Dark Realms - Issue 30
The pages of history are filled with stories of people who have claimed to see and know things that were yet to come. Such documented cases from rational and esteemed individual are too strange to be dismissed as mere coincidence. But can we really glimpse into our own future–and, if so, can we actually alter the course of our own destiny?
Also referred to as a “sixth sense," a premonition is an unexplainable vision of a future event—most often an impending disaster. Frequently associated with a feeling of foreboding, a premonition can range in intensity from an unshakable sensation of uneasiness to an almost supernaturally prophetic and detailed psychic vision or dream. Are these phenomena merely mental aberrations or danger signals from some higher power? Although no one knows where these mystical forewarnings come from, many tragic events in history have been foretold by strange hunches, compelling visions and other types of premonitions.
Many people have experienced premonitions during a subconcious state, while they are asleep. These strange, nocturnal visions, commonly reffered to as waking dreams, are described as very realistic, recurring dreams that persist for some unknown reason, until eventually they come true. Could it be that in some cases, our dreams can allow us to glimpse important future events?
DREAMS OF DISASTER
Many horrible calamities have been foreshadowed in terrifying dreams that became shockingly real. One such event was the crash of a jetliner at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on May 25, 1979. The crash killed everyone on board. More than a week before the event, however, Dave Booth, an employee at a Cincinnati car rental agency, began having nightmares in which an American Airlines plane seemed to lose power in one engine, turned over onto its back and then plunged into the ground, detonating in a terrible explosion. Booth’s dreams occurred every night in the days leading up to the crash, and the dreams were so detailed and compelling that he contacted not only the airline but also the Cincinnati Aviation Administration and the Federal Aviation Agency. Although his dream warnings were duly recorded by offcials, Booth was powerless to stop the crash of an American Airlines DC-10 at O’Hare several days later—a crash that occurred in exactly the manner prescribed in his dreams.
In another incident, many children and some adults in Wales and other areas of Britain in October 1966 began having dreams and visions in which a massive landslide of black coal buried a school, killing the students inside. On October 20, 1966, one child in the tiny mining town of Aberfan, Wales even told her mother that she no longer feared death and that she’d had a dream in which "something black" had rained down on her school, destroying it. On October 21, that child became one of 128 children killed when an avalanche of coal tumbled down a mountainside and wiped out the Aberfan school in a disaster that claimed more than 140 total victims.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) who is known best for his analytical study of dreams, described having a lucid dream-vision of his own in which all of Europe was submerged in a great flood. Countless people drowned and the water, which spanned as far as the mountains of Switzerland, turned red with their blood. Just months later, in August of 1914, the Great War broke out across Europe.
Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, wrote in her journal on March 19, 1815, relating a sad and troublesome vision. "Dreamt that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived. Awake and find no baby. I think about the little thing all day. Not in good spirits."
Paul McCartney of The Beatles claimed to have dreamt the song "Yesterday." He dreamt of a string quartet playing "a lovely tune," and when he awoke the melody lingered in his mind. He immediately sat down at his nearby piano, turned on a tape recorder and tapped out the melody before it could be forgotten in the mist of dreams. McCartney said that weeks passed while he feared that he had unconsciously "borrowed" someone else’s tune, but after checking with several other musicians and having had no claims to the contrary, he finally felt confident that the dream-song was truly his own. The lyrics were written a while later while on tour with the band.
PREMONITIONS IN PRINT
While dreams are a common vehicle for premonitions, the pages of a nineteenth-century novel offered a startling foretelling of one of the most famous maritime disasters in history: the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. The 1898 novel, entitled Futility, was written by Morgan Robertson and concerned the tragic maiden voyage of a luxury ocean liner that is sent to the bottom of the sea by an iceberg. The similarities between the fictional ship and the real-life Titanic are shocking. Robertson’s ship is named the Titan and has a similar three-propeller construction as the Titanic, and both vessels have nearly identical lengths and weights. The two ships were launched from Southampton, England in the month of April, and both liners strike an iceberg in the North Atlantic, with similarly catastrophic loss of lives due to a scarcity of lifeboats. Whether Robertson’s novel was inspired by some psychic forewarning of a future disaster or was merely a remarkable coincidence is a mystery that will never be solved.
