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Ralph Shirley - The Mystery of the Human Double – Death, Trance and being Buried alive



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Mystery of the Human Double – Ralph Shirley

The celebrated actress, Madame Rachel, was reported to have died in Paris on January 4th, 1858. After the process of embalming her body had already begun she awoke from her trance, but died ten hours later from the injuries that had been inflicted upon her.

In May 1864, a man was reported to have died very suddenly at a hospital in the State of New York, but as the doctors were in doubt as to the cause of his death they decided to hold a post mortem examination. When, however, the first incision was made with the knife, the supposed dead man jumped up and grasped the doctor's throat. The doctor was so terrified that he died of apoplexy on the spot, but the man himself made a complete recovery.

Here is another instance culled from The Undertaker's and Funeral Director's Journal of July 22nd, 1889. A New York undertaker, states the Editor, recently told the following story, the circumstances of which are still remembered by old residents of the city. A lady living in New York City some forty years ago fell dead apparently while in the act of dancing at a ball. She was at the time wearing costly jewellery, and her husband, who was devoted to her, ordered that she should be buried in her ball dress with the pearls and diamonds that she had on. The body was placed in the receiving vault for burial on the following day. The undertaker, being avaricious, determined to obtain possession of the jewellery. He accordingly went in the night and, after helping himself to the lady's watch, proceeded to draw a diamond ring from the finger.

The ring being tightly fixed, he found it necessary to use some violence, and tore the skin. Thereupon the lady moved and gave a groan, and the thief in terror fled from the cemetery.

The lady, on recovering from the shock, stepped out of the vault and found her way home as best she could. She lived years afterwards and had children, two of whom the narrator of the story knew to be still alive.

Stories of this kind are numerous, and frequently well authenticated. One of the strangest is that of a jeweller named George Hayward, who was actually buried at Marshfield, in Gloucestershire. His father was a farmer. When working in the fields as a youth he was accidentally struck on the head by one of the labourers with a pitchfork, which penetrated his skull. The injury at first was not considered serious, but he took to his bed and, after a fortnight, all signs of life having ceased, he was pronounced dead.

There was however, some dispute among the doctors whether death was actually due to the blow or whether to pleurisy supervening. In the meanwhile he was perfectly conscious but unable to move a muscle. The time for the funeral arrived, but no effort on his part could break the spell "I was painfully conscious," he wrote, "that I was soon to be lowered into my grave. . . . The coffin was taken out of the wagon and placed in the tomb.' Then I knew that I was being buried alive, unable to speak or to stay the hands of my friends. . . . I did not seem to have the fear that a person would naturally expect under such circumstances. All I remember is that the grave is a lonely place, and the silence of the tomb was horribly oppressive. How long I remained in this condition I am not aware.

The first sense of returning life came over me when I heard the scraping of a spade on my coffin lid. I felt myself raised and borne away. I was taken out of my coffin, not to my home, but to a dissecting room. I saw the doctors who had waited on me at my home, dressed in long white aprons. In their hands they had knives. Through my half-closed eyes I saw them engaged in a dispute. My sense of hearing was remarkably acute. Both approached the table and opened my mouth to take out my tongue, when by a superhuman effort my eyelids were slightly raised. The next thing I heard was: "Look out, you fool, he is alive."

"He is dead! "rejoined the other doctor.

"See, he opens his eyes," continued the first doctor.

The other physician let his knife drop, and a short time after that I commenced to recover rapidly. Instead of cutting me up they took me home. There was great rejoicing among my relatives. I owed my life to the doctors' dispute as to what was the cause of my death.

“I suppose I was kept alive for some purpose," continued Mr. Hayward, "for I am the father of ten children."

The source of the experience

Shirley, Ralph

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