Freak Streak of Coincidences Saves Choir from Death, 1950

God surely showed his hand when an exceptional spate of coincidences rescued 15 of his choristers from being blown to smithereens

It was a frigid evening on the first day of March in 1950 and the clock was ticking towards utter tragedy for the fifteen members of the West Side Baptist Church choir, in Beatrice, Nebraska.

The modest-sized, white wooden slatted church had been silently filling with leaking natural gas since the Reverend Walter Klempel had lit the furnace earlier in the afternoon in preparation for the evening’s choir practice.

By the time the scheduled choir practice came around, at the usual 7:20 pm, the church was full of highly combustible gas.

Five minutes later it happened; the building exploded so violently it blew the church to pieces and rocked the town, shattering nearby windows and knocking the nearby radio station off air.

Beatrice church after the gas explosion (

The tight-knit community feared the worst as blaring sirens heralded the arrival of the first fire engines. First responders and neighbours searched through the wreckage yet inexplicably and with a huge sense of relief they found no bodies amongst the debris. So where on earth was the choir?

Bizarrely none of them had arrived because a weird run of coincidences had caused them all to be running late. It was a miracle, and if this didn’t affirm one’s faith in divine intervention, whatever would? What caused this miracle?

Incredibly all fifteen members had been running late because of trivial delays.

Reverend Klempel for example, who had lit the furnace causing the gas leak in the first place, was due to return with his wife and daughter yet the young girl noticed her dress was stained as they were leaving. This caused her mother to pick out another dress and begin ironing it. They were still home then the church exploded.

For Joyce Black, who actually lived just across the street from the church, she was feeling “plain lazy” that evening. She wanted to remain snuggled up in her warm house against the biting wind outside and delay her departure until the last minute. Joyce was only reluctantly peeling off her blanket to get moving when the deafening crack of a hundred timber planks shattering to pieces terrified the bejesus out of her.

The pianist Marilyn Paul usually arrived 30 minutes early. She took a nap after dinner however and overslept. Her mother, the choir director, struggled to rouse Marilyn until 7:15 pm. Marilyn was still struggling to get ready when she and her mother heard the blast.

Another member, Herbert Kipf, was actually on his way ahead of schedule when he remembered an important letter he needed to write, so he turned back home to do so. Another had their car breakdown, delaying three members.

Another two young ladies were held back listening to something interesting on the radio. The rest of the choir were delayed by similarly banal reasons converging into the extraordinary.

The ‘Miracle of March the 1st’ is still spoken of with reverence to this day in Beatrice.


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