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This book, which covers Visions and hallucinations, explains what causes them and summarises how many hallucinations have been caused by each event or activity. It also provides specific help with questions people have asked us, such as ‘Is my medication giving me hallucinations?’.

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Observations placeholder

Oliver Sacks - Mrs O' C and the crystal radio



Type of Spiritual Experience

Perception recall

Number of hallucinations: 1


A description of the experience

The Man who mistook his wife for a hat – Oliver Sacks

Mrs O’C was somewhat deaf, but otherwise in good health.  She lived in an old people’s home.  One night in January 1979, she dreamt vividly, nostalgically of her childhood in Ireland, and especially of the songs they danced to and sang.  When she woke up, the music was still going, very loud and clear.

‘I must be still dreaming’ she thought, but this was not so.  She got up, roused and puzzled.  It was the middle of the night.  Someone she assumed, must have left a radio playing.  But why was she the only person to be disturbed by it?  She checked every radio she could find – they were all turned off.  Then she had another idea; she had heard that dental fillings could sometimes act like a crystal radio, picking up broadcasts with unusual intensity.  ‘That’s it’ she thought ‘One of my fillings is playing up.  It won’t last long, I’ll get it fixed in the morning’.

She complained to the night nurse, who said her fillings looked fine.  At this point another notion occurred to Mrs O’C.  ‘What sort of radio station’ she reasoned to herself, ‘would play Irish songs, deafeningly, in the middle of the night?  Songs, just songs, without introduction or comment?  And only songs that I know.  What radio station would play my songs and nothing else?’

At this point she asked herself ‘Is the radio in my head?’

Mrs O’C was found to have suffered a stroke in her right temporal lobe and as it resolved, the songs started to disappear.

The Man who mistook his wife for a hat – Oliver Sacks

By mid April the songs had entirely gone and Mrs O’C was herself again.  I asked her at this point how she felt about it all and in particular, whether she missed the paroxysmal songs she heard.

‘It’s funny you should ask that’ she said with a smile.  ‘Mostly I would say it is a great relief.  But yes, I do miss the old songs a little.  Now, with lots of them, I can’t even recall them.  It was like being given back a forgotten bit of my childhood again.  And some of the songs were really lovely.

The source of the experience

Sacks, Oliver

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Dental fillings


Deafness and tinnitus