaurant and Jack was the main suspect in it. He was always looking for a way to get money. After the explosion, he received the property insurance, since he was the one who took out the policy. John had an extensive history for embezzlement and check forgery. He was even suspected of intentionally driving his pickup truck on train tracks to be struck to collect the insurance. 

Shortly after, Daisie was going to Alaska to see his sister and boarded Flight 629. He took out insurance policies from a vending machine right before her plane took off, as they were sold in airports at the time. The total worth was 37,500 dollars, which is 360,000 in today’s money. 

He was insistent on bringing his mother to the airport. Little did she know that John placed a bomb in her luggage. Most of us cannot fathom living in a world where the TSA didn’t check our belongings, but this was the case until 1988, after the Lockerbie bombing, a full 30 years after this incident.

The bomb went off after the connecting flight out of Colorado’s Stapleton Airfied (the flight started in LaGuardia Airport in NYC) took off, the wreckage falling over farmland and sugar beets near Longmont, Colorado. All 44 people, including the pilot, perished. 

John was their first suspect after his criminal history of fraud came to light. The police searched his home and found evidence that supported the theory of him making and planting the bomb. He confessed to the bombing and was promptly arrested. 

Since the law at that time did not have a statute for bombing a plane, John could not be legally charged with 44 counts of murder or the bombing. What he was charged with was one murder: his mother. At his trial, he showed no remorse. He was quoted as saying “I [sic] realized that there were about 50 or 60 people carried on a DC6, but the number of people to be killed made no difference to me; it could have been a thousand. When their time comes, there is nothing they can do about it.” 

John Gilbert Graham was put to death by the gas chamber on January 11th, 1957.