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Observations placeholder

The sad notes of a wind harp were heard three times by several people as Lily died



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 8


A description of the experience

Phantasms of the Living (Vol. 11, page 221)

Mrs Sarah A. Sewell, of Eden Villas, Albert Park, Didsbury, England, 25 March 1885 as follows:

In the spring of 1863, one of our children, a little girl named Lily, became seriously ill. One day, my husband, returning home around 3 in the afternoon, told Lily that he would have lunch in her room to keep her company. I was sitting next to the patient's bed holding her hand. My husband was having lunch and talking, and another of our children was talking to Lily, our intention was to entertain the patient.

Suddenly, our attention was drawn to the sad notes of a wind harp, which seemed to come from a cupboard placed in a corner of the room. We shut up immediately and I asked, "Lily, can you hear this sweet music?" She said no, which surprised me even more because the child had a great passion for music. In the meantime, these melodious chords had increased in sonority, the room seemed to be invaded; then, gradually, they moved away, by the staircase, until they were completely extinguished.

This music was also perceived by the maid who was in the kitchen, although the kitchen was two floors below, as it was heard by our eldest daughter who, at that time, was heading to the outhouse. She had stopped in the corridor, listening and wondering with surprise where these melodies came from. While she was still there, she was met by the maid, who asked her:

"What is this music?" Four hours had just rang.

The next day (Sunday), my aunt, with my old nurse, came to visit Lily. They entered the room with my husband while I was in the kitchen baking a milk cake for the sick girl. Suddenly, the same sad melodies of the wind harp began to resonate. They were heard by all three people in Lily's room, as they were heard by me in the kitchen.

Monday went by without the phenomenon repeating itself; but on Tuesday, at the same time, my friend, my husband and I heard again the melancholic melody, which came from the same corner of the room and quickly increased in sonority, until it filled the whole atmosphere, and then moved away, going out the door, down the stairs and out into the garden.

It should be noted that this music was perceived three times, on three different days, always at the same time; and not only by the people who were in the patient's room, but by myself, by my eldest daughter and by the maid when we were two floors below; and on the second day, by my aunt and my children, who were in the dining room.

Above all, I found it very remarkable that the sick child, who loved music passionately, did not hear anything. And there could be no error in the judgment of the music heard, for there is not an instrument played by human hands that can make the plaintive notes of the wind harp. We had lived in this house for six years and remained there for twelve more years, without ever having heard, before or after, music of this kind.

Signed: Sarah A. Sewel.


The husband, Mr. Sewell, wrote in April 1885:

I confirm the story of my wife. The transcendental music perceived by her has been heard by me too. We heard it for the first time on Saturday, May 2, 1863, around 4 a.m.; then the next day, at the same time, and on Tuesday, always at the same time.

Those who perceived this music were: me, my wife, my wife's aunt, her old nurse, our son Richard, seven years old; the other son Thomas, nine years old, (the last four have died), our eldest daughter, eleven years old, and the maid, who shortly after left the service to go to Ireland with her soldier husband, and of whom we lost track.

Our eldest daughter lives in New York, I have no doubt that she remembers this event. I am sure that the music did not come from natural causes; indeed, our house was placed in the middle of a garden fifty metres from the communal road; the only house near us was not rented at that time.

Moreover, they were not confused or vague sounds, but distinct, sonorous, plaintive notes of a wind harp, which were born, developed and faded very clearly, increasing, gradually, in sonority, until the room was literally saturated with musical chords, as powerful as those of an organ, and which descended slowly down the stairs, slowly dying out with rhythmic cadences having nothing earthly. I am absolutely convinced that this music did not come from living musicians.

Signed: Methew Sewel.


Mrs. Lee, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sewell, writes from New York, July 20, 1885, confirming her parents' account:

I clearly remember the transcendental music we perceived at Lily's deathbed, and the impression it produced on us children will remain forever indelible in my mind. We were seized with an indefinable feeling of fear and mystery, because we could not understand where the music came from and what it was.


Mr. Gurney went to interview Mr. and Mrs. Sewel and gave this report:

The nature of sounds does not explain them by attributing them to natural causes, such as air or water. On the other hand, the fact that one of those present, endowed with excellent hearing, heard nothing, seems irreconcilable with an explanation of this kind. Each time the music had the duration of one minute. The sick girl died on Tuesday evening...

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps