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"'It’s a built-in mechanism for soothing a dying patient,' said Dr. Christopher Kerr, chief medical officer at Hospice Buffalo."

I absolutely love it when some supposed “expert” or “authority” comes out with total brown smelly stuff in a desperate effort not to be seen to be supporting something that is disapproved of by the Unwritten Rules (much more powerful than the written ones) of her/his field/profession/political grouping or whatever.

The only people with any legitimate reason to believe that statement are religious fundamentalists (especially The People Of The Book) who may believe that a merciful God may have arranged a “built-in mechanism for soothing a dying” being.

Anyone who believes in evolution, especially the Darwinian Selection version, at the authority level, should surely be aware that it is almost impossible to come up with a natural selection process that arranges for a complex mechanism just to sooth the dying. Nature, Evolution, just has no reason for doing that.

Remember, Nature is a cruel old witch!

Stephen Heyer

Interesting, and some interesting comments - if you wade through the religious arguments - by a hospice nurse.

I still don't quite understand how people like Dr. Kerr can conclude that this is a "soothing mechanism" generated by the brain. There's absolutely no evidence for that (or else we'd all be having these visions when ever we're in pain or distress, such as childbirth - doesn't happen). I can't prove that these visions are real, but the "soothing mechanism" seems just as much a shot in the dark. My brain can't automatically generate soothing visions when I have a bad toothache, or when I tumble down the stairs, why would it be able to do so when I'm dying? Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems there's something else to this.

I love reading about death bed visions so I'll be sure to read this article, but I agree with Stephen and Kathleen... nature (evolution) couldn't care less about soothing someone who is dying. The only way it could work is if having death bed visions increased the evolutionary fitness of the individual? I'm not sure how that might work? I doubt evolution cares if we are soothed or not on our death bed?

On my first reading, I hit the same speed bump with Dr. Kerr's remark as the first two commenters. "A built in mechanism" certainly implies a physical cause, but it may also be an inelegant way of saying that it's a soothing phenomenon that occurs with striking regularity. Overall, I found the article pretty good, a small step towards a more humane approach to respect for the dying.

It would be interesting to see a comparative study of NDE reports and death bed vision accounts. Superficially, they seem very similar, but death bed visions feel like a more gentle intrusion of the transcendent, as opposed to the blastoff of the NDE. Also, there is a more human, earthy feel to death bed visions, a naturalness in contrast to the very unworldly quality of most NDE stories.

Whatever the nature of the "built in mechanism" be it physical, mental, or spiritual; there is a kindness and sweetness about it that is very touching. Like how the owner of my local chinese restaurant greets his customers: "Welcome home."

" . . . the study is touted as the "first rigorous examination" of deathbed visions . . ."

But of course! Osis and Haraldsson say that deathbed visions are exactly what they seem to be—a preview of the afterlife—so how can any rational person take their work seriously? :)

"Nearly 90 percent of the patients in the studies reported having at least one near-death dream or vision, and 99 percent of those believed the dreams or visions to be real."

"the study seems to take it for granted that these visions are "dreams" whose only function is to comfort the patient as he or she expires." 

The full irony of these quotes just got through to me. 99% of the experiencers are certain the visions are real. Yet the only people in the room who *haven’t* had the experience—the authors—are here to tell us it’s not.

It's a strange way to earn a living—to assume you know more than the people you're interviewing.

"Be that as it may, the fact that the phenomenon is getting more attention can only be a good thing."

I'm not so sure this kind of attention is helpful, Michael. I haven't read the study, but from what you're saying, I don't think I'd care to put it into the hands of a dying friend.

It seems completely ridiculous to pass these deathbed 'dreams' off as a soothing mechanism of a dying brain. Why would such a function exist, the brain has never died before and as pointed out there is no evolutionary advantage. They seem to be another piece of evidence of something mysterious beyond death. Interesting study.

A reductionist/materialist 'expert' authoritatively stating “It’s a built-in mechanism for soothing a dying patient” is equivalent to an Evangelical Fundamentalist declaring "The Bible says it, and that settles it".

Both close off any further discussion, and are socially acceptable ways of plugging one's ears and shouting "Nyah nyah nyah nyah I can't hear you nyah nyah nyah nyah I can't hear you!..."

This happens at every level of society. In politics, we have lefties pulling out the race and gender cards, and right wingers throwing down the patriotism challenge.

Maybe the Millennial's and Gen-Xer's will find ways of having sane, rational discussions followed by good old fashioned, heartfelt (verbal) knock-down drag-outs. In other words, challenge the paradigm's of the geezer's.
One can only hope. Or dare I say - pray?

Sorry for off-top:
Michael,did You see newly released book "Myth of an Afterlife"?

It always comes to the same thing - it is the "brain". I wonder if the people that believe that have no autonomy. "My brain made me say it".

