BACK IN PRINT!
Repeated studies year after year demonstrate that millions of Americans claim to experience contact with people who have died. Such contacts are usually comforting and surprisingly intense. Most do not involve an intermediary such as a medium, and unlike near-death experiences, they often come unexpectedly to healthy people going about their normal lives.
In 1973 Sylvia Hart Wright married Paul Fletcher, a linguist. After he died in 1983, Wright and her son jointly had an experience that suggested that Paul was trying to contact them from beyond the grave; at this time two of his male friends reported similar events. This was startling to people steeped in the scientific method and agnosticism! Scholar that she was, Wright started researching the writings of doctors and social scientists on such phenomena and in time interviewed almost a hundred healthy, everyday people who had sensed contact with the dead. Her book, When Spirits Come Calling: The Open-Minded Skeptic’s Guide to After-Death Contacts, grew out of this work.
“It’s wonderful! Well-written and on a topic that is full of fascination and hope for many people.”
~ Mary Manin Morrissey, senior minister, Living Enrichment Center, and author, Building Your Field of Dreams.
“Superbly written and well researched, When Spirits Come Calling will stimulate your thoughts about the afterlife ....”
~ Louis E. LaGrand, PhD., Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, State University of New York, and author, Gifts from the Unknown.
“A real gem, empirically bold, well-reasoned, yet humble in the face of a great mystery.”
~ Michael Dreiling, sociology professor, University of Oregon.
Her probing interviews make it clear that seeing an apparition, or sensing the presence of a deceased loved one is not merely some kind of extrasensory perception, but rather is a genuine encounter with a surviving intelligence. I highly recommend this fascinating and carefully researched book.”
~ Russell Targ, physicist and parapsychologist, co-author, The Heart of the Mind: Using our Mind to Transform our Consciousness.
Table of Contents
1. After Death Contact —A Common Experience
2. Sensing Someone Else’s Death
3. Knowledge and Guidance from the Other Side
4. How World Religions View Survival of the Spirit
5. Facing up to a Cultural Taboo
6. After a Suicide
7. Subtle Contacts-Scents and a Feeling of Closeness
8. After the Death of a Child
9. Lights That Blink a Message
10. Misbehaving Radios, Telephones-and More
11. Symbolic Events
12. Animal Stories
13. More Help and Guidance from Loving Spirits
14. Ghosts, Possession, and Things That Go Bump in the Night
15. What’s So Different About Paranormal Dreams?
16. Who Becomes a Sensitive?
17. Spiritual Experience and Religious Belief
About the Author
About the author
A third generation New Yorker who has lived in Oregon since 1991, Sylvia Hart Wright holds degrees from Cornell, Columbia and New York University. For five years during the Sixties she lived in Berkeley where she was active in the nonviolent anti-war movement. In 1963, she shuttled east briefly to participate in the fabled event where Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream” speech.
During the 1966-67 academic year Wright lived in Panama with her then husband, a zoologist. When that marriage foundered, she moved back to New York with their son and soon landed a job as librarian with a pre-college program for disadvantaged young people; these included a cadre of Black Panthers. Here she set up and headed a collection which attracted national attention for meeting the needs of the program’s often alienated students. Meanwhile she started work on a master’s in sociology. Articles of hers based on this library experience appeared in major educational journals and her master’s thesis, Black Youth, Black Studies and Urban Education, was published as a monograph.
After this pre-college program shut down, Wright moved on to the City College of New York (CCNY). From 1976-1991, she headed the library of CCNY’s School of Architecture and Environmental Studies. While there she authored Highlights of Recent American Architecture (1982) and Sourcebook of Contemporary North American Architecture (1989) and rose to the rank of full professor. She won several academic awards and grants and was listed in Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in the East.
Sylvia can be found at www.sylviahartwright.com
After-Death Contact: A Common Experience
Has someone you know lost a beloved partner? If they confide that they’ve sometimes sensed their lost mate’s presence, don’t assume that grief has tipped them over the edge.
Studies by doctors, psychologists, social workers, and public opinion researchers confirm that experiences of apparent contact with the dead are commonplace all over the world. For instance, over half the healthy, normal widows and almost as large a percentage of widowers in the United States sense the presence of their departed mates at least once afterwards. Such experiences are usually unexpected and spontaneous, not invited in any way. They are also direct—they do not involve mediums.
