Some people who have had close brushes with death report having left the physical body to float around and observe scenes in the direct vicinity of the body and sometimes further away, in the general region. In some cases, what they’ve seen can be verified; near-death experiences (NDEs) researchers then try to determine whether the person could have seen these events or objects through normal means, without having left the body.
These provide some of the strongest evidence that these mystical experiences are not hallucinations. Cases in which the experiencers’ accounts are verifiable are known as veridical perceptions.
Some include not only scenes observed in the world of our normal perception, but also conversations or encounters with beings on another plane of existence who tell the experiencer things that turn out to be true.
Here are a few veridical perception cases of out of dozens compiled from the work of various researchers by Jan Holden, a counseling professor at North Texas University and long-time NDE researcher.
While these few cases are outstanding, it’s the wealth of cases studied over more than 100 years that have a great cumulative impact on the researchers of NDEs.
1. Patient Observes Doctor’s Unusual Habit
Al Sullivan told his story at a meeting of the Connecticut chapter of the International Association for Near-Death Studies in 1990, two years after his NDE.
During an emergency coronary bypass surgery at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, he had the clear sensation of leaving his body. In a report he wrote, he said he “rose to an amphitheater-like place.”
While seeing what appeared to be an otherworldly scene, including his brother-in-law and mother who had died, he was able to look back to this world and see his body with the chest opened up and his heart exposed.
“I was able to see my surgeon, who just moments ago had explained to me what he was going to do during my operation. He appeared to be somewhat perplexed. I thought he was flapping his arms as if trying to fly.”
It was this part of the account that startled Sullivan’s cardiologist Dr. Anthony LaSala, who had dismissed the rest of the story as a drug-induced hallucination. Dr. Hiroyoshi Takata indeed had a habit of “flapping” his elbows as Sullivan described, directing medical staff this way to avoid touching anything after he had scrubbed in.
NDE researcher Dr. Bruce Greyson spoke with Dr. LaSala and Dr. Takata in 1997 to confirm the report. Dr. Takata said this is a habit of his. Dr. LaSala confirmed that Sullivan had told him this story and that Dr. Takata’s habit of flapping his arms this way is unsual, it is not something he has seen any other surgeon do. Greyson also verified that Sullivan would have witnessed this after the anesthesia had kicked in and he was, by all appearances, unconscious.
2. Seeing a Brother Not Yet Known to Have Died
Francis Power Cobbe recounted the following case in his 1882 book “The Peak in Darien” on page 297:
“A dying lady, exhibiting the aspect of joyful surprise … spoke of seeing, one after another, three of her brothers who had long been dead, and then apparently recognized last of all a fourth brother, who was believed by the bystanders to be still living in India. The coupling of his name with that of his dead brothers excited such awe and horror in the mind of one of the persons present, that she rushed from the room. In due course of time letters were received announcing the death of the brother in India, which had occurred some time before his dying sister seemed to recognize him.”
NDE researchers have compiled many cases of people not yet known to be dead appearing under similar circumstances.
3. Plane Crash Victim Sees What He Could Not Have From Where His Body Lay
A medical officer, Dr. X, was stationed in France during WWI and was flying to the aid of a wounded pilot. Not long after taking off, the doctor’s plane crashed. The crash site could not be seen from the hangars and the hangars likewise could not be seen from the crash site, because they were separated by the crest of two slopes.
The doctor’s own words were recounted by Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick John Marrian Stratton, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Cambridge Stratton in a 1957 article titled “An Out-of-the-Body Experience Combined With ESP,” published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research:
“While I was up above my body, it did not seem in the least queer that I could see … a number of activities at the hangars … The Crossley tender [an ambulance] started out of the hangar in which it was garaged. When about a car or a car-and-a-half length outside the hangar, the engine stalled, and I saw the chauffeur jump out and pull the starting handle. Then he raced back to his driving seat and started off towards the crash over the crest.
“While this small episode was occurring my medical orderly had rushed out of my nearby medical hut, and jumped into the back of the Crossley tender. The ambulance, or tender, then stopped again, but this time it was the medical orderly who jumped out, rushed into the medical hut, and came out with something extra, and jumped into the ambulance, which then resumed its twice-interrupted journey.”
Dr. X told all of this to his commanding officer at the hospital after recovering enough to realize the significance of what he’d seen. The officer recorded it and verified that the ambulance journey did in fact begin this way.
By the time Stratton investigated this case, the commanding officer and others who could have re-verified the information had either died or could not be traced, wrote Bruce Greyson, Ian Stevenson, and Emily Williams Cook in an article titled “Do Any Near-Death Experiences Provide Evidence for the Survival of Human Personality After Death?” published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1998.