"I doubt evolution cares if we are soothed or not on our death bed"

Indeed not, but we do already know about endorphins and their mitigatory role in pain transmission, so the doctor's mental sanctuary of a "built-in soothing mechanism" is perhaps not completely outrageous. However, when we add this study to the canon of testimony about NDEs and terminal lucidity, the reductionist explanation has even less force.

The trouble is, the very subjectivity of anything dream-related will do little or nothing to revise the sceptical view if the latter is unmoved by the more powerful evidence of NDEs (given that the latter can occur, as we know, in the absence of brain activity of any kind)

Sounds Dr Kerr is merely expressing his beliefs, though of course he doesn't present it like that ;)

Surely the more pressing objection is not that nature/evolution has no motive to soothe, but rather than no end of life process could possibly evolve in any case? How would it be passed on through the generations, when very few of us manage to reproduce after death?

I must say though I have some reason to believe DBVs occur in circumstances at odds with the simple correlation we get from such accounts. 4 years ago my elderly mother contracted sepsis and came close to death. Urinary TractInfactions and - not yet realised - encroaching dementia certainly exacerbated and accompanied her "hallucinations". Nonetheless, being aware of DBVs I was fascinated by her frequently reporting the silent attendance (always earlier, before we were in the room) of both her own mother and my father (both deceased).

In many ways they fit all of the criteria of the classic visitation. For a start she never "imagined" anyone who was still living to have been there...nor was their status as deceased the cause of the selection of these two family members as, in her mental state, she appeared to not think of them as dead in the slightest.

This carried on for months afterwards too, when UTIs were a frequent problem (she had a nephrostomy tube from her kidney temporarily in place during this time) and ther were other more startling encoutners. A tall man all in black at the foot of her bed which terrified her. A visit from my fathers' long dead mother, standing hte bedroom doorway with lots of people behind her for which reason she had to go,and so on.

But here's the catch. My mother never died. She's still here and seemingly indestructible. So is it possibly to have Death Bed Visions when you're not in fact really on your death bed? It would certainly suggest at least there is some mechanical aspect to it rather than an ordained hour of beckoning. It would seem to almost suggest each time your body/brain comes close to dying this "letting in" of hte other world increases but just as automatically decreases as the danger passes.

Adeimantus, I had thought about the role of endorphins too, as it appears they're sometimes released in certain circumstances. For instance, the famous Dr. Livingston reported a feeling of peace with his head inside a lion's jaws. I suppose the evolutionary advantage of this would be soothing so that you don't have heart failure or heart damage if you do survive.

But as noted, a specific brain mechanism for creating soothing visions of dead relatives seems improbable. I guess you could say, "These people knew they were near death, so naturally they dreamed of dead relatives." Maybe. And of course on the other hand, the people themselves say they weren't dreams, but reality. We have to at least give them the benefit of a doubt of knowing what a dream is and isn't like.

Agreed the "built-in mechanism" and appeal to evolution don't make sense.

The mind does amazing things to itself, though, when under pressure. Multiple Personality Disorder is one of the more dramatic examples. It's not off base to suggest it is possible some of this is a coping mechanism to the point of delusion and hallucination.

I say this as someone who experienced the presence of my father a continuous two days after his passing. It was an incredible experience, in my waking hours mainly. I envy those who have had a visual and/or auditory experience as well.

I'm convinced it was real. I'm sure there are medically-trained people who would argue it was not. And I can't fault them.

I don't know what is so 'rigorous' about collecting reports of 'dreams' from dying people. As Michael pointed out, Osis and Haraldsson actually did a classic study of near death experiences of dying people which they reported in their book of some years ago titled "At the Hour of Death". I suggest that Dr. Kerr might be enlightened by reading their book. - AOD

There are some visionaries who say that the reality after death overlaps this reality we currently live in so that perhaps at the hour of death or when people are close to dying, those two realities begin to fade into each other, that is, as the physical reality dims, the spiritual reality brightens. I wouldn't say that there is a mechanical aspect to it or that there is, in all cases, an ordained hour of beckoning. It may be that, similar to when a soul is being born into this reality, there are those waiting to receive him whenever he decides to show up. - AOD

Lawrence B,
There is a huge range of phenomena that can fall under the umbrella of "hallucination" depending on how you define the word.

Generally, for materialists, hallucination means "not real"; which is synonymous with "non-material".

This would include, but not be limited to, flights of fantasy, dreams (though dreams seem to be recognized as a separate category because materialists have them too and they don't want to be thought of a "crazy" - just don't believe they are "real"), visions, artistic interpretations (think surrealists, impressionists, etc.), anything paranormal that can't be explained by stage magic or other mechanical dupery, anything experienced as the result of ingesting a drug, any odd distortion of the senses occurring for any reason and any non-materialist interpretation of sensory information.

