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Phantasms of the Living - Volume i - The death of Helen Alexander

Identifier

016219

Type of spiritual experience

Hallucination

Background

I think Helen Alexander desperately wanted to see her mother and knew she was dying.  And she wanted to see her mother before she died, so she issued a prayer of considerable force.  This prayer would have registered in her perceptions and the composer would have noticed it, especially given the circumstances and the strength of emotion attached.

Helen Alexander would probably have had an image in her mind – perceptions  - of her mother  - the clothes, the red shawl over her shoulders, the  flannel petticoat with the hole in the front and had probably seen her mother with the brass candlestick in her hand many times and in those clothes.  The prayer and the perceptions went together.

What resulted was a broadcast, which in the circumstances was a very sensible way of trying to get Helen’s mother to come.  If the mother didn’t receive the message, then someone else who was connected with Helen or her mother might.  As it was, Frances intercepted that message – that call for help - an unwitting recipient of that cry for assistance.  It was her composer that picked up the call and showed her the images as an hallucination.  It was her composer that somehow interpreted the message as a cry for help.

We will never know whether the mother got the message, because very sadly nothing is said in the description about how her mother got to know about her daughter’s illness or the fact she was dying, but this was a broadcast nonetheless, and a broadcast in which one recipient received the message and another may or may not have done

A description of the experience

Extract Phantasms of the Living volume i

[from Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death – F W H Myers]

Helen Alexander – maid to Lady Waldegrave – was lying here very ill with typhoid fever, and was attended by me [Frances Reddell – the person submitting the case history].  I was standing at the table by her bedside, pouring out her medicine, at about 4 o’clock in the morning of the 4th October 1880.  I heard the call-bell ring and was attracted by the door of the room opening, and by seeing a person entering the room whom I instantly felt to be the mother of the sick woman.  She had a brass candlestick in her hand, a red shawl over her shoulders and a flannel petticoat on, which had a hole in the front.  I looked at her as much as to say ‘I am glad you have come’, but the woman looked at me sternly, as much as to say ‘Why wasn’t I sent for before?’

I gave the medicine to Helen Alexander, and then turned round to speak to the vision, but no one was there.  She had gone.  She was a short, dark person, and very stout.

At about 6 o’clock that morning Helen Alexander died.  Two days after her parents and a sister came to Antony, and arrived between 1 and 2 o’clock in the morning; and I and another maid let them in, and it gave me a great turn when I saw the living likeness of the vision I had seen 2 nights before.  I told the sister about the vision, and she said that the description of the dress exactly answered to her mother’s and that they had brass candlesticks at home exactly like the one described.  There was not the slightest resemblance between the mother and daughter

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble