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Observations placeholder

Dunne, J. W. - An Experiment with Time – ‘Seeing’ the explosion of Mount Pelée in Martinique whilst based in South Africa



Type of Spiritual Experience


We cannot judge from this whether the dream was an out of body experience, a prophesy or an exploration of group perception because no dates are given.

The main eruption was on May 8, 1902, and the destruction that resulted, dubbed the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century, killed about 30,000 people.

Prophecy - It may have been a prophecy as ‘spring’ may mean early spring and the eruption was late spring.  Dunne agonises over the number of 4,000, but the number may be merely a coincidence – a number designed to arouse his interest and stay in his memory as being ‘large’.  The rest of the dream where his composer invents a narrative designed to impress the danger and urgency of the situation tends to reinforce the feeling that this was a warning  

Out of body – he gives a vivid description of the mountain ‘standing on high ground — the upper slopes of some spur of a hill or mountain. The ground was of a curious white formation’, which may have been invented by his composer to give him the impression that this was a ‘volcano’, and thus was still a prophetic dream, or he could have indeed been there remote viewing.  In this case OBE and prophecy were combined.

Exploring group perception – The event may have already happened and his composer was exploring the past perceptions of its having occurred

A description of the experience


The next incident was as dramatic as any lover of the marvellous could desire.

In the spring of 1902 I was encamped with the 6th Mounted Infantry near the ruins of Lindley, in the (then) Orange Free State. We had just come off trek, and mails and newspapers arrived but rarely.

There, one night, I had an unusually vivid and rather unpleasant dream.

I seemed to be standing on high ground — the upper slopes of some spur of a hill or mountain.

The ground was of a curious white formation. Here and there in this were little fissures, and from these jets of vapour were spouting upward. In my dream I recognized the place as an island of which I had dreamed before — an island which was in imminent peril from a volcano. And, when I saw the vapour spouting from the ground, I gasped: "It's the island! Good Lord, the whole thing is going to blow up". For I had memories of reading about Krakatoa, where the sea, making its way into the heart of a volcano through a submarine crevice, flushed into steam, and blew the whole mountain to pieces. Forthwith I was seized with a frantic desire to save the four thousand (I knew the number) unsuspecting inhabitants.

Obviously there was only one way of doing this, and that was to take them off in ships. There followed a most distressing nightmare, in which I was at a neighbouring island, trying to get the incredulous French authorities to despatch vessels of every and any description to remove the inhabitants of the threatened island. I was sent from one official to another; and finally woke myself by my own dream exertions, clinging to the heads of a team of horses drawing the carriage of one "Monsieur le Maire," who was going out to dine, and wanted me to return when his office would be open next day. All through the dream the number of the people in danger obsessed my mind. I repeated it to everyone I met, and, at the moment of waking, I was shouting to Monsieur le Maire “Listen ! four thousand people will be killed unless…. "

I am not certain now when we received our next batch of papers but, when they did come, the Daily Telegraph was amongst them, and, on opening the centre sheet, this is what met my eyes :



One of the most terrible disasters in the annals of the world has befallen the once prosperous town of St. Pierre, the commercial capital of the French island of Martinique in the West Indies. At eight o'clock on Thursday morning the volcano Mont Pelee which had been quiescent for a century, etc., etc. —

But there is no need to go over the story of the worst eruption in modern history.

In another column of the same paper was the following, the headlines being somewhat smaller :


There followed the report of the schooner Ocean Traveller, which had been obliged to leave St. Vincent owing to a fall of sand from the volcano there, and had subsequently been unable to reach St. Lucia owing to adverse currents opposite the ill-fated St. Pierre. The paragraph contained these words :

When she was about a mile off, the volcano Mont Pelee exploded.

The narrator subsequently described how the mountain seemed to split open all down the side.   Needless to say, ships were busy for some time after, removing survivors to neighbouring islands. There is one remark to be made here.

The number of people declared to be killed was not, as I had maintained throughout the dream, 4,000, but 40,000. I was out by a nought. But, when I read the paper, I read, in my haste, that number as 4,000; and, in telling the story subsequently, I always spoke of that printed figure as having been 4,000 ; and I did not know it was really 40,000 until I copied out the paragraph fifteen years later.

Now, when the next batch of papers arrived, these gave more exact estimates of what the actual loss of life had been ; and I discovered that the true figure had nothing in common with the arrangement of fours and noughts I had both dreamed of, and gathered from the first report. So my wonderful " clairvoyant" vision had been wrong in its most insistent particular! But it was clear that its wrongness was likely to prove a matter just as important as its rightness. For whence, in the dream, had I got that idea of 4,000?

The source of the experience

Dunne, J. W.

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