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Modern Day Research Rebels Validate the Investigations of Past Heroes

Posted on 02 April 2015, 10:24

“Everything science has taught me - and continues to teach me - strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.”

Wernher von Braun (1912 – 1977)
German-born Rocket Scientist, Aerospace Engineer, and Space Architect.


As our aerospace engineer has shown us not all scientists avoid life after death topics. There are those few researchers who are bound and determined to walk where their peers refuse to go!  Many of these courageous explorers dedicate their lives to scientifically dissecting the mystery of the continuity of life. As I’ve so often shared in my books and writing, like von Braun psychologist Dr. Karl Osis was also one of the premier researchers in the field. On December 26th, 1997, after laying impressive groundwork work for people like me, he finally joined his own departed loved ones in the Spirit World. This date also just happened to be his 80th birthday. 

Osis’ research partner Dr. Eurlendur Haraldsson is supposed to be retired but he hasn’t slowed down one bit. In his eighties he is still very active. Dr. Haraldsson travels to India, investigates reincarnation accounts, and continues to research not only departing visions, but other topics involving survival after death.

Always respectful and supportive of other investigators, not long ago Haraldsson sent me findings based on his most recent afterlife research. These results are the product of a comprehensive Icelandic study on afterlife contact. My friend has graciously given me permission to share some of his findings with you.  For our purposes, I’m only presenting a brief account of Dr. Haraldsson’s research.

An Icelandic study from a world renowned investigator

A national representative survey (902 respondents) conducted by the author indicated that 31% of the population in Iceland have had experiences of contact with persons who have died. A few years later the European Human Value survey; that was conducted in most West-European countries, showed that 25% of Europeans had been in contact with someone who had died…

The author and his associates conducted interviews with a large number of persons (around 450) who reported these experiences…which were interpreted as contacts with or apparitions of the dead. First they were asked to describe their experience and then many questions followed about the nature of the experience, circumstances in which the deceased person was, along with how and when he or she had died….
Most of these encounters or apparitions were with deceased relatives or loved ones, for example every second widow or widower had experienced their deceased spouse….2
For more information on this brilliant study, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Haraldsson’s wonderful book titled, The Departed among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters (2012).

In this study every second widow or widower had an encounter with their deceased spouse. The author’s research validated what I know to be true, both clinically and personally.  Years ago I was visiting one of my relatives. His mother, my great aunt, and his wife had both passed. What he had to tell me was very surprising.

Family souls

My great aunt received an after death contact from my deceased grandfather right before his funeral.  Here her brother had reached out to her. The family quickly called me to her side. After I explained to her this was an after death contact and nothing to fear, she then told me she was concerned about the cemetery plot he was to be buried in.  We had thought his remains would rest next to my grandmother’s burial place, but now this aunt was telling me she didn’t think my grandfather’s wishes were going to be respected. After making the long drive to the cemetery, I found myself wandering around the family graveyard at dusk, with nothing but a small flashlight.

Tripping over a few of my Russian ancestors’ tombstones, I finally found my grandmother’s grave. Indeed, no earth had been turned for my grandfather’s remains. After I returned from my “reconnaissance mission”, my great aunt told me she’d been fearful the grave had yet to be dug. I was amazed at how right she’d been.  My grandfather’s remains were not buried in the family graveyard and a decade later I learned his tired body had been cremated shortly after his death.     

A few years later, my great aunt’s son’s wife passed away. During a visit I told my cousin about his mother’s after death communication with my grandfather. Once I realized he wasn’t going to shy away from such discussion I asked him, “Since your wife passed, have you had contact with her?” Smiling he replied, “Yes. I’ve seen her around the house a few times.” He added she looked healthy and well.

My cousin was never one for reading books on the survival of the soul after death, so his response wasn’t what I would have expected.  As he continued to share about his visitations with his deceased wife, I could tell the after death contact brought him great comfort. My cousin believes his wife is watching over him.

Based on my own work, I’ve always suspected the numbers for contact for surviving widows or widowers with their departed spouses or partners was high, but Haraldsson’s statistics surprised me!  According to his results, half of this population appears to have had after death contact with a partner. The medical community might be wise to use such information to help comfort the physically dying and their families.

