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Observations placeholder

The prophetic dream of Robert Morris, Sr., that he would be killed during the firing of a salute by a foreign vessel



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

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


Nothing could be clearer than the dream of Robert Morris, Sr., that he would be killed during the firing of a salute by a foreign vessel. Yet he thought he could outwit the white-faced lady by taking every precaution at the scene of the salute.

The incident is described in the biography of his son, Robert Morris, Jr., an American financier in the eighteenth century and one of the framers of the Constitution. Robert Sr., an agent for a Liverpool shipping firm, was expecting the arrival of the ship Liverpool at Oxford, Maryland. The night before, he had dreamed he received a mortal wound from a salvo fired in his honour.

Morris was uneasy about the dream and decided it would be best not to join the party. Captain Mathews of the Liverpool thought Morris was being foolish and superstitious. Morris replied, "Call it superstition if you like, but our family is reputed to have the gift, or curse, of receiving premonitions of impending disaster."

The captain finally reassured Morris that no salute would be fired, and Morris reluctantly consented to join the party.

But later the captain told him that the crew was upset at not being able to fire a salute. Morris replied, "Very well, but do not fire the salute until I or someone else gives the signal."

Captain Mathews said that he would go ashore with Morris when the time came and give the signal himself when they were a good distance away. Then the captain told the gunner not to fire until he raised his hand.

Before their boat had rowed clear of the guns, a fly lighted on the captain's nose. When the captain raised his hand to brush the fly away, the gunner, thinking this was the signal, fired the salute. The wadding from one of the guns struck Morris' arm above the elbow, breaking the bone and imbedding itself in the flesh. Infection set in, and Morris died a few days later.

Whatever unfeeling entity puts the dream into the head of the ill-fated man often is careful to leave out details that might help to prevent the tragedy. Had Morris dreamed of the total sequence of events, including the appearance of the fly, he might have been on the alert. As it was, he saw only the crucial act, the firing of the salute that wounded and eventually killed him.

Incidentally, how did the fly know that Morris was supposed to die and pick the strategic moment to alight on the Captain's nose?

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Dreaming and lucid dreaming