Thursday, December 3, 2009

A striking case of collective hallucination (that is to say, a vision seen by the

From Death-Bed Visions - The Psychical Experiences of the Dying by Sir William Barrett, Chapter 3 Visions seen by the Dying of Persons known by them to be Dead, and Death-Bed Visions seen by Others

A striking case of collective hallucination (that is to say, a vision seen by the relatives of the dying person as well as by the dying person herself) is given in the "Proceedings S.P.R." for 1889(1).

(1) See "Proceedings S.P.R.," Vol. VI, p. 20. Also Human Personality, Vol. II, P. 334.

The narrator, Miss Emma Pearson, writes an account of her aunt's illness and death, which is here given considerably abridged:

"My aunt, Miss Harriet Pearson, who was taken very ill at Brighton in November, 1864, craved to be back in her own home in London, where she and her sister Ann (who had died some years previously) had spent practically all their lives. I accordingly made the necessary arrangements, and had her moved home. Her two nieces (Mrs. Coppinger and Mrs. John Pearson), Eliza Quinton the housekeeper, and myself did the nursing between us. She became worse and worse. On the night of Dec. 23rd Mrs. John Pearson was sitting up with her, while Mrs. Coppinger and I lay down in the adjoining room, leaving the door ajar to hear any sound from the next room. We were neither of us asleep, and suddenly we both started up in bed, as we saw someone pass the door, wrapped up in an old shawl, having a wig with three curls each side, and an old black cap. Mrs. Coppinger called to me, 'Emma, get up, it is old Aunt Ann!' I said, 'So it is; then Aunt Harriet will die to-day!' As we jumped up, Mrs. John Pearson came rushing out of Aunt Harriet's room, saying, 'That was old Aunt Ann. Where has she gone?' I said to soothe her, 'Perhaps it was Eliza come down to see how her old mistress is.' Mrs. Coppinger ran upstairs and found Eliza asleep. Every room was searched - no one was there; and from that day to this no explanation has ever been given of this appearance, except that it was old Aunt Ann come to call her sister. Aunt Harriet died at 6 p.m. that day."

Eliza Quinton, the housekeeper, confirms the above statement, and adds: "We searched in every room but could not find anyone in the house. Miss Harriet died on the evening of that day, but before that she told us all that she had seen her sister, and that she had come to call her."

This last statement is further confirmed by Miss Emma Pearson in a later letter, in which she states that she remembers her Aunt saying that "her sister had come for her, for she had seen her."