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Observations placeholder

Twain, Mark - Prophesying death



Type of Spiritual Experience


 Steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby took on Twain as a "cub" pilot to teach him the river between New Orleans and St. Louis for $500, payable out of Twain's first wages after graduating.

Twain studied the Mississippi, learning its landmarks, how to navigate its currents effectively, and how to "read the river" and its constantly shifting channels, reefs, submerged snags and rocks that would "tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever floated". It was more than two years before he received his pilot's license. Piloting gave him his pen name, Mark Twain, from "mark twain", the leadsman's cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms, which was safe water for a steamboat.

While training, Samuel convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him.

Henry was killed on June 21, 1858, when the steamboat he was working on, the Pennsylvania, exploded. Twain had foreseen this death in a dream a month earlier, which inspired his interest in parapsychology; he was an early member of the Society for Psychical Research. Twain was guilt-stricken and held himself responsible for the rest of his life.

A description of the experience

Amazing predictions - by Stephen Wagner

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known better by his pen name Mark Twain, is still considered one of the greatest American writers. And although many of his writings and famed quotations poke fun at the folly of men, he seemed to have a mystical side as well. It is well known, for example, that he predicted the circumstances of his own death: he was born in 1835 when Halley’s Comet was visible and said that he came in with Halley and would go out with Halley. Sure enough, he died in 1910 when the comet was again visible.

Lesser known, however, is a dream that he had in the late 1850s, which came true in acute detail. He experienced an unusually vivid dream in which he saw the body of his brother Henry lying dead in a metal coffin in his sister's sitting room. The coffin was supported by two chairs, and upon his brother's still chest was a bouquet of flowers with one red rose in its center.

It was just a few weeks later that Henry died as the result of injuries sustained in a boat accident. Appearing at the wake, Twain found his brother's body just as he had seen it in the dream: in a metal coffin supported by two chairs. Missing only were the flowers. Just then, a woman entered the room and placed on Henry's chest a bouquet - with a single red rose in the center.

The source of the experience

Twain, Mark

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Premature birth