Saturday, October 13, 2018

Communion of the saints

i) Is there any empirical evidence for life after death? Much has been written about near-death experiences. By comparison, postmortem apparitions are neglected in contemporary Christian apologetics–although that was of great interest in Victorian England. For instance, Cambridge Ghost Society (founded in 1851) included the Cambridge Triumvirate (Westcott, Hort, and Lightfoot), as well as future Archbishop of Canterbury Edward Benson.

ii) Unlike near-death experiences, postmortem apparitions can't be explained away by a dying brain hypothesis (not that that's a good explanation for near-death experiences). It's not about the alleged experience of the patient when he was clinically dead, but living observers who say they witnessed a ghost. Some of these reports include corroborative evidence. Some of these reports are premonitions rather than postmortem apparitions. 

iii) A fringe benefit is that this provides empirical disconfirmation of annihilationism. 

iv) There are different kinds of purported apparitions, viz. angelic apparitions, Marian apparitions, and dominical apparitions. As an evangelical, I rule out Marian apparitions. I've discussed that elsewhere. 

In reference to postmortem apparitions, the primary categories are grief apparitions and crisis apparitions. Reports may be further subdivided into visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory apparitions. Even if you don't believe in ghosts, it's useful to have the terminology for purposes of assessment and analytical clarity. 

The professional literature uses the word "hallucination," but that's prejudicial. 

v) One theological concern might be whether apparitions of the dead imply universalism or postmortem salvation. If there's a reported apparition to someone who's not a Christian, or an apparition of someone who wasn't a Christian at the time of death, does that undermine the spiritual finality of death? 

When we review case-studies of apparitions, there may be no information on the Christian status of the decedent or the observer. I don't think Christian theology rules out apparitions of the damned. What it precludes is a change in one's postmortem destiny. If damned angels can appear to the living, why can't the souls of damned humans? 

vi) In Scripture, God sometimes sends revelatory dreams to pagans. And that's just a sample. What happens to be recorded in Scripture. If dreams, why not apparitions? Indeed, some apparitions take the form of dreams. 

vii) Assuming Christianity is true, I don't think it's surprising that dead Christian friends or relatives might appear to some Christians. If the saints are aware of what's happening to their living loved ones, or sometimes aware that a living loved one is undergoing an ordeal, I don't think there's any antecedent objection to the possibility that they might appear to them to give them some encouragement or warn them of danger–unless God prevents contact between the living and the dead. 

I'm not saying for a fact that the saints keep tabs on what's happening to their living loved ones. Maybe they're out of the loop. I don't think that can be settled a priori. That's an evidential question. 

Scripture forbids the living from initiating contact with the dead, but that's not the same thing as the dead initiating contact with the living. Whether or not that ever happens is an evidential question. 

viii) Sola Scriptura doesn't mean Scripture has all the answers. The Bible is not an encyclopedia. We depend on extrabiblical sources of information for much of what we know or believe. Scripture rules out certain possibilities, but where Scripture is silent, it's permissible and often necessary to have recourse to extrabiblical sources of information.  

ix) There are hazards in both directions. On the one hand, some people are led astray by the New Age. On the other hand, if Christians have never seriously considered the status of ghosts, if they're theologically unprepared for that eventuality, then that can leave then vulnerable to the New Age in case they have an experience which they can't interpret in terms of their Christian paradigm. If they've be told that's inconsistent with the Christian theology, that leaves them ill-equipped if it does happen. 

x) An alternative explanation for postmortem apparitions is that these are telepathic projections by living agents rather than the dead. But if ostensible apparitions of the dead are really projections by living agents, why do they take the form of the dead or dying rather than the living agents who (allegedly) project them? Moreover, many of the details select for postmortem apparitions rather than telepathy by living agents. 

xi) Here are some criteria for veridical postmortem apparitions:

Either (1) two or more observers might independently witness the apparition; or (2) the apparition might convey information, afterwards confirmed to be true, of something which the observer had never known ; or (3) the apparition might be someone whom the observer himself had never seen, and of whose appearance he was ignorant, and yet his description of it might be sufficiently definite for identification. But though one or more of these conditions would have to be fully satisfied before we could be convinced that any particular apparition of the dead had some cause external to the observer's own mind, there is one more general characteristic of the class which is sufficiently suggestive of such a cause to be worth considering. I mean the disproportionate number of cases which occur shortly after the death of the person represented. Such a time-relation, if frequently enough encountered, might enable us to argue for the objective origin of the apparition. For, according to the law of probabilities, an apparition representing a known person would not by chance present a definite timeframe to a special cognate event-viz., the death of that person—in more than a certain percentage of cases. Cf. Gurney, Edmund & Myers, Frederic. ON APPARITIONS OCCURRING SOON AFTER DEATH, Proceedings 5, 1888-9, 404.

