Post-Traumatic Post-Mortem

A 1960s OBE/Mystical Experience

I'm posting here a report that was first published in a 1967 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. It's interesting as a twist on the classic near-death-type experience, of which nothing was known publicly at the time.

The article has particular relevance right now, about which more in a later post.


In the following narratives, actual names and addresses are withheld; initials are altered; dates are altered as to month (not day of month); and years are actual. The case, as a whole, is of peculiar interest, as it combines features which are usually found independently of one another, and each of the two experiences was described by the percipient to someone else before the close coincidence of them in time was discovered. 

The writer of this report heard of the case through a mutual friend and invited the statements, which were furnished in answer to a request. Further comment is reserved until the end of this report. 

STATEMENT I by Mr Peter Davidson written down March 1966, copy sent to the SPR, 26 Jan. 1967.   I come from a family of five children. I am the only son with two older sisters and two younger. My eldest sister Constance is in her early fifties and I am in my late forties. 

My Father died on the 29 August, 1965 and my mother suffered a coronary thrombosis some weeks later and was taken from her Kensington flat to the local hospital. She recovered sufficiently well to return to her flat in December and my eldest sister Constance moved in to look after her. 

Early in 1966 my mother had another coronary and was re-admitted to the local hospital where she died on 20th February, 1966 at 'just before 3 a.m.' (Originally the hospital gave me the time of death as 3.30 a.m. but after I had the experience related below I asked the hospital chaplain to find out for me the exact time of death, and after he made enquiries from the night nursing staff he told me that it was just before 3 a.m.) 

I live in a flat a few miles from my mother's Kensington flat—in Knightsbridge. In the early hours of the morning of the 22nd February, 1966 (48 hours after my mother's death)—I woke up to find myself in a state of what I presume is called a trance. I was lying in bed on my back in a sleep-like conscious state. I did not (or could not?) move. I was breathing heavily—pantingly—with effort. (I thought/ felt 'this is what my mother experienced at the time of her death'). The thing that impressed me most was the heavy, thump-thump beat of my heart—it was so loud that the beats were thumping in my eardrums. 

Mentally I saw a television screen and I immediately thought 'I am now going to see my mother and father together or a message in pictorial form'. I was greatly disappointed when I only saw some female nut brown hair coming out of the TV screen, in the bottom right hand corner. Again, I thought this is not my mother's hair— hers was black going grey and very long. This was short and curly. I reached out to grasp and pull the hair towards me. Instead of the hair coming towards me it literally pulled me head first through the TV screen. The moment I went through the screen my heart stopped beating and I no longer had to breathe. I literally floated through. I had an instant glimpse of a golden yellow light above me. Apart from this I cannot recall seeing or hearing anything after passing through the screen. (I have tried to remember but cannot do so—I was then virtually unconscious and have no reckoning as to the lapse of time). I do remember thinking—this (communication?) is so easy—I must do it again. 

The next thing I knew I was lying in my bed and felt my heart coming to life again—only with a difference. My heart felt burning hot with love and joy—words cannot describe it. I felt my heart being filled with liquid divine love—an exquisitely heavenly experience. I was now fully conscious and breathing quite normally with my eyes still closed. I no longer heard my heart-beats. During this state of ecstasy I saw a number of scenes of places of my childhood days— very rapidly—one of these was a vision of my four sisters and myself sitting round our dining room table 37 to 40 years ago but the chairs at the two ends of the table, where my mother and father sat were empty—to my regret. I also saw the letter 5. Finally, I had a quick flash of seeing a policeman walking towards me and I was lying in a gutter opposite Kensington High Street underground station. (My mother was knocked down by a car on the pedestrian crossing at Ken. High St. Station some years ago when she was 74.) 

I then opened my eyes and saw a luminous cloud about 18 inches or so from my face. I hoped it would form into my mother's face but it just seemed to disappear. 

I switched on the bed light and looked at my watch, it was 2.55 a.m. I felt a very strong urge to go over immediately to the Kensington flat to my sister Constance. It was so strong I got out of bed to get dressed. On reflection I realised how absurd it would be to waken her at that hour of the morning and then went back to bed. As I lay in bed I pictured a slum street scene with 'God is Love' chalked on a wall and for the first time in my life I realised the truth and deeper meaning of this phrase. I felt so elated (with a feeling of enormous power) that had I been sentenced to death I would have gone to my execution with joy in my heart and welcomed life in spirit. 

The following morning I told my wife about my marvellous experience—I was still feeling enormously elated. My feelings of sadness about my mother had completely gone—somehow and I could not think why or how, I felt blissfully happy about her. My younger sister Rhona called in to see me and I told her about it. We decided to go over together to visit Constance at the Kensington flat. 

