"Death Out Of Darkness" is a public safety documentary about the deadly tornadoes of the 11-April-1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, which affected portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The film primarily focuses on the devastation across Northern and Central Indiana. Produced in 1966 by the Indiana State Police and WISH-TV in Indianapolis, narrated by Lt. Dave Levendoski. Video from visualarchivist on YouTube. There were 47 tornadoes in less than 12 hours. This was the 3rd deadliest tornado swarm in U.S. history. See Also: Ted Fujita


Below are personal recounts of the event. They have been submitted to us by our readers. If you would like to submit your story or photos please click the link in the upper right side of this blog.

Double Funneled Monster

Submitted by Bill Smee

I grew up in the Northern Indiana town of Elkhart. Like most of my contemporaries, I had heard all the horror stories about tornadoes, but had never taken them seriously, because thus far they had all amounted to nothing. That all changed on April 11, 1965, when I was fourteen. I was on the can at the time--naturally--but not for long, for as soon as the old man yelled “Get yer pants up and get in the basement!”, I knew what was going on. I could scarcely believe it was finally happening after all those false alarms, but I guess the drills at school had prepared me on some unconscious level at least, because within seconds I was stumbling down the stairs, trying to hold up my britches with one hand, fumbling for the various doors with the other. Even our dog must have been spooked: he was already downstairs.

So I got into the southwest corner, just like I was supposed to, and cowered there with the folks and the pooch, while outside the wind howled like a freight train was running directly over our heads. That's not just a hackneyed phrase; that is indeed the best way to describe the sound. Curiosity got the better of me, then. Having heard about twisters for all my life, there was now actually one to be seen; thus, I had to peek out the little window. There were dust and pebbles and tree limbs blowing all over the place, but while the vision was poor, there was no mistaking what I saw to the south: a dark, swirling, double-funneled monster marching across the fields, unstoppable, and more terrifying to me than any creature depicted in horror flicks up to then, or since. Even a couple miles off, it loomed and threatened; if there's a hell, then this must be its roaring black arch-demon. I was never so afraid in my life; even a tour of duty in Vietnam didn't fill me with as much terror as Nature did that day, when she lashed out mindlessly at us insects.

Later, I was to learn of the deaths and devastation. I even volunteered to help with some of the clean-up, so I got a fairly good look at damage done around the area. I recall thinking, this must be what it would look like after an atomic war. It shook me to my bones. The world would never be a stable, safe place again.

I've since moved to Western Oregon, where what few tornadoes do occur are so weak and transient that they're little more than a curiosity. Still, when I hear of a funnel cloud being sighted somewhere in the Willamette Valley, I feel a twist in my gut--yet also feel disinclined to visit the “little room”. That's where it all began, you know.

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