The case you are about to read is one that I was fortunate enough to capture for the Spontaneous Cases Committee of the Society for Psychical Research last year. Cases like this one and many others drop into the Spontaneous Cases Committee inbox on an almost daily basis. They review and respond to the cases where they can, with an aim to document them for the SPR records.
This particular case caught my eye and I picked it up to document it, not simply because it outlined an odd paranormal experience; but two cases involving the experiencers parents following their deaths.
Often when we hear about paranormal cases these days they are related to ghost hunters and their investigations of mainly public locations, with very few private cases. When looking into said cases the ghost hunters will lean towards an overnight investigation rather than documenting the experience.
As this particular case was related to two experiences that occurred very much in the past, there was only one way really to proceed with this case. Gather as much information as possible with additional supporting statements from other people that may have been impacted by the experiences.
Sometimes the paranormal is not all about running in and investigating a possible active haunting, sometimes it is more about capturing the information so we may learn from the experiences. Hopefully by sharing this case with you, the experiencer provided me with the permission to do so, then we can learn more.
In this case the experiencer reports an initial experience when he was only 14 years old following the death of his mother; then a second major experience nearly 17 years later after the death of his father. Both these experiences were very different, but equally could have very different possible explanations. Although, as these are historical experiences assigning probable explanation is difficult as each occurred many years ago, allowing for some detail to be most likely lost.
The first experience appears to be a possible after-death visitation with the apparition in question presenting itself as a column of light. The second experience is slightly more odd in that the experiencer believed they felt their fathers heartbeat post-mortem. An experience which led to a transformational change in the mans life.
The experiences, given the point in time that they occurred and their proximity to family and recent events, appear to be related to the death of both of the experiencers parents; 17 years apart. This is the only commonality between the pair that I can see, otherwise the experiences were very different.
Personally I believe that this case could do with further research, as I struggled to locate previous cases that mentioned a ‘phantom heartbeat’ post-mortem.
Description of the Experience
On this occasion the experiencer had what can be described as very different experiences, at different points in time, and at very different locations; but what brings these two experiences together to be reported on simultaneously is perhaps the experiencer himself. This is not due to him being present when they occurred, although he was of course present; but because he relates the experiences directly to the passing of each of his parents close to the time of the experience.
Given the experiences both occurred within a weeks of his parents death, we could equally suggest that these could be described as crisis apparitions or experiences or even after death communications. However, I would prefer not to speculate at this point.
The first experience occurred in early 1968, when the experiencers mother passed away. He was only aged 14 years old at the time, but remembers it vividly. He was woken with a start around 2am in the morning after his mothers burial. At the time he was sharing a room with his Grandmother. What he witnessed at this early hour was a strange shimmering, bright white mist at the end of his Grandmothers bed, which was about 1.5 meters in height and cigar shaped. The experiencer laid in bed simply staring at this for roughly twenty to thirty minutes, before turning onto his side and going back to sleep.
The experiencer in this case believes that it was his mother visiting him one last time to say goodbye before ascending to heaven. This being concluded due to the mist remaining roughly two meters away from him and ensuring he was not scared by the experience.
No verbal communication is described, only the vision he saw during the night.
17 Years later, around 1985 and the experiencer lost his father too, but this also brought with it another experience. However, this experience was not similar and actually terrified him. Days after his fathers death the experiencer and his sister went to visit their father at the undertakers.
As he leaned over the coffin placing a few family pictures, he placed the palm of his right hand on his fathers chest, and oddly felt a huge heart beat. However, it was not a normal heart beat it was described as being like a ‘bass drum.’ He let out shout, which caught his sister attention in the corridor, then felt a further three or four fast beats before he removed his hand and his sister arrived. The ordeal had left him extremely emotional by all accounts and this can be identified by the state that his sister found him in.
The experiencer then goes onto describe the possibility that he was possessed or at least something else was sharing his physical body. However, this wasn’t so much a negative possession where the entity (like in films) was looking to do harm; the experience itself was simply having one of transformation for the experiencer. It certainly seems as if this experience itself helped to steer the individual back towards their faith too.
Equally these combined experiences helped to provide the experiencer with a profound belief in life after death, which means he no longer has a fear of death.
Whilst individuals having more than one paranormal experience may not be seen as necessarily unusual, this particular case caught my attention as the experiencer has only appeared to have recollection of two such experiences in their lifetime. Interestingly those two experiences relate directly to their parents and occurred very close to the time that the parents passed away. However, this appears to be 17 years apart, and the second experience having been more impactful to the experiencers future life.
The experiencers first experience occurred the night following his mothers burial, whilst he slept at his Aunt’s and Uncle’s house in a room with his Grandmother. Although the experience itself is unique to the experiencer and as such carries with it some aspects which would likely be connected to that experience alone; what is described is more common than realised.
This primary experience details the experiencer as witnessing a large light anomaly, which he associates with the spirit of his mother. This is described as a 1.5 metre high, cigar-shaped, bright, shimmering white mist of light; that remained roughly 2 metres away at all times. Initially the experiencer thought the spirit of their mother had come to visit their Grandmother, but years later he re-evaluated the situation and decided that his mother had come to visit him. His mother kept her distance in order not to scare him.
The experiencer advised that this visit was prior to the spirit of his mother ascended to ‘heaven,’ which indicates that the experience itself is likely based within their own religious beliefs. As such those beliefs may also play a part in their understanding of the situation that occurred.
