The Naturalisation of the Supernatural/Chapter 4


CHAPTER IV
SPONTANEOUS THOUGHT TRANSFERENCE: COINCIDENT DREAMS

THE belief that in sleep are revealed things hidden from the common daylight is coeval probably with the beginnings of human history. The savage cult of spirits and the belief in survival after death are traced by modern anthropologists to the mysterious visions of dream-life. The dreamer and the interpreter of dreams are alike held in high honour amongst primitive races: and it is hardly necessary to remind the reader that soothsaying by dreams is not even yet obsolete in our own and other civilised countries.

Now it may be claimed that the hypothesis of telepathy has given a new meaning to the interpretation of dreams. It was no doubt the frequent occurrence in dreams of mysterious correspondences with things actually happening in the world outside the dreamer's mind which first called attention to the subject: and in sleep, if anywhere, we may expect to find traces of the operation of telepathy, for the quiescence and almost complete freedom from external disturbance which characterise that state are precisely the conditions which are indicated as favourable to the reception of stimuli so weak as are presumably these messages from other minds.

We have evidence, of course, that other stimuli, too faint to make their presence known in the tumult of our waking hours, frequently emerge into consciousness in sleep. In this way we seem to revert in dreamful sleep to a more primitive stage of consciousness, which was ours, perhaps, far back in planetary history, before our lives were sharply divided up into alternating periods of helpless slumber and waking activity. But, though in the study of dreams we may find interesting and valuable illustrations of the working of telepathy, the demonstration of a supersensuous mode of communication between mind and mind rests primarily, as has already been said, upon the experimental results of which brief samples have been given in a previous chapter. For dream-coincidences, however striking, can in themselves afford even less support to the theory than the waking visions dealt with in the last chapter. For this evidential inferiority there are several reasons. In the first place, dreams are as the sands on the seashore in number; many persons have dreams every night of their lives. St. Augustine tells us in his Confessions that a wise friend warned him that astrology was a false science. "Of whom," said the Saint, "when I had demanded how then could many true things be foretold of it, he answered me, 'that the force of chance diffused throughout the whole order of things brought this about.'" The force of chance still operates, and undoubtedly many dream-coincidences must be attributed to normal causes. In the second place, most dreams leave but a slight impression on the mind even of the dreamer; and the memory of them is usually very vague and elusive. There is a serious risk, therefore, that when the partial correspondence of a dream with some external event comes to be known, the details of the indefinite picture preserved in the memory may be filled in to suit the facts—a process, it may be added, which implies no want of honesty on the part of the narrator; most of us probably "improve" our dreams unconsciously even on the first telling. Again the indefiniteness of dream memories comes partly from the fact, as already said, that the original impressions are in most cases weak; partly from the circumstance that the dream, unlike a vision seen with the eyes open, has no relations either in time or space, and forms no part in an associated chain of memories. This last objection does not, of course, apply to dreams which occur in a brief sleep in the daytime; and it is worthy of note that we have in our collection several remarkable coincidental dreams, of unusual vividness, which have occurred in such brief moments of slumber snatched from the waking hours.

From all this it follows that only those dreams are worthy of record in this connection which were noted down before their correspondence with the event was known, or which were at least told to some one else beforehand. In any case, in a dreamstory, the interval between its occurrence and the committal of it to writing should be of the briefest.

Again, dreams are of little account unless the coincidence is very striking, and unless the dreams themselves are distinguished from the common ruck of our nightly visitants by some unusual quality—e. g., by their superior vividness or by the intensity of the emotion which accompanies them.

B even when the dream is well attested, when the experience was unusually vivid, and the coincidence striking, there are many cases in which the dream can be explained by normal causes. There are, for instance, several dreams in our collection dealing with lost property; a brooch hidden under leaves and loose gravel in the garden, a box of stolen property secreted by burglars in the coal cellar—to quote two instances only—have been recovered through dreams. But in cases of this kind it is probable that the dream may be founded on slight indications actually seen by the eyes, which failed in the crowd of waking sensations to gain attention at the time, and did not actually emerge into consciousness until sleep offered a vacant opportunity. Again, we have a case in which an American bank director was awakened from his sleep by the noise of a heavy explosion, dressed himself, and went out in the town to see what had happened. Notwithstanding the fact that on that very night the safe at a bank thirty miles away in which he had a large interest was blown up by dynamite, I should hesitate, in view of the frequency of unexplained noises, to ascribe a dream of this kind to telepathy. Again, a neighbour of mine on the night of June 24–25, 1894, dreamt that President Carnot had been assassinated, and told his family before the morning paper which announced the news had been opened. But in a case of that kind it seems possible that the information may have reached the sleeper in his dreams from the shouts of a newsboy, or even from the conversation of passers-by in the street.

The reader will be able to judge for himself how far the examples which follow conform to the standard set up, and how far it is probable that the coincidences described have been due to normal causes.

In the first case to be quoted, two friends, at a distance of some miles from each other, had similar dreams.

The incident bears some resemblance to an experiment in the transference of an imaginary scene. Dr. Gleason's dream, as shown by the entry in her diary, occurred between 2 and 3 a.m. on Wednesday, January 27, 1892. The other percipient's account unfortunately leaves it doubtful whether his dream occurred, as would naturally be inferred from his opening sentence, on the night of Tuesday-Wednesday, or on the night of Monday-Tuesday. In any case it seems clear that both the dreams had already taken place before the dreamers met: and the details of the dreams are so bizarre that it is difficult to suppose that they could both arise independently.

No. 21. From Dr. Adele A. GLeason[1]

The Gleason Sanitarium, Elmira, N. Y., February, 1892.

The night of Tuesday, January 26, 1892, I dreamed between two and three o'clock that I stood in a lonesome place in dark woods; that great fear came on me; that a presence as of a man well known to me came and shook a tree by me, and that its leaves began to turn to flame.

The dream was so vivid that I said to the man of whom I dreamed when I saw him four days later, "I had a very strange dream Tuesday night." He said, "Do not tell it to me; let me describe it, for I know I dreamed the same thing."

He then without suggestion from me duplicated the dream, which he knew, from the time of waking from it, took place at the same hour of the same night.

Adele A. Gleason.

Dr. Gleason was so impressed by the dream that on the following morning she made an entry in her diary: "Night of dream. J. R. J." (Mr. Joslyn's initials.) The diary was sent to Dr. Hodgson for his inspection.

The account of the second dreamer, written a few days later, is as follows:

From Mr. John R. Joslyn, Attorney-of-Law

208 East Water Street, Elmira, N. Y.

On Tuesday, January 26, 1892, I dreamed that in a lonely wood where sometimes I hunted game and was walking along after dark, I found a friend standing some ten feet in the bushes away from the road, apparently paralysed with fear of something invisible to me, and almost completely stupefied by the sense of danger. I went to the side of my friend and shook the bush, when the falling leaves turned into flame.

On meeting this friend, a lady, some days afterwards, she mentioned having had a vivid dream on Tuesday morning, and I said "Let me tell you mine first," and without suggestion I related the duplicate of her dream.

I was awakened soon after, and noted the time from a certain night train on a railroad near by, and so am certain that the dreams took place at same hour of same night.

J. R. Joslyn.

It would seem here that a kind of nightmare experience of the one dreamer was by sympathy transferred to the other.

The next example, again, bears some resemblance to our experimental cases, but in the present instance the distance between agent and percipient —if we adopt the telepathic explanation—was some five hundred miles.

No. 22. From Mrs. Krekel[2]

[Mrs. Krekel, an associate of the American Branch of the S. P. R., was in November, 1893, staying with an old friend, Mrs. McKenzie. On the early morning of the 23rd November she heard a loud rap upon the headboard of the bed; and after relapsing again into a condition of half-sleep, saw a large envelope, with a mourning border, thrust before her face. She related her experience to her friend in the morning. The following day she left her friend's house; and on the next day —Saturday the 25th—received a telegram announcing her mother's death.

The following letter was written by Mrs. Krekel to her hostess a week after the visionary experience.]

Rockport, Ill., November 30, 1893.

Dear Mrs. McKenzie,—The enclosed telegram, which I would like you to return again to me, will explain the sad errand upon which I was called to Rockport, only two days after my somewhat remarkable experience at your place.

You will remember that it was Wednesday night, November 22nd, that I heard the loud rap upon head of my bed, and had the arm thrust over my shoulder, handing me the envelope with mourning border and death upon it. Saturday morning, at Hamburg, Iowa, three days afterwards, the enclosed message came to me. Now I must tell you some other particulars connected with it, which are part, and a remarkable part, of the occurrence and experience.

My mother was taken ill Wednesday night, soon after going to bed,—a difficulty in breathing, which she had experienced more or less since an attack of "la grippe" four years ago. She occupied and slept in her own part of the house, shut away from my brother and sister-in-law by two doors,—the folding doors of the parlour which was her living room and her bedroom door opening off her living room. She told my sister Mary, who was sent for the next morning and stayed with her until she died, that she disliked to disturb the family, knowing that they were ill (both brother and his wife were down with "grippe"), and she resolved to go through the night without calling them; but along towards morning became so ill that she tried to call them, rapped upon a stand standing at the head of bed, and upon the headboard, until she aroused them.

Now, that I heard my dear old mother rapping for help across three states, I have no more doubt than I have that I am writing to you of the occurrence now.

My sister tells me that she was likely struck with death from the first. Her hands and feet were deathly cold, but she did not know it, said she was comfortable, "that she was going," and was glad, "was happy."

Mattie P. Krekel.

The telegram is dated November 25, 1893, and announces that the death had occurred at four o'clock that morning. November 22nd, 1893, was a Wednesday, as stated.

The following was Mrs. McKenzie's reply to Mrs. Krekel:

Quitman, Mo., December 6. 1893.

I opened your letter in the presence of my husband, son, and daughter. I read the telegram first. My surprise caused me to relate the occurrence of Wednesday night, November 22nd, as you had told me in the morning. Lottie told her father that you told her the same thing after breakfast. Then I read your letter, and there was the same. A loud rap upon the head of your bed, waking you up, an arm thrust over your shoulder, handing you an envelope with a black border, with death upon it. I cannot forget your excitement and sadness, caused by the occurrence.

Ellen E. McKenzie.

Mrs. Krekel, it should be added, explains that she was in no anxiety about her mother at the time: "As far as I knew, my mother was in better health than a year before." She added that the distance between her mother and herself at the time of the vision was five hundred miles.

In the next case the coincidence was of a much more striking character, and the dream, again, was sufficiently vivid to awaken the dreamer.

No. 23.

Mr. H. B., an undergraduate of ——— College, Cambridge, wrote on the 6th October, 1901, to Mr. Piddington:

. . . I thought you might possibly be interested in a coincidence which took place at the end of August last. I am attached to a certain young lady. At the time I refer to I was staying near Peterboro' and the lady in question was at her home, a seaside town in Yorkshire. One very close thundery night I found some difficulty in getting to sleep. When finally I fell asleep, or rather dozed, the face of Miss D. rose up before me, and to my surprise one side of her face was very much swollen and she looked very unhappy. I sat up in bed and spoke to her, only to find that I had been dreaming. Again I fell asleep and dreamt that I was walking along a street, when I heard a cry above me, and looking up saw Miss D.'s face at a window from which smoke and flames were issuing. I rushed upstairs, only to see her face floating in the smoke, very much swollen. I tried to grasp her, and woke up with a cry. Somehow the dream depressed me, and next day in writing to Miss D. I told her the whole thing, much as I have told you. Imagine my surprise a day after, when I heard from her that on the night in question she had gone out to see a house on fire—Mrs. K.'s seaside residence; had contracted a chill, and gone to bed with her face enormously swollen up, and had suffered severe toothache all night. Our letters on the subject will confirm dates, etc. . . .

H. B.

A few days later Mr. H. B. called on Mrs. Verrall, who ascertained that the dream occurred on the night of Sunday, August 25th. On the following day Mr. H. B., to quote from Mrs. Verrall's notes of her interview with him,

wrote to Miss D. to ask if she had had a toothache, but on second thoughts decided that it would make him feel foolish if nothing had occurred, and so tore up the letter. On a later day in the week he was writing to her about other things, and then mentioned his vivid dream about the swollen face (this part of the business evidently impressed him much more than the fire). But before he sent this letter he received one from her mentioning that she had been suffering from a severe toothache and swollen face since Sunday night. This letter I have seen; it is dated from Filey, on "Wednesday" (obviously August 28th), and begins by saying that she is sorry not to have written before, but has been "seedy ever since Sunday. I think I must have got a chill; anyhow, I had raging toothache from Sunday night till " the day before, when she had the tooth out with gas. The letter went on to give a graphic description, with a sketch, of her appearance during the time that her face was swollen.

