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Observations placeholder

Premonitions and Prophecies of the Aberfan disaster in Wales



Type of Spiritual Experience


HERBERT B. GREENHOUSE was born in Chicago, educated at Northwestern University and the University of Southern California, and served in the Army during World War II. He worked as an advertising copywriter, a playwright for stage, radio, and television, and was also a pianist and composer.  An avid investigator of psychic phenomena, Mr. Greenhouse was a member of the American Society for Psychical Research and participated in many ESP laboratory experiments. He was also the author of In Defense of GhostsThoughts of the Imitation of Christ, and How to Double Your Vocabulary.  He lived in New Jersey and had a retreat in the Berkshires.

The descriptions of the Aberfan disaster that Greenhouse used in his book were supplied by Dr. J C Barker, who collected the accounts of people who had written in to the Evening Standard about their premonitions. Barker discarded 16 of his 76 replies and did a follow-up of the other 60. Using criteria that had been established by parapsychologist G. W. Lambert, he evaluated each premonition on the basis of five questions:

 1. Had the dream, vision, feeling, etc. been put down in writing or reported to other persons before the event?

2.  Was the time interval between the premonition and its fulfillment short enough to indicate a close relationship between the two?

3.  Was the event, at the time of the dream, something that did not seem likely to happen?

4.  Was the description in the dream of an event that would be literally fulfilled and not just vaguely foreshadowed in symbols?

5. Were the details of the dream or vision identical with those of the disaster?

Of the sixty premonitions carefully studied by Dr. Barker, twenty-two were confirmed by from one to four other persons who had been told about them before the coal slide.  Greenhouse then documented them in his book.

A description of the experience

Premonitions: A leap in to the future – Herbert Greenhouse [1971]

On October 14, 1966, Mr. Alexander Venn, a retired employee of the ocean liner Queen Mary, began to feel uneasy, but he didn't know why. Mr. Venn, who lived in the southwestern part of England, said to his wife, "Something terrible is going to happen, and it won't be far from here, either.' The sense of imminent disaster was so strong that Venn, ,' amateur artist, went to his room and sketched his emotions on paper. He kept thinking about coal dust and drew a human head surrounded by an ominous black background.

Three days later, on the evening of Tuesday, October 17, a thirty-one-year-old man living in Kent, southeast of London, was resting in bed when he suddenly knew that on Friday there would be a frightful catastrophe. The next day, Wednesday, he remarked to a girl in his office, "On Friday something terrible connected with death is going to happen." What it would be he didn't know, but he felt depressed for the rest of the week.


Early in the morning of Thursday, October 20, a middle-aged Englishwoman woke up in a state of panic, unable to catch her breath. She had had a horrible nightmare of being smothered in "deep blackness." During the same night several other persons in England dreamed about "blackness." In her dream one woman saw a mountain flowing downward and a small child running and screaming.

Later that morning a nine-year-old girl named Eryl Mai Jones, who lived in a South Wales mining village, woke up and said to her mother, "Mummy, let me tell you about my dream last night." Her mother answered, "Darling, I have no time now. Tell me later." The child replied, "No, Mummy, you must listen. I dreamed I went to school and there was no school there. Something black had come down all over it!"

Eryl Mai's mother recalled that two weeks before the child had made a very strange remark: "Mummy, I'm not afraid to die." Her mother had said, "Why do you talk of dying, and you so young?" Eryl Mai had repeated, "I'm not afraid to die. I shall be with Peter and June." Peter and June were her classmates.


On Thursday afternoon, October 20, a London television performer suddenly cancelled a pretaped comedy show set for a Saturday broadcast. The show was about a Welsh mining village, and the actor had a "feeling" that it shouldn't be on the air.

At 9 P.M. that evening Mrs.C. Milden was in Plymouth, England, at a meeting of spiritualists. Suddenly a vision appeared before her as if on film, showing an old school-house in a valley and an avalanche of coal rushing down a mountainside. At the bottom of the mountain she saw a terrified little boy with a long fringe of hair. All around him rescue workers were digging into the coal slag looking for bodies. One of the workers wore an odd-looking peaked cap.

