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Observations placeholder

Ford, Arthur - Prophesying the names of those who had died of influenza



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Nothing so Strange - Arthur Ford


There is NOTHING SO STRANGE as the way the strangeness wears off the strange. Experiences that now seem commonplace once shook me to the depths. Some people are introduced gradually to the subject of psychic phenomena but my introduction came as a bolt. One day I was a self-assured young officer at Camp Grant, having recently arrived from Fort Sheridan where I had become one of the ninety-day wonders of World War 1, a second lieutenant, and the next day I was a mighty frightened boy in a different world. Not because of the war, either, but because of a dream. Or was it a dream?

 That morning I had wakened from a night's sound sleep with the roster of the names of those who had died of influenza in the night plain before my eyes. I thought my experience must be the hang-over of a dream. I told myself that when I got a look at the real roster, which it was my duty to pick up from the adjutant's office, I would know I had just imagined what I had just seen. But when I picked up the list it was the same; not only the names were the ones I had seen but they were in the exact order I had seen them.

 I tried to shake off the experience.

 But the next morning the same thing happened. As I wakened, there was the list of fatalities. And again it checked out. Those were the days of the influenza epidemic and Camp Grant was hard hit. At one time I was the only officer in my company who was not down. Every morning at reveille men who had just been called from their beds were dropping to the ground; at night more men died in the hospital. Across the United States over half a million people died of flu. Everyone seemed under tension but mine was different - and worse.

  The third morning I mentioned these strange goings-on to a couple of my buddies. They said, "You're kidding." I said I wished I were. So the next morning when we first wakened I told them the names that would appear that day. Sure enough, those names were posted. They said, "You're pulling some kind of a trick." I started to remonstrate but caught the look in their eyes, so I just laughed. "You figure it out," I said to them cockily. Bur I did not feel cocky and I could not figure it out.

 I had never heard of precognition; I had never heard of clairvoyance; I did not know that the mind had an extrasensory reach. And if I had heard of such matters I would have thought that the person who told me was as crazy as the queer ducks he was talking about. In Titusville, Florida, where I grew up, the word psychic meant spirits and good Baptist boys had no truck with spirits. Ordinary people sometimes talked about fortune-tellers and water diviners and sometimes repeated ghost stories they had heard from servants or from someone who knew a man who knew a man who said . . . Premonitions of death were vaguely considered a mark of spirituality. And there our parapsychology ended.

 After a week of this dream business I wanted to go to the chaplain or the doctor but I was afraid I might be sent to a mental hospital. Surely this strange disclosure of facts, which I could not know but did, would shut itself off as suddenly as it had come upon me. But instead of stopping, it took a different quirk. One morning I realized that the names I was seeing were no longer the names of flu victims but of men killed at the front. I would write down the names seen on waking and then check the casualty lists in the newspapers. Daily as new recruits moved in our men were being sent overseas we were replacements for the Rainbow Division. Sometimes that very day, sometimes the next day, but always within a week, the names I had seen would appear in the newspaper and in the same order. Along with my persistent feeling of being strange I now became curious. Why did I get certain names, certain sections of a list, and not others? None of the names was known to me personally.

 Finally I went to the Protestant chaplain. If he had met me with a strait jacket I would scarcely have been surprised. What he did was to listen to my story and then tell me to pray that God would take away these silly dreams. Dreams? Delusions? As though naming a process could control it, let alone stop it. And with about 85 per cent of my current "dreams" verifiable.

 Finally I wrote to my mother to ask if there were any history of insanity in the family, not mentioning my reason for asking. She replied that there certainly was no insanity; she would like me to know I had some very smart forebears. But there was an aunt on my father's side of the family who was somewhat unbalanced. She was pleasant and harmless, my mother said, and the family had never made any move to commit her to an institution. So that explained Aunt Mary in Jacksonville. I had always realized there was something wrong with Aunt Mary because she was never discussed as the other members of the family were. Much later I found that Aunt Mary was a medium!

The source of the experience

Ford, Arthur

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