Departing visions can’t be ignored 

With more attention devoted to end of life care and hospice, the departing vision is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.  Thankfully there are medical people who have taken notice of these precious spiritual experiences.  I call these modern day investigators “rebels” because they are willing to defy their peers, and risk ridicule by following in the footsteps of Osis, Haraldsson and previous investigators. With their research and studies they challenge not only the status quo, but their professional institutions.

The modern day research projects below are a good example of this trend. Take a look at the following scientific investigations. One comes to us from Italy and the second is from Ireland.

An Italian Investigation

From Italy we learn of Paola Giovetti’s research.  Based on her investigations she states that forty percent of those from her study experienced “take-away” or departing visions.  Again we have an incredible number of physically dying people reporting these experiences.

The following is just one account from her collection.  A wife at the bedside learns her deceased mother is there to greet her husband who is about to pass.


‘‘The gauze over his face moved, I ran to him and with his last strength he said to me: ‘Adrianna, my dear, your mother (who had died three years before) is helping me break out of this disgusting body. There is so much light here, so much peace.’’’

Many men run from their wives’ mothers, but not this one! After his vision he was frantic to leave his physically ill body and make his way to the world to come!  How comforting this must have been for his surviving wife.

A study from Ireland

In Ireland another researcher I’ve communicated with helped put together a study looking at departing visions and Hospice.  This research sheds new light on the need for more information within the medical community. The study created much interest and was even featured in The Irish Times newspaper. Titled “Going to the Light,” below is part of the article.

Going into the light
The Irish Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by Fionola Meredith. 

Given that many of us shy away from talking about death and dying, it is not surprising that we know so little about what happens in the last hours of a person’s life. But an unusual new study, funded by the Irish Hospice Foundation, aims to break through the taboo of the deathbed.

The study – Capturing the invisible: exploring Deathbed Experiences in Irish Palliative Care, by researchers Una MacConville and Regina McQuillan – examines the strange visions that often accompany the dying process, asking members of the Irish Association of Palliative Care to report their experiences. The results are startling.

In one frequently reported scenario, the dying person spoke of seeing deceased relatives or religious figures, or of experiencing a radiant white light in the room. Perhaps because they defy explanation, these deathbed phenomena are rarely discussed by healthcare professionals, despite being a familiar occurrence.

Yet rather than avoiding the topic, MacConville says education about such experiences could raise awareness of the phenomena and help palliative care professionals to normalize them for patients and families as a common and even comforting part of dying.

After all, as MacConville points out, there is nothing new in these visions: accounts of deathbed experiences (DBE) are common throughout history and across cultures. William Shakespeare makes reference to them, and the earliest medical encyclopedias recognize such phenomena as indications that death is close. In most cases, they have a positive effect, bringing peace, comfort, calmness and joy to the patient.

One nurse who responded to the study said, “I have often heard patients refer to seeing someone in their room or at the end of their bed, often relatives, and also it is not a distressing event for them. Family are usually shocked by hearing it and want to know the significance of it.”

Another odd but quite frequently reported occurrence – 31 per cent of respondents mentioned it in this study – is when a dying person unexpectedly emerges from a coma, suddenly becoming sufficiently alert to communicate with family and friends.

A respondent reported that, “In one incident the patient, who had been in a coma, opened his eyes and smiled at his three daughters and wife. Profound calmness and peace filled the room. It was special to be part of that experience. In another incident the patient said he saw a light, a bright light; he died shortly afterwards.”

Less dramatically, the dying person may also experience vivid dreams that have particular significance for them, sometimes helping them resolve unfinished business in their lives. Others report a sudden and unexplained smell of roses, or claim to see angels appearing in their room.

However you explain them, most of these experiences sound benign, even reassuring. But MacConville says that deathbed phenomena sometimes can be frightening encounters for the dying person and their relatives: “Family members may become distressed because they realize that death is imminent, and the dying person may be disturbed by the visions because they don’t understand them.”

One respondent told MacConville and McQuillan that relatives often become “upset and emotional if patient talks to them as they realize time is very short”.4

The above statement says a great deal about our society. Because we don’t educate about the departing vision, some family members do become extremely overwhelmed when they occur.  As opposed to using these experiences to begin the grieving process, opening up the discussion about physical death and the transition from this life to the next, many professional caregivers resort to medical or psychological excuses for these events.

If these afterlife visitations were common topics of discussion in our everyday living experience, the onset or sharing of such experiences wouldn’t be so startling.  The newspaper article continues by discussing why we dismiss departing visions.

MacConville says deathbed experiences are rarely talked about precisely because it’s not clear what these visions are. One common sense explanation may be that the visions are drug or fever-induced hallucinations. But 68 per cent of respondents agreed, or strongly agreed, that… (departing visions) have different qualities from such hallucinations.5

I agree with MacConville. Departing visions are very different from hallucinations.  Being a seasoned mental healthcare professional, I’ve seen my fair share of clients who were suffering from hallucinations due to a number of mental health issues.  The hallucination experiences I’ve encounters clinically are nothing like the departing vision.  Along with this, I’ve worked with drug and alcohol addiction for almost thirty years. In assisting individuals suffering from alcohol or drug dependency I have yet to encounter a state of intoxication similar to the departing vision. I also believe medications used for pain management are not responsible for departing vision events. MacConville’s research supports this.

MacConville says there appears to be a difference in the quality of the visions: they appear with greater clarity, and they are experienced as meaningful, with significant associations, rather than random, as they would be in drug-induced cases.

An earlier study also indicated that patients experiencing deathbed phenomena are usually calm and composed. In contrast, drug or fever-induced hallucinations can be disturbing and frightening, with other symptoms of drug-induced toxicity and high temperature present as well.6

Instead of continuing to brush off the departing vision as a hallucination or by-product of the physiology of death, modern day researchers are scientifically exploring the phenomenon. Because most medically trained individuals will only accept such information if it’s presented in scientific studies, more investigations are needed.

My next instalment will continue to look at how those investigators have willingly stepped forward to show the rest of us physical death is not the end.

Until then, try this exercise for yourself; close your eyes and think of a loved one who has moved on to the next dimension. If this doesn’t work, find a picture of this individual. Spend a minute or two looking at the photograph. Next, close your eyes and see the picture in your mind’s eye. Then imagine your loved one stepping out of the picture. Ask them, “How are you doing?” Trust your FIRST message, your FIRST impressions. Don’t think, but instead feel! Let me know what happens.

Information for the above article was taken from Carla Wills Brandon’s thirteen book, “Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope From the Afterlife” (New Page Books a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ)

1-Finest quotes: Lift your spirit up. Retrieved from
2 - Haraldsson, E. (2005). Synopsis: The departed among the living. Iceland: University Press
3 - Giovetti, P. Visions of the dead, death-bed visions and near-death experiences in Italy. 1. 1. Human Nature, 1999. 38-41.
4 - Meredith, Fionola. Going into the light. Irish Times, 2011. Web.

5 – ibid.
6 – ibid.

Carla Wills-Brandon, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is also the author of 13 published books discussing topics including;

• Trauma resolution and PTSD
• Recovery from grief, loss and death,
• Afterlife research and spirituality
• The Departing Visions of the dying

One of her published books, Learning to Say No: Establishing Healthy Boundaries was a “Publishers Weekly Best Seller. The author has lectured across the U.S. and U.K., and has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs, such as Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael, Montel Williams, Coast to Coast Radio Show with Art Bell and George Noory, Uri Geller’s Coast to Coast Radio Show and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. Wills-Brandon has also appeared on several programs with her husband, Licensed Clinical Psychologist Michael Brandon, PhD.

A Glimpse Heaven is published by White Crow Books and is available from Amazon and other online bookstores. Her other books on departing visions, One Last Hug before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions and Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope from the Afterlife

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When Skeptics Attack: Skeptical Organizations and Websites by Craig Weiler – If you really want to get to the heart of skepticism, the best way to do that is to look at the organizations that skeptics create and see how they operate. The behavior of these organizations is the behavior of the individuals, writ large. There are two national organizations worth considering: the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). Read here
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