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Strange Deathbed Mist & Light Explained

Posted on 04 October 2010, 23:09

In his recently-released book Glimpses of Eternity, Dr. Raymond Moody, (below) who is known primarily for his pioneering work in near-death experiences, explores the area of deathbed visions and shared-death experiences. In one chapter, Moody discusses a strange mist that is sometimes reported over a deathbed.  “They describe it in various ways,” he writes. “Some say that it looks like smoke, while others say it is as subtle as steam.  Sometimes it seems to have a human shape.  Whatever the case, it usually drifts upward and always disappears fairly quickly.”

raymond moody

Moody and co-author Paul Perry quote a Georgia doctor who twice saw a mist coming up from deceased patients.  The doctor explained that as the patients died they lit up with a bright glow, their eyes shining with a silvery light.  The mist formed over the chest and hovered there, as the doctor observed closely and saw that the mist had depth and complex structure. He further said that it seemed to have layers with energetic motion in it.  During the second occurrence, the doctor felt an unseen presence standing beside him and seemingly waiting for the patient to die.

A hospice psychologist is quoted by Moody as saying that the misty clouds which form above the head or chest seem to have an electrical component to them. A nurse reported seeing a mist rising from many patients as they die, including her father, with whom she saw the mist rise from his chest “as if off a still river,” and then hovering for a few seconds before dissipating.

The bright glow witnessed by the Georgia doctor has also been reported by many other deathbed observers. Moody quotes one man as saying that the room became “uncomfortably bright,” so bright that he couldn’t shut it out even when he closed his eyes.  A hospice nurse reported seeing a “luminous presence floating near the bed, shaped somewhat like a person.”  In the same case, the head nurse saw the light in the room and light coming from the dying person’s eyes but did not observe the presence.

Moody tells of his own experience as he and other family members gathered at the bed of his dying mother.  Among some other strange things, they all saw an unusual light in the room.  “It was like looking at light in a swimming pool at night,” Moody explains.
There are countless reports of dying people having visions of light and seeing loved ones gathering, but skeptics discount them as hallucinations.  However, as Moody points out, it is one thing to claim that the dying person is hallucinating, quite another to claim that healthy people in the room are sharing in the hallucination with the dying person.  He discusses a number of other shared experiences at deathbeds and opines that they tell us more about the afterlife than the NDE and that they are “the key to proving the existence of an afterlife.” (It should be kept in mind that calling something an “hallucination” does not mean it is not “real.”  It is just not objectively real.)

Caregivers Often Witness 

Such misty vapors and “lights” around the deathbed have been reported by other researchers, including Dr. Bernard Laubscher, (below) a South African psychiatrist.  “I was told by different ‘Tant Sannies’ (caregivers) how while watching at the bedside of the dying one with one or two candles burning they had seen the formation of a faint vaporous body, an elongated whitish purplish-like cloud; parallel with the dying person and about two feet above the body,” Laubscher wrote in a 1975 book, Beyond Life’s Curtain.  “Gradually this cloudlike appearance became denser and took on the form, first vaguely and then more definitely, of the person in the bed.  This process continued until the phantom suspended above the body was an absolute replica of the person, especially the face.”

bernard laubscher

Laubscher further reported that these caregivers, some of whom were apparently clairvoyant, reported seeing a ribbon-like cord stretching from the back of the phantom’s head to the body below and that the phantom would begin to glow as it was fully formed. “They noticed that some were more luminous than others and there was a light all around the outline of the [phantom], which I could only compare to a neon tube,” Laubscher added, going on to say that as the phantom righted itself the connecting cord thinned out as if it was fraying away.  Sometimes these clairvoyant caregivers would report joyous faces of other deceased gathering around to welcome the person to the spirit world before the “silver cord” was severed and the visions ceased.

As Laubscher came to understand it, the vaporous material has the same makeup as ectoplasm, the mysterious substance given off by physical mediums before materializations.  It acts as sort of a “glue” in bonding the physical body with the spirit body, and the more materialistic a person the denser the ectoplasm and the more difficulty the person has in “giving up the ghost.”

In their excellent 2008 book, The Art of Dying, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a renowned British neuropsychiatrist, and Elizabeth Fenwick also discuss the “smoke,” “grey mist,” or “white mist” which leaves the body at death.  “Sometimes it will hover above the body before rising to disappear through the ceiling, and it is often associated with love, light, compassion, purity, and occasionally with heavenly music,” they write, adding that not everyone who is in the room sees it.

The Fenwicks quote a woman named Penny Bilcliffe, who was present when her sister died:  “I saw a fast-moving ‘Will ‘o the Wisp’ appear to leave her body by the side of her mouth on the right.  The shock and the beauty of it made me gasp.  It appeared like a fluid or gaseous diamond, pristine, sparkly, and pure, akin to the view from above of an eddy in the clearest pool you can imagine…It moved rapidly upwards and was gone.”

In his 1970 book, Out of the Body Experiences, Dr. Robert Crookall quotes Dr. R. B. Hout, a physician, who was present at the death of his aunt.  “My attention was called…to something immediately above the physical body, suspended in the atmosphere about two feet above the bed.  At first I could distinguish nothing more than a vague outline of a hazy, fog-like substance.  There seemed to be only a mist held suspended, motionless.  But, as I looked, very gradually there grew into my sight a denser, more solid, condensation of this inexplicable vapor.  Then I was astonished to see definite outlines presenting themselves, and soon I saw this fog-like substance was a assuming a human form.”

Hout then saw that the form resembled the physical body of his aunt.  The form hung suspended horizontally a few feet above the body.  When the phantom form appeared complete, Hout saw his aunt’s features clearly.  “They were very similar to the physical face, except that a glow of peace and vigor was expressed instead of age and pain. The eyes were closed as though in tranquil sleep, and a luminosity seemed to radiate from the spirit body.”

Hout then observed a “silverlike substance” streaming from the head of the physical body to the head of the spirit body.  “The colour was a translucent luminous silver radiance.  The cord seemed alive with vibrant energy.  I could see the pulsations of light stream along the course of it, from the direction of the physical body to the spirit ‘double.’  With each pulsation the spirit body became more alive and denser, whereas the physical body became quieter and more nearly lifeless…”

When the pulsations of the cord stopped, Hout could see various strands of the cord snapping.  When the last connecting strand snapped, the spirit body rose to a vertical position, the eyes opened, and a smile broke from the face before it vanished from his sight.

Ectoplasm on the Battlefield

“I have seen ectoplasm on the battlefield,” a young soldier was quoted in the January 25, 1945 issue of Psychic Observer by reporter Ed Bodin. “I have watched it emanate from a badly wounded soldier and then disappear as that soldier breathed his last.  One hillbilly comrade from Kentucky called it ‘soul mist,’ revealing that many natives in his part of the country considered it quite a normal thing, although they seldom talked about it.”

Because his orthodox Christian family frowned on discussion of such occult matters, the young soldier asked not to be identified.  However, he went on to tell how, after being wounded by shrapnel, another soldier lay badly wounded about 10 feet from him.  “I looked at him with pity, forgetting my own pain.  Then in the deepening twilight I saw strange smoke begin to curl above him as though coming from his stomach as he lay on his back moaning.  The stump of his arm was in the thick mud congealing the blood to some extent and making death slower.

“Then I remembered what my friend had said about soul-mist, and I watched fascinated as the ectoplasm became denser and began to flow toward me.  For a moment I thought I saw in it the face of a kindly old lady.  Presently it reached me and for a second I was bewildered by the strange sensation that came over me.  I felt stronger.  With my left arm I raised myself and began to crawl to the dying soldier.  I reached for my canteen of water.  The mist was still around me, and with a sudden effort I was on my feet, and beside the soldier.”

The other soldier died and the young soldier telling the story rose and walked nearly a mile to the Red Cross representative.  He remained unconscious for three days and medical attendants later told him that they could not understand how he had lived, to say nothing of walking the near mile to safety.  “…to my dying day, I shall believe the ectoplasm from the body of that dying soldier had helped me in a mysterious way,” the young soldier added.  “It had given me sufficient strength to save my life.  That soul-mist of a sacrificed soldier was like the spiritual light of Jesus about whom it was said: ‘He could save others, but not Himself’.”

mt shasta

Next Post:  October 19




My best guess is that it was the very soul mist discussed in this blog that came from your uncle.

Michael Tymn, Mon 18 Apr, 22:46

Hi there,

Wonder if someone can help to explain this. My uncle collapsed and smoked poured from his mouth. He died within minutes after that but his facial expression was one of shock. His eyes remained open. He never smoked a day in his life.
Kind regards,

Charmagne, Sat 16 Apr, 09:03


I’m sorry, but I have no idea what the smoke might be in your case, since it does not appear to be related to someone dying.

I should note that this is a discussion blog, not an advice column.  I am certainly not an expert or authority when it comes to such smoke, mists, etc.

Michael Tymn, Wed 13 Apr, 17:48

I have been waking up in the middle of the night and seeing smoke.  At first, I thought the house was on fire, but quickly realized I did not smell smoke and the smoke detector was not going off.  The smoke quickly disappears as I watch it.  What does this mean?  I am no longer scared when this happens but very curious.

Lydia, Tue 12 Apr, 21:35

Sitting beside my partner as he passed away I saw something like a sparked must coming from his mouth as he took each breath and it gathered beside him between him and my daughter beside the bed head and I also saw small tiny things flying around the room black and white but so tiny !! Three people saw things that night in the room we all described the same thing
It all started the day before his death but they went away then I knew he was going to die because they had all came back the following night !! He also spoke about the lights and spike to three diseased people close to him !!what did I see ?

Annmaree, Tue 5 Apr, 18:45

When my mom was admitted in a home care facility cause I couldn’t take care of her any longer my cousin one of seven children which were my moms sisters kids that she took care of at a very young age they all were she noticed a mist come out of my mom breathe and in a way I’m kinder jealous that I her daughter didn’t get the opportunity to witness that and ask myself why her and not me.  My other cousin sister of the one that witnessed the mist also has a lot of dreams of my mom but not I and it makes me wonder why. I can say that I was a good daughter almost there for my mom as much as possible take her to all her doctors appt, go food shopping etc. and send most of my time with her mom was like an angel to me a very Good woman took on all (7) seven children that belonged to her sister when she passed on right after her husband died so my mom became their foster parent and with me it was a total of (8) children and she did a hell of a job raising them we all turned out to be very good kids

Leticia Ruiz, Sun 3 Apr, 21:03

Kevin, Terry, and Mike,

Thanks for sharing those experiences.


In one of her several books, Eileen Garrett, one of the most famous mediums and clairvoyants of yesteryear, also mentioned seeing a mist over her dying dog.

Michael Tymn, Thu 24 Mar, 08:10

I am a structural designer in the engineering field and been taking care of 12 year old golden retriever in her final week. She had cancer of the spleen and i was very close to her and knew she was near her final night. she was laid in the back yard warm summer night about mid night with full moon and it was time for me to go and take her in the house. I told her “girl its time to go in the house its late”. i picked her up from under both two arms like a baby and heard a slight moan and her head drop down. All at once my eyes was on her head and of course i said to my self dam. My eyes went from her face to this faint light grey, smoke like, mist that came from her head slowly rise up because she was vertical in my arms and disappeared instant approx 4 to 5 feet above her. I said DAM she gone…and WOW almost at the same time, but felt like that was her spirit rise away. She was a very nice dog that very lady like and i took serious care of her in her last week. I did have two dogs at the time and she being the oldest dying first. I am not a very or heavy religious person and i am a baptist. I have some strong clairvoyant skills or qualities that i have noticed a lot in the past 5 years. Friends tells me i have some skills. My Jewel the golden retriever was again a beautiful dog inside and out. That was one of the most amazing experience that i ever been in when she died was like a good movie…it felt like peace and complete closure and a perfect good bye between us. i had my final words to her and saw the beautiful ending. I will never forget that night ever.  Of course i cried some the next day as it all came back to me.  Life is amazing and interesting! I never seen ufo’s or ghost. Felt some presences around me here and there but not all the time ...but experience not as visual as this spirit rising. I wish someone was there to see but girlfriend was in house. I told her and she thought it was her spirit. I read this site stories to find answers. VERY GOOD AND INTERESTING STORIES OF LIFE.

kevin hayes, Thu 24 Mar, 00:07

My dad died 10 years ago. 3 days before he died he was in hospital it was late at night he couldn’t sleep he was on no medication but he saw a white smoke come along the ward to hes bed it come up over hes body and he could see a small white church in wide open fields like you see in the movies in the mid stats of America, then just as fast as it come it went! He was not a religious person at all and told me not to say anything ( so keep it secret) i dont wgat to think of it

Terry, Tue 15 Mar, 19:29

I was laying in bed an a enity appeared staring at me at the foot of my bed I was so scared i couldn’t move.a white cloud appear an merged with enity and both disappeared.what does this mean?

mike, Sun 13 Mar, 16:42

Wolfy, your experiences do not seem related to deathbed scenes and so I am clueless as to what they are.  Sorry.

Michael Tymn, Thu 10 Mar, 13:06

i have had that experience with the mist/ectoplasm ect…many times, and i don’t know what actually mean? why does it keep coming back? so im in my bed and while im sleeping/i suddenly wake up, (it’s like something wanting me to), so i open my eyes and i see a floating soft mist in grey to flying over my bed and when i start looking at it (absolutely terrified) the mist just disappeared into the ceiling… :(

Wolfy, Wed 9 Mar, 17:07

This is for Joyce.
I agree with you about the angry spirit. I got a feeling of anger when a mist ran in front of my car and I felt like I had to dodge it and slam on the brakes. I don’t think you need a doctor. The anger isn’t aimed at you. The spirit is angry because it was not ready to leave. In other words, your Mother wasn’t ready to leave you!

Susan, Fri 26 Feb, 15:35

I have been a nurse for 30 years and recently was bedside with a close friend who was dying from cancer. As she took her last breath a yellow mist came up from her shoulders and dissipated. After that, she was an empty vessel. It’s changed how i think and feel about death.

Lara, Fri 26 Feb, 08:08

My dad past 6 years ago. I was beside him alone when he took his last breath. He had pancreatic cancer. Seconds after his last breath I was still looking at him and a fog typy smoke come out of his mouth and upward and disappeared. I knew instanly his soul left his body. The few people I have told thought I was crazy. Im glad others have also seen this!

annisa, Thu 25 Feb, 01:16

When my father died in 2003, I was holding his hand. He’d been incoherent and in and out of consciousness and his eyes had been unable to focus for days, but all of a sudden his eyes focused and he looked directly at me and I knew he could see me. Then he looked at my mother and sister at the foot of his bed. Then I saw something coming out of his eyes - I have to describe it as a cross between smoke and light. It looked like light but it moved like smoke, going upward. For a second I thought “What IS that?”  Immediately another thought came “You know what that is.” and I knew it was my father leaving his body. It only lasted a few seconds and I didn’t see him breathe again after that. I knew it was time to get the nurse who confirmed he’d passed away.
I looked on the internet back then to see if I could find anyone with a similar experience but at the time I didn’t find anything. I was excited to find your article today.

Joanne, Sun 7 Feb, 07:59

I was with a group of friends one night and had sharp pains in my stomach and went and rested on my bed. Then about half hr later almost like a cloud of white came over me and then left the room. I then got back up to join my friends and didn’t say anything. Then that night in bed I dreamt I was at a family gathering of some sort. This was strange to me bc I hadn’t see all my family for a long time. Then the very next morning I tried to contact my sister who didn’t answer her phone but I just knew she was dead. I travel to house and there she was. She’d taken her own life. I know and feel she guides me through life. It’s been 18yrs.

Janet Dooley, Tue 2 Feb, 20:32


Thanks for the interesting comment. Regretfully, I can’t offer any explanation for for either of your sightings.  They may have been apparitions of the deceased persons, but why a half-mile away and three miles away I have no idea. Then again, distance is not necessarily a factor with spirits, though that doesn’t really explain anything.

Michael Tymn, Thu 14 Jan, 09:45

I have not read anything about what I experienced.
Several times while traveling I have seen a mist that usually stands about four feet, no face or bright light in this mist. They are very easy to see. They are usually on the side of the road. Once, one was on the side of the road but when I got closer it darted across in front of my car and scared me enough to make me slam on the brakes. I heard later that what was thought to be a runaway teen was found dead by a dumpster not 1/2 mile from where I saw this mist race across the road. This happened 2 or 3 days after this girl was reported missing. Once while I was off to shop I saw one at the side of the road. My son asked me why I looked so upset and sad all of a sudden. I told him what I saw and what I expected.
He thought I was being a little weird at that time until up ahead, about three miles, around a curve there were police cars and an ambulance to the side of the road, no lights with a person covered totally on a gurney. If I saw this persons spirit, why again was it not near the body?

Susan, Tue 12 Jan, 19:59

What kind of scientist would name it “similar to ectoplasm?”

leif, Sun 3 Jan, 04:35

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