In connection with my recent posts on NDEs, Andrew Paquette sent me a PDF of an article he published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (Vol. 26, No, 4). The article is also available online. Titled "NDE Implications from a Group of Spontaneous Long-Distance Veridical OBEs," it recounts Andrew's experiments in dream journaling, in which he recorded numerous OBEs (or at least OBE-like dreams) with verifiable content. Though initially skeptical of psi, he soon became convinced that he was obtaining accurate information non-locally. He even wrote a book about it.
In his article, Andrew notes that the veridical OBEs in some near-death experiences are often used to show that NDEs are not mere hallucinations. Skeptics counter that the verifiable elements might have been perceived normally (usually via the sense of hearing, with visual content supplied by the mind to match the auditory input). They also complain that many of these cases suffer from a lack of contemporaneous documentation. Andrew argues that his dream journal experiments can help counter these objections, since the dreams were written down immediately upon waking and (in veridical cases) were usually verified within a few hours or, at most, a day. Moreover, the more evidential OBEs involved events that took place miles from his home and therefore well outside the range of his normal senses.
Andrew found three characteristics that distinguished an OBE from his other dreams:
1. It featured a person who ignored my presence,
2. I could identify at least one person in the dream, and
3. The dream contained unusual details that could be used for verification.
The first criterion may seem unusual, but it was my way of knowing that I was not a literal participant in the activity. In a typical OBE, I try to interact by talking to people, but they ignore me. Not infrequently, I assume they can hear me, but are purposely ignoring me. This causes me to become increasingly agitated as I make successively more aggressive attempts to force the people in the dream to acknowledge my presence. I learned over time that my observations from dreams like this could usually be confirmed by the subject of the dream.
It is interesting to note that this same detail - trying to make contact with the people around oneself, and failing - has been reported in some NDEs. It's also interesting that in a smaller number of cases, Andrew reports making telepathic contact with the person he's observing, even though that person does not consciously notice him.
An example of this is provided by a veridical OBE where I saw a person I knew, Dr. David Ryback of Atlanta, Georgia, talking to a tenant in the building they both worked in. Dr. Ryback’s acquaintance was telling him how two cars he owned had been severely damaged on two separate occasions in the same week in the same way, by having tree branches fall on and crush their roofs. While continuing his conversation with this man, Dr. Ryback had a brief telepathic conversation with me on a different topic, the gist of which was that he provided a quick answer to a question I had and then told me he was occupied and could not communicate any further.
Some NDErs likewise say that in their out-of-body state, they were privy to the thoughts of the medical personnel attending them, though these reports are uncommon.
It could, of course, be objected that even if there were verifiable details, Andrew's dream OBEs might not have involved "leaving the body," but instead were instances of telepathy or clairvoyance. Certain cases, however, argue against that interpretation. In these cases, the person whom Andrew was observing in his OBE became aware of his presence, or at least aware of a presence of some sort. Here are two examples.
In the first case, a friend in California named Lisa Moore called Andrew and asked if he had dreamed of her recently. He checked his journal and found a dream from two weeks earlier that did seem to involve Moore.
Moore said it was a fair description of recent events in her life connected with the death of her cat during veterinary surgery after it was run over by a car. Impressively, the unusual detail of decapitation was included in my notes. As I learned after I had read the dream to Lisa, this is the first of three cases I know of where the person I dreamed about during an OBE actually saw me at their location. Because of this, Lisa had expected me to call and tell her of the dream.
When Andrew didn't call, Moore eventually called him. She had waited two weeks, meaning that the time frame in which the OBE/dream took place matched the event she remembered.
Here's another case in which Andrew's presence seems to have been detected by the person he was observing.
I will at some point within the OBE begin to feel exceedingly tired. This leads to a gradual collapse into “unconsciousness” within the dream followed by waking in my bed. In one veridical example from April 22, 1990, I observed my mother in her apartment, which was about 2,800 miles from where I was sleeping. I saw that she was on a date with someone and that they were listening to Schubert while she cooked something in her kitchen. While watching this, I suddenly became very tired and leaned into a wall opposite my mother’s position in the kitchen. I then sank to the floor along it, making a kind of scraping noise against the wall. My mother suddenly turned to look directly at me as if alarmed, and then I woke. I called my mother later in the day and verified various elements of the dream. To my surprise, she said that she had been surprised while cooking that night by a strange sound coming from the wall opposite her. She said it sounded like a paper bag being scraped against the wall as it fell to the floor, followed by a thud, but she saw no source for the noise.
Other cases do not include this element, but are notable for their unusual content.
In a dream from August 12, 2003, the spirit of a recently deceased young woman gave me an urgent and disturbing warning for a relative of hers named James. James was a clerk who worked at an art supply store I shopped at occasionally. I had spoken to James on a handful of occasions while purchasing art supplies, but did not know him well. Though hesitant to pass on the warning to James, I did do it. James confirmed that his sister-in-law, with whom he was close, died within the last two weeks when her car was rammed by a police car during a high-speed car chase. He stated that she had appeared to him earlier that week in a dream and given him the same warning she had given me in my dream ...
One dramatic OBE involved a friend and colleague of my wife’s, named Joseph Fazecas, who lived in Manhattan. At the time, we lived in Weehawken [New Jersey]. I dreamed that I visited Fazecas at the hospital. During the OBE, I was sure he had died. After describing this to my wife, she became alarmed and called her office, where they both worked, to check on him. He wasn’t at work because a little earlier he’d had a serious heart attack and had been taken to the hospital for coronary bypass surgery. He survived the crisis, but—as an aside—I wonder if he had an NDE and if that is why I thought he was dead.
Some of Andrew's OBEs involved much greater distances. In two cases, he saw events in the life of a friend named Richard Breedon, a physicist working in Japan. In the first such episode, he observed Breedon "doing something to these little wafers, or tiles. They have letters written on them and are a little bigger than scrabble pieces. He tosses them into the box when he is done with them."
Breedon, who is skeptical of psi, confirmed that he had been labeling small pre-amplifier cards with lettering that resembled the letters on Scrabble game pieces, and that he had placed them into a box when finished.
The second episode is more ambiguous, since it includes misses as well as hits. Still, it appears that Andrew did observe a Japanese woman assisting Breedon in carrying a large electronic keyboard from his car to his office. Andrew did not identify it as a keyboard, but he described its general size and appearance accurately. Some other details of the OBE were wrong (Andrew placed Breedon's office on the wrong floor, depicted extra doorways in the floor plan, and incorrectly said the woman was wearing an unusual hat), but the hits are still specific enough to be of interest.
In another case involving Breedon (who had moved to California by then), Andrew
dreamed that I visited Breedon and his wife Pat as she gave birth to twins in California. At the time I lived about 3,000 miles away, in Maine. I immediately sent an email to congratulate him. He responded with the following message:
Right you are! Born just hours before the time your message arrived here. How do you do it? I showed your message to two professors I work with. One said you had had to get it off the Internet (although I made absolutely no postings), the other simply said, “very good!”
It should be noted that Pat gave birth six weeks prematurely and that I was not tracking her pregnancy ... Breedon read the message at his office on his way home from the hospital at about 5:00 a.m., prior to his having notified anyone that his children had been born.
Finally, Andrew offers a particularly detailed example in which he saw his uncle and aunt discussing a painting his uncle had just done. Andrew's sketch of the painting, made in his journal, matches the size, dimensions, and general appearance of the actual painting quite closely, and his description of the color scheme is correct. This is especially impressive given that the shape of the painting was unusual, and the subject, a landscape, is depicted in a stylized manner. Moreover, the uncle had never before shown an interest in painting, and Andrew was unaware that he had recently taken it up. (This was, in fact, his very first painting.) The distance again was considerable - Andrew was in New Jersey, and his relatives were in Minnesota.
These examples were culled from 92 veridical OBEs recorded in Andrew's journals. Even one such case, if it is genuine, is sufficient to cast doubt on physicalist theories of the mind's unbreakable dependency on the brain. More to the point, they pose a problem for the skeptical view that veridical NDEs can be explained by normal sensory perception or mistaken memories. In these OBEs, memory problems are not an issue, since the episodes were recorded and verified immediately. And sensory leakage cannot be a factor in observing events that took place a thousand miles away (or more). Even "ordinary" psi does not seem to explain those cases in which the discarnate Andrew was seen or heard by the people he was observing.
What, then, do skeptics have to say? Richard Breedon wrote to James Randi for his input. Randi reportedly replied:
When I was a kid, I successfully predicted the outcomes of hockey games by having some 30 different letters notarized, each different from the others, and merely produced the correct one after the game.
By this he meant to insinuate that I could have intentionally hoaxed Breedon. By extension, Randi’s suggestion implied that even if I had notarized every page of the journal, a very expensive proposition for my limited means at the time, a critic could simply make the false claim that alternate notarized pages existed to demonstrate that notarization or any other form of proof can be manipulated into meaninglessness by a determined individual. The very same criticism can be leveled at any document created by any person for any purpose. In other words, at this level, the criticism is worthless because it can be suggested of anything.