The hallucinations which have prima facie claim to be regarded as veridical may be divided into three classes. The first is the class in which the hallucination coincides in time with an external event in such a way as to suggest a causal connection between them–as when the apparition of a dying person is seen at the time of his death. The second is the class in which some information previously unknown to the percipient is conveyed to him through the hallucination. These two classes often overlap, as when a hallucination coinciding in time with a death distinctly conveys the information that the death has occurred  or when an apparition represents some actual characteristics of the dress or appearance of the dying person which was unknown to the percipient  The third class consists of "collective" hallucinations; that is, hallucinations occurring simultaneously to two or more persons, which cannot be traced to sensory suggestion from the same external cause, and cannot be explained as transferred from one percipient to the other through suggestion by word or gesture. Cf. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 207-9.

xii) In assessing reported apparitions, it's useful to have a large sample. That provides a margin for error. It only takes a few veridical cases to falsify naturalism. Likewise, if we have multiple, independent, firsthand accounts of the same kind of phenomena, that's provides cumulative evidence that the phenomena are real. 

xiii) Here's some general statistics:

Kalish and Reynolds (1981) found that 44% of a random sample said they had experienced or felt the presence of someone who had died. The dead appeared and spoke in 73.6% of the experiences, the dead were psychologically felt in 20.3%, and in 6%, there was a sense of touch. Rees (1975) found that 46.7% of the Welsh widows he interviewed had occasional hallucinations for several years. Most common was the sense of the presence (39.2%), followed by visual (14%), auditory (13.3%),and tactile senses (2.7%). Glick, Weiss, and Parkes (1974) found among widows a persistent continuing relationship with the inner representation of the dead husband. They reportIn contrast to most other aspects of the reaction to bereavement, the sense of the persisting presence of the husband did not diminish with time. It seemed to take a few weeks to become established, but thereafter seemed as likely to be reported late in the bereavement as early (p147). "Hallucinations of Widowhood," J Am Geriatr Soc. 1985 Aug;33(8):543-7. Cf. Kalish. R. A. & Reynolds, D. K. (1981). Death and ethnicity: A psychocultural study. Farmingdale, NY: Baywood Publishing Company. Rees, W. D. (1975). The bereaved and their hallucinations. In Bernard Schoenberg et al. (Eds.), Bereavement: Its Psychosocial Aspects. New York: Columbia University Press, 66-71.

xiv) A question is where we can find reputable collections of case-studies. In this post I'll quote from several different sources. #1 is from a medical journal. #2 is from a neurosurgeon in a medical journal. #3 is from a philosophy prof. at San Francisco State U. It's a firsthand account. In addition, he researched the background of the phenomenon. #'s 4-14 are from Alas, Poor Ghost! (USU Press 1999), based on Gillian Bennett's a doctoral dissertation for the University of Sheffield. Most of the respondents were English Methodist churchgoers. #'s 15-28 are from the Society of Psychical Research. Although SPR investigators accept the paranormal, they have an aversion to orthodox Christian explanations, so that's actually hostile testimony. They record these incidents despite their secular bias. 

I've excluded reports based on seances, mediums, automatic writing, and other occult elements. I've included reports that have veridical elements or reports that strike me as theological fitting. This is just a sample. I left out many additional reports because it becomes repetitious. 

1. I called my uncle in Argentina to let him know my father's death. He said he already knew as my father appeared while he slept and said good-bye. "Parapsychological phenomena near the time of death." Barbato, Michael; Blunden, Cathy; Reid, Kerry; Irwin, Harvey; Rodriquez, Paul Journal of Palliative Care 15/2 (Summer 1999), 32.

2. Sir,–What are those waves of communication, that extra sense not yet understood? Something remarkable happened to me about ten years ago. Two elderly sisters had a house built near part of our garden. I had objected to the planning permission and then had required the plans to be modified, causing the sisters to see me as a hostile incompatible, and no neighbourliness existed. When our doctor told me that one of them had been admitted to hospital, we thought I should show some support by visiting her. I found her soon to return home. We talked and the pleasantly recovering, clouds of strangers and antagonism drifted away.

The following Sunday morning, when crossing the hall to the kitchen to make tea, a presentiment of doom beset me and I feared we had been burgled. When I opened the kitchen door all appeared normal but then there seemed to be a curious descending dark shimmer in the far part of the kitchen, immediately gone-but I knew it was death and female. I thought some catastrophe to one of our daughters-in-law. Disturbed by these suppositions and deciding not to tell my wife, I made the tea and took the tray to the bedroom. As I reached the bedroom, the doorbell rang and I was not surprised to see the village policeman who said he would be grateful for my help. He had to tell the lady along the road that her sister had died suddenly and could I assist him with the awful task? This we did together, and he came in for a cup of tea; as we sat I told him of my astonishing experience. He said that he had been on his way to tell our neighbour that her sister was very ill but that when almost here a message had come through on his car telephone that she had just died-and it had been then that he thought he should seek my help. My monition must have been as she was actually dying. Was she trying to recruit my help for her sister-was that the cry? My wife and I did have to support the sister, a woman we did not know who had a considerable disability. She is now dead and I can record this without causing her distress.

