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Observations placeholder

Ansel Bourne goes AWOL



Type of Spiritual Experience


In this example we have a case of Multiple Personality but this time there are definitely only two Personalities and it would appear they were spawned at birth, with the one suddenly becoming active at a certain point in this man’s life. I have thus speculated that difficult birth may have had a hand in this.

No further case history exists to give us any idea why this secondary personality should appear, there are no clues as to Ansel’s past and the traumas he may have been facing at the time – except that Albert said “he had passed through a great deal of trouble, loss of wife, friends and property

The story of Ansel Bourne, which became a very famous case in its time, is interesting as a fairly clear example of two ‘Memories’ but shared Perceptions. Hypnosis enabled the doctor to tap into his Perceptions.

Both characters were active from birth and learning, so Albert Brown, was to all intents and purposes a fully functioning human being – an adult of the same age as Ansel Bourne, but he was different because he had learnt different things. Same perceptions, different capabilities and objectives.

There is no more evidence about whether Albert Brown was aware of Ansel Bourne, so this is all we can deduce from this case history.

A description of the experience


Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume vii 1891-92  [from Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death – F W H Myers]

January 17th 1887, Ansel Bourne went from his home in Coventry, R I Providence expecting to return home the same afternoon. In Providence he drew out of the bank $551, paid several small bills, and then disappeared. No tidings whatever were received of him till March 14th, eight weeks later…..

On the morning of Monday, March 14th, about 5 o’clock, he heard an explosion like the report of a gun or pistol, and waking, he noticed that there was a ridge in his bed not like the bed he had been accustomed to sleep in. He rose in a strange room and pulled away the curtains and looked out on a strange street. He felt very weak, and thought that he had been drugged. His next sensation was that of fear, knowing that he was in a place where he had no business to be. The last thing he could remember was being at the corner of Dorrance and Broad Street in Providence….

Mr Bourne was anxious to have any light possible thrown upon his experience, and he acquiesced in the proposals made for hypnotism. Professor William James endeavoured to obtain from him, when he was under hypnosis, a detailed account of his doings during the eight weeks, January 17th to March 13th 1887. The following statements were elicited from him while he was in a deep sleep [trance state];

He said that his name was Albert John Brown, that on January 17th he went from Providence to Pawtucket in a horse-car, thence by train to Boston, and thence to New York, where he registered as A J Brown at the Grand Union Hotel. He left New York on the following morning and went to Philadelphia, where he spent a week or so in a boarding house on Filbert Street near the depot. It was subsequently determined that an A J Brown did board for a week or more during that time at The Kellogg House on Filbert Street in Philadelphia. He thought of taking a store in a small town, and after looking around at several places, chose Norristown, where he started a business of 5 cent goods.

He stated under hypnosis that he was born in Newton, New Hampshire, July 8th 1826. Ansel Bourne was born in New York City, July 8th 1826. He said he had passed through a great deal of trouble, loss of wife, friends and property, but that everything was confused prior to his finding himself in the horse car on the way to Pawtucket; and that the last thing he remembered about his keeping store in Norristown was going to bed on Sunday night, March 13th.

The statements made by Mr Bourne in trance concerning his doings in Norristown agreed with those made by his landlord and other persons there.

The source of the experience

Other ill or disabled person

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Difficult birth
Psychological trauma