When we got over to the Kensington flat we found that my youngest sister, Lily, and her husband had called in and Constance had already told them of an experience she had had in the early hours of that morning. (Up to this time neither Constance or I had any knowledge about each other's experience and we had both related the details to other persons before this meeting.) 

Constance's experience was as follows: She had been very unhappy the previous evening, alone in the flat—crying and reproaching herself. She took a strong sleeping tablet and went to bed about midnight— this usually makes her sleep heavily and soundly. She was woken up by having her head or hair pulled and then heard our mother's voice speaking—she heard the message, opened her eyes but could see nothing in the room. She then called out 'Mummy, darling' and my mother repeated the message, only much louder this time, and with more emphasis on the 'anything'. This was as follows: 

‘Nobody need reproach themselves for anything. All my children have been wonderful.' 

The voice did not seem to come from any particular direction but went right through the flat.

She said it sounded like our mother's voice when she was much younger, perhaps 30 or 40 years ago. It was very strong and clear. 

Constance then switched on her light and looked at her watch it said 3 a.m. (but she told me that this could have been 4 or 5 minutes fast). Something made her write down the message immediately. 

Constance did not shed any more tears and was of course overjoyed. She felt happy right through the funeral and showed no emotion which I am sure she would have done had it not been for this experience. 

My feeling of ecstasy lasted for 10 to 14 days, fading away very gradually. It has left me with a very happy feeling about my experience, an absolute conviction of survival of the human personality, an awareness and a strong desire to be a better and more loving person than I was before I had the experience. 

STATEMENT II by Mrs Constance Edwards (née Davidson) - sister of Peter Davidson 

The following is a true account of my experience on the night of 2ist/22nd February 1966: 

My mother died in the early hours of February 20th and I continued to live on in her flat where I had nursed her through part of her illness. 

During the evening of February' 21st I was alone in the flat and had been going through old letters and diaries belonging to my mother, which naturally saddened me. I was feeling very unhappy and miserable, thinking, as one does on such occasions, that I ought to have done more for my mother and bitterly regretting something I had said to her on one occasion. 

Around midnight, feeling sad and extremely weary I took a strong sleeping pill and went to bed. In the early hours of the morning I was suddenly woken up. I felt someone rock my head by tugging at my hair. I immediately heard my mother's voice speaking to me. I was so amazed I just could not believe it. I had heard the message. I called out to her 'Darling, where are you' and sat up in bed. The room was in darkness and I could not see anything. I deliberately called out to her hoping she would speak to me again to make sure I had not been dreaming or deluding myself. My mother then repeated the message, only this time it seemed much louder, when she said: 'Nobody need reproach themselves for anything. All my children have been wonderful.' Her voice was so strong it reminded me of the way she used to speak when she was in her thirties or forties. I quickly switched on the light hoping that I might see her—but of course I didn't. 

I knew I had to write down the message straight away lest I should forget it or think it was a dream. I wrote out the message. It was then 3 a.m. I lay there for a little while feeling rather stunned but blissfully happy. I longed for the morning to tell the family although I feared  that they might not believe me. I then fell into a deep peaceful sleep. 

The following morning my youngest sister, Lily and her husband, James called in early for coffee and I told them exactly what had happened. Shortly afterwards, whilst they were still in the flat, my brother Peter called in with another sister, Rhona. We then both learned for the first time about each other's experiences of that morning. I was stunned, yet relieved, as it was in a way a sort of corroboration of my experience. My brother was also pleased for the same reason. 

My sister Lily and brother-in-law James (Cmdr. & Mrs. J. Bell R.N.) can confirm that the details given above are a truthful account as far as their part in it is concerned. 

Constance Edwards (Signed) 

Confirmation [partial] of Statement II 

We are the brother-in-law and sister respectively of the writer of Statement II above, and confirm the details so far as we are concerned, notably, that we learned about Mrs Edwards' experience before we heard about Peter Davidson's experience.   J. Bell. .. Cmdr. R.N.  Lily Bell ... Wife of above 


Mr P. D. has been interviewed by the writer of this report. Before this experience he was not interested in psychical research, and is sure he had never read any literature on ‘out-of-the-body’ experiences or 'crisis dreams'. His wife had a copy of the two-volume edition of Human Personality by F. W. H. Myers, but nothing by Muldoon and Carrington or Prof. J. H. Whiteman. It is therefore interesting to compare the description of the onset of the experience in paragraph 5 of Statement I with the following passage in Professor Whiteman's description of the onset of a 'separation' experience given by him (Vol. 534, October 1935).

I seemed to be awake in bed. ... Alongside I perceived, in a startling flash, a human head, turned away so that chiefly the back of it was seen, the person being instinctively named within me as myself ... I reached out with a hand (in the separated state) in an endeavour to confirm or refute this presence. For a few moments I was conscious of the warm feel of the head and hair, being too startled however to see anything further. On becoming able to see again, the person was no longer there.... (Proc. 50, 259) 

For 'the glimpse of a golden yellow light above me' compare Prof. Whiteman's 'general view of sunlight, golden in quality* (ibid. 264). For the feeling of elation after the experience, see Prof. Whiteman, passim. For two or more experiences in different places apparently connected with the same crisis and death, see the 'La Plata' case and cases cited therein (Jnl. 41, 193-8). 

As in the case now under consideration the death was already known to both percipients, it may be thought that each experience was the natural result of grief, and a mere reflection in dramatic form of some reassurance for which there was a strong subconscious wish. The first night's sleep following the announcement of the death may in each case have brought about a psycho-physical condition conducive to such an emotional release. 

But such an explanation would hardly account for two curious features : 

(1) the close coincidence in time of the two experiences;   (2) the remarkable similarity of the Davidson and 'Whiteman experiences, as described above, indicating in the case of the former, that it was an incipient out-of-the-body experience, not a mere dream. 


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I think this posting may have gone unnoticed/commented on because its immediately below another new one so may be mistaken for an old one and go unread.

It was fascinating.

Not quite the same thing at all, but the description of " I saw a number of scenes of places of my childhood days— very rapidly" immediately caught my eye as in the last day or two I've been describing to a few people a peculiar night time post-sleeping/pre-waking mental imagery I get from time to time and am still not sure from responses whether its common, rare, or unique.

In the state described, and with eyes still closed, I occasionally see in my mind's eye an incredibly rapid slideshow of still images. Well not a slide show but one random image swapping for another. Think of a scene in many a movie where an advanced computer is searching its database for something, some match: its always depicted as hundreds of images flashing across the computer screen as it's doing its search of the memory banks. Well that's exactly what I see in my own minds eye. An incredibly rapid image search, which I can speed up, slow down or direct. It only lasts 20 or 30 seconds, but its happened half a dozen times.

I've never seen it as supernatural in any way..if anything, quite the opposite as it gives the impression of the brain as pure computer. But it is striking and odd. My question is, does everyone experience this and no one bothers to mention it?

Lawrence, what you describe sounds like hypnagogia (or hypnopompia), which I've read is quite common, but have rarely experienced myself, and not so vividly as you seem to.

A curious phenomenon!

I thought both forms of hynpadoodah were forms of conscious dreaming/hallucination...random flashes of images. Without knowingly experiencing either my perception may be wrong but my idea of it is quite different to what I'm describing.

I've just told anotehr friend about it, in relation to an incident the other night, and he was somewhat taken aback as he claims something very, if not entirely similar, at the start of hallucinatory/transcendental experience he apparently had after 3 days of complete insomnia "But anyway, in the run up to that main experience, I had a kind of overlay to my waking vision of rapidly changing images, like a flickerbook but moving so fast I couldn't tell what it was all about. After I'd fallen asleep later on and was having the big lucid experience, I did come to make sense of it but like I say it's a long and complicated thing."

Actually reading that back it sounds like he had his eyes open ("An overlay to my waking vision"), which again is different from what I experience. Though I suppose they're clearly related.

The experience I allude to the other night may well be worth reporting but I'm waiting for a reply from someone else to confirm some facts for me before I do.

It didn't quite happen this morning..nor would I expect it to..but a sort of embryonic version began, without the clear photographic images, and it confirmed somethng that occurred to me yesterday when mentally rehearsing it. The business of it going at great speed and being able to slow it down or speed it up seems to be directly related to rapid eye movement. Which is obviously a big clue. But clearly its not dreaming, not even the lucid kind, as speeding up or completely stopping the eye movement...akin to scanning the pages of a book like Superman.. is entirely in my conscious control and I'm ready to open my eyes at will,being essentially awake.

I should re-emphasise this experience has only been observed by me less than half a dozen times, and all in the last year or 18 months.

Lawrence, what you're describing is, indeed, 'hynpadoodah'. I get this every few days or so - usually when I'm doing my absent healing. I'm always relaxed, in a mild meditative state, but usually nowhere near sleep. I’ve found that, on occasions, I can bring it on – but not always. With me it's usually faces - sometimes in incredible 'hype-real' (to quote Dr Ian Rubenstein), 3D detail. However, I have to say that the visions are not always that clear – they sometimes have a flat, almost cartoon like quality to them. And the next grade down from that is cartoonlike and fuzzy. The visions are sometimes accompanied by noises – usually voices. Only rarely are they ever related to what I am thinking, I can only count faces I have recognised over the years one hand, and they have only been ‘veridical’, seemingly conveying information that I was not aware of, a couple of times.

I’ve met quite a few other people who get these visions too, none of whom are involved in any sort of meditative or psi related activity. The best example I can think of would be the elderly lady who had experienced seeing ‘the faces’ every night since childhood, just before sleep, and (with a nod to comments on Rob’s other post) had never told anyone other than her daughter about it for fear of ridicule.

Terming these experiences hypnogogic or hypnopompic ‘hallucinations’ is technically correct, of course. But, in my opinion this is a bit of a disingenuous cop-out, especially when the term is used in a pejorative sense by mainstream psychologists – as it always by skeptics. It is also rather unintelligent and lazy given that nobody has much of a clue as to how the brain (if, indeed, it IS down to the brain only) is able to produce these phenomena.

It is blindingly obvious to me that these ‘visions’ and the auditory phenomena that sometimes accompany them, when they are experienced by those who claim to be mediumistic or psychic, are exactly the same thing as ‘clairvoyance’ and ‘clairaudience’ in the Spiritualist/Spiritist sense, rather than the subtly different definition of those terms as framed by academic parapsychology.

A few other observations: -

1) The apparitions that I’ve seen over the years (including the one veridical example) are very similar to the best examples of these visions, but ‘exteriorised’ as if they have been superimposed over objective reality in a way that usually matches the context of lighting conditions etc…although usually not EXACTLY, almost as if the mind/brain cannot QUITE get it right.

2) The lower grade, two dimensional, visions resemble, very strongly photographs of some ‘materialisations’ I have seen. I’m thinking particularly of photo’s taken by Schrenk Notzing in his work with the medium Eva C.

3) The auditory phenomena, particularly the voices, sometimes sound like the very few believable (grade A) evp’s I have heard i.e. slightly faster than is natural, very short, and somehow ‘clipped’.

There's a phenomenon that I experience quite regularly - sometimes at will if I concentrate - where, as I'm about to drift off to sleep, I imagine a cinema screen before my closed eyes. Many times I've been astonished by the 'reality' of the faces and images that I see on that screen; and yet I never seem to recognize them.

That's it, Julie - exactly the same as me and the lady I mentioned. And it does actually look like a cinema screen - dark, but as if faintly illuminated from behind, sometimes with the usual patches of random luminosity that one perceives with ones eyes shut. The healer Harry Edwards described it as a mental mirror upon which clairvoyant images are projected.

I've seen faces I've recognised 3 or 4 times (out of hundreds). Only in two cases was I aware that the people concerned were deceased, and one of those (a child whose passing I'd witnessed a few days before) displayed veridical information, of which I had no knowledge, that was later confirmed.

All the other times they are completely different and unknown to me - from toothless old men to fresh faced children. Sometimes animated, sometimes not.

Steve, we must be kindred spirits! I can't tell you how refreshing it is when I describe my more anomalous experiences and understand, from your descriptions, that you have experienced exactly the same thing.

Julie, what has amazed me over the years is just how common these experiences are. I've lost count of the number of times that 'ordinary' people have volunteered information like that - often people (like the lady I mentioned earlier) who have never had any contact with the psi community, for want of a better term. That is refreshing, indeed, because like most, I started off thinking that these experiences were either rare or unique to myself. As you've mentioned, whatever these experiences actually mean (there is ample room for civilised debate there), it can be harmful, in many ways, to just keep quiet about this sort of stuff.

I don't think anyone else wrote that this exact story is in Andrew Mackenzie's excellent book; "Frontiers of the Unknown" the copy I have published 1968. all of Mackenzie's books are extremely good, (IMHO)
This one , and " Adventures in Time"; Encounters with the Past, which deals with amazing cases of retrocognition, are 2 of my absolute top recomendations for PSI books.

Which story is that, Sage? The subject of Rob's post, or the hypno vision stuff we were talking about?

Sorry, should have been more clear..I meant the subject of Rob's post...the experience of 'Peter Davidson' and his sister, after the death of their mother, in 1966. I had never read anything like it..and I hadn't read all the comments, just zipped to the end to add mine. Now I'll read all the comments, as it sounds like others have had experiences in a similer vein.

OK - thanks Sage.

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