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No. 8: Fall 1979

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Deathbed Experiences Laid To Rest

Over the years, doctors and psychiatrists have accumulated a large lode of deathbed or near-death experiences. Typically, one about to pass through the veil feels exhaltation, meets long-dead relatives, reviews his past life, encounters luminous beings, departs his body to view friends clustering around, and so on. What to make of it all? Is heaven or some sort of after life just beyond death's door?

Alcock's analysis is very revealing. He first describes several well-known psychological states: out-of-the-body experiences, hypnogogic sleep, hallucinations, and the so-called mystical experience. He concludes that the full spectrum of deathbed experiences can occur any time, not merely during the final moments of life. Nothing unique happens at death's door, merely the altered states of consciousness expected at such a crucial moment. Thus, death-bed experiences reveal nothing of the territory beyond the grave. Alcock does maintain, however, that these various altered states of consciousness are very curious and well worth further study.

(Alcock, James E.; "Psychology and Near-Death Experiences," The Skeptical Inquirer, 3:25, Spring 1979.)

From Science Frontiers #8, Fall 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987