Observations placeholder

Sarah Shourd’s prison experiences

Identifier

017228

Type of Spiritual Experience

Hallucination

Number of hallucinations: 1

Background

A description of the experience

How extreme isolatin warps the mind - By Michael Bond

14 May 2014  BBC Futures

Sarah Shourd’s mind began to slip after about two months into her incarceration. She heard phantom footsteps and flashing lights, and spent most of her day crouched on all fours, listening through a gap in the door.

That summer, the 32-year-old had been hiking with two friends in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan when they were arrested by Iranian troops after straying onto the border with Iran. Accused of spying, they were kept in solitary confinement in Evin prison in Tehran, each in their own tiny cell. She endured almost 10,000 hours with little human contact before she was freed. One of the most disturbing effects was the hallucinations.

“In the periphery of my vision, I began to see flashing lights, only to jerk my head around to find that nothing was there,” she wrote in the New York Times in 2011. “At one point, I heard someone screaming, and it wasn’t until I felt the hands of one of the friendlier guards on my face, trying to revive me, that I realised the screams were my own.”

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References