GUIDED BY SPIRITS
There are those who believe that premonitions are a way for denizens of the spirit realm to communicate with those in the physical world, either to pass on lost knowledge or to warn them of future events. In the early fourteenth century, the great poet Dante Alighieri died, leaving behind the incomplete manuscript of The Divine Comedy, a masterwork that takes the reader on a tour of heaven and hell and all spiritual planes in between. Dante’s grief-stricken sons, Jacopo and Pietro, scoured the poet’s house but were unable to find the missing sections of Dante’s great work. They soon wondered if their father had actually completed the massive work. However, one night Jacopo had a dream in which his dead father appeared, informing Jacopo that he had indeed completed the work. Dante then showed his son a secret compartment in the wall in the poet’s private chamber where the missing pieces of the manuscript were stored. When Jacopo awoke and entered his father’s room, he discovered the sections of Dante’s famed work exactly where his deceased father had told him they would be.
James P. Chaffin experienced a similar vision in 1925, four years after the death of his father. The spirit of the deceased man visited his son in several dreams, eventually relaying the message "You will find my will in my overcoat pocket." When the overcoat was found and examined, a hand-written note was discovered, sewn inside the lining of a pocket. The message stated "Read the twenty-seventh chapter of Genesis." Chaffin told his mother of his strange discovery and asked her if she still had their old family Bible. After some searching, the book was found. Upon close inspection, Chaffin and several witnesses discovered that two of the pages in the Book of Genesis had been folded together to form a pocket. When they unfolded the pages, they discovered the dead man’s last will and testament. The handwriting was later examined and the will was verified to be authentic.
VISIONS OF DEATH
American author Mark Twain claimed that he had a precognitive vision of his brother’s death in 1858. While working on a boat that was traveling between New Orleans and St. Louis, Twain dreamed that his brother Henry lay in a metal casket resting on a pair of chairs, a bouquet of flowers (with a single red rose in the center) laying on Henry’s chest.
Twain disembarked in New Orleans and the boat continued on its way, with Henry on board also working as a crewman. Two days after Twain’s troubling dream, a boiler exploded, seriously wounding Henry. He was rushed to a doctor in Memphis, but the doctor inadvertently injected Henry with too much morphine, killing him. Mark Twain was stunned to see every aspect of his vivid dream played out in real life: Henry was placed in a metal coffin, and a mourner placed a bouquet of flowers—including a single red rose— on the dead man’s chest. In addition, when the coffin was placed in a room in Twain’s brother-in-law’s house, the casket rested upon two chairs—just as Twain had seen in his dream.
Abraham Lincoln foresaw his own death in a dream that occurred just days before his fatal outing to Ford’s Theater. In the dream, Lincoln crept through the White House corridors, trying to locate the source of mournful sobbing somewhere in the mansion. When he entered the East Room, he was stunned to see a body wrapped in a funeral shroud laying upon a catafalque. Soldiers stood vigil by the body, and Lincoln asked them who the deceased was. "The President," one of the guards replied. "He was killed by an assassin."
Lincoln recounted this dream to a friend, Ward Hill Lamon. A few days after the disturbing vision, the president was assassinated, and his body lay for a time in state in the East Room of the White House.
TWISTS OF FATE
There are several documented instances of premonitions that seem to haunt certain people their entire lives. Chris Sizemore, the woman whose multiple personality disorder inspired the book and movie The Three Faces of Eve, was often prey to strange dreams and precognitive visions. In one dream, she claimed that Jesus appeared to her and relayed information to her regarding her sister, who seemed to be suffering from pneumonia. Jesus told her that it wasn’t pneumonia but diphtheria—a diagnosis borne out by a doctor several days later.
Later in life, Chris Sizemore had a vision in which she foresaw that her daughter would be harmed by a toxic batch of polio vaccine. Her husband dismissed the premonition and took their daughter in for the injection but Chris Sizemore’s fears were realized when the girl grew seriously ill—an illness caused by a tainted batch of the vaccine. Sizemore also had a fateful vision of her husband being electrocuted at his job. She successfully persuaded him to stay home from work, but her tragic premonition was not completely averted. Later that day they received news that her husband’s replacement was electrocuted while repairing a section of high-voltage power lines.
In more recent years, actor Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, told his friends that he felt he was destined to die young like his father, who died while filming the movie Game of Death in 1973. Brandon Lee even believed a deadly curse plagued his family, a curse invoked by Chinese businessmen who felt Brandon Lee’s grandfather had wronged them. In 1993, while filming The Crow, Brandon was killed in a bizarre accident that ended his life at the young age of 28. In his last interview, shortly before his death, Lee stated that people should cherish all the things in life they take for granted because they never know when they will die.
LIFE SAVING VISIONS
Not all premonitions foretell tragic events. In 1740, Captain Thomas Shubrick set sail from Charleston, South Carolina, heading for London. Just after his ship left port, a terrible storm swept up the coast. The ship capsized and sank, and all men aboard were presumed lost. Later that night, a woman by the name of Mrs. Wragg, who was a close friend of Captain Shubrick, had a dream in which she clearly saw the captain alive and clinging to pieces of the floating wreckage.
The next day, a rescue ship was sent out to search for survivors, but none were found. Mrs. Wragg’s dream returned to haunt her again that night, and she convinced her husband to lead another search party the following day, but again, no survivors were discovered. When the dream came to her again on the third night, she begged her husband to search for their friend one final time. The rescue ship set sail once more, but this time, they discovered Captain Shubrick and one of his crewmen, alive, and clinging to a piece of the wreckage, just as Mrs. Wragg had described.
While warnings of impending disaster are common themes in many premonitions, some also involve personal connections that even death cannot tear asunder. In one interesting case, a teenage boy named Paul exhibited an interest in poetry and music. One song written by Paul was entitled "Danny, My Heart Is Yours" and dealt with the boy’s feeling that he would die soon and give his heart—literally—to someone named Danny.
When Paul was killed in a car accident, his organs were harvested, including his heart. The heart was given to a teenage girl suffering from endocarditis. The girl, named Danny, related her intense feelings of love for Paul when she was shown a picture of him. She believed that she and Paul were lovers in a previous life, and their connection was maintained in this life even though they had technically never met.
MYTH AND FICTION
Mythology, folklore and popular culture, which are often mirrors of a civilization’s values and concerns, have given us many characters blessed—or perhaps cursed— by precognitive visions and dreams. One of the most famous mythological characters who could foretell the future is the Greek seer Cassandra. The daughter of Hecuba and the Trojan king Priam, Cassandra was adored by the god Apollo who promised to bestow upon her the power of prophecy if she would become his consort. Apollo gave her this remarkable gift but Cassandra rebuffed his advances, infuriating the god. Apollo did not take back her power of seeing the future but instead put a curse on her, making it so that her warnings of doom would be ignored. Although Cassandra correctly foretold the fall of Troy, as well as the murder of King Agamemnon by his wife Clytemnestra, her warnings went unheeded. The frustrated seer was eventually slain along with Agamemnon.
Modern popular culture is also filled with films and television shows that deal with premonitions. For example, the 2007 Sandra Bullock thriller, Premonition, deals with a woman’s recurring dream that her husband dies suddenly. The dream disturbs her so much that she does all that she can to prevent her husband’s death, only to discover that her efforts only ensure his demise. In the Final Destination series of horror films, the young characters are plagued by premonitions of their own violent deaths, compelling them to watch their step and exercise caution whenever possible. When the teens wind up "cheating" Death and denying the Grim Reaper his due, Death relentlessly stalks them, trying to get back the lives that it was denied.
The popular TV series Lost also features a subplot involving the premonitions of Desmond Hume, a castaway who is haunted by visions of the death of a young musician named Charlie Pace. Although Desmond struggles to prevent Charlie’s death, it seems inevitable that fate will eventually take its course. Charlie ultimately chooses to face his death, sacrificing himself for the greater good in an attempt to restore the natural order of universal destiny.
Throughout history, strange dreams, haunting visions and other premonitions have served as harbingers of death and great cataclysms. When they are interpreted correctly, these visions can act as warnings of events that have yet to unfold, and can even guide us along our future path. Are these phenomena merely coincidences, or are they indicative of a subconscious ability to glimpse a predestined future? The answer may never be known, but precognitive dreams and visions still have the power to fascinate us and make us wonder if our destinies have already been written. The poet T.S. Eliot once wrote "Time future is contained in time past." Perhaps someday we will discover how to decipher these cryptic messages in order to see our own destiny with crystal clarity, but perhaps some things are better left unknown.