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Observations placeholder

The terrifying dream of Frau Johanna Bravand



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Mysteries - Colin Wilson

In April 1960, Frau Johanna Bravand went to bed much later than usual – she and her husband ran a hotel. After a brief sleep, she woke from a nightmare, which she was able to recall in detail.

She and her sister had been climbing a mountain-the Reckenberg-accompanied by their husbands; near the top she saw a drinking trough that was filled by a spring. She ran to drink, then noticed that the water had a pink tinge. Looking more closely, she saw a woman's body in the water; it was wearing one of her own dresses. At that moment, she realised that her sister was no longer with them, and had a conviction that something terrible had happened.

At that moment, she woke up, sweating and alarmed.

The dream upset her so much that she woke her husband and told him about it; but he was tired and told her to go back to sleep. The next morning she had another dream to tell. She had been running onto a bridge over a river as she felt someone was chasing her. To her right and her left, she could see two more bridges. Again there was a strong sense of something being wrong. She also told this dream to her husband and several other people in the hotel.

During this period, Frau Bravand's sister Mina lived about ten miles away at Augst with her husband and two young daughters. She and Johanna had always been close. Now both were experiencing marital problems and turned to one another for moral support. But Johanna's problems ended in divorce; she married again - Dr Max Frolicher-and moved to his estate in the Canton of Bern. Mina was left alone to cope with her own troubles which she did with the aid of drugs.

One day, Johanna's brother-in-law phoned to ask if Mina was with her; she had vanished the previous evening. Johanna hurried towards Augst but decided to turn aside en route and search the woods near Gotisberg, their birthplace. They had a hut in the forest, but there was no sign of Mina. She walked around the town, looking in their favourite spots-and then suddenly recognised the scenery of her dream. She was standing on a bridge, with two more bridges on either side and with the same feeling of deep foreboding.

In Augst, there was still no news of Mina. Then Johanna recalled a dowser, Edgar Devaux, who was famous for tracing missing persons.

He lived in the village of Pery Reuchenette, in French-speaking Switzerland. [t was about an hour's drive from Basel. Mina's husband flatly declined to go on such a wild-goose chase, so it was Johanna's husband, Max Frolicher, who went with her.

Devaux is an ex-schoolmaster with a figure like a barrel. They arrived to find him waiting on his front doorstep holding his pendulum. He had dowsed their progress from the railway station.

In Devaux's study, Johanna offered him a photograph of Mina and one of her slippers. Devaux took only the photograph and suspended his short pendulum over it. He shook his head.

'I am sorry, but this person is no longer alive.'

The pendulum, he explained, had swung north-east to south-west, which indicated death; if she had been alive, it would have swung from east to west. He was also able to tell Johanna that he felt Mina was in the water.

Johanna produced a map showing Basel and Augst. Devaux suspended his pendulum over the map, and with the other hand traced a pencil line along the river. He made a cross. 'She is there. And I have a feeling she is being held down by a piece of metal.'


Johanna and Max Frolicher were not entirely convinced; but then, the Rhine ran only a few hundred yards behind Mina's flat. It seemed worth checking. The police declined to help. They were convinced Mina had run away. But a diving club in Basel was more accommodating. Their leader, Hans Engler, thought it was probably a waste of time; there had been a lot of rain and melting snow that spring and the river was high and fast. But to oblige the Frolichers, his frogmen went to the spot indicated by Devaux. Devaux himself went along to help.

At first it seemed hopeless; it was like swimming in coffee. Then one of the divers found a stocking-the same size and brand used by Mina. They continued to search. Then one of the frogmen struggled out of the water looking sick and shocked. He had touched a body, but as he made a grab for it, it floated away in the current.

Devaux did not seem unduly worried; he said it would be quite easy to trace the progress of the body with his pendulum. But farther along the towpath, their way was blocked by factories. The search had to be abandoned.

Fortunately the corpse was not likely to float more than a few miles.  Across the river at Birsfelden there is a barrage, where the current is used to drive the power station that supplies Basel's electricity. The water is sieved through grids to protect the turbines from damage.

The engineer in charge found Mina's body, badly decomposed after ten days in the water, and notified the police. They contacted Johanna, and told her to go to the mortuary at Birsfelden to identify the body.

When Johanna walked into the mortuary, she received a shock.

Mina's body had been placed in a special metal-lined coffin that is used for drowning cases. The coffin looked like the trough that Johanna had seen on the mountainside in her dream. The body lay in pinkish water-the flesh had been torn pulling her out of the river-and she was wearing the dress that Johanna had seen on the corpse. Johanna had totally forgotten that she had given it to Mina some time after her dream.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Dreaming and lucid dreaming