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Observations placeholder

Celestial music by the River Tweed – choirs, concerts and bands



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 3


A description of the experience

This case  appeared in the 7th volume of Proceedings of The S.P.R. (page 304) and was collected and reviewed by Frank Podmore. The names of the participants were removed, they were however sent to the "S.P.R." editorial board. Mr. Podmore remarks:  The first information was sent to me by the vicar of S., a small country in the South of Scotland. Mr. B. writes:

"In response to your letter of July 20, 1889, I am pleased to provide you with the requested information about the music I heard in the wood D. which could not have had normal causes.

I perceived it four times, and still in the same locality, which is a road that follows the left bank of the Tweed River, which passes three quarters of a mile from the old cemetery of D., located south of the road, in an elevated location, behind a small wood. The first two or three times, the music I perceived was weak, though distinct enough to follow the melodic rhythms. I couldn't say why, but each time I didn't think that it was real music, although it didn't seem any different from the usual sort, except for the tonality, which had something etheric in it.

A few years passed and I had forgotten about everything, when a few months ago I heard the music again. I won't forget that last audition so easily. I was on my way to the country of X., where I was going to a tennis tournament; when I got to the usual place, I suddenly heard a wave of brilliant and sonorous music, like a brass band, flutes and clarinets playing on the side of the old cemetery. I didn't immediately remember what I had heard before, and I thought I heard real music.

My first thought was that the local owner, Sir Y. Z., had allowed his land to be used by a group of students on vacation, my second thought was that the music was really too good for a similar circumstance. As I continued on my way, I listened with great pleasure to the concert, always without doubt that it was something other than a real concert, when the idea came to me that music playing around the cemetery would not have been heard from the place where I was, because of the hill of S. which is located between that community and the place where I was at that time.

Then I remembered the other musical auditions perceived in the same place, and I remained convinced that the phenomenon was not of a kind to be explained by me... I did not know then that other people had heard the same music in the same locality; but we now know that Sir Y. Z. and Lady Z. perceived it several times. In Lady Z.'s case, the music was choral, without any instrumental accompaniment, whereas in my case there was no vocal music.

Signed in full: J.-L. B.

Mr. Podmore addressed Lady Z., who responded in these terms:

In the afternoon of July 12, 1888, in a warm and quiet atmosphere, I sat with an elderly lady near the chapel of our small cemetery, within our Scottish possessions, and very far from the communal roads. As I was talking, I interrupted myself and said, "Who is singing? Can't you hear?" It was a choir of very beautiful voices such as I have never heard; it was like the holy choir of a cathedral; but it only lasted a few seconds. The old lady hadn't heard anything and I didn't insist, assuming she was a bit hard of hearing.

I didn't come back to that until the evening, when I happened to ask my husband, "Who was singing when we were sitting by the chapel?

I expected him to say: "They were farmers."

On the contrary, to my amazement, he replied: "I too have often heard this song, but it is a chorus of voices that I hear." Now, this answer is interesting, because I had not said I heard a choir of voices, but only that I had heard singing. And then, but only then, I was struck by the thought that these voices might not be human. I had never heard anything like it: it was the music of Paradise (it is the only adequate phrase) and I would not give up for all the gold in the world to the satisfaction of having heard it. When this happened, I was not in any sentimental mood and was talking with my friend about common subjects. What I have written is the pure truth, scrupulously expressed, signed in full letters: Lady A. Z.

Lady Z.'s husband, Sir Y. Z. writes:

Several times, when I was alone in the cemetery, I heard choral music from inside the chapel.

Signed in full: Sir Y. Z.

Finally Lady Z., on January 21, 1891, returned to this subject in the following terms:

I, the undersigned, certify that on November 15, 1890, while in the chapel of our private cemetery, I heard again the same choral music as I described in the June 1890 Proceedings. The singing went on for about half a minute. I was with three people (including my husband) and immediately told them to listen, but they heard nothing. Just like the first time, the music consisted of a choir of several voices, in which it was not possible for me to distinguish the words. (Journal of the S.P.R., vol. V, page 42.)

Podmore:  how could we explain what Mr. B. perceived? And what meaning can be attributed to the different character of the music, which for some sounded like a choral song, for others like military music?  With this I declare that I am quite prepared to acknowledge that the case seems very remarkable and suggestive, whatever the cause may be.


The source of the experience

Other religious person

Concepts, symbols and science items


Activities and commonsteps