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Strange Deathbed Mist & Light Explained by Michael Tymn

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’.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.


When my husband died, I was I was sleeping at the foot of his bedi in the hospital. Through closed eyes I saw a light come down as if to kiss my cheek. That second ,my sister-in-law shook me to tell me he had stopped breathing.  A few nights before I woke up to use bathroom and he was at the bottom of the stairs looking up at me. The house was dark, he wasn’t lit up but I could see him clear as day.

Cynthia Zimmerman, Tue 25 Apr, 17:41

My mother passed away a few weeks ago.  I was alone with her in the hospital room when she passed.

I had not slept much for several days and dosed off for about 30 minutes. I suddenly woke up, almost startled,  like something had woke me up.  I looked over at my mom and noticed her breathing had slowed down tremendously.  Then, I observed cloud like substance over the lower part of her body.  It seemed to be in several layers and had movement and sort of twinkling inside the layers. There was a little bit of a glow in and above the cloud.  This cloud gradually started working its way up her entire body until the cloud hovered over her whole body.  Above the cloud substance to the ceiling it appeared to be very blurry, as if I was looking through heat waves, etc.  This lasted about 20-30 seconds.  Then, dissipated.  After it dissipated, I felt the most tremendous peace I have ever felt.  Then, I looked over at my mom and she was no longer breathing. 

I feel like God gave me this special gift.  Whenever I feel sad, I feel that peace come over me again and feel so much comfort from it.

Karen, Tue 11 Apr, 23:58

As my brother was dying he described what he was witnessing. He said he heard horns playing and said the light was getting brighter and brighter. The night he died my mom saw nothing but his face surrounded by bright white lightning, at the foot of her bed. Days later I went to leave out my room. In front of the door was something covered that moved away like is was controlled with a remote. Like a car or robot but we didn’t have any of those toys in the house. We were too poor.

Tasha, Mon 10 Apr, 01:57

I never heard of this until I saw it last week when my girlfriends mother passed away. The family was all around her, including myself, when she took her last breath. I was in the corner of the room while everyone else was surrounding her. Her husband asked someone to get a bucket because of vomiting. At that point, I looked up to see a white mist hovering on the bed. There really was no shape. It seemed as if it was moving like what fog looks like but stayed in the same place. A second later I heard cries that she had stopped breathing. At that instance the mist/fog started rising and disappeared. Took me a day or so to put it all together and researched what other people have seen. The same day she passed away she also thought that there were 4 other people in the room. Her husband and her both heard a few other strange noises during the day that were unexplained. I was not there for that. I did witness the mist. I still don’t understand it and it is always on my mind but I believe I was supposed to see it maybe. God bless you all.

Jamie, Fri 31 Mar, 03:39

My mom just died and before she died she said she saw a beautiful mist,she was not talking like that but she whispered it very softly to the caregiver do people that are dying see this also ???

sue, Mon 27 Mar, 22:39

My partners brother passeed away on 9th March. He was only 37 and passed at our local hospital due to a short illness. My partner spent the night with her brother and approximately 4 hours before he past she looked up and saw a dark misty shadow like entity that was in the top corner of the room. My partner clearly saw this then the entity quickly shot across the room and out of sight. She also said it spun like a tornado. She also noticed from this point that her brothers condition changed and he seemed to become non responsive and lost any awareness he had. We wonder if it was her brother, a waiting relative or something else. I would love to hear your views on this

Ryan, Tue 14 Mar, 18:48


Thank you for sharing that account of your mother’s transition. Similar observations have been reported by many, including by my cousin who was at the deathbed of our uncle. There is no scientific proof one way or the other on this phenomenon that I know of, but I think the spirit body leaving the physical body is the best and most logical explanation.

Michael Tymn, Wed 1 Feb, 00:54

My Mom passed 9/17/2015 my sisters and I left the hospice around 10pm she did not want us there when the end was nearing, a few days before she had a wonderful greeting from her Mom and Dad, our Dad, her sisters and friends, all which had passed, she said she was late for her “party” the last thing she said was Hi dad looking up and past us with a big smile then she was silent. Two days later before the phone call about 4:30 am I was sleeping on my sisters couch and was awoken by the feeling of someone pinching me then I saw a dark mass go across the living room in front of me and out the window…swear it was my Mom’s spirit, we got the call about 15 mins later that my Mom had passed at 4:30am…could this have been her spirit?

PATTY KEARNES, Tue 31 Jan, 17:18

My X-husband died, went to his viewing last night.  I took a long time friend that knew him before I did.  We went up to the casket and kneeled and prayed, to me it looked like his chest moved.  I did not say a word because I figured it was just me.  After leaving, my friend said “his chest was moving, that was a sign from him to let us know he knew we were there”.  I’m in awe and confused!!

Brenda, Thu 26 Jan, 03:45

When my dad died my sister seen colors spinkle and she also seen vipor smoke no one believe her but I did my mom didn’t believe her I wonder was that Jesus came and took him

phyllis littlejohn, Wed 4 Jan, 17:24

I see that most of these experiences were from a deathbed.

I saw this soul mist come out of my deceased brother’s photo. My mother each morning would pray to his photo. Twice this mist came out of the photo. She called me downstairs and when I walked towards the mist it slowly drew back into the photo.

My stepfather said he saw this mist too at another time.

I think its a soul in a realm between the physical world and the afterlife. My brother wanted to sooth and comfort before passing over.

Bill, Wed 16 Nov, 04:35

I just looked up from the book I was reading and saw silver tendrils of mist coming off of my grandpa’s chest and stomach. He has heart failure and is slowly succumbing to alzhimers. He just celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday and we had a small reunion of many of the students he taught as a band director at the local high school. I think he has said goodbye, even if part of him doesn’t realize it yet.

Lily, Mon 3 Oct, 22:25

Reezie, Jo, and Lisa,

Thank you for your comments.  I am not sure if the questions you have are for me or for others to answer.  I am just an observer/reporter and am not qualified to answer your questions, although I am not sure anyone is qualified.  I occasionally try to speculate as I have with a few others here, but that is all it is—speculation.  Whether it was Reezie’s dad or Jo’s mom, I don’t think anyone can say.  As for Lisa developing her gift, I can make some suggestions as to people to contact if she sends me an email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and let’s me know in which country/state she lives.

Michael Tymn, Tue 27 Sep, 08:23

Laurie B., I also want to say when my mother passed, I also saw her light up. In that light she turned very beautiful. I also heard her voice above her body and toward the ceiling talking to me. She kept saying can you hear me, and my name. I kept saying back out loud to her I can hear you Mom. For a few months after my Mom passed I could hear her talking to me, I also spoke back to her. Like you I’m not crazy. I also feel I have a gift, and I want to learn more about it. I was the only one in the room when my mother passed. I had spoked to my mother hoping she understood because her last moments alive the Hospice had her on morphine she could not speak. I told my mother I was going to close my eyes for a few minutes because I was very tired. I also told her if she needed to go, her children my siblings and I will be okay. I prayed the Lords prayer put on a Christian program on TV, and closed my eyes for a few minutes. I immediately woke up because I no longer could hear her breathing from getting oxygen. When I awoke the whole room was filled with this loving energy, I looked over to my Mom and felt she was no longer in her body but completely filled in the room. I walked out told the Hospice and got my sister who was in the next room. When we walked back in the room it was still filled with this loving energy. Hospice came in pronounced her dead and left the room. My sister and I stood over her and that is when the light emulated from her she turned completely beautiful then I heard her call my name above her bed. Then I heard her voice saying my name and asking me can you hear me? My Mom and I made a agreement that if she could contact me she would after she passed. I’d continued having a conversation with her long after she passed. She also came to me in a dream, she was very young, She looked like a teenager, I have never seen my Mom this age, and I was very surprised. My father had passed years before my Mom and I was not present for his passing. The night before my father funeral, all our family members was at his and his second wife house. I had awaken around 2:30 am in the morning with this smoke like energy steering me right in my face. It looked at me as if to say you can see me. I did not know what I was seeing it seemed to have a figure like appearance but looking me right in my face. I shrugged and closed my eyes thinking I was dreaming and I heard my father say it is me and my name. Then he said tell your Mom I love her. I was surprised that I saw and heard what I heard, and told my Mother of my experience. He came to me again about a month later, and after that I did not have anymore visits from him.  I have had friends say they thought I was clairvoyant since I was young. I have also encountered other unusual spiritual things wide awake, I won’t mention here. I also think I have gift and would like to know how to use it. I am a Christian and is spiritual, and do believe there is life after death.

Lisa, Sat 24 Sep, 00:20

My beloved brother left this world peacefully just after midnight on Friday. I immediately went to his house (70 miles away) to comfort his wife and my parents. Whilst I comforted my mum in the night I saw what I can it describe as a gently swirling purple haze on the ceiling. I found it very comforting and let my mum know that he was with us. What does this mean?

Jo, Sun 14 Aug, 17:52

About 3 months after my father passed away at a nearby hospital, i was walking to his shop to feed the two cats we raised and when i opened the door to his shop this gray smoke came right at my face and was right in front of my eyes, then floated to the right and disappeared ,  i was in shock , i thought it was smoke then possibly small insect swarm but it was neither, it was the size of 2x2 inches about.  Was this my dad 3 or 4 months later trying to contact me ?

Reezie, Tue 9 Aug, 03:07

I am far away from my beloved 103 year old grandma - last night I woke up in what I thought was my bedroom full of smoke - I sat up alone and thought is the house on fire ? No this is more like a mist - it was 430am. I thought oh is Nanny dying ? I went back to sleep and forgot about it My grandmothers care taker called me at 830 am and told me that my grandma other was in the final stages and it came on suddenly at 430 that very morning
I feel without question she visited me first befor her amazing journey . I wish I had trusted it more and embraced the love she came to show me . She is surround by my father and mother and brothers tonight as she passes .
The smoke / mist is their connection .

Kimm, Thu 4 Aug, 05:34

Not only is it possible to see the Spirit leaving the dis-guarded body (Please see below, I share my aunt’s story), oddly enough I have experienced Spirit energy beginning to separate from the body weeks before the occurrence of an accidental death. At the time I was teaching myself to “see” human energy as it appears and emanates around the living body; In order to do so I would attend meetings (spiritual and civic) every chance I got sitting in the back so as not to be detected observing those in front of me.  One Sunday, as I scan the crowd seated in front of me, I observe a misty haze vaguely covering the back of a middle-aged woman seated a few rows up.  Thinking this is “all too strange” I make a note of it.  Two weeks later the woman suffers a bad fall resulting in a massive head injury; she passes on the way to the hospital—Leaving me wondering, do we “know” when death is imminent?  If so, does the Spirit begin to protrude or detach some time before actual death?

My aunt (An RN and Spirit sensitive) was Charge Nurse on the floor one evening when one of the patients passed. She and another nurse set about wrapping the body for transport to the hospital morgue; Mid-way through there happened to be a massive black out in that part of the city. All the lights went out save for the (very dim) emergency lighting system. My aunt had her hand on the man’s chest when Spirit passed through it moving out of the body; she saw the form rise and depart through the window into the night sky. She described it as being “moist,” saying “It was a complete head and shoulders… the rest of the body looked like a misty energy tail. Like a comet”

She said the other nurse turned to her, “You saw it didn’t you?—-The flash?” (Apparently that was the term medical staff used for departing Spirit) Having witnessed the exodus together, the two formed a special bond. Her friend, a Hindu, gifted my aunt with a special Rudