Japanese Study Finds That 1 in 5 Dying Patients Experienced Deathbed Visions of Deceased Loved Ones or the Afterlife

The Deceased in the Afterlife Realm

In my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife I devoted an entire chapter to so-called 'end-of-life experiences' (ELEs) - one aspect of which is the death-bed vision, where a dying individual reports seeing deceased loved ones in their room and around their bed. It's a fascinating topic that has long been overshadowed by the more-famous near-death experience (NDE), but it deserves much more attention. One large scale study that I mentioned in my book found that almost two-thirds of doctors, nurses and hospice carers reported witnessing ELEs in their patients in the lead-up to their passing.

A recent study by Japanese researchers has added some much-needed extra data about the phenomenon. In 2014 a questionnaire was sent out to bereaved family members of cancer patients across Japan who died in hospital, palliative care units, or at home, in order to evaluate the quality of the end-of-life care they received. Part of that nationwide survey asked about deathbed visions - in Japanese, Omukae (literally, someone visiting a dying patient to accompany them on death’s journey) - which the researchers defined as "visions of deceased persons or afterlife scenes".

Of 2,221 survey responses, the researchers found that Omukae were reported in 463 cases (21%). Of those, 351 of the families stated that the patients themselves clearly described the deathbed vision, while 113 noted that, while the patient did not mention the vision, family members themselves witnessed the patient experiencing the phenomenon. Of the non-deathbed vision responses, 1,392 families reported no experience as occurring, while 365 families replied that they were unsure.

Of the patients who did experience deathbed visions, 87% had visions of deceased persons (most often parents), while 54% had visions of afterlife scenes. Some of the interesting findings were that deathbed visions were significantly more likely to be observed in older patients and female patients, and in families with more religious activities, or who believed the soul survive the body after death.

Overall the researchers believe that the study...

...highlights that deathbed visions are not distressing phenomena for all patients and families, and some regard them as transpersonal phenomena in the dying process, not hallucinations, consistent with previous preliminary studies.

Clinicians should not automatically regard deathbed visions as abnormal phenomena to be medically treated, and an individualized approach is strongly needed.

The findings that the contents of deathbed visions were mostly related to deceased persons, not religious figures, and that patients and families were reluctant to talk about this to healthcare professionals confirmed earlier observations.

In conclusion, the researchers note that their study shows that "deathbed visions are not uncommon phenomena", and that "clinicians should not automatically regard such visions as abnormal, and an individualized approach is needed".

Paper: "Nationwide Japanese survey about deathbed visions"

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News Briefs 26-09-2016


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Skeptics, who flatly deny the existence of any unexplained phenomenon in the name of 'rationalism,' are among the primary contributors to the rejection of science by the public. People are not stupid and they know very well when they have seen something out of the ordinary. When a so-called expert tells them the object must have been the moon or a mirage, he is really teaching the public that science is impotent or unwilling to pursue the study of the unknown.

Jacques Vallee

News Briefs 23-09-2016

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages. News briefs for your reading pleasure.

Thanks to Eric Wargo, and viewers like you.

"We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."
- Werner Heisenberg

Horses Can Communicate With Symbols, According To Science


People may never talk with the animals like Dr. Doolittle, but scientists are hard at work trying to communicate with critters. The Wild Dolphin Project has already proven dolphins understand symbols. Other researchers at Georgia State University have created a symbolic language called 'Yerkish' to talk with primates. Now the noble horse joins the roll call of smart animals who can understand, and use, symbols to make humans aware of their needs.

A new study at Applied Animal Behaviour Science shows how twenty three horses learned to tell trainers if they wanted to wear a blanket or not. Subjects were shown three symbols: a horizontal bar to say "I want a blanket", a blank square for "No change", and a vertical bar for "I don't need a blanket". They learned the meanings in a day or two and using them to convey if they were too warm or too cold, building the case for self-awareness.

Previous studies have shown horses enjoy learning for the sake of learning, a decidedly 'human' trait. Positive reinforcement and consideration for the horse's temperment reduced their anxiety for punishment if they gave a 'wrong' answer. In fact, the horses's behavior changed for the better during training because humans could finally understand them.

When horses realized that they were able to communicate with the trainers, i.e. to signal their wishes regarding blanketing, many became very eager in the training or testing situation. Some even tried to attract the attention of the trainers prior to the test situation, by vocalizing and running towards the trainers, and follow their movements. On a number of such occasions the horses were taken out and allowed to make a choice before its regular turn, and signalled that they wanted the blanket to be removed. It turned out that the horses were sweaty underneath the blanket.

I'm not surprised by their intelligence. About a year ago my wife dragged me to Pennsylvania for an overnight at her friend's house. Her husband shared some Kunkletown lore. Some time ago a local carpenter kept horses to pull lumber to job sites. These beasts knew where to get hitched up, how to reach the job sites, and when to return for more lumber without human direction. Eventually the carpenter bought a truck then shot the horses because he didn't need them anymore.

The hubris of human superiority clouds our understanding of animals, and our approach to the touchy topic of their intelligence. I maintain this conceit's cultural, based in deep-seated guilt over humanity's exploitation of animals and the challenges which may arise should they be considered our equals.

Making a huge leap here, what could our treatment of animals say about humanity's prospects in a first contact scenario? Any sufficiently advanced intelligence could find humanity indistinguishable from the animals we eat or experiment on. Aliens may deem us sufficiently clever, having tamed the atom and thinking smartphones are a pretty neat idea, but not being in their league when it comes to sapience.

Yet if we could talk with the animals, grunt, squeak, and squawk with the animals, and vice versa, maybe aliens would be less inclined to dismiss us.

Or our four-legged friends could make a compelling case on our behalf for clemency.

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News Briefs 22-09-2016


Quote of the Day:

It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

Warren Ellis

Kickstarter: Limited Edition Reproduction of the Records on the Voyager Space Probes

Voyager Record

Since their launch in 1977, the two Voyager space probes have toured our Solar System - providing some amazing, 'first look' images of the planets - and headed off into the 'great beyond': interstellar space. If any aliens out there ever intercepted the probes, they would discover that they have gold records attached to them, intended as messages from Earth to introduce ourselves and our (current) culture.

Added to the mission by a committee headed up by Carl Sagan (who was also behind the message plaques attached to the Pioneer probes, launched earlier in the decade), the records contain an assortment of music from multiple cultures and eras (including Beethoven, Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion and Solomon Island panpipes) as well as many of the natural sounds of our planet. The record also features spoken greetings in 55 human languages (and one whale language) as well as one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

Whether aliens ever find the Voyager records is probably a question we'll never know the answer to. But humans can now access them via this Kickstarter that will produce a limited edition reproduction of the original:

An exquisitely-designed objet d'art, this limited edition Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition vinyl box set will only be available through this Kickstarter. It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package.

The cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay will house three, heavyweight translucent gold vinyl LPs protected by poly-lined paper sleeves. The LPs will contain all of the same magnificent music, greetings, and sounds as contained on the original Voyager Golden Record, nearly two hours of audio. Those records will slip into old style tip on, black ink and gold foil jackets. The audio will be complemented by a beautifully-designed hardbound book of captivating images from the original interstellar message, glorious photos of the planets returned to Earth from the Voyager probes, compelling essays, and ephemera from the project's history.

Each set will include a color, plastic digital download card with a code to access all of the audio in MP3 or FLAC format. A lithograph of the iconic Golden Record cover diagram, printed with gold metallic ink on archival paper, will complete the box set.

Head over to the project's Kickstarter page to learn more, including the various rewards on offer for backers.

Link: Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition

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News Briefs 21-09-2016

Happy face

Quote of the Day:

The greatest self is a peaceful smile, that always sees the world smiling back.

Bryant H. McGill

News Briefs 20-09-2016

To infinity, and...

Thanks Kat and Cat.

Quote of the Day:

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities.

Frank Herbert

Is Ball Lightning a Portal to Another Universe?

Ball Lightning

Ball lightning is weird. Not just in the capricious way it appears unexpectedly, and thus largely remains a mysterious phenomenon, but also in other strange aspects of its behaviour. For example:

  • It can move independently of the atmosphere, such as gliding externally to an airplane traveling at many hundreds of kilometres an hour without being affected by the high level of air movement.
  • It can move through windows and walls unimpeded.
  • It sometimes causes no damage, and other times great damage.
  • There appears to be little or no correlation between its appearance (size, colour, luminosity) and the energy it emits.

Most of the current theories about ball lightning struggle to explain at least some of the points above. So now Peter Sturrock, emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford University, has suggested what seems to be a fairly off-the-wall idea: that ball lightning is just a portal to another 'space', through which the energy flows - like the power point in your house is not the source of energy, but just a port for energy from elsewhere.

In a paper on arXiv.org, "A Conjecture Concerning Ball Lightning", Sturrock - one of the founders of the Society for Scientific Exploration - explains his thoughts:

(a) Since there is no known way for the required energy to be stored in the ball lightning, there must be a reservoir of energy remote from the ball lightning (presumably related to the electrical energy responsible for lightning).
(b) Since the reservoir is remote from the ball lightning, there must be some way to transfer energy from the reservoir to the ball lightning. We therefore conceive of a duct that connects the reservoir to the ball lightning.
(c) A ball lightning may now be regarded as a port through which energy in the duct can be released into the atmosphere.

These points, Sturrock says, "suggest the following hypothesis: A ball lightning is a port connecting our overt space to a covert space with with similar but not identical properties."

Seems a fairly out there idea - but even if you don't agree with it, it's still a worthwhile read simply for some of the weird ball lightning accounts it discusses.

Paper: "A Conjecture Concerning Ball Lightning"

(h/t Norman)

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News Briefs 19-09-2016

A reminder: Darklore 9 is now available (featuring articles from Alan Moore, Robert Schoch, Mike Jay and others)! You can grab the paperback or limited edition hardcover from Amazon.com.

Thanks Kat and Chris.

Quote of the Day:

Who wants to live forever,
Who dares to love forever,
When love must die.