That said, it really is quite a weird stew even for non-materialists.

To make it even more confusing, from what I've seen, the same set of conditions that can create true hallucinations, can also lead to true paranormal perceptions. And an experience can contain elements of pure hallucinatory gibberish as well as elements of valid - even veridical - material.

Come to think of it most business meetings are like that as are a lot of Whitehouse press conferences.

What is for sure a true hallucination? A good rule of thumb is that it is bizarre disorganized meaningless junk very idiosyncratic to the experiencer.
A purple elephant wearing pink lace bloomers doing a jig in the living room is an example.

Now, if dying people - or people deathly ill - tend to see said elephant and they have since the beginning of recorded history, then you have to consider that the elephant really might be out there in some other dimension of reality. But this isn't the case.

However, people close to death - even if they ultimately recover - do tend to have NDEs and/or visions of deceased relatives. This is consistent, organized and meaningful and therefore must be taken seriously.

Certain illness, like UTIs in the elderly, can produce both the elephant type hallucinations due to fever and build up of toxins in the system as well as the more organized common visions (probably due to the nearness of death/loss of the hold of the failing physical body).

Lots of grey areas. I have always had trouble understanding why we need "experts" to validate and control our reality. If death is the end of awareness, then why not live as you want to? If death is not the end, then all the more reason to live according to one's inner vision.

Great post, Michael. And great comments thus far. I certainly agree with the points about evolution.

Lawrence B wrote,

||So is it possibly to have Death Bed Visions when you're not in fact really on your death bed? It would certainly suggest at least there is some mechanical aspect to it rather than an ordained hour of beckoning. It would seem to almost suggest each time your body/brain comes close to dying this "letting in" of hte other world increases but just as automatically decreases as the danger passes.||

Yes, I think it is all of a more "mechanical nature." NDEs are not arbitrarily produced (it would seem) but are "triggered" in effect by certain biological states. I think the same would be true of death bed visions. I think another simple example would be sleep. Being in the sleep state frees us to have dreams, which are a type of OBE.

It's just as well that Dr. Kerr took a skeptical stand, instead of being open to supernaturalism, otherwise his study would have been written off by the usual suspects.

I've been trying to track down other clues as to Dr. Kerr's thinking, and I found what appears to be an outline of a presentation he made in 2012. He may be more spiritually inclined than we thought.

In my work as a healer over the last 30 years, or so, I’ve come across this a few times myself. But, before that, it was mainly nurses (in hospices, and those who visit dying patients at home) who would tell me about the phenomenon.

I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere, often enough, that nursing staff regard this as being a pretty good indication that a patient is about to ‘go’. That is certainly what I was told, and they tend to take the issue so seriously that they are cautious about mentioning the business to patients, or their relatives, for fear of frightening them if it happens.

I think I need to point out here that I never raise this sort of issue first as a healer – the UK Confederation of Healing Organisations Code of Conduct effectively discourages that. But in my experience, it is only the nurses who talk about it readily. Doctors always seem to be reluctant to have things like this mentioned at all. On the very rare occasions that they’ve discussed this sort of stuff with me it has tended to be in a curious fashion that manages to be both dismissive and defensive at the same time; and usually with a demeanour that suggests an urgent need to be somewhere else.

One case, which I witnessed personally, concerned a lady in her sixties, who had been ill for quite a few years, and severely so for months. She suddenly started to talk to her mother, but in the voice of a little girl. Curiously, she used a dialect local to the area in the UK where she was born, but which she had not used in adult life. She passed away about five hours later.

Of course, a case like that is not strongly suggestive of the patient’s deceased mother actually visiting her. A quite reasonable objection would be that the lady was obviously frightened, delirious, knew that her passing must be near, and so reverted psychologically to a child-like state, in an act of self-comfort.

Other cases might not be so easy to dismiss in such a fashion, such as those where a patient claims to have been visited by persons known to them, but who they did not know to be deceased, who revealed veridical information to which the percipient had no access. I don’t have well documented examples of that immediately to hand right now, but I know they exist in the literature. Obviously cases of that type need to be treated according to their merits by experienced, unbiased, researchers so that they can be ignored or misrepresented by Skeptics. The research community, after all, clearly, has a duty to provide armchair critics with a ready supply of such material to ignore. Otherwise they'd have nothing with which to exercise their cognitive bias pecs. And we can’t have that, can we?

As far as ‘hallucinations’ are concerned, of course, in this context the term has come to be used by materialists (and understood tacitly by everyone else) in a pejorative sense. But I do not believe that was intended by the early SPR researchers who conducted the Census of Hallucinations, for example. Neither ‘hallucination’, or ‘mechanism’ need to be understood pejoratively, and we should resist the urge to do so.