On the receipt of this letter, H. B. was so much astonished to find that his dream about the swollen face was true that he added a postscript to his letter (which had not yet gone) to say that he had seen her with a swollen face at a window from which smoke was coming, and to ask if that part of the dream was also true.

Her letter in answer to that I have also seen. It is dated from Filey on August 31, 1901, and I copy the important part:—"I was awfully interested in your dream; it is the queerest thing I have heard of for ages. The funny part of it is that I got the cold which made my toothache so bad by going out on Sunday evening, hearing that there was a fire on the Crescent. It was Mrs. K.'s house; one of the bedrooms got on fire. It was nothing much, and was put out before the Fire Brigade arrived. . . . Auntie M. first noticed smoke coming out of the window." The writer goes on to say (and this seems to me very interesting), "M. gave me a sleeping powder on Sunday night, so I slept heavily, in spite of the pain." She also says that she thought about him a good deal on Monday night when she had seen what a sight she was, but not on Sunday.[3]

The case is interesting, not only from the detailed nature of the coincidence, but because it illustrates one of the chief obstacles to obtaining good evidence in cases of this kind. The letter which Mr. H. B. had actually written on the Monday was not sent, through fear of ridicule. Sometimes it is a feeling of quite a different order which stands in the way of a written note being made. Thus, Miss G. had a dream of her brother dying in his berth on board ship. Miss G. was so convinced that her brother was dead (in fact he died about twelve hours later), that she ceased to send her usual letters to him; but, in place of making a written note of an experience which she felt too sacred for the purpose, she kept an invitation card to a children's party to remind her of the exact date.[4] In another case, in which a child of fourteen saw the apparition of a young man of about nineteen on the day of his death, the percipient told no one of her experience, save her sister who was present at the time; and adds, "Although I wished to put it down in my diary (which I had not kept for some time), I was afraid to do so; I therefore made marks to remind myself."[5]

In the last case, it will be observed, the vision was a waking hallucination, a much more impressive experience than a dream, and one much more likely therefore to be recorded. But we have some statistics to show that even hallucinations are very rarely recorded beforehand. Out of sixty-two hallucinations coincident with a death, obtained through the Census enquiry, a written note is said to have been made before news of the death in six cases only. In only one—the narrative just cited—has the note actually been preserved, and this, as has been shown, in an ambiguous form. There are altogether 1942 hallucinations reported in the Census enquiry, and in only forty-nine of these, i. e., 2.5 per cent, is any record (diary or letter) said to have been written within twenty-four hours of the occurrence.[6] We can hardly expect therefore that a note of a dream will be made at the time, unless the percipient should happen to be specially interested in the subject.

In the following case also the correspondence between the dream and the event appears to have been very detailed; though in one important particular, the identity of the person in the water, the dreamer was at fault.

No. 24. From Miss C. Clarkson[7]

Alverthorpe Hall, Wakefield
May 8th, 1894.

On Sunday, May 5th. 1894,[8] my sister and I were boating on the river Derwent, in Yorkshire (near Kirkham Abbey), with a party of friends in a small steam launch. Between 3 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we had all landed to gather cowslips in the fields, and on returning to the boat, for some reason the usual plank for landing was not in position, and we jumped in turn from the bank on to the flat end of the boat. I was the last, and in jumping missed my footing and slipped into the water, catching the edge of the boat, however, with my hands as I went, and supporting myself—so that I was not totally immersed, though the water was a good depth where we were. Two of the gentlemen rushed forward and pulled me out by my arms. I said as I was being hauled up, "It is no use pulling so hard, you hurt me." One of them said, "We must pull, if we are to get you out." I was goton to the boat in a very short time, and was never in any danger.

We returned to our own home the next day, and never mentioned in the slightest way the little accident to any one, lest my father, who is a very old man, should be alarmed or worried at what had happened. Shortly after we returned, my step-mother said to my sister, "Have you had an accident on the river?" "I? No," said my sister. [Mrs. Clarkson then related her dream]

According to my step-mother's account, my father also seemed to have been a little anxious and uneasy in his sleep that night, and in the morning rather pointedly asked her if she had dreamt anything, but said nothing further; and nothing was afterwards said to him to make him aware of what had happened. My step-mother's dream was during the night after the accident occurred.

Christabel Clarkson.

