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No. 83: Sep-Oct 1992

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Distressing near-death experiences (ndes)

Noting that most NDEs are touted as involving "profound feelings of peace, joy, and cosmic unity," B. Greyson and N.E. Bush have collected much contrary testimony, which they organized into three categories:

"(1) Phenomenology similar to peaceful near-death experiences but interpreted as unpleasant, (2) A sense of nonexistence or eternal void, or, (3) Graphic hellish landscapes and entities."

One of these testimonies, from Category 3, is worth reproducing here. The percipient was a woodworker with little interest in religion, although he was married to a "religious fanatic." He had been saving for a vacation for years, but just before they were about to leave, he was arrested for drunk driving and heavily fined, losing his license and vacation savings. Distraught, he tried to hang himself. He testified:

"From the roof of the utility shed in my backyard I jumped to the ground. Luckily for me I had forgot the broken lawn chair that lay near the shed. My feet hit the chair and broke my fall, or my neck would have been broken. I hung in the rope and strangled. I was outside my physical body. I saw my body hanging in the rope; it looked awful. I was terrified, could see and hear, but it was different -- hard to explain. Demons were all around me. I could hear them but could not see them. They chattered like blackbirds. It was as if they knew they had me, and had all eternity to drag me down into hell, to torment me. It would have been the worst kind of hell, trapped hopeless between two worlds, wandering lost and confused for all eternity.

"I had to get back into my body. Oh my God, I needed help. I ran to the house, went in through the door without opening it, cried out to my wife but she could not hear me, so I went into her body. I could see and hear with her eyes and ears. Then I made contact, heard her say, 'Oh, my God.'"

His wife then grabbed a knife, ran to the shed, and cut her husband down. An emergency squad revived him.

(Grayson, Bruce, and Bush, Nancy Evans; "Distressing Near-Death Experiences," Psychiatry, 55:95, 1992.)

Comments. The above case might well be classified under "telepathy." It is also interesting that UFO contactee tales also have their upsides and downsides, from meeting benevolent "space brothers" to entities that perform vile experiments on the percipient.

From Science Frontiers #83, SEP-OCT 1992. 1992-2000 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