Type of Spiritual Experience
from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research – volume viii pg 194
Narrator Reverend L J Bertrand given verbally to Dr Richard Hodgson
A description of the experience
Mr Bertrand had been accustomed for years to mountain climbing in the Alps and Pyrenees. On this occasion he and his party decided, against the advice of the guides, to climb the Titlis on the difficult side from Engstlenalp, and when they reached the top of the steep and dangerous part they all felt surprised that they had not fallen, and Mr Bertrand felt too tired to go on. He therefore decided to remain where he was and made the others promise to go up by the left and come down by the right.
He continues ‘I sat down, my legs hanging on a dangerous slope or precipice, my back leaning on a rock as big as an armchair. I chose that brink because there was no snow, and because I could face better the magnificent panorama of the Alpes Bernoises. I at once remembered that in my pocket were two cigars, and put one between my teeth, lighted a match, and considered myself as the happiest of men.
Suddenly I felt as thunderstruck by apoplexy [surprise], and though the match burnt my fingers, I could not throw it down.
My head was perfectly clear and healthy, but my body was as powerless and motionless as a rock. There was for me no hesitation. “This” I thought “is the sleep of snows! If I move I shall roll down in the abyss; if I do not move I shall be a dead man in 25 or 30 minutes”
He then describes how the cold of death crept upwards from his feet; how he felt an acute pain and seemed to die. Then he thought, “Well, at last I am what they call a dead man, and here I am, a ball of air in the air, a captive balloon still attached to earth by a kind of elastic string and going up and always up. How strange! I see better than ever and I am dead – only a small space in the space without a body!”
He then seemed to be able to follow the movements of the climbing party. He saw the guide going up by the right instead of the left as he had promised; and he saw him lag behind and drink his bottle of Madeira and steal a leg of his chicken. When the party returned they managed to bring him back to life, and he charged the guide with these things, whereupon the man fled and spread the rumour that he was a devil not a man