Saturday, June 21, 2014
Musings about Strange Happenings
And now for something completely different. This is the first of about half a dozen entries I plan to write on strange and unusual things I have experienced, which may or may not be connected to the paranormal or ESP. I claim no particular abilities in this area, and believe these kinds of things can happen to anyone—and do. But for the most part such phenomena go unnoticed or unacknowledged because the average person doesn’t accept that these things can occur.
I can go long periods of time and not ever encounter what one might call a “coincidence.” But then suddenly there will be a flurry of them. Very seldom do any of them have any obvious meaning. But sometimes they do. 2013 was a banner year for them.
On several occasions, including all four of the recent ones, such happenings have been associated with medical trauma.
What do I mean by “coincidence?” Basically, in this context it’s a random thought or a dream that doesn’t seem to be significant at the time, but later coincides with a future event. Sometimes it coincides so dramatically with actual events down the road that the random thought, in retrospect, seems like it had to have been a premonition or foreshadowing. In the vast majority of cases, I am able to recognize such thoughts as a possible premonition only after the fact. Only vary rarely does a thought (1) present itself or strike me as a possible premonition ahead of time, and then (2) subsequently turn out to be true.
Here’s an example of such a “coincidence”—in this case, it’s a dream that didn’t seem special at the time it occurred, but later turned out to have breath-taking significance. One night in 1999, I had a dream that I was scuba diving in jet black water, looking for gold aboard a sunken Japanese submarine. There was absolutely no light, meaning that the wreck had to be in very deep water. In the dream, first I examined the bow, but that area was too damaged to permit entry. I started swimming along the hull toward the rear of the vessel, and then woke up. No big deal, and I really didn’t give it much thought. I was left to wonder why I’d be dreaming about a sunken Japanese submarine—a subject to which I’d given zero thought during waking moments—but then again, strange dreams happen all the time, right? This one was quite vivid, but other than that it didn’t seem to be any more significant than any other.
Later that morning while sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, I picked up a copy of National Geographic Magazine, thumbed through it, and then nearly fell out of the chair. And I’m not exaggerating when I say the hair stood up on the back of my neck. There was my sub. It was the I-52, a Japanese submarine torpedoed in 1944 about a thousand miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. The boat was on a mission to Germany, and among other things was carrying two tons of gold. The article, entitled “The Last Dive,” spoke about salvage operations. Unlike in my dream, no one was swimming around the sub, which lay in 5,000 meters of water, far too deep for any human to scuba dive. But because of the depth, the water was inky black, exactly as in my dream. The bow area was damaged, as in the dream. There was a large hole in the hull, probably from a torpedo, aft of the conning tower, the direction in which I was swimming hoping to find an entrance when the dream ended.
When I saw this, I was absolutely floored. Coincidence? Skeptics would say, certainly. I’m not sure how even the most skeptical skeptic could explain how I just happened to have a dream so precisely matching the details of the wreck just hours before reading about it for the very first time. But, OK. Let’s assume I’d heard earlier about the I-52 in some other way and it had stuck in my subconscious mind even though I had no conscious recollection if it. That certainly sounds more reasonable than to suggest I had a paranormal experience. Doesn’t it?
I will say that if the dream did contain any foreshadowing, it was not about the wreck, but rather about my reading about the wreck. And what makes that interesting is that while reading the article, I was sitting in the lobby of a medical clinic where I was about to undergo an endoscopic procedure that would require anesthesia. The procedure went fine, I’m happy to say. But as it turns out, this would not be the last time that one of these fascinating “coincidences” would be associated with medical trauma and anesthesia.
Call it what you will—coincidence, paranormal experience, precognition, heartburn, daydreaming, the vapors, the flibbityjibbits, whatever—of what practical value are “flashes” like that? Usually, none at all, although in a moment I’ll talk about some notable exceptions to that rule. But in all cases, useful or not, such incidents are spooky as hell.
Starting at about the age of 13, I began to notice strange little coincidences and foreshadowings like the one above, episodes where a random thought would enter my head that would later turn out to have a connection with reality—sometimes, a quite dramatic one. In 99% of the cases, it’s impossible to distinguish such a “meaningful” thought or “flash” that might actually appear to foreshadow an event from the thousands of other random thoughts, images and phrases that flit in and out of one’s brain all day. But such flashes have continued to occur every so often in my life since they began in my adolescence. Sometimes I can go years without a single one, and then something dramatic will happen.
Here’s another example. In about the same period of time as the “submarine flash,” I had a dream about a friend whom I had not seen in about a decade, and with whom I had not spoken even by phone in some time. Because of the dream, I gave my friend a call. I then learned that he was going to be in a particular city traveling on business. Incredibly, I also was about to make a trip, and would be in that very same city on the very same day. At the time, the two of us lived hundreds of miles apart, and our homes were hundreds of miles away from the city in question. To get there, I had to travel 2,000 miles east, and he had to go 850 miles southeast. As a result of contacting him (which I did entirely because of the dream) we got to see each other for the first time in years. We rekindled our friendship and have kept in contact since.
About three years after the “sub flash,” I stumbled out of bed one morning and, with my sleepy eyes half open, plodded down the driveway to get the morning paper. My groggy mind was still filled with images of the dream I’d been having just before the alarm had awakened me. The dream involved a helicopter crash. In fact, the last image that appeared in my dream, just before the alarm went off, was the front page of a newspaper with a headline proclaiming the crash, below which was a picture of the downed chopper.
With this image still on my mental computer screen, I bent down and picked up the newspaper. Focusing on it, I saw that across the top was a headline proclaiming a helicopter crash. Below the headline was a picture of the downed chopper. It seems that the night before, a medical helicopter had gone down hard in an emergency landing, and only the quick actions of the pilot had saved everyone from disaster.
But wait. There’s more. About two hours later, shortly after I arrived at work, I got a call from an acquaintance of mine who lived on the opposite side of the continent. She’d heard something about a chopper crash in my city, and wanted to know if I knew anything about it. Boy, did I! The nature of her curiosity? Her former husband was locally employed as a medical helicopter pilot, and she was worried the crash might have involved his particular bird. I checked. Guess what? It had. It was his chopper that had gone down—and his quick actions that had saved everyone. I assured her he was OK.
But wait. There’s still more. While she had me on the phone, she was curious to know whether I was acquainted with a certain person who had just applied for a job at her place of business (the three of us were working in the same industry, but each of us lived in a different city.) Oh, yes, I knew the individual. He was a good friend of mine, and had worked with me in the same capacity in another city. I gave him a stellar reference, and he later landed the job. He still works there today (and we remain good friends).
It was bizarre, and it was all connected to four people who themselves were interconnected. But the incident’s meaning, significance, and purpose, if it had any of those things, was not clear.
A few months after all of that happened, I went to the hospital with a kidney stone. It was the most painful experience of my life, bar none. I did not receive anesthesia, but the doctor did drug me to oblivion. The stone involved my left kidney. Hold that thought.
Only on very rare occasions have I recognized a random thought as a possible premonition at the time it occurred, and then the premonition subsequently turned out to be valid. Here are two examples, both of which served me very well. On both occasions, spaced years apart, I suddenly had a feeling that the vehicle driving in the lane directly next to mine was about to have a blowout. On both occasions, I dropped back. And on both occasions, the vehicle in question immediately did experience a blowout, and veered into the spot I had just vacated. In one of the two incidents, the car veered so violently that it continued on across the lane, smacked the guard rail, and spun out. I had pulled far enough back to avoid being hit, and subsequently was able to stop and render assistance (the driver was OK).
But, yes, to the skeptics I will admit that there have been at least two other occasions when I pulled back for similar reasons, only to watch the vehicle I was worried about sail serenely onward with no blowout. What’s it all mean? I have no clue. Skeptics, I hear you. You’re sure that it means nothing. I can’t prove you’re wrong. I’m not certain you are. But I remain intrigued.
Last year, I began having forebodings that my health was about to take a turn for the worse. The forebodings were so strong that they actually helped convince me to award myself a sabbatical to pursue a life-long dream of writing fiction, just in case my time might be running out. My reasoning was that I did not want to find myself on my deathbed regretting that I had never taken time to chase the dream. So, I took my self-administered advice, gave myself some time off, and wrote two novels, the second of which was published in mid-October. I then started work on a third.
On the Thanksgiving weekend, just a few weeks after publishing the second novel, three interesting coincidences took place, two of which had no apparent meaning or significance, but one of which did. First, I read a headline on CNN.com proclaiming Comet ISON to be “The Zombie Comet.” This really struck me because I had given ISON a role in the zombie sci-fi novel I’d just published (although I’m removing it for the print edition, now in progress, because the comet turned out to be a bust—as I predicted, by the way). Interesting. Striking, even. But after catching up on the news, I shrugged it off and went back to work. My task on that day was to do some background research for a Scottish character I was thinking about writing into my third novel. I spent the afternoon researching Scottish idioms and drinking toasts. After a while, with visions of Glasgow pubs dancing in my head, I checked the news again. CNN.com had just posted a story about a helicopter crashing into a pub. Not just any pub. Wait for it: a Glasgow pub. And for the second time that day, I found myself staring at the computer screen in open-mouthed astonishment.
Two nights later there was a third coincidence that had more personal significance. I had a dream about someone who was once very dear to me, but whom I haven’t seen in many years. The circumstances of the dream made me wonder whether that person was OK. I then made a call and learned the person in question had indeed just undergone a major medical crisis.
Interesting stuff, certainly. I can go months or even years without a “coincidence” like this. Here I was having three of them over the space of a single weekend. I couldn’t figure out the significance of any of it. But the three incidents were so remarkable that I decided to make a mention of them on my Facebook page. The posting sparked quite a discussion. I did not, however, think to say anything about my health premonition, because it had not been proved valid.
Now here’s where it gets very spooky indeed. Three days after that December 3 Facebook posting about my three “flashes” or whatever you might call them, I came down with serious medical symptoms that I had never before experienced. I won’t burden you with the details, but suffice it to say that it completely freaked me out. Two weeks later, I learned that I had a mass on one of my kidneys. My left kidney. It turned out to be cancerous. By the first week of January, I was undergoing full anesthesia again for a procedure to deal with one aspect of the cancer. Then three weeks later came another round of anesthesia for a second operation, this one to entirely remove the kidney. Box score for 2013: one major premonition and three minor “flashes,” for a total of four incidents, all revolving around a major medical crisis involving the use of anesthesia.
Some of it doesn’t appear to make any sense. But some of it does. When all was said and done, my forebodings about my health had turned out to be valid. The action I took because of it put me in a place where I wanted to be—specifically, giving fiction writing a shot instead of finding myself regretting that I had not done so. One of the “flashes” caused me to check up on an acquaintance I cared about. The other two didn’t seem to have significance at first glance. But on second glance, they did. Both were connected to writing projects that I had undertaken as a direct consequence of having acted on the premonition about my health.
What’s it all mean? I don’t know. But such things have happened to me often enough that it’s led me to do some research over the years. I’ve learned that many millions of people experience such flashes and such “feelings” about people that are close to them. For a handful of such individuals, the flashes occur quite often. And for many, the experiences are far more vivid and dramatic than anything that’s happened to me personally. One of the definitive books on the subject of precognitive or extra-sensory perception and communication is called “Phantasms of the Living,” and was written by researcher and psychologist Edmund Gurney all the way back in the 19th century. In fact, such incidents seem to be much more common to the human experience than ghost stories, even though the latter get more press.
My personal belief? Not all such experiences can be explained away as coincidental or imaginary. Beyond that, I have no answers, but I do have this observation: the human spirit is far more complicated, and far more powerful, than current science acknowledges. In fact, science does not recognize the spiritual side of humanity at all. Nor do skeptics. Both would doubtless say that none of this means anything other than to demonstrate the power of the human mind to delude itself. I know they’d say it because I’ve seen them dismiss cases far more dramatic than anything I’ve experienced personally.
I can’t prove them wrong. And they may not be. But it seems to me there are some things that we, as humans, simply don’t know, and may never know. One is tempted to suspect that we aren’t allowed to know about those things. We can’t see what’s behind the curtain. But it strikes me that we are at least allowed to know that there is a curtain, and that something is behind it. And that’s something.
The rest, we have to fill in on faith.
I’ll be writing about more of my unusual experiences in the future. Next installment in this series: childhood dreams, a possible spiritual attack, and a dramatic precognition. If you’ve ever experienced anything like what I’ve just related and would be willing to let me share it with readers, please drop me a line. You can contact me in several ways, as listed on this page.
Meanwhile, for fun fiction that explores some of these themes, I invite you to check out that sci-fi novel, A Journal of the Crazy Year. You can get a free sample chapter and also find purchase links here.
at 10:42 AM