Miss Clarkson adds:

I have asked Mrs. Clarkson if she ever had any other dreams of the kind, but she says not.

The following is Mrs. Clarkson's account of her dream:

May 14th. 1894.

On Sunday night, May 6th, 1894, [I had] a dream which appeared remarkable; in effect, was this—that Louisa Clarkson was in the water apparently drowned, and I said, "Take care, or you will go," and pulled her in by her hair. Her answer was, "Do not pull so hard, you hurt me." I still pulled, saying, "You had better be hurt than drowned." The following day, on her return home, I inquired of her if she had an accident during her visit. She said, "Well, something like one; my sister got into the water and used just the same words, 'Don't pull so hard, you hurt me."' Her answer to me was, "Well, it is strange."

Annie Pilikington Clarkson.

P. S.—I inquired of Louisa before hearing a word of the accident.

Miss Louisa Clarkson also gives her confirmation of the incident. Here, it will be seen, the dream occurred some hours after the accident. It may be suggested that it was caused by Miss Clarkson or her sister recalling the scene at night. Or, again, the impression may have been conveyed to Mrs. Clarkson at the actual time of the accident, but have remained latent until a favourable opportunity came for its emergence into consciousness.[9]

A dream related to us by Mr. G. R. Sims furnishes a parallel for the mistake in the identity of the chief actor in the dream-drama. Mr. Sims dreamt that his sister came to tell him of his father's death. In the morning, after he had awakened from the dream, Miss Sims actually came, but the death which she announced was that of his brother-in-law.[10]

A very large number of coincident dreams, as might have been anticipated on the telepathic theory, are connected with death. The following may be cited as a typical case.

No. 25. From Mrs. Mann[11]

King's Field, Cambridge. 11th Feb., 1904.

On the night of Friday, January 22nd, 1904, I had a vivid dream.

I saw my old friend, Dr. X., who left Cambridge about ten years ago, and I had not seen him since, sitting by my side. He took hold of my hand, saying, "Why have you not been to see me?" I said, "Oh! I 've been so busy that I 've not been able to get away. You are so altered since I saw you last." "Yes," he said, "but that is so long ago." He then disappeared. The dream so impressed me that I told it to my husband at breakfast the next morning, Saturday, 23rd, and also to a friend who knew the doctor, on the 25th.

On Saturday morning, the 30th, my husband at breakfast said he had received a memorial notice of Dr. X.'s death, which took place on the 23rd instant, the day after my dream.

S. Mann.
A. H. Mann.

Dr. Mann appends his signature to the account in corroboration. Mrs. Mann explained to Mrs. H. Sidgwick that Dr. X.'s hair and whiskers when she last saw him were iron grey, but that in her dream they appeared white. From Dr. X.'s son we learn that his whiskers were not quite white and his hair only tinged with white. In any case little weight could be attached to a correspondence of this kind.

Dr. X. died at 4.30 A.M. on the 23rd January, 1904, so that it is possible that the dream exactly coincided with the hour of the death.

The exact date of the dream is fixed by a note in Dr. Mann's diary, "Jan. 23rd, X [full surname given] dream."

A narrative is quoted in the Journal for December, 1895 (p. 178), in which the occurrence of a dream presaging a death was noted in a diary before the news was received. In another case, printed in the Journal for November, 1897, a letter relating the dream was sent to Dr. Hodgson before news of the event was received.

We have several cases reported to us of dreams coincident with external events in which it is difficult to apply the theory of thought transference, since no person is indicated as the probable agent. Thus we have two or three cases in which a robbery has been seen in a dream, in which the only conceivable agent would appear to be the malefactor, presumably unknown to the dreamer, and certainly a reluctant party to the experiment.[12]

In other cases the death intimated in the dream is that of some eminent personage—President, Duke, or professional cricketer. In view of the incalculable scope offered by dreams for chance coincidence, and the danger, when the experience has not been actually written down at once, that the amount of correspondence with the event may be unduly magnified, it would not be wise to attach much importance to coincident dreams of this character. But the reader may be interested in seeing a specimen case.

An account of the incident described was sent to Mr. Andrew Lang on the 4th December, 1901, by Mr. Alexander Bell of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. On the 11th Mr. Bell wrote again, enclosing an account from Mr. Brierley, the dreamer:

No. 26. From Mr. J. A. Brierley[13]

Mr. Bell kindly tells me that you are much interested in my dream concerning the death of Lohmann, and for what it may be worth I have pleasure in briefly relating what happened.

