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Observations placeholder

Colonel Townsend resurrects himself – dies and comes back to life by his own volition



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As quoted in “The Wonders of the Little World ; Or, a General History of Man: Displaying the Various Faculties, Capacities, Powers and Defects of the Human Body and ... Remarkable for Bodily Perfections Or Defect” by Nathaniel Wanley [Publication Date: 1806]

From Dr. Cheyne in his ' English Malady'

Colonel Townsend, a gentleman of honour and integrity, had for many years been afflicted with a nephritic complaint.  His illness increasing and his strength decaying, he came from Bristol to Bath in a litter, in autumn, and lay at the Bell Inn.

Dr Barnard and I [Dr Cheyne] were called to him and attended him twice a day, but his vomitings continuing still incessant and obstinate against all remedies, we despaired of his recovery.

While he was in this condition, he sent for us one morning; we waited on him, with Mr Skrine his apothecary.  We found his senses clear and his mind calm; his nurse and several servants were about him.

He told us he had sent for us, to give him some account of an odd sensation he had for some time observed and felt in himself; which was that composing himself, he could die or expire when he pleased and yet by an effort, or somehow, he would come to life again; which he had sometimes tried before he set for us.

We heard this with surprise; but as it was not to be accounted for from common principles, we could hardly believe the fact as he related it, much less give any account of it; unless he should please to make the experiment before us, which we were unwilling he should do, lest in his weak condition, he might carry it too far.

He continued to talk very distinctly and sensibly, above a quarter of an hour about this surprising sensation, and insisted  so much on our seeing the trial made, that we were at last forced to comply.

We all three felt his pulse first; it was distinct, though small and thread; and his heart had its usual beating.

He composed himself on his back and lay in a still posture for some time; while I held his right hand, Dr Baynard laid his hand on his heart and Mr Skrine held a clean looking glass to his mouth.  I found his pulse sink gradually, till at last I could not feel any, by the most exact and nice touch.  Dr Baynard could not feel the least motion in his heart, nor Mr Skrine the least foil of breath on the bright mirror held to his mouth; then each of us, by turns, examined his arm, heart and breath, but could not, by the nicest scrutiny, discover the least symptom of life about him.

We reasoned a long time about this odd appearance as well as we could, and all of us judging it inexplicable and unaccountable, and finding he still continued in that condition, we began t conclude that he had indeed carried the experiment too far and at last were satisfied he was actually dead, and were just ready to leave him.

This continued about half an hour.

As we were going away, we observed some motion about the body, and upon examination, found his pulse and the motion of his heart gradually returning; he began to breathe gently and speak softly; we were all astonished to the last degree, at this unexpected change and after some further conversation with him and among ourselves, went away fully satisfied as to all the particulars of this fact, but confounded and puzzled, and not able to form any rational scheme that might account for it

The source of the experience

Cheyne, Dr George

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Kidney disease