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Observations placeholder

Harris, Bob – The Near death experience and OBE from Legionaire’s disease



Type of Spiritual Experience


Legionnaires' disease is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria. Signs and symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. This often begins two to ten days after being exposed

A description of the experience

Bob Harris – Still Whispering after all these years

I was thriving on the volume of broadcasting I was doing, but getting very tired. The weekend schedule was punishing and I wasn't looking after myself, still seeking escape routes of various kinds and staying up late, particularly when entertaining friends. A typically indulgent Thursday night at our Putney flat finished at about 4 o'clock, when I collapsed into bed. I woke up with a start at about 7.45.  It was Miri's Christmas school play that morning and, although I felt absolutely dreadful, I'd promised to be there.

I drove across to West Hampstead through the heavy rush hour traffic hunched over the steering wheel, shifting around uncomfortably in an attempt to ease a dull, aching pain that was beginning to tighten down the sides of my chest. I almost collapsed into the chair beside Sue when I arrived for the performance.

'You look terrible,' she said. 'You should go straight back to bed.'

After catching the opening few minutes I took her advice and struggled back to Putney, where I slept for the rest of the day. By the following afternoon I was feeling much better, and was watching the England Rugby Union International on television when the doctor arrived. I even asked him if I'd be OK to get down to Radio 210 the following afternoon. He said probably not, that I'd got a mild case of flu [sic]  and should take it easy for a couple of days. There seemed no particular cause for alarm.

A few hours later, however, things took a dramatic turn for the worse.

The discomfort in my sides returned, only worse this time. It felt like I was in the grip of a tightening vice. I started getting flashes of jagged pain right through the centre of my skull, like a meat cleaver cutting through the bone. It was so horrendous that I started screaming and bashing my head against the wall, trying to cause a diversionary pain.

Then I started convulsing.

Jackie rushed me to the Queen Mary's Hospital in Roehampton, where the medical staff spent the next 15 hours working to save my life. As they were wheeling me through to the emergency department, I caught a glimpse of my reflection. My skin had turned yellow and my face had broken out in a hundred red-rimmed spots. How could I have got so ill so quickly?

They could neither sedate me nor give me anything to kill the pain for fear of masking the elusive virus that was doing so much damage.

An initial diagnosis suggested a brain infection of some kind and I endured three lumbar punctures that dreadful night, needles inserted deep into my spine to withdraw the spinal fluid needed for testing. It wasn't until later that I discovered I'd contracted a form of legionnaire’s disease, linked to pneumonia.

It was almost unbearable, yet equal damage was being done to my pride. I was absolutely frantic about the idea of being seen in this condition, of being recognized. I just couldn’t bear the thought of being pushed into a general ward and having to face people. As they transferred me into a small private side ward of the intensive care unit, I felt peaceful relief.

For the first time in many hours, the pain lifted and I was suspended in a tranquil silence.

I became an observer, having an extraordinary out-of-body experience.

From some indeterminate height I was looking down at myself hooked up to all that life-saving machinery, while white-coated figures bent over me in urgent activity. I felt emotionally detached from myself, yet connected by what seemed to be a silver thread, as thin as a strand of a spider's web. I was hypnotized by an overwhelming feeling of serenity, a certainty that this feeling was not the end of my life, more a stepping stone into whatever came next. It was a tranquil and beautiful feeling.

I sensed a tunnel of light, as if into another dimension. Then, click.

Everything went black.

I looked up to see my mother come into my music room at my parents' house in Ardington Road in Northampton. I was probably about 13 years old. It was summer and the sash window had been pushed up a little, letting in a breeze that disturbed the net curtains my mum always used to hang. I looked at the pictures on the wall, feeling excited and happy, knowing this was no dream - I was really there.

I could feel the breeze on my face. Everything was exactly as it was.

Then, click. Everything went black again.

I remember briefly coming to and being hugged tightly by a woman, presumably a nurse, whose voice I didn't recognize.

‘Thank God, oh thank God,' she said over and over again, before I fell back into my coma.

I finally opened my eyes and blearily began to take in my surroundings.

As I came to, I became aware of someone sitting in one of those big old hospital chairs at the side of my bed. It was George. 'Hiya, man,' he said casually.

'Hiya, George,' I replied. 'What time is it?'

'Ten to five ... Thursday afternoon' he told me. 'You've lost four and a half days.'

The source of the experience

Harris, Bob

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Bacterial infection


Being in a coma
Brain damage