Shortly before seven o'clock on the morning of December 2nd I awoke, but, not being under the necessity of rising early, I went off to sleep again, and it was during this period that I dreamt Lohmann had died—I had no impression where, although I knew he was in South Africa—and I had to write a sketch of his career. I saw him playing again, and he was focussed very clearly before me in the act of delivering the ball. This, with a memory of the first match in which I ever saw him,—the second match between the sixth Australian team and Shaw and Shrewsbury's Eleven that had been in the Antipodes the previous year. played at Old Trafford on September 13, 14, and 15, 1888, when he and Briggs dismissed the whole side for 35,—left a very vivid impression upon me when I awakened, and although I attached no significance to the dream, remembering the nature of my work, I mentioned the incident to my wife when I got down. At that time, of course, news of Lohmann's death was in the papers, but as I had left the office the previous evening by half-past nine, at which hour the cable message had not come through, I was in ignorance of it. Curiously enough, I did not see a paper that morning until I reached the office, and the first words that were addressed to me were, "Do you know George Lohmann is dead?"

I had not sought to trace any meaning to it, looking upon it merely as a remarkable coincidence, but, as was pointed out by one of my colleagues to whom I mentioned what had occurred, the strange part of the matter is that since he left England after the tour of the South Africans in this country, nothing had appeared to in any way revive memories of him at such a time.

J. A. Brierley.

Through the kindness of Mr. Bell, we obtained later the following corroboration from Mrs. Brierley; this was enclosed in a letter dated December 23rd, 1901:

All that I can say with regard to Mr. Brierley's account of his dream is that, just before sitting down to breakfast on the morning he mentions, he alluded to the fact that he had had a singular fancy in his sleep—that he had dreamt Lohmann, the cricketer, was dead, that he had to write an obituary notice of him, and other things which he has detailed in his own communication. That he did so relate this to me at that time, I have the clearest recollection.

(Signed) Louie Brierley.

The telegram announcing Lohmann's death, as we learn from Mr. Bell, did not reach the office of the Telegraph until after midnight on Sunday, 1st December.

Here, whatever significance we may attach to the coincidence, it is at least worth noting that the dream made a sufficient impression to induce the percipient to relate it the next morning.

In the narratives hitherto cited the coincidence has been of a perfectly definite character, and the dream has, with the doubtful exception of case No. 22, been referred at the time to the presumed agent. Before leaving the subject, however, mention should perhaps be made of the class of symbolic dreams—a survival of the occult art of the interpretation of dreams. Many cases have been reported to us in which dreams of a particular type are apt to recur with certain persons, indicating, either by way of coincidence or forewarning, the occurrence of a death in their immediate circle. It is difficult for us in such cases to share our informant's confidence that a dream of this kind is causally connected with the death, partly because the dream as a rule is not referred at the time to any particular person, and the scope for coincidence is thus very wide; but mainly because it is rarely possible, even with the most scrupulous narrator, to feel satisfied that all the "misses" have been recorded as well as the "hits." In the following case, however, though the dream did not actually suggest at the time the death of Mrs. Medley, it called up the thought of her. The dream, it will be seen, was preceded by a series of waking impressions. It should be added that dreams of these offensive parasites, or of teeth falling out, are amongst the commonest types of symbolic death-dreams.

No. 27. From Mrs. Knight

Heathleands, Malvern Wells, 20th April, 1897[14]

I was staying at Udny Castle, in Aberdeenshire, on a visit, and was going on for another visit to Lytham, in Lancashire, on the 18th of September, 1895. I had wished Mr. and Mrs. Udny and the friends in the house good-bye when I went to bed, knowing I should have to make a very early start in the morning. So I had the curtains drawn and the shutters shut to make the room dark and to get a good night's sleep.

But I woke up with the feeling of being gently wakened; I was swayed, or rather rocked backwards and forwards, till I felt the bed to see if that were moving, and then I was gently and quietly raised up. The air fluttered over my head, a shimmering light came, and I felt some one was detained, lingering and hovering over me. To myself, I said: "Some one is dying; some one I know is leaving this world and blessing me"; and then the hovering and the fluttering were greater. Then, aloud, as if some one were willing me (for I never speak aloud to myself), I said: "If dear Med were here she would tell me at once who it is." As if in answer came a rap by the head of my bed, a rap I have never heard before, and was certainly not made by human hands. I jumped out of bed, and said, "Who am I to see?" I lit my candle, and looked at my watch, and it was seven minutes past three. I put the candle out, and was getting into bed, when I thought, "How can I rest while a soul I know is passing from this world?" and I knelt down and said a prayer for the soul. I never thought it was my dear nurse, Mrs. Medley, whom I always called "Med," but I thought of a friend I knew in Warwickshire.

After I got into bed and put the candle out, there was a light I cannot describe all round my bed. It was a silvery radiance, and as it passed away flashes of gold and gold stars fell. About five I went to sleep for half an hour, but woke up with my hand on my neck trying to take off a flat black insect. . . . One seemed on my forehead, one on my neck, and I said again aloud: "This is dear Med's Death Dream; how interested she will be to hear it. Who could have died this morning?" Mrs. Medley had always told me that dreaming of insects on the head and neck was a certain sign of death, and I never liked her saying this, but never believed it.

I was travelling from 6.30 that morning, and arrived at Lytham about 8 p.m.,when I was met at the station by my friend, with a telegram in her hand, saying, "My dear, I have very sad news for you." And I answered, "Then it was dear Med." And she said, "Oh, I am so glad you were prepared. We feared from the telegram it would be such an awful shock to you." I answered, "I was not prepared, only I know it all now."

I took the first train in the next morning to Malvern Wells, where we were living, and at that station was met and told my dear nurse had died at three. I said, "No, it was later." On arriving at the house my sister said she had looked at the watch, and the hands were between five and ten minutes past three. It was seven minutes past three when I looked at my watch on that morning.

The day before she had been very well, and my sisters had taken her for a drive round Upton-on-Severn, but she was constantly talking of me, and saying, "I am not happy about Etta. She is not well; I want to see her."

I had not said in any letters that I was not well, but I had not been very well.

She was the dearest and truest friend I have ever had, or ever can have. She was my sisters' and my nurse, and had been in my father's service before I was born. . . .

Henrietta Knight.

In a letter to Mr. Myers, enclosing the account, Mrs. Knight writes:

Heathlands, Malvern Wells, April 20th [1897].

. . . I was so afraid of imagining or forgetting, that the day I arrived home I wrote the bare facts, which I have copied for you. I have simply copied down what I wrote.

Mrs. Knight adds that she had no knowledge of Mrs. Medley's illness: and that "the love between her and me was greater than the love between many a mother and child."

It will be seen that the idea of death had been already summoned up by the previous waking experience, and that the dream simply embodied the same idea in the traditional symbolic imagery—a tradition closely associated in the dreamer's mind with the idea of the dying woman.


  1. Journal, S. P. R., June, 1895. p. 105.
  2. Journal, S. P. R., June, 1895.
  3. Journal, S. P. R., July, 1902, p. 263. A case very similar to Mr. H. B.'s will be found in my Apparition: and Thought Transference (p. 200). The percipient in that case. Sir Edward Hamilton. K.C.B., had a vision of his brother with his arm seriously affected, horribly red. and bent back at the wrist. The date of the dream is attested by a note in the percipient's diary.
  4. Journal, S. P. R., December. 1894.
  5. I have seen the "mark" in the diary—a. simple triangle with no comment of any kind.
  6. Proceedings, S. P. R., vol. x.. pp. 211 and 220. Of course only a small proportion of the 1942 hallucinations showed any correspondence with a death or other event.
  7. Journal, S. P. R., July, 1895.
  8. The first Sunday in May. 1894, was really the 6th.
  9. See below, Case 41. Chapter VI.
  10. Journal, S. P. R., October, 1899.
  11. Journal, S. P. R., June, 1905.
  12. A very striking example of this class is the "prophetic" dream of the murder of Terriss. the actor. I have dealt with it under the head of prophecy, because the dream did actually precede the murder by some hours. But the least incredible explanation which I can suggest for the dream—which on any interpretation presents us with a difficult problem— is that the percipient's experience was inspired by the brooding thoughts of the actual murderer, a discharged super, personally unknown to him. See below, Chapter XIV., No. 76.
  13. Journal, S. P. R., May. 1902.
  14. Journal, S. P. R., October, 1897. The account was actually written down, as stated at the end of the letter, a few days after the occurrence.