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This book, which covers Visions and hallucinations, explains what causes them and summarises how many hallucinations have been caused by each event or activity. It also provides specific help with questions people have asked us, such as ‘Is my medication giving me hallucinations?’.

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Observations placeholder

Captain A. B. MacGowan, a premonition of a fire in a theatre



Type of Spiritual Experience

Invisible input - prophecy

Number of hallucinations: 1


A description of the experience

Journal S.P.R. Volume I p283 [ as quoted in Tyrrell, G N M - The Personality of Man]

The narrator of the first case was personally interviewed by Sir William F. Barrett, F.R.S. In January, 1887, Captain A. B. MacGowan, an officer in the American army was on leave at Brooklyn with his two boys, then on vacation from school.

"I promised the boys," he said "that I would take them to the theatre that night and I engaged seats for us three. At the same time I had the opportunity to examine the interior of the theatre. I went over it carefully, stage and all. These seats were engaged the previous day, but on the day of the proposed visit it seemed as if a voice within me was constantly saying, 'Do not go to the theatre; take the boys back to school.' I could not keep these words out of my mind; they grew stronger and stronger and at noon I told my friends and the boys that we would not go to the theatre. My friends remonstrated with me, and said I was cruel to deprive the boys of a promised and unfamiliar pleasure to which they had looked forward, and I partly relented. But all the afternoon the words kept repeating themselves and impressing themselves upon me. That evening, less than an hour before the doors opened, I insisted on the boys going to New York with me and spending the night at a hotel convenient to the railroad, by which we could start in the early morning. I felt ashamed of the feeling that impelled me to act thus, but there seemed no escape from it. That night the theatre was destroyed by fire with a loss of some three hundred lives."

 In conversation with Sir William Barrett, Captain MacGowan said that the voice was perfectly clear,

“like someone talking inside me, it kept saying: 'Take the boys home, take the boys home.'

And this from breakfast time till he took the boys away, shortly before the theatre opened. He had never experienced anything like it before or since; never had any other hallucination. His sister has still got the tickets which he had bought and paid for. Three hundred and five people were burnt to death that night.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Hearing voices