Apparent contacts are most common in the first year after bereavement, but they may recur for years, even for decades. Most such visits from “beyond the veil” are perceived as pleasant. A significant few bring guidance or information that it would seem could only come from a spirit source.
This book documents over a hundred such contact experiences, as reported since 1998 by the normal, everyday folks who experienced them. The majority of them are not bereaved spouses.
It’s common for sane, active women and men to sense contact with their deceased parents or children, with grandparents, siblings or friends. But because more research has been done on widows and widowers-in England and Wales, Japan, Norway and Sweden, as well as in the United States—it’s easier to cite statistics about their experiences. In 1983 I myself was widowed. Soon I was confronted by mysteries unlike any I’d ever imagined.
HOW THE ADVENTURE BEGAN FOR ME
I was well into my forties-a college professor and the published author of a scholarly book about contemporary architecture, when a startling event forced me to ponder whether spirits can survive and contact the living. Since then, further personal experiences plus lots of research have taught me that the death of the body is not the end of all consciousness. Instead, it’s a doorway to something else.
When I was widowed in 1983, I had been married for ten years to Paul Fletcher. It was not a first marriage for either of us. Paul was a warm and loving man, supportive to me and cheerfully commit, ted to helping me raise my young son, Keith, from a previous marriage. Paul was also an outspoken atheist but that hardly bothered me since I had considered myself an agnostic for as long as I’d understood the meaning of the word.
When we married in New York, Paul was a tall and vigorous 51 years old with a wild and sometimes salty sense of humor, and a linguist’s delight in wordplay. As Keith and I picked up his verbal addiction, the three of us often sat laughing around our dinner table, circling it with a sequence of ever more outrageous puns.
With Paul’s barrel chest and lots of wavy brown hair lightly flecked with gray, my bluff, gregarious husband looked a decade younger.
But diabetes, which he’d had for some twenty years, was gnawing away at him from within. Two years after our wedding at the Unitarian, Universalist church where we had met—a humanistic church that had no creed which we could not sincerely affirm—a massive hemorrhage caused by diabetic retinopathy destroyed the vision of his right eye. For two more years he got by reasonably well until, in November of 1977, a smaller hemorrhage damaged his other eye.
Now he was legally blind. By profession a teacher of French and Spanish, he could no longer work. He took lessons in “cane travel” and, since he could still read if he had lots of light, he bought himself a floor lamp whose four bulbs together gave off 330 watts.
In time that lamp would have a momentous effect on my life.
My son and I never used more than its top, 150-watt bulb. Soon we came to call it “Paul’s lamp.” He would sit under it by the hour when he wasn’t playing his guitar or visiting with friends or volunteering at the church where we had met, answering the phone and fielding questions from visitors. We waited for the bleed into his “good eye” to be absorbed by surrounding tissues and hoped that somehow the series of specialists we went to would stave off any further hemorrhages. The doctors did their best. For a time his condition improved. But then came a second hemorrhage, then another and another. By 1981, Paul was totally blind.
Usually my husband made a fine show of keeping up his spirits but one day he came home seething with bitterness and resentment. Some stranger, seeing him with his cane and wanting to comfort him had told him, “Don’t worry, someday you’ll see again,” meaning, of course, in the afterlife. “What a crock,” my atheist husband roared to me, fury in his worn, once handsome face.
“When it’s over, it’s over.” Around New Year’s Day, 1983, he came down with pneumonia. Three weeks later Paul passed on.
I never expected to sense him near me again. My 16-year-old son and I kept busy preparing for his memorial service and the open house we would hold that same day. For almost two weeks those duties kept us focused. The day after the memorial service-it was a Sunday! I felt lonely, let down. Somehow I would have to start rebuilding my life. Keith had a paper due the next day; I offered to type it for him and pressed him to put his draft into final form. We were standing in the living room of the Manhattan high-rise apartment where the two of us had lived since 1969. Paul’s lamp, unlit, was a few feet away. Suddenly it turned itself on and started flashing strangely, short flashes of light that came infrequently and seemingly in response to things we said.
At first it was incomprehensible. “That’s weird,” Keith said.
We looked at each other, bemused. Nothing like this had ever happened since Paul bought that lamp several years before. And there was nothing wrong with the wiring in the building. And nothing else in the apartment seemed to be affected. The refrigerator still droned on; our hallway light glowed on, unchanging. Once more our eyes met-and suddenly Keith and I both understood.
Paul was contacting us. How better could he let us know that now he could tell the difference between on and off, light and dark? The blind man we loved could see again! We started laughing and crying and dancing around the lamp.
Paul, who spoke French like a Frenchman, had lived in Paris for five happy years when he was young, had visited there often, had been the ultimate Francophile.
“Now you can go see Paris again,” Keith said and for a long moment the lamp blazed brighter.
Twice that evening, Paul’s lamp came on by itself and flickered for a time mysteriously. Afterwards, returning to our accustomed skepticism, we checked its bulbs and switches and the outlet where it was plugged in. Nothing we found accounted for the way that it had behaved. My son, who in his senior year of high school would win two regional awards for scientific achievement-noted that it . seemed to have difficulty flashing unless we were within about eight feet of it, and could not flash frequently or immediately in response. Keith theorized that Paul’s spirit had only limited energy and capacity to respond. (Years later I would run across confirmation of this theory in a book by a distinguished British physicist, Sir Oliver Lodge, who in the early part of the 20th century wrote books on the paranormal. More about this in Chapter 9.) The next day, I visited our church to pick up some phonograph records that had been played at Paul’s memorial service. There I ran into Prabat, a Hindu friend of Paul’s. Prabat was a thickset, warmhearted man in his fifties, trained as an engineer. As soon as he caught sight of me, his broad dark face lit up.
“I’m so glad to see you,” he said, “I have something to tell you.
Paul came to me in a dream. He took my hand. You know how he used to shake hands, very strong, very firm. I could feel him with my hand. He said he was happy now so I asked him to tell me more, to tell me where he was, what it had been like, you know, to die-but then he disappeared and the next thing ... I woke up.” Prabat laughed. “That dream was so real. I got out of bed and looked all over the house for him.” That was when I told him what had happened with Paul’s lamp.
“You mustn’t worry,” he said, “it’s perfectly natural. For thirty days after someone dies, he can wander the earth at will.” He was speaking out of his Hindu tradition, happy to share it with me. So that’s what Hindus believe, I thought. There are hundreds of millions of Hindus in the world, I figured, not to mention all the Buddhists who believe in reincarnation and the Chinese who practice ancestor worship, so they must believe in spirit survival too. Maybe, I decided, I’m not so crazy to believe that Paul’s spirit may have survived.
I was struggling to keep my balance and deal with all my responsibilities. Inevitably, Paul’s death had left me prone to tears and buffeted by waves of emotional turmoil. Somehow now, alone, I had to head a household with a teenage son and, if l was to pay the bills of that household, I’d have to go on running the architecture library at the City College of New York, something I’d been doing for the past seven years. Nonetheless, I was an Aquarian-notoriously adaptable-and a practiced writer and researcher. Prabat’s experience and my own aroused my analytical side.
A couple of days after my conversation with Paul’s Hindu friend, I scribbled down a log of strange things that had happened around the time of the memorial service. I headed it, “SUPERNATURAL (?) EVENTS, WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 6, 1983.” At the time, I wasn’t even familiar with the word “paranormal.” Unlike “supernatural,” which suggests that a phenomenon is magical or bizarre, “paranormal” suggests merely that science has not yet found a neat explanation for it. It never occurred to me then that anything more would happen to me, or to anyone else who had been close to Paul, that would suggest his spirit’s presence on our plane. But lots more has. For 17 years I’ve kept up that log; now it’s over 50 pages long.
A third of those pages cover events that happened that first year-but not all of these just happened to me. Many were perceived by Keith alone. With some irritation, my teenage son reported to me that Paul still seemed determined to parent him.
Often when Keith should have been studying but instead was talking to a friend on the phone, a pin-up lamp in his room would flash. When it was time for him to go to bed, the lamp would turn off.
Twice, apparently paranormal incidents were noticed by me and another person who was in my company at the time-first a woman I worked with, later a male acquaintance. Jonathan, the office manager at our church and a friend of Paul’s, reported other odd events to me. For years, as Paul coped with his growing blindness, he had helped out in the church office and brought along a portable radio to keep his mind occupied. After his death, a tiny earphone which Paul had used to listen to that radio kept turning up on Jon’s desk there. “And sometimes,” Jon told me, “I get this oddball sense I’m being overheard.” None of us ever saw an apparition or heard Paul’s voice.
Instead, over half these apparently paranormal events involved electrical gadgets like lights, a fan, an air conditioner, a record player, two hairdryers and a hot pot. (Paul’s lamp was most likely to flash when I was down in the dumps but was not thinking of him.) Other events involved the movements of small objects in symbolic or useful ways. For instance, one Friday afternoon when I’d forgotten to make an important phone call before the weekend, legal papers which had been thumb tacked for months onto a bulletin board in my bedroom fell down; they reminded me just in time to get in touch with my lawyer. No draft dislodged them and I didn’t brush against them; I was several feet away when they rustled down onto my dresser.
Somehow Keith and I survived that first hard year without Paul. Then things started happening that recalled Paul’s taste for puns. Keith went away to college. To liven up my empty nest, I invited two old friends over to dinner. Paul had known and liked both of them. The evening went well. After my guests left, I tidied up, then went to sleep. The next morning I found lying on the floor a small metal box of the herb, sage. Now, I hadn’t used this herb the previous night, nor could it easily have fallen from the spice rack above. A wooden rod across the front of each shelf held its contents in place; nothing had ever fallen from this rack before. But sage had been Paul’s favorite seasoning and in both French and English, “sage” has a complimentary meaning. This is especially true in French, Paul’s second language, in which it can mean sensible and well-behaved as well as wise. Three years later, the can of sage again fell mysteriously. I had just generously tipped two of my building’s maintenance men whom Paul had always liked and tipped similarly. Both times I could almost hear ghostly applause.
By now I was sensing paranormal contact far less often.
Months, even years elapsed between shows of Paul’s presence.
During each long interval, I would assume that his spirit had moved on, that I would never sense him again. For me, the most striking evidence that I wasn’t imagining things when I did indeed sense him is the gap in my log between July 10, 1990 and October 21, 1993. In 1991 I took early retirement from my job and moved from New York which had been my home for the past 24 years to Oregon where at first I knew almost no one. For over a year I suffered frequent bouts of loneliness. I would have welcomed a sense of Paul’s presence but my log has no entries at all for that period. True, there was a light fixture in my kitchen which occasionally flickered but, because its flickering never seemed to correspond meaningfully with any thought or mood of mine, I never sensed anything paranormal to it. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when in 1994, someone repainting my ceiling discovered that the fixture needed to be rewired.
By the fall of 1993 I was once again convinced that Paul would never communicate with me again. I was also becoming involved with Charles, the man who four years later would become my husband. When I invited three of Charles’s relatives over for dinner, Paul’s spirit popped by to give his blessing to my new beau.
Not long before my guests were due to arrive, I set to work to fix eggplant parmigiana while Charles, a helpful sort, started making a salad. Out of a kitchen drawer I pulled a grater and laid it down on a counter. It was a flat 11 x 5 inch stainless steel number with sharp-edged slots for shredding vegetables and such. I planned to use it to shred mozzarella; Charles planned to use it to grate a carrot for his salad. But for the moment neither of us was ready to use this common kitchen tool.
A few minutes later I was ready to shred my cheese, but that stainless steel grater was nowhere to be found. My new partner and I both looked high and low: on counters, in drawers, behind and under bags of produce. At last, we gave up in desperation. I sliced my cheese with a knife, Charles took a potato peeler to his carrot.
Our guests arrived, we sat down to eat, then I got up to fetch dessert. And there on the counter where I’d left it in the first place was that runaway grater, like the prodigal son.
As I came back to the dinner table, Charles responded to the stunned expression on my face. “Is something wrong?” he asked me. I waved the grater at him and told him where I’d found it. As soon as we got over our astonishment, it was obvious to us both what Paul had meant to tell us: Charles was greater, far better for me, than any other man I’d ventured to date in the ten lean years since his death.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published May 2019
Size: 6 x 9 inches