Friday, at 4 A.M., a London woman woke up gasping for air and thought the walls of her bedroom were caving in. At almost the same moment a Mrs. Sybil Brown in Brighton, south of London, had a terrifying nightmare of a screaming child in a telephone booth. Another child was walking toward the dreamer, and following him was a "black, billowing mass." Mrs. Brown woke her husband and said, "something terrible has happened." He reassured her that they had heard no bad news, but she couldn't sleep the rest of the night. The child's screams rang in her ears.

About the same time, in the early morning hours of Friday, October 21, an elderly man living in northwestern England had an unusual dream. He saw, spelled out in a brilliant light, A-B-E-R-F-A-N. The word meant nothing to him-until he heard a radio broadcast later that day.


The tiny village of Aberfan, South Wales, lay in a valley at the base of a mountain. The top of the mountain was a dumping ground for huge amounts of coal waste from the nearby mines. Six hundred feet below stood the Pantglas Junior School. One of its students was Eryl Mai Jones.

At 9 A.M. on Friday, Eryl Mai went off to school. As she left, the clock in her house stopped ticking. Also at 9 A.M., the thirty-one-year-old man from Kent came into his office and said to his co-worker, "Today is the day it is going to happen."

A few minutes later Eryl Mai joined her classmates in school. Morning prayers were over in the assembly hall, and the classrooms were filling up. The children, talking and laughing, sat in their seats while their teachers got ready to call the roll. About half a block away, at the senior high school, three older boys were sitting on a wall, waiting for their classes to begin at 9:30.

At 9:14 a secretary in an aircraft plant, Mrs. Monica McBean, had a sudden feeling that "something drastic" was going to happen. In a vision she saw a "black mountain moving and children buried under it." Terror-stricken, she left her desk and went into the ladies' lounge, where she sat down, trembling.


A few moments later it happened-a disaster that had been seen in dreams and visions weeks in advance. Half a million tons of coal waste, loosened by two days of heavy rain, began to rumble, then roared down over the village in a "black, billowing mass" forty feet high. Trees were uprooted, houses and cottages crumbled to the ground.

The three boys sitting on the wall at the senior school disappeared. Pantglas Junior School was buried beneath the moving mountain, and with it over a hundred small children.

Most of those who had had premonitions of the Aberfan disaster lived in other parts of England and didn't know about the tragedy until they heard the news on radio and television or saw the next morning's edition of the London Times:

Mothers join in Night Search For Their Buried Children 85 Bodies Recovered, 36 Injured

A death toll of about 200 is feared in the disaster at the mining village of Aberfan, Glamorgan, where yesterday morning a rain-soaked 800-foot slag tip slipped - and engulfed a school, a row of terraced houses, and a farm. Early today known deaths totalled 85.  The slag was part of a colliery tip.

The final death toll was 144, 28 adults and 116 children, most of them from the Pantglas Junior school. Rescue workers dug in the rubble all day and all night to recover the bodies. On Sunday Mrs. Milden was watching a television broadcast of the rescue operations when on the screen appeared the terrified little boy with the long fringe of hair she had seen in her vision. One of the workers nearby wore an odd-looking peaked cap.

A mass funeral was held on October 25, and the small bodies of 116 children were buried in a common grave. Among them was little Eryl Mai Jones, who was “not afraid to die." she was buried between her classmates, Peter and June.....

Thirty-six of the premonitions studied by Dr. Barker came in dreams. Other persons interviewed had visions, either stationary or in the form of moving pictures. Mrs. Milden actually pre-viewed the scene that would appear two days later on television.

To many the premonitions came as vague feelings of uneasiness but with the certain knowledge of something very unpleasant in the immediate future. Such was the experience of Mr. Venn, who drew a picture of how he felt, and of the thirty-one-year-old Kent man who knew that "something terrible" was going to happen.

Four men and three women suffered acute mental and physical unease from four days to a few hours before the coal slide. Three more had what is known medically as dyspnoea-choking sensations and a feeling of suffocation.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps