"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.

Grandparents Car Flipped Over

Submitted by Don Weaver

Photo Credit South Bend Tribune
I was 5 years old but remember the evening quite clearly. I grew up on Southdale Dr. about a mile west of the Pierre Moran Mall. We were making plans to leave for evening services at Goshen College Mennonite Church, and I remember the sky being a very weird green as the thunderstorms rolled in. Mom had been watching TV and does not remember seeing any watches or warnings prior to leaving.

Just before we left home, a number of cornstalks dropped into the field behind our house and into our yard. I remember dad saying something about some pretty strong storms or maybe a tornado causing that sort of thing – the nearest harvested cornfield was a few miles away. We optimistically left for Goshen anyway; this was Palm Sunday for goodness sake and a little thunderstorm wouldn’t stop us from attending evening services. It turns out the tornado that destroyed the Dunlap trailer park (the double funnel one) had just gone by south of us but was too far away to be visible.

We drove east on Mishawaka Rd (CR-20) toward US-33 in high winds and occasional heavy rain. Just as we came to the curve at Concord High School an officer that had passed us in a squad car westbound only moments before turned on his lights and siren and came whipping back around us (I remember watching him turn around quickly through the back window) and stopped the Mishawaka and US-33 southbound traffic at the corner where they meet. As I remember it, we were the first or second car stopped as we pulled up to the intersection. The officer explained that a tornado had gone through US-33 between Dunlap and Goshen and the road was temporarily closed. We had no idea how bad it had been, so after a few minutes of waiting dad decided to see if we could find a route to Goshen through the country south of Dunlap.

We backtracked to CR-9 and headed south, only to find downed wires and debris across every county road. I don’t remember seeing any homes destroyed; I think we would have stopped had we seen a need to help someone. We just found downed poles, trees and wires (I remember dad contemplating squeezing the Volkswagen under a downed telephone pole and giving up on the idea after pulling up to it) and eventually backtracked to Hively and went east again to see if there was a way across to Goshen north of US-33. Dad really wanted to get to church, but by now we’d poked around for well over half an hour and were running late. We couldn’t get through on CR-115 north of US-33 and headed back west toward home on Hively. We were at the corner of Hively and South Main Street (US-33) when dad spotted the second tornado - the big one that went through Sunnyside just north of Dunlap.

I remember him trying to point it out to mom, my sister and I while we headed up US-33 toward downtown Elkhart as fast as we could to get away from it, saying “it’s right there” – it must have been a bit more obvious to an adult. All I remember is that by then it was pretty dark and I couldn’t identify the funnel. I just remember a lot of lightning and rain.

At that very same time my uncle (Roger Troyer) and aunt were driving to their home in Dunlap on US-33 and saw the tornado approaching. They stopped at a house and ran in the front door (no waiting for anyone to answer a doorbell!), yelling that a tornado was coming and went to the basement. I don’t believe that particular house was damaged, but they were pretty close to it.

We worked our way back home from downtown and mom, sis and I spent most of the night in a neighbor’s basement. Dad went back out to Sunnyside to help rescue efforts for a couple hours. He said they weren’t able to do much at that time in the dark without equipment.

I don’t think we learned until the next morning that my grandparents were in the hospital in Lagrange, their car having been flipped near Shipshewana’s Shore Mennonite Church by the same tornado that we saw at Sunnyside. My Grandpa remembered seeing telephone poles popping out of the ground in the rearview mirror just before the car went airborne, and my Grandma remembered a pole falling in front of the car – but the car went over it. Grandma ended up trapped in the overturned car, her legs sticking out the rear window, with cuts and bruises only. My grandfather got out and called for help, and the pastor of the Shore Mennonite Church recognized him by his voice as he was so covered in mud that he was unrecognizable otherwise.

The event left me with serious stress any time weather warnings were issued for months thereafter. It was so bad that I was on a tranquilizer prescription during bad weather until that summer, though I don’t remember that. My sister and I played “tornado” also, making siren sounds and simulating tornado damage on our toys.

So it’s a night I’ll never forget, even though we didn’t actually get hit by a tornado directly.

Photo Note: The above photo is via the South Bend Tribune and not of actual Grandparents car.

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