As a neurosurgeon my mind has been pragmatically directed and I had had no interest in telepathy or extrasensory perception. Here was the reception of information from a source I did not known or comprehend when it declared its nature, female death. Finding out what you do not know from what you do is a logical concept but I did not know the people involved, except the fragmentary meeting at the hospital, nor had any thoughts persisted in my mind. For me to have received such a message remains astonishing. It would be valuable if declared telepathic communicators could be investigated by scanning and electroencephalography to find which areas of the brain are involved with inception, reception, and onward conscious recognition. There was a message in my mind. How it reached there is not defined; although at first confused with fear, it was so very clear. "Sixth sense" (J.M. Small) in the Lancet, volume 337, issue 8756, 22 June 1991, p1550.

3. My two years in Windsor, Connecticut deepened my long-standing and recently re-wakened interest in survival. Within a couple of days of moving into the early Federal-style home built by Eliakim Mather Olcott in 1817, my wife and I (and dog) began to experience a combination of prototypical haunting and poltergeist phenomena. Although we critically investigated the various phenomena as they occurred, we were unable to trace the phenomena to natural causes. Given the fairly astonishing nature of some of the phenomena, my curiosity about our experiences peaked and I began research into the history of the home and the experiences of its former residents. This led to what has been a ten-year long investigation, including interviews with former residents, visitors to the home, and acquaintances of residents as far back as the 1930s.   My inquiry turned up testimony from several prior occupants to experiencing phenomena identical, even in detail, to the phenomena my wife and I experienced. What I found equally fascinating, though, was the fact that occupants of the home prior to 1969, including long-term residents, claimed not to have experienced anything unusual. 1969 was the year resident Walter Callahan Sr. committed suicide in the home. In this way, the pattern of experiences surrounding the home fit a more widespread pattern in which ostensibly place-centered paranormal phenomena are associated with a suicide or other tragic event at the location.

4. Again, I remember Wolfgang, a German boy who used to stay with us, telling us the story about his uncle, the pastor. He had an uncle who was a Lutheran pastor, and the uncle told him or it was strong family knowledge. They moved into this equivalent to the Manse, whatever they call it, and it was quite empty and not a very nice sort of place altogether. It was a bit grim, and his uncle wasn’t a bit happy about it. But, anyway, they settled down, the family did, and he was in his study writing his sermons, and suddenly all his books came off the shelf and flew all over the place, and his papers, his sermons, were all fluttering about like leaves, and the uncle wasn’t really very concerned, he thought there was a sudden wind though there wasn’t a window open or anything, and he went out into the other room, passage, or what-have-you, and asked his wife and she said, “No. Nothing. Why? What do you mean?” and it happened again. Every time he went to sit down to do any study, all his papers flew up all over the place.
Now, I know to make the story REAL, I should say what it was that had CAUSED this, and Wolfgang did connect it up to something, but that I’ve forgotten. (Agnes) Alas, Poor Ghost! (USU Press 1999), 43.

5. “We lived in a house that was spirited,” Molly* told me:
It was a lady committed suicide in the house, and then no one would live in it. We lived in it. We were desperate for another house. We went to live in it.
We had all kinds of things happened. Otherwise I wouldn’t have believed in it, because I do believe in spirits. I don’t say ghosts. I don’t know whether they’re the same. I imagine they are really.
[G. B.: What happened there?] 
Oh, well, the toilet used to flush when nobody was in, and we’d hear somebody walking in the passage and we’d go to the door and there’d be nobody there, and my mother was hanging washing up one day in the attic (you know, we’d two big attics) and she was hanging washing up one day and somebody came up behind her and gripped her by the shoulders, and she thought it was one of us, but it wasn’t. We didn’t live long in that house. It got a bit unnerving. Ibid. 48.

6. But I saw my father. My father was the first to die, and he died at three o’clock in the morning, and then twelve months after, Mother died at three o’clock in the afternoon. Well, she died from cancer of the jaw, so I mean, there was nothing to SMILE about.
But just before she died, I felt that whatever there was, EVER there was, Father had come to meet her. Because she just sat up and she gave that SMILE.
Of course, I think they do sit up before they die.

But— and she sort of held her arms out, and it was just that SPECIAL SMILE she always kept for him— [G. B.: You think she actually saw him?] I do! Oh, yes! (Lettie) Ibid. 52.

7. But I do think you can see people that’s died. I do think there’s summat at the other side and I’ve experienced it, as I say, and my daughter (she lives in Corbridge now, her youngest daughter’s nearly sixteen now) and when she was only about three it was the kidneys that were wrong with her, and they sent a district
nurse to her. My daughter had a very bad time with that last child.
She’s four of them, two married now, one [other?] still at home. And she was very close to her father, my daughter was, she was the oldest, and I didn’t know for quite a long while after (and I knew it must have been the crisis, my granddaughter must have been passing through the crisis, because she seemed to turn after that, on the mend), and I didn’t know for quite a long while after, and my daughter said, “Mum,” she said, “I’ve SEEN MY DAD as plain as I can see you! and he STOOD at the bottom of the bed as though she was going to die.”
She says, “He was ready to take her!” But she turned for the better, you see.
But she said, “He STOOD at the bottom of that bed with his arms up!”
Some people think you imagine these things, but no! I’VE HEARD MY HUSBAND’S VOICE, and there’s not been a soul in that flat! (Kathleen) Ibid. 53.

8. My sister died some years ago and she was desperately ill, and we’d been to see her in hospital the Sunday, and on the Sunday evening, the specialist phoned and said that the crisis was over and she would be on the mend, and I could HEAR her TALKING to me ALL evening, and suddenly, at five to six she just said, “I’m sorry, Sylvia, I can’t hold on any longer,” and the phone went, and it was the hospital. She’d died at five to six.
But it was as if she was actually in the room with me and said, “I’m sorry, Sylvia, I can’t hold on any more.” (Sylvia*) Ibid. 54-55.

9. When my grandfather was dying, and my grandmother’s name was Kate, and I was with him when he died, and he said— he called me Kate for about a day before he died and he said, “I’d like this, Kate”— and as he was dying he suddenly grasped my hand and he said, “Oh, smell the flowers! Smell the lilacs!” and he said, “Open the gate, Kate! I can’t get in!” and it was February, there were no flowers out and none in his room, and he said it so strongly, “Smell the lilacs! Smell the lilacs!” and “Open the gate, Kate. I can’t get in!” (Margot) Ibid. 55.

10. My husband during the war well, it was during the First World War really. Well, at the end. He was young. He was at home. But he was away with his sister and they—
The young man his sister was engaged to, because she was a bit older than he was, he appeared before them in the bedroom as plain as anything in his uniform. He said it was just as if he was almost there, and he’d been killed just at that time in the war.
Sixteen or seventeen he [the husband] was. But he said he [the brother-in-law] was standing near the dressing table and you just— he could have sworn he was there, and he apparently had been killed about that time in France or something, and that was something— He’d experienced it. There’s no doubt. Ibid. 56.

11. They had burglars in the house about two years ago, and, just before this happened, one of my aunts APPEARED to her (my aunt died four years ago), and she actually SAW her but she didn’t SAY anything. She said to me afterwards, “I’m sure she was trying to WARN me”. Ibid. 57.

12. Dad had been dead now for about three years probably. Ned was working at the time of the story for a local farmer, Sam Black at the Manor Farm at Dell, and he used to have to go to market with these cart horses, bigger horses than ours but still cart horses, and he was going to Bradbury market one terrible frosty day. It was a dark morning, early morning, and the leading horse slipped and fell.

Ned would be at this time only fifteen or sixteen at the most and no experience. He was stuck in a country lane with a horse and the load all UP like this. The one horse had dragged the other horse down, and he didn’t know what to do a little bit! and he said (this is the story), you know how you do? “Oh, help me! help me! What shall I do? What shall I do?” and saying it out loud, and he said Dad’s voice CAME TO HIM QUITE CLEARLY, said, “Cut the girth cord, Ned! Cut the girth cord!” and he cut the girth cord and the leading horse got up and he was able to go, and he got to Bradbury very shaken, very frightened, but the load intact. (Agnes) Ibid. 61-62.

13. I collected very few stories in which women make physical preparations in response to a warning or omen...a mother waits at home because she is confident that she will hear that her daughter has been involved in an accident—that’s all. Most often, it is merely psychological preparation that the foreknowledge provides: before he steps on a mine a sister “sees” her brother with “his leg all shrivelled up”; a wife “sees” the accident her husband has been involved in; an aunt has a dream that her nephew has been blinded in the war, and so on Ibid. 67.

14. My little boy was drowned in the brook, did you not know? Well, I can tell you about that. I can tell you about what happened after with that. I prayed— I had— I was very, very ill, and I lay in bed one night and I said, “Please, God, just let me see him!” and he walked round the door, and I was fully awake. This is perfectly true. I was fully awake, and he came round the door, and he smiled at me, and I said, “Were you pushed, Bob, or were you— did you fall in?” and he didn’t say a word, and then I wasn’t satisfied with that. I said, “Please, God,” praying to God, “please let me touch him!” and I’d friends in the village, the butcher’s shop opposite the cinema, and I was in bed again and he came. I said, “Please let me touch him!” and I don’t know whether I was dreaming or not, but he came in front of me at their house above the butcher’s shop, and he stood in front of me as he often did, and I used to stroke him under the chin. He was a gorgeous-looking little boy. He’d blond curls.
[G. B.: How old was he?] 
Eight and a half, and I just touched his cheeks. Like I always did, put my hand under his cheeks, you know, and held him close to me and he was there and I did it, and I said too—What else did I ask for? My wishes were granted. It was three wishes, and I can’t think what the other one was, can’t think what the other— But it— I thought it was absolutely wonderful. 
[G. B.: Sort of like a miracle.] 
It WAS a miracle. It was a miracle TO ME. IT WAS A REAL MIRACLE, because it helped a lot to me to have my wishes granted. (Laura) Ibid. 77-78.  

15. When at Loweswater, I one day called upon a friend, who said, "You do not see many newspapers ; take one of those lying there." I accordingly took up a newspaper, bound with a wrapper, put it into my pocket and walked home.

In the evening I was writing, and, wanting to refer to a book, went into another room where my books were. I placed the candle on a ledge of the bookcase, took down a book and found the passage I wanted, when, happening to look towards the window, which was opposite to the bookcase, I saw through the window the face of an old friend whom I had known well at Cambridge, but had not seen for 10 years or more, Canon Robinson (of the Charity and School Commission). I was so sure I saw him that I went out to look for him, but could find no trace of him. I went back into the house and thought I would take a look at my newspaper. I tore off the wrapper, unfolded the paper, and the first piece of news that 1 saw was the death of Canon Robinson!

In reply to your note October 6th, I may state, with regard to the narrative I detailed to the Bishop of Carlisle, that I saw the face looking through the window, by the light of a single Ozokerit candle, placed on a ledge of the bookcase, which stood opposite the window ; that I was standing, with the candle by my side, reading from a book to which I had occasion to refer, and raising my eyes as I read, I saw the face clearly and distinctly, ghastly pale, but with the features so marked and so distinct that I recognised it at once as the face of my most dear and intimate friend, the late Canon Robinson, who was with me at school and college, and whom I had not seen for many years past (10 or 11 at the very least). Almost immediately after, fully persuaded that my old friend had come to pay me a surprise visit, I rushed to the door, but seeing nothing I called aloud, searched the premises most carefully, and made inquiry as to whether any stranger had been seen near my house, but no one had been heard of or seen. When last I saw Canon Robinson he was apparently in perfect health, much more likely to out-live me than I him, and before I opened the newspaper announcing his death (which I did about an hour or so after seeing the face) I had not heard or read of his illness, or death, and there was nothing in the passage of the book I was reading to lead me to think of him.

The time at which I saw the face was between 10 and 11 o'clock p.m., the night dark, and while I was reading in a room where no shutter was closed or blind drawn.

I may answer in reply to your question " whether I have ever had any other vision or hallucination of any kind ? " that though I never saw any apparition, I have heard mysterious noises which neither my friends nor I were able satisfactorily to account for. Gurney, Edmund & Myers, Frederic. ON APPARITIONS OCCURRING SOON AFTER DEATH, Proceedings 5, 1888-9, 408-9.

16. About two months before the death of my dear father, which occurred on December 10th, 1887, one night about from 12 to 1 a.m., when I was in bed in a perfectly waking condition, he came to my bedside, and led me right through the cemetery at Kensal Green, stopping at the spot where his grave was afterwards made. He was very ill at that time and in a helpless condition—so far as his ability to walk up three flights of stairs to my room was concerned. I had at that time never been in that cemetery, but when I went there after his interment the scene was perfectly familiar to me. He led me beyond his grave to a large iron gate, but my recollection of this part is confused. I there lost sight of him.It was just like a panorama. I cannot say if my eyes were closed or open.

Again, a day or two before his death, somewhere between, the 4th and the 10th of December (the day of his decease), when he was lying in an unconscious state in a room on the ground floor, and I sleeping on the second foor, I was awoke suddenly by seeing a bright light in my bedroom—the whole room was flooded with a radiance quite indescribable—and my father was standing by my bedside, an etherealised semi-transparent figure, but yet his voice and his aspect were normal. His voice seemed a far-off sound, and yet it was his same voice as in life. All he said was, " Take care of mother." He then disappeared, floating in the air as it were, and the light also vanished.

About a week afterwards, that is to say, between the 12th and the 17th of December, the same apparition came to me again, and repeated the same words. An aunt, to whom I related these three experiences, suggested to me that possibly something was troubling his spirit, and I then promised her that should my dear father visit me again I would answer him. This occurred a short time afterwards. On this, the fourth, occasion he repeated the same words, and I replied, "Yes, father." He then added, "I am in perfect peace. "

Apparently he was satisfied with this my assurance. Since that time I have neither seen nor heard any more. I have never before or since had any such experience. Myers, Frederic. ON RECOGNISED APPARITIONS OCCURRING MORE THAN A YEAR AFTER DEATH, Proceedings 6, 1889-90,450-51. 

17. Towards the middle of the month of October, 1887 [since fixed by letters of that year as Sunday, October 23rd, 1887], in fact, as nearly as I can recall, about the time when C.'s father first appeared to her in a spiritualised form, I had a singular and most vivid impression that the post would bring me bad news. We were then in Switzerland. I could daily from my window, at 11.20 a.m. to a moment, see the train arrive which brought our English letters. These were taken to the post-office close by and sorted ; and about 20 minutes after the train came in my letters (if any) were placed upon my table. On Sunday mornings the English Church service began at 10.30, so that by 11.40 the chaplain was well advanced in his sermon. On that one particular Sunday it was, as nearly as I can tell, exactly at that moment of time I suddenly felt much distressed and mentally disturbed, feeling convinced that bad news was awaiting me on my return to the hotel. I had to put considerable force upon myself to refrain from rising from my seat and leaving the church.

My presentiment was only too true ; on my writing-table I found a most agonising letter fromT. (0. 's elder sister) telling me that their father had had a most alarming attack of illness (this was the first of the three seizures which resulted in his decease ori December 10th). One point I would especially notice—apparently this letter conveyed no impression to my mind so long as it was in the train or at the post-office, but took effect upon me so soon as it was put upon my writing-table—came within my surroundings, as it were.

We returned to England on December 1st. After C.'s father's death— during the night of December 12th-13th—I was sleeping in a small back room on the ground floor of a lodging in London, a room which had only one window, closed by shutters and a thick curtain. The gas in the passage was put out when I went to bed, so that, after I had extinguished my candle, the room was shrouded in impenetrable darkness—darkness that could be felt. About 3 a. m. on the morning of the 13th I awoke en sursaut, as the French expression has it (that is to say, I was wide awake, not in a half dreamy condition), to see the room up to the ceiling, for about the width of my bed, and extending to the fireplace opposite, flooded with a pale golden radiance, an unearthly light—quite unlike any we are acquainted with ; it seemed to come from behind the bed ; so bright was it that I could distinctly see the design on the wall-paper opposite me, and over the fireplace. This paper was a very pale French grey, of two tints, outlined here and there with a thin line of colour. This effect lasted, as nearly as I can tell, about five minutes, during which I opened and shut my eyes several times, clasped and unclasped my hands, and hit myself to be certain that I was not dreaming. When the light went I was in total darkness as before.

That same day I confided the circumstance to T. (Clara's sister), begging her not to tell her about it, since C. was feeling her father's death most acutely ; but when a day or two later 0. told me of his three appearances to her, and of this same remarkable golden light which accompanied them, I related to her what I had myself seen, expressing my regret that awe or astonishment had prevented me from speaking or making some sign ; though, unlike herself, I had seen no shadowy form approach me. The thought then occurred to me that there might be something regarding which the deceased wished to be satisfied—something which prevented his spirit from obtaining perfect rest, and I suggested to her that should this experience be repeated to either of us we should answer him. The result is stated in C. 's account. My own impression is that his spirit tried to communicate with me, but in my great amazement at the vision I was unable to receive his message. C. was prepared.1

Later on—viz., in a letter, dated February 27th, 1888, C., when writing to me, says : "When I told you in my last letter, dear auntie, that I had spoken, it was from your advice, for you told me to do so. Now, I must try and explain to you just what happened. It was about 4 o'clock in the morning, or even earlier. A bright light suddenly came into my room—not a light like from a fire or a candle, but a glow of golden light. Then I sa/v a form, quite white, bend over me, and in my darling father's voice I heard these words : * Take care of mother—I am in perfect peace. ' I said : ' Yes, father. ' And then the light by degrees disappeared. Since this, I have not seen or heard anything more, and I have a feeling that I shall never again, as I feel sure that all he wanted to say he has said, and is at rest since I answered him. What you tell me as having happened to you on the night of December 12th is, indeed, passing strange. I should so like to know what was meant to tell you. Have you any idea 1 It is strange that both you and I should see the same light. You see I told you first, so it could not have been a dream, as I might possibly have fancied if you had told of your strange light (for I do sometimes dream of things which I hear and read of). If anything should happen again I will write it down, and let you know at once ; but, somehow, I feel I shall not." Gurney, Edmund & Myers, Frederic. ON APPARITIONS OCCURRING SOON AFTER DEATH, Proceedings 5, 1888-9, 450-53. 

18. Our mother died while we were all very young...At length, when I was about 18 years old, a terrible grief befell us, viz., the death of my two elder brothers within a few weeks of each other, while, they were still abroad.

My father's sorrow was great ; and at the same time he became seriously-troubled with many doubts regarding various points of Christian faith, and so gradually lost nearly all his buoyancy of spirit, and became sadly depressed and worn-looking, though only 48 years old.

I was lying in deepest anguish, beset not only with the grief of the sudden loss sustained, but with the wretched fear that my beloved father had died too suddenly to find peace with God, regarding those miserable doubts that had so troubled him. As the night wore on, the pain of heart and thought grew worse and worse, and at length I knelt in prayer, earnestly pleading that my distressful thoughts might be taken away, and an assurance of my father's peace be given me by God's Most Holy Spirit. No immediate relief came, however, and it was early dawn when I rose from my knees, and felt that I must be patient and wait for the answer of my prayer.

I was just about to slip quietly down into the bed, when on the opposite side of it (that on which the nurse was sleeping) the room became suddenly full of beautiful light, in the midst of which stood my father absolutely transfigured, clothed with brightness. He slowly moved towards the bed, raising his hands, as I thought, to clasp me in his arms ; and I ejaculated : "Father ! " He replied, " Blessed for ever, my child ! For ever blessed ! " I moved to climb over nurse and kiss him, reaching out my arms to him ; but with a look of mingled sadness and love he appeared to float back with the light towards the wall and was gone ! The vision occupied so short a time that, glancing involuntarily at the window again, I saw the morning dawn and the little bird just as they had looked a few minutes before. I felt sure that God had vouchsafed to me a wonderful vision, and was not in the least afraid, but, on the contrary, full of a joy that brought floods of grateful tears, and completely removed all anguish except that of having lost my father from earth. I offer no explanation, and can only say most simply and truthfully that it all happened just as I have related. Myers, Frederic. ON RECOGNISED APPARITIONS OCCURRING MORE THAN A YEAR AFTER DEATH, Proceedings 6, 1889-90, 25-6.

19. Sixteen years ago, I had just got into bed, but had not lowered the gas, which was brightly burning. My wife and I both saw her aunt walk across the room and disappear. The figure was as plain as in life. She lived one and a-half miles away, and was ill at the time. Next day we heard she had died about that hour. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 230.

20. My first impression was at a concert at Richmond, Surrey, on December 12th, 1881, when my father appeared to me on the platform at frequent intervals the whole time the concert was going on. My father was lying ill in Devonshire at the time. He was dressed in his ordinary clothes. I was told afterwards that my father had been asking for me at this time.

I was in much anxiety about my father, who was very ill at the time, but I did not know he was any worse in December than he had been for some weeks previously. My age was 27. I again saw my father in the early hours of the morning of the 13th December, and was so disturbed that I got up and told a footman of it in an adjoining room. On returning to my own room I again saw the figure of my father, leaning over me as I lay in bed, and he remained on and off through the night. I had seen my father the previous July. He died at 7.30 on the morning of the 13th December, within a short time of his appearing to me. I did not know of his death till mid-day on December 13th. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 233.

21. When I was about 19 years old, an old friend of my mother's, Mr. Wilson,1 came to live near us. He had just lost his wife and was himself in consumption, with no chance of permanent recovery. He was in the habit of coming to our house in a bath-chair every morning, when he was well enough, and having a rest and a little luncheon. One day he came as usual, but looking much better and in particularly good spirits. On the evening of that day, about 9 o'clock (it was quite dusk), I was sitting at supper with my mother and aunt in the dining-room, with my back to the window, and facing an old-fashioned sideboard. I distinctly saw Mr. Wilson standing, resting his elbow on the sideboard and his face on his hand ; he had no coat on, and I was particularly struck by noticing that the back of his waistcoat was made of a very shiny material. I felt as though I could not take my eyes off him, and my aunt, noticing that I looked terrified, asked me what was the matter He then disappeared. Within an hour a messenger came to fetch my mother, telling her that Mr. W. had broken a blood vessel and was dying. We went round just in time to see him alive, and he was lying on the bed, on his side, without a coat, and wearing a waistcoat with a particularly shiny back. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 237.

22. On October 5th, 1863, I awoke at 5 a.m. I was in Minto House Normal School, Edinburgh. I heard distinctly the well-known and characteristic voice of a dear friend, repeating the words of a well-known hymn. Nothing [was] visible. [I was] lying quite awake in bed — in good health, and free from any special anxiety. There would be two others in the room, but sound asleep. I have always thought it remarkable that at the very same time, almost to a minute, my friend was seized suddenly with mortal illness. He died same day, and a telegram reached me that evening announcing that fact. He had previously been in his usual good health. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 256.

23. On 30th October, 1857, while Curate of Gain's Coliie, Essex, I was sitting in my room, in lodgings, in a lonely half-occupied farmhouse, about 7 p.m., when I heard the voice of a parishioner, whom I well knew, calling me from the outside, under my window, 'Mr. Maskell, I want you ; come/ I went out, but saw no one, and thought no more of it, till about 9 p.m. I was sent for by the man's wife, distant nearly a mile, and then learned that the man J. B. had been found dead in the roadway from Chappie Station to the village—a long distance from my abode, perhaps a mile or more. " J. B. was a cattle dealer, and I saw him frequently, both in his place in church, and out of it. I had no knowledge of his occupation at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 30th, 1857. The man J. B. was supposed to have been murdered, and at the inquest the verdict was ' Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.' The motive for the murder was robbery, as he had sold much cattle, and was returning with money from Colchester Market. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 258. 

24. On September 3rd, 1858, I was in a wild part of the West Highlands, where our home was, close to the sea. A party of cousins were with us, on a visit. I and a sister and one of our guests, a girl of 16, went out on the hills, to a point where we could look over the Sound of Mull. We sat on the turf looking at the view. I and my cousin made an outline sketch. [Then] she rose and walked a little further to join my sister. I was left alone, and an impulse came over me io pray for a brother, a sailor—he was in the West Indies at the time. I heard no sound, but I felt a sensation as if something touched me. I obeyed and prayed for his safe keeping (his ship was on its way home). I said nothing to the others, but I did look at my watch : it was 3.30 p.m.

On September 7th a letter from this brother came. He hoped to be with us in a few weeks, but they had been coaling at St. Thomas, and yellow fever was raging there ; several cases on board his own ship, though none were very severe. His letter was dated on a late day in August (25th, I think). On September 21st, our guests having all left us, a letter came from the authorities at Portsmouth, stating that on September 3rd he had died of yellow fever on his voyage home, and his body had been committed to the deep on the same day. He had been taken ill just after writing his last letter, and as he was a young fellow of 19, the surgeon thought his best chance was to be sent off at once, so he was carried on board and died on the second day at sea, September 3rd. The exact hour was not known, for the boy was left asleep in his berth, and found dead by one of his fellow-officers.

The shock was great to my mother—we could not talk much to her. Just after Christmas my mother and I went to stay with old friends and connections at a beautiful place close to Dunbar. Of course the sad event was talked over by my mother and our hostess. I was sitting by the first time they spoke, and heard my mother say, that about 3 o'clock on September 3rd she was sitting talking to her friend (the mother of the girl who walked out with me). Each had a sailor-boy, and they were talking of those two absent ones. Then they agreed to go out and walk, and my mother had got on her things, and was leaving her room to join her friend, when (I quote her words) 'a hand seemed to force me to turn back, and I went and knelt down and prayed for my boy. I did not know why, but I just prayed he might be safe.' When I got her alone, I told her about our walk and my own experience. I had never done so till then, she had been so ill and upset. Neither of us had a doubt but that this ' message ' was sent to us just as the young spirit passed alone into the Unseen World. We heard no voice and saw nothing, but we were aware of an unusual sensation, which could not be resisted. I can only call it ' an uncontrollable impulse.' Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 258-9. 

25. It was one Sunday morning at church, during morning service. I looked up from my Prayer-book and saw the figure of a man standing in what had been an empty seat opposite me. He turned half round and looked at me with a fixed, agonised gaze. I felt perturbed and very annoyed at his behaviour, when he bowed his head as though something were passing over him, and, to my utter astonishment, vanished. This was on Sunday…I was singing the Psalms, with my brother sharing the same book. I was in good health, and quite free from grief or anxiety. My age was 22. The appearance was that of an acquaintance of mine, who from his seat in church was much given to staring at me during service. I heard afterwards that at that exact time he was at the deathbed of his mother. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 260. 

26. At Redhill, on Thanksgiving Day, between 8 and 9 in the evening, when I was taking charge of the little daughter of a friend, during [my] friend's absence for that evening, I left the child sleeping in the bedroom, and went to drop the blinds in two neighbouring rooms, being absent about three minutes. On returning to the child's room, in the full light of the gas-burner from above I distinctly saw, coming from the child's cot, a white figure, which figure turned, looked me full in the face, and passed down the staircase. I instantly followed, leaned over the banisters in astonishment, and saw the glistening of the white drapery as the figure passed down the staircase, through the lighted hall, and silently through the hall door itself, •which was barred, chained, and locked. I felt for the moment perfectly staggered, went back to the bedroom, and found the child peacefully sleeping. I related the circumstance to the mother immediately on her return late that night. She was incredulous, but said that my description of the figure answered to that of an invalid aunt of the child's. The next morning came a telegram to say that this relative, who had greatly wished to see her niece, had died between 8 and 9 the previous evening. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 263. 

27. I was in Staffordshire, and on the night of August 7th, 1877, retired to rest between eleven and twelve, but I could not sleep. About two, as near as I can remember, while still awake, a strange feeling came over me, as if I was not alone, and sitting up to look, two scenes came vividly before me ; in the first, I saw my dear brother (who, as I believed, was far away in Bangkok) lying at the foot of my bed, dying. I remember I cried out, ' No one there who loves him, and no last message. ' Then I saw a coffin in the same place, and felt he was dead. [I was] in good health. [Age] over 20.

In December we heard that my brother had died in hospital at Singapore on his way home, unconscious, and with no one there who knew him. At the time I had this vision we were not aware of my brother's illness.

Miss H. remembers distinctly that this was the date of her visions; it was a Sunday morning ;1 she was asked by the vicar's wife after church why she looked strange and whether she was unwell. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 288.

28. On June 5th, 1887, a Sunday evening,1 between 11 and 12 at night, being awake, my name was called three times. I answered twice, thinking it was my uncle, 'Come in, Uncle George, I am awake,' but the third time I recognised the voice as that of my mother, who had been dead 16 years. I said, ' Mamma ! ' She then came round a screen near my bedside with two children in her arms, and placed them in my arms and put the bed-clothes over them and said, 'Lucy, promise me to take care of them, for their mother is just dead.' I said, 'Yes, mamma.' She repeated, ' Promise me to take care of them.' I replied, ' Yes, I promise you ; ' and I -added ' Oh, mamma, stay and speak to me, I am so wretched.' She replied, ' Not yet, my child,' then she seemed to go round the screen again, and I remained, feeling the children to be still in my arms, and fell asleep. When I awoke there was nothing. Tuesday morning, June 7th, I received the news of my sister-in-law's death. She had given birth to a child three weeks before, which I did not know till after her death. Sidgwick, Henry et al. REPORT ON THE CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS, Proceedings 10, 1894, 380. 


  1. The Bible has post mortem appearances of people. In certain circumstances God can allow a person's soul to appear to living persons. This is a possibility that the Bible does not exclude.

    For example, Matthew 17:1-4

  2. In addition to all the good material Steve has put together, here are three more "bedside visitation" stories recounted by a critical care physician: