Happy New Year to you all! The blog is back and this week I’m asking, is the sixth sense real? Are there really people out there who can see the future? The answers may lie with our dreams, flamingos and Dennis Quaid’s wife…
The sixth sense – also known as extra-sensory perception (ESP) – is the ability to receive or convey information not with our five physical senses, but with our minds. ESP covers a whole load of things. Telepathy, i.e. the ability to read minds like the Vulcans do in Star Trek. Telekinesis, i.e. the ability to move objects with the mind, like the Jedi and the Sith in Star Wars. Oh, and Carrie in, erm, Carrie. There’s also those who say they “can see dead people”, a la M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense.
But I’m looking at one particular form of ESP – premonitions. Many people argue that certain rare individuals seem to be able to foretell when something is going to happen…
Dreams of a 10-year-old
On 20th October 1966, 10-year-old Eryl Mai Jones told her mother she’d had a dream that she “went to school and there was no school there. Something black had come down all over it.” She also told her mother that she was “not afraid to die”, saying, “I shall be with Peter and June.”
The next day, 150,000 cubic metres of coal waste, debris and slurry, perched above the mining village of Aberfan in Wales, broke away and cascaded downhill uncontrollably. The enormous landslide smashed into Eryl Mai Jones’s primary school, destroying the school and crushing to death Eryl and 115 of her fellow schoolchildren, along with 28 adults. Eryl’s friends Peter and June were also killed, and Eryl was buried in a mass grave alongside them.
An extraordinary coincidence, or did little Eryl really foresee her own death in her dream? One argument speculates that the people of Aberfan might’ve been warned about the tons and tons of coal waste perched precariously above them, and that perhaps these warnings were influencing people’s dreams.
But I can’t find a shred of evidence that any warnings were given. It’s even less likely that a 10-year-old girl would have appreciated or been aware of any danger.
There are loads of mysterious stories about people having premonitions of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11th 2001.
One particularly chilling story is of Lawrence Boisseau, an employee of the World Trade Centre. He had a dream in early September about the Twin Towers crashing around him. A few days later, his wife dreamed that the streets of Manhattan were filled with debris.
Boisseau thought little of it. He went into work on September 11th and, while trying to rescue children trapped in a care centre shortly after the planes hit, he perished.
People have also noted that the four hijacked planes were only 21% full, a figure much lower than normal for commuter services. This indicates that many people had postponed or cancelled their flights…
“I felt like the babies were passing.”
In November 2007, the 12-day-old twins of Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberley were rushed to hospital with bacterial infections. During the twins’ stay at the hospital, Kimberley had a dream and awoke suddenly. She said that a horrible feeling had come over her and she “felt like the babies were passing.” Dennis Quaid phoned the hospital. He was told that the babies were fine, but someone went to check on them just in case.
Both babies were found fighting for their lives having been given a huge overdose of an anti-clotting drug by accident. They spent 11 days in intensive care but ultimately pulled through. If they hadn’t been checked on, they probably would’ve died.
Even animals have the sixth sense
There are lots of stories of animals sensing that their master or mistress is about to die. I’m reminded of that scene in Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Hachi starts playing fetch for the first time ever in a desperate attempt to stop his master, played by Richard Gere, from going into work. It’s because he can sense that he isn’t going to come back. The film is based on the true story of Hachiko the dog, who went to the train station every day for 9 years after his master’s death, hoping each day that he would step off the train.
I found a story about a cat that attacked its owner while she was driving and forced her to stop the car. A moment later, a tree plummeted onto the road in front of her. Had she not stopped the car, she would’ve been crushed. Did the cat know what was going to happen?
There are also reports that shortly before the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, flamingos on India’s southern coast were seen fleeing; elephants trumpeted and ran for higher ground; zoo animals retreated into their shelters and couldn’t be enticed out; and dogs were refusing to go outdoors.
The scientific community officially rejects ESP and the notion of a sixth sense. Scientists argue that there is not enough evidence, and there are no experimental techniques that can reliably prove the existence of a sixth sense either way.
That would normally be enough for me. As an atheist and a sceptic, I believe what I see. I believe something that can be proven with objective evidence.
At the same time, I’m open-minded enough to appreciate that not everything in this world is easily explained by science, and these premonition stories have me stumped. Can they really be just extraordinary coincidences? Or is there a larger force at work here that science hasn’t yet been able to discover?
Next week: the Shakespeare conspiracy