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Observations placeholder

Scott, Sir Peter - Look Mummy, my thumb's come off



Type of Spiritual Experience


The power of mind over matter

A description of the experience

The Eye of the Wind – Sir Peter Scott

One day when I was going down by train to Sandwich for the holidays I made an astonishing and wholly useful discovery about the powers of suggestion.

I was standing in the corridor looking at a map on the swing door which divided the second class from the third class carriages (corridor trains had not long been invented in those days), and leaning against the door which was suddenly opened from the far side. To save myself from falling I put out my left hand and gripped the door-post for support.

A man came past me and behind him the door swung back on to my thumb.

I felt very little, but when I looked down at my hand I was rather horrified at what I saw. The flesh of the whole top of my left thumb was removed from the bone and hung like half a plum separated from its stone. I ran back into the carriage saying apparently in rather matter-of-fact tones,

"Look Mummy, my thumb's come off."

Later when the numbness wore off it hurt terribly. We got off the train at Tunbridge Wells where I was treated by a doctor. As it was being dressed my mother said, "Think of the nicest thing you can think of."

At that moment the nicest thing I could think of was a fully grown Privet Hawk Moth caterpillar and I thought hard of its glorious velvety greenness, the purple and white diagonal
stripes and the curved shiny black and yellow horn on its tail; above all, I thought of the satisfying bigness and fatness of it.

I concentrated fiercely on this image and suddenly no pain remained.

Much more important was the discovery that a concentration of thought could so strikingly affect physical pain. I seemed to have a sort of safety curtain which I could lower between my imagination and reality. It has been a useful standby many times since then.

The source of the experience

Scott, Sir Peter

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Placebo effect

Activities and commonsteps



Being a child