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  • Bryan Williams

Visions Near the Moment of Death

Among the various kinds of encounters that people report having with apparitions are those in which terminally ill patients report seeing spectral figures of their deceased loved ones as the time of their own passing begins to approach. These deathbed visions, as they are often called, go back far in human history, with some of the earliest accounts having been documented in the late 19th century by psychical researchers such as Ernesto Bozzano, James Hyslop, and Sir William Barrett. And it appears that they continue to be occasionally reported even in the present day, as indicated by an article that has just appeared in the "Health & Science" section of The Washington Post website, in which columnist Steven Petrow describes the deathbed visions experienced by his dying mother. Since she'd been diagnosed with dementia, Petrow figured that her visions were likely hallucinations being brought on by her advanced illness, which seems reasonable. But at the same time, it is difficult to ignore the fact that such visions have been reported by a number of different patients, some of whom appeared to be quite awake, clear-headed, and not under the influence of medication at the time that they had their vision. This was one of the notable findings which emerged from an extensive survey study of deathbed visions conducted by parapsychologists Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson, which they describe in their book At the Hour of Death (New York: Avon Books, 1977). They were able to obtain verbal accounts of the visions that had been related to the doctors and nurses who were caring for dying patients in hospitals in both the United States and in India, and an examination of these patients' medical records tended to indicate that they were not delusional, feverish, or medicated at the time that the vision took place. It is one of things which suggest that there might be something more to deathbed visions than mere hallucination in some instances.

For additional details about deathbed visions and the study of them, interested readers should take a look at the article devoted to this topic that appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of the PRF's Theta Newsletter. A copy of that article is available to view in Adobe PDF format by clicking here.

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