It seems pretty self-evident to me that, however ‘hallucinations’ are generated – and whatever the ‘mechanism’ might be, that apparent veridicality (whether with apparitional phenomena, or anything else), may indicate a ‘mechanism’ that can, under some circumstances, be taken advantage of by what we might term ‘psi processes’.

In fact, I would not be surprised at all if, one day, it should be found that hallucinations (whether visual, auditory, olfactory or tactile) actually represent the lower end of psi cognition, or a sort of boundary layer, where the local cognitive processes of the brain, or the local non-physical mind, meet a wider ‘non-local’ consciousness. But, however we might choose to describe this, in terms of cognitive ‘modeling’, (as suggested, for example, by Tyrell in his classic work ‘Apparitions’); I think we should be mindful that we are only attempting to formulate a coherent description to help us to understand a natural ‘process’. We shouldn’t get too hung up on matters of nomenclature, or how some may choose to employ it for their emotional/social ends.

I believe that Osis and Haraldsson's study largely (if not exclusively) dealt with accounts from doctors and nurses and other caregivers. This current study may indeed be the first to gather accounts of death bed visions directly from the experiencers. As such, that would be a significant step forward for science.

There seem to be some objections here that a certain physical brain state may be necessary for these things to happen. If the brain functions as a kind of reducing valve, keeping us anchored to the earth, then the “failure” of certain filtering functions could well enable the ability to see into another aspect of reality. This might account for the experience of Lawrence’s mother, whose brain may have temporarily “failed” somewhat and opened another door of perception to her. As Matt pointed out, people with NDEs are clearly in a very compromised brain state while they are off joyously romping in Elysian fields. An alternate way of looking at the brain’s power of delusion, is that it can cause us to become fixated on the tiny sliver of reality that makes up common experience, to the exclusion of the vibrant expanse that surrounds us.

It’s interesting that children (whose brains aren’t fully developed) may have “invisible” friends, whose company they grow out of as they mature. It’s also interesting that children who claim to vividly recall past lives tend to lose that recollection and identification as they grow up and their brains develop. So let’s give the delusion making power of the brain its rightful due.

That a significant number of visions occur when the eyes are closed, makes them no less real to the visionary then the vivid experiences of those who have come to the brink of death. It is apparent that certain executive functions of the brain may need to be offline or in temporary suspension for the unveiling to occur. So, the conscious or unconscious state of the visionary is irrelevant to the reality of the experience.

The guy who cut the trees on our property in East Tennessee told me that he was in a real bad car wreck. He was speeding going around a curve and his car left the road and headed towards a large tree.

He said that he saw a blue light which turned into an angel and that angel gathered him up and curled him into a ball and set him in the one place on the car that didn't get squashed and torn all to hell. It was between the seats and he said that angel enfolded him and kept him there in that space till the car came to a full stop and then it disappeared.

He said he was able to get out of the car and walk away from the wreck. He said the only place on that car that wasn't torn up was where that angel held him, and he swears that angel was real and it really happened to him.

Very cogent comment from no one--thank you!

"Lots of grey areas. I have always had trouble understanding why we need "experts" to validate and control our reality. If death is the end of awareness, then why not live as you want to? If death is not the end, then all the more reason to live according to one's inner vision." - No one

That's a very valid point. But we humans do have a need to measure our sense of reality against that of others. Only the pathologically insane dispense with that need.

@Art: on a related note, I'm always delighted when others talk of the 'blue light'. It's a phenomenon that has haunted my life from my very earliest recollections - no pun intended.

"Very cogent comment from no one" You could have worded that better. We all feel insulted now. :P

David Chilstrom: "This might account for the experience of Lawrence’s mother, whose brain may have temporarily “failed” somewhat and opened another door of perception to her."

Interestingly in the years preceding her hospitalizaton and the realisation she had dementia, she was showing signs of the condition which are obvious in retrospect but which were interpreted at teh time as being hard of hearing and just obsessively paranoid..asking if the door was locked over and over every night, no matter how many times you'd told her. One of these "signs" was that night after night after night she would call out to complain about "them" outside in the street.. the "walkers". Individuals walking/talking outside her downstairs bedroom window. There was never anyone there. Even post hospital, when she was frequently returning because of problems with the nephrostomy/infections she would continue to refer to people at night in the hallway outside her room or in the next room.

The relevance here is that I did privately speculate if in fact, along with the other stuff, she were experiencing mediumistic phenomena which she couldn't comprehend or interpret as such. I have to use the past tense in all of this as she's settled into a new normal in the last year or two, where these things are no longer mentioned.

Her time in hospital and the 18 months afterwards wre also as I say littered with references to my dad and to her mum as if they were alive and had recently been there. My father, it has to be said, was subject of a whole fantasy (?) about having long hair now (he was bald) and living some place with some woman. Whether you imagine that represents an afterlife or pure delusion I leave to you, the latter being more obvious, but interestingly she no longer mentions him at all. Her mother on the other hand, and for a long time, lived (she claimed) upstairs. Again such references have dried up. More directly relevant were the simpler statements about them having been there in hospital in particular, and her confusion about them saying nothing. Living relatives, or other dead ones, were never "imagined" to have paid a visit.

Another pre-dementia phenomena was the constant morning shout that someone had woken her by knocking at the door. The phantom knock is a much reported phenomena online, and evidence of its illusory nature came when I would witness her dozing in the afternoon in her chair suddenly wake and insist the phone had rung or the door had knocked..when I was there to witness it had not. This took a perplexing turn however one day when she was in hospital and I, having just woken at an early hour, heard the knock myself!

The one exception to the rule that it was only her mum or my dad putting in an appearance was the time she told me cheerfully and with surprise that my dad's mother (dead before I was born) had been there, standing in her bedroom doorway. She lives alone now in her own house. She said she looks after (me?). She had to go because there were all these other people standing behind her... I'm summarising there, but it was startlingly remiscent of othr accounts I've heard of the dead loved one standing in an (ethereal) doorway.

But by far the most uncanny thing that happened is....a story I'll tell later. :P

@Lawrence: Oddly enough, the week before my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer she said that she was woken by three loud knocks at her bedroom door one morning. She told me she felt it was a beckoning and she died some three weeks later.

Amazing—a truly respectful and open-minded ghost story on the front page of the NYT. The author presents it as a *unifying* experience, the sort of thing you might feel if a deceased loved one dropped by, though this was the (alleged) ghost of a stranger.

The author’s name, by the way? Kerr. (Not Christopher.)

I give her extra points for credibility because she’s described as the writer of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.” So the last thing you might expect her to tout is an encounter that’s anything but terrifying.

Re that ghost story: I just remembered that today is Halloween! I guess the NYT can present a story like that with its ass covered by seasonal relevance. Nevertheless, the experience is presented without the least bit of cynicism. And in fact, a genuine sense of wonder.

So here's looking forward to the next annual reference to the paranormal.

So here's my "most uncanny" experience linked (in part) to my mother's seeming interactions with the "other". I've told this least the first two parts..a number of times, doubtless on here too. But it gives me the opportunity to update it and tell it in full. As a whole it's a story suggestive of communication and may seem slightly off topic. But it's part two that is directly relevant to the discussion here. I'll do my best to abbreviate the other two sections without omitting anything relevant.

Part 1
My father died in late 2001. In 2003 my mum, who is wheelchair bound, was in great distress. A small cross had vanished from the chain around her neck. My dad had given it to her. She had still had it in the bedroom, but here in the living room she was aware it was absent. Trying to calm her I searched every inch of floor and furniture in the only two rooms involved, and her wheelchair itself. It couldn't have gone far. But it was not to be found. Her own bedroom is a small rectangular space with only two pieces of furniture other than the bed and a plain flat unreflective unpatterned tiled floor. I was on my hands and knees examining the empty space. I assured her I would have another look the next morning. Still tearful she went into the bathroom to search her own clothing and I, standing in her bedroom doorway, tried something I'd recently read about. I addressed the air and kindly asked "them" to return the precious object. A few minutes later I returned to her room for some reason, opened the door and there was the cross sitting slap bang in the middle of the empty floor, plain as anything. It scared and amazed me. And that for many years was the story. Ghosts never entered my mind but some kind of elemental or natural power or something. Something...

Part 2
2012. Three things occurred on the one day. My mum, now with dementia and constant infections, referred to my father having been there, standing in her bedroom door. Its' important now to point out my dad's name was Gerry, short for Gerard. You'll see why in a moment. Secondly a book I'd sent off for about synchronicity being communication from the deceased arrived. I opened it and a few pages in an anecdote is recorded. A woman who believed her home to be haunted, and a pen given to her by her mother had disappeared from the bedroom. She turns the place upside down searching, goes into the next room ,angrily remonstrates against the spirit to return the pen, and returning to the bedroom finds it sitting clear as day on top of the bed. The parallels in the story would be notable enough, but what to make of it when I tell you the woman's name was Geri Gerrard and it described the object as a "Cross pen"? Thirdly, same day, my sister is there with my mother and I'm upstairs typing this account to a friend - a medium no less - when my mum becomes incredibly agitated demanding over and over the "tin box". There is in fact such a box, an old biscuit tin, in her bedside drawer, with bits and pieces of no significance in it, old medicine packets etc. She ought to have no recollection of its existence but to placate her I get it out and give it to her. She begins searching through it and my heart started pounding in anticipation when I saw her find something and slowly begin to pull out...the chain with the cross on it. She held it aloft as if to say "See!" and then, placated, we were able to put it all back again. (for clarity she knew nothing of the content of the book and would not have understood anyway).

So now we have - till then - the best personal story of the supernatural I own. The implication is clear enough, that the spirit of my father was behind events...though how we imagine him responsible for Geri Gerrard's name or the experience she had while he was still alive we simply skip over. But the story did not end there and the explanation is thrown up into the air by....

Part 3.
Earlier this year William Peter Blatty, author of the Exorcist, wrote a memoir called Finding Peter, I think, recounting all the post mortem signs and coincidences that have left him convinced his late son is making his continued existence known. Before buying the book I searched online for any reference in a review to what these signs might have been. One review obliged me. Blatty had a medalion (refered to throughout the review - incorrectly as it turned out - as a "miraculous medal") on a chain around his neck. It had belonged to his son. It vanishes from the chain. Distressed he searches the only place it could have come off, the shower. He and his wife, on hands and knees, search repeatedly. He describes the search and the limitation fo any hiding place in exactly the same terms as I did my mother's bedroom floor. He later finds himself saying out loud "petey will find it for me", and lo and behold next time he opens the shower door there it is in plain site sitting on the floor.

To add to all of this the review's misapplication of the terms "miraculous medal" had me lookig up the term, which applies specifically to a particular catholic talisman which shows the virgin mary on one side and a cross on the other. Which rather set my heart a-pounding as, on a hunch, I retrieved my mother's chain and beside the cross it also holds....a miraculous medal. (in reality, having bought the book, such a medal does feature in strange events around Blatty but does not describe the one in this particular story. His son's medal depicted instead three crosses side by side.)

The interconnectedness of these three tales..and the mere fact both of the others came to my to me mindboggling and proof of...of...well what? What connection does my father have to the Blatty family? He can't be responsible for that event either, any more than the more recently deceased Peter can be responsible for the first two. So why are they all so damn similar? More than similar, connected? I don't know! But intriguing,no?

"But here's the catch. My mother never died. She's still here and seemingly indestructible. So is it possibly to have Death Bed Visions when you're not in fact really on your death bed? It would certainly suggest at least there is some mechanical aspect to it rather than an ordained hour of beckoning. It would seem to almost suggest each time your body/brain comes close to dying this "letting in" of hte other world increases but just as automatically decreases as the danger passes."

I know I harp on this a lot, but looking at the world through Weiss' idea of Transphysical Persons our core self/soul is tied to the body, but not totally dependent on it tho our senses largely bind us to the limited physical realm even tho at all times we exist in the greater reality.

So it does seem to me in certain cases the Transphysical Self can have its perceptions widened to include the spirit "world" which is always here. Of course maybe none of this is true...

Anyway hope your mother stays healthy, and as this is my balliwick definitely have a medication list in case of emergency & if need be definitely look into things like a local emergency registry held by the local 911 operators or EMS firehouses, medical bracelets, that sort of thing.

Lawrence B, Great anecdotes. Thanks for sharing. We had a lot of similar things happening in our house beginning about three months after my father died, which is what spurred us to go see a medium (Georgia). Through Georgia, my father took responsibility for the events, explaining that he was trying to get my attention because he had urgent need to talk to me. All we said to Georgia - after the séance had begun - was that some things were happening and could my father comment on them. He (she) was able to tell us in detail about the objects that had gone missing and/or had been found in strange out of place locations.

One funny incident involved a hair clamp. It wasn't of particular significance other than it had been worn frequently by our daughter in highschool and she had been off in the Navy for a couple of years at that point, but we had found it a drawer we keep odds and ends in - like batteries, screws, tape, etc. - and we hadn't seen it in there before, though we frequently go into that drawer for "stuff". I took it out and set it on the counter jokingly saying something about it probably not being there when we got back (we were heading out for a walk to the gym). I absolutely turned and saw the clamp on the counter as I closed the door to the outside and my wife was already outside. Well, we walked the mile and a half or so to the gym and as we were taking off our jackets my wife paused and reached into her pocket.....there was the hair clamp!

So I know what you are talking about.

Ah but, "no one", herein lies the problem:

Your tale in isolation, like any one of the three parts of mine, would suggest a simple (though remarkable) explanation. That our dead loved ones are capable of interacting with the physical world in the form of moving objects around, perhaps telekinetically with their discarnate minds. And that perhaps some natural limitation on the how and the why of such ghostly sleight of hand explains whhy the whole world isn't full of flying objects.

But "in isolation" is the key term. My saga of three intricately interconnected incidents surely requires a level of influence over the world that could not be explained by the simple intentions of a single "spirit"?

Our prime suspect, as its my tale, is surely my own father. That he might be able to make a cross appear then dissappear in 2003, fair enough (!). That in 2012 he might appear to my mother and on the same day influence her disturbed mind into retrieving said cross with dramatic timing represents an additional power, but his authorship remains somehow obvious. But what about what it takes for me to have read that passage in that book on that day? What would be necessary for him to have arranged that?

We have to imagine he influenced the conversations (and all that lead to those conversations) which results ultimately in me seeking/stumbling across and wishing to order that book. He further has to have brought abut its contents..therefore influencing the writers at some point inthe past to have included the story of Geri Gerrard. And he has to have had some hand, surely, in GG sending the tale to the authors of the book. Then there's the incident itself...which took place while he was still alive and was credited by GG to a non specific "oppressive spirit" in her house. Was my father responsible for that, so that I would read about it years later?! That would require him either to have some eternal vantage point from which to obeserve all time and space and pick out a woman across the ocean with an appropriate name and/or to have gone back even further in time half a century to influence her name! All as part of an intricate plot to impress me decades later.

At this point we're no longer describing a ghost but a god.

Then, having convinced me of his continued survival he nonetheless invades the private haunting by Peter Blatty of his father to make sure they include a replica of my 2003 experience, and follow all the same patterns of behaviour necessary to make sure I read about it...influencing Blatty, his publishers, the reviewer and so on.

So the "simple" explanation that my father was behind the whole saga makes no credible sense. If the dead can so influence the world why not influence a pen to write a coherent message in plain English! (Just to confuse matters I have an entirely separate and even longer saga of apparent communication/signs from a dead friend which does include seemingly coherent written communication! but that's another story!)


So have I not just talked myself out of there being any real paranormal connection between the three chapters of the story after all?

Not really, because the alternative - that the apparent connections are pure coincidence - is no more credible. When you consider the factors which would have to be multiplied by each other to make the whole story, the term "astronomical" doesn't do it justice. Beyond the seperate mystery of vanishing/reappearing objects itself we have all 3 tales employing the symbol of a cross, two involve a medal on a chain, all 3 are personally emotive obects linked to the dead, two stories involve essentially the same name, on top of all of these we have the coincidence of the other two tales coming to my attention, the coincidence of it appearing in a book about synchronicity being communication from the dead, the coincidence of my mum both seeing my father and retrieving the cross on the same day as I read the passage in the book...and on...and on. Multiply the likelihood of each of these things and I don't think the universe could contain a number large enough to define the odds.

So what are we left with? I don't know. That something truly paranormal is at work, but that the single discarnate mind of my father has orchestrated the whole thing is surely untenable.

It's just such a conundrum - and those in the other tale to which I've alluded - which lead me to speculate that extraordinary,if unoriginal, idea that this is all some form of dream. Conscious reality I mean. If not literally then certainly by analogy. Because it strikes me a dream state, as we experience it at night, has all of the characteristics which make such a tale possible. Within a dream ther world to us is real and immutable. But someone awake can whisper suggestions in our sleeping ear and they may become part of the dream story. Maybe that's exactly how it works. Maybe the dead are our now awake companions whispering plot ideas in our still sleeping ear to influence the dream....

It's just an idea. Literally!:P

No One
What is the rest of your story? When you returned home was the hair clamp on the counter or not? - AOD :^)

AOD, Nope. It went from the Kitchen counter to mysteriously being in my wife's jacket pocket at the gym. We left it in the gym on top of a shelf. I checked about a year later and it was still peacefully sitting there collecting dust.

"It's just such a conundrum - and those in the other tale to which I've alluded - which lead me to speculate that extraordinary,if unoriginal, idea that this is all some form of dream. Conscious reality I mean" Lawrence B

I agree. These events certainly do seem to suggest dream "logic" at play in the fabric of reality rather than some simple expansion of our rational understanding; e.g. things are as they seem, but with the add on dimension of spirits in an afterlife that can sometimes influence our solid material world.

In our society rational thinking is valued far more than perceiving via the "heart". So much so that we come to believe that rationality and its constructs is the true reality. The "heart" has its own equally true reality and it's not linear. At least that's how I understand things.

Within the totality of our being there are probably yet other ways of perceiving.

@Bruce - Did you come away from this NYT story with the idea that the author believed she had a genuine ghost experience? I didn't. And while it's a fun Halloween type of tale, I think it's the sort of experience that any of us would most likely dismiss for the same sorts of physiological reasons SHE seems to have dismissed it as well.

I would also imagine it's the sort of experience that the vast majority of "ghost hunters" have at one point or another - no different than the sort of experience most of us have while practicing yoga on a particularly lucky day when our body and mind is just right…..or on day 7 of a 10 day vipassana meditation retreat, or any other event that can bring on great feelings of connection to a place, space or those around us.

I do believe that the death bed vision literature is amazing an inspiring and ought to be taken far more seriously than it has thus far. But I have to admit……it's a bit of a stretch for anyone to read that NYT piece and think it was "extra credible" for any reason at all - I don't think the author herself would argue that either. (I have cut and pasted the entirety of the "paranormal" part of her experience below)

For what it's worth - I think it's this type of credulity and desire to ascribe an extra bit of ethereal importance to what is a fun and uneventual anecdote at best… what arms skeptics and cynics to laugh off the more credible cases before they are even read)

Standing in front of the prison cell I was overwhelmed by both the history of the prison and the anticipation of the hunt.

And that is when I felt it. A chill at the base of my neck quickly rippled throughout my body. My shoulders shuddered. I felt warm, relaxed and yet fully aware of everything around me. I was full of emotion and felt an incredible closeness to the four ghost hunters next to me, people I had met just hours before.

This was a sensation I had never experienced. For a few glorious moments I believed that a ghost, perhaps the long-ago occupant of this cell, was passing through me. I spent the rest of the evening in a trance, following the hunters through the cold, empty, eerie hallways.

I had my ghost story, finally.

Or did I? I knew that my powerful paranormal experience was most likely a result of my heightened, sensitized emotional state. The feelings I experienced are similar to what’s known as an “autonomous sensory meridian response.” It is not a clinical diagnosis, and there is skepticism over whether it is a physiologically distinct, measurable experience.

When something appears in the New York Times, it's instantly *less* credible to me.

I'm just sayin' ...


Michael said:

"When something appears in the New York Times, it's instantly *less* credible to me."

Absolutely. Everyone knows you have to go Fox News for coverage that's fair and balanced. :)

"At this point we're no longer describing a ghost but a god."

I have the idea that the reality of biological beings is a dream for the spirits of the deceased, because psi phenomena usually associated with dream-like states, ghosts are usually behave like sleepwalkers, some mediumship reports claim that the deceased feel like in a dream during the sessions, etc., so a spirit of deceased could only alter our reality as a lucid dreamer may alter their dreams, but the difference is that our dream is not individual but collective, so it makes it much harder to manipulate.


A great account, thanks for sharing. I agree that the best conclusion is that our reality is something of a shared dream. By that, I don't mean a form of solipsism, as we exist in a *shared* dream, in which we collectively create our reality. There do seem to be a set of ground rules, but these rules can be bent in certain circumstances.

I would recommend checking out Bernardo Kastrup's blog and books. his whirlpool metaphor works very well imo as a good analogy for how this all works.

I think when a deceased person, in this case your father, sets a direct intention to make contact, then the power of that intention then influences the expression of physical reality. Reality will bend to conform to that intention in ways that we find extraordinary.

If you think about it, ritual magick is based on exactly the same principle. See Aleister Crowley's definition of magick: 'the influencing of physical circumstances in accordance with will'.

I think the veil between this world and the otherworld, whatever we want to call it, is not easy to pierce; many mediumistic communications back this up. However, on these rare occasions when a channel is opened, then it seems that the effect can be spectacular.

About the link contributed by David R:

There are mediumship cases where motives, personality and knowledge of certain deceased humans manifest. If this is not evidence of spirits of deceased humans I do not know what it could be.

What's up, David R.? What are your thoughts about the link you provided? - AOD

Hello. Amos, I posted this link because I recall some months ago I had written here an exchange with Michael wherein I stated that lots of mediums seem to have become involved in very serious circumstances regarding bad health as a result of their mediumship. Michael didn't seem to think this was the case. This pdf link is just one example of many I can offer that show that this is indeed the case.

Juan, it might do you well to read the link I pasted before commenting.

I didn't want to derail this thread by posting this but I thought if I posted it here it would be up to date.

My thoughts on this are biased in favour of Christianity, but that is hardly a reason for persuing the issue I am bringing up. I want Michael to examine the reasons why mediums often become ill and resort to harmful addictions etc. It's food for thought, that's all.

OK, Thanks David r. - AOD

"Juan, it might do you well to read the link I pasted before commenting."

I read in part your link and other works of psychic literature.

About Christianity and mediumship, I can say that the mediums are not more pathological that the saints, although some Christians are against the first and for the second.

"I want Michael to examine the reasons why mediums often become ill and resort to harmful addictions etc. It's food for thought, that's all." - David r

I've heard that said too. Consider the early demise of Edgar Cayce. But isn't it pretty obvious that living constantly with a foot in each of two different realities is going to be mentally and emotionally strenuous? And that even without the added strain of being regarded as a charlatan and trickster by mainstream science. It takes a very brave person to stand outside the norm.

I don't know Julie, living to be 67 years old for Cayce's generation may have been what one could expect regardless of one's vocation as a medium. I don't consider Cayce's death to be an 'early demise'. Leonora Piper made it to 93.- AOD

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