What I find particularly interesting here is that this first experience is associated as being the experiences recently deceased mother because it had been her funeral that day and because the experience occurred at the foot of his and his grandmothers beds. In reality though there was no indication given that this experience presented anything like physical characteristics which may have had them recognise the potential apparition as being his mother. Hence, it was simply the location and the time of this experience that provided the association to the mother.
Whilst I am not looking to question the experiencers identification of this potential apparition here, as there could be a more emotional bond that provided him with the knowledge that this was his mother before him; but I must as a part of my investigation present what we know and identify potential elements of the case that do not always measure up to scrutiny.
As such we must also consider here the possibility of hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations being the possible explanation to this experience. Whilst it’s difficult to categorically define which it may be, it is most likely to be hypnopompic hallucinations; as these are related to the subject waking up and similar to extensions of a dream. As the experiencer explained this occurred at around 2am and that they don’t often wake during the night unless unwell, we can deduce that prior to this occurring they were asleep; hence it is more likely a hypnopompic hallucination. Which could provide some explanation to the possibility of what may have occurred here. Given the recent trauma of losing his mother, not being able to attend the funeral and being around family following the event; he may have been woken in the night and during the course of waking up experienced a hypnopompic hallucination of a strange light at the end of his Grandmothers bed.
Whilst this may provide one possible and indeed probable explanation of this experience, we have to equally realise that it may not be the definitive explanation and this may have been , as the experiencer explained an after-death visitation from his mother. We only have the account given by the experiencer here, unfortunately his Grandmother did not wake during this occurrence to provide additional witness testimony.
The second experience here is even more odd and one that I struggled with a little as it sounds highly improbable and it was difficult with the resources I had to search correctly in order to find similar cases. Granted I was on this occasion restricted to internet searches of news articles, papers and such. Alas, without success. However, I am hoping my peers within the SPR may on reading this report be able to add additional comment to the case if they have experience of this or have heard of similar cases.
The second experience occurs about 17 years later. Whilst the first experience occurred when the experiencer was only 14 years old this second one occurred when they were 31 years old (or there about). However, this second experience begins with a very physical attribute; namely a large heartbeat that was felt by the hand of the experiencer, who had his right hand on his chest at the time. This was then followed by three or four short quicker heartbeats. An experience which clearly shook the experiencer to the core, the emotion of which is captured in his and his sister statements to me. Whilst the sister did not experience this heartbeat for herself, her statement provides good insight into the emotional state of the experiencer directly after the event occurred.
Following this experience, the experiencer then describes something like possession, as in something had entered his body. However, unlike the stories of possession that we may hear of the subject becoming depressed, angry or even violent; in this case we hear that elation was felt and it led directly to a change in their life. He goes on to describe as the presence of another ‘soul’ within his body, but does not move to the obvious position of identifying it with being his father. Although he does mention his father or possibly the ‘Holy Spirit’ provides that possible religious link once again. Which is not unusual in reality as the family does have by all accounts an obvious religious attribute to them.
Looking into the possibility of a more logical explanation for the heartbeat that was felt by the experiencer; I looked into this being a known phenomena given that the human body does not simply ‘stay still’ once we have passed away. Bearing in mind that this was said to be a few days after his fathers death I thought there could be a possibility that gasses settling and moving within the body may have been mistaken for a heartbeat; but it must be said that this is a slim possibility. Another area of investigation was the possibility of some kind of high static electricity transfer from the experiencer to his fathers body, which may have stimulated a heartbeat. Again though this possibility was a slim to none scenario, plus the static electricity required to cause the heart to beat would have been extremely high. My investigations presented no obvious physiological explanations that could be simply applied and agreed as being probable.
Of course there is the possibility that due to his emotional state, the experiencer believed he felt a heartbeat physically when in reality he did not, but this should not be disregarded as it was clearly a part of a greater emotional episode caused by the passing of his father and their unresolved differences. Again I am simply stating possibilities and by no means can confirm this as the explanation for the event itself or the following feeling of ‘possession.’
One thing I feel worth mentioning is that if these heartbeats are related to some kind of spiritual paranormal event, then we could draw similarities to the raps, taps and knocking often heard during a seance. Granted its appearance on the surface is very different, but its goal is the same in that it is about communication. The heartbeats could be what signified the beginning of this communication which later moved to a feeling that the ‘spirit’ was within him.
However, we must also provide an equally valid point that we had here a son that had not managed to resolved differences with his father before his death and as such that feeling of something being unresolved was most likely present. As such is it possible that this experience was a part of the bereavement process and him coming to terms with the situation, which the end result was him having this transformational experience? Something my more academic friends within psychology may be able to answer better?
One last thing associated to this case is the power of prayer. The experiencer mentions it as being ‘very real’ and his sister used prayer whilst he was alone with his father’s body. Research does show some positive impact from prayer or even directed thought. So, perhaps it is reasonable to assume that his sisters prayers within this scenario may have been a part of its causality.
Once again as this is a single experience that occurred in the past, apart from collecting the attached witness statements it is difficult to ascertain exactly what occurred or provide logical explanation. We can suggest possible explanation based on the fathers bodies physiology, or even psychological explanation based on the experiencers potential mental state at the time; but these only provide possibilities to explain an experience that was very personal to this individual. Even those that have provided statements to assure us of his personality changes after the event, never experienced what he did. Personally I believe that if I was in the same position, which I hope I never am to be honest, then the shock of feeling a heartbeat like that would certainly have an impact on my life and be something I could not talk about with anyone else, as it does seem to be quite a rare phenomena.
Please feel free to comment below, it would be good to hear if anyone has had similar experiences to this or if anyone has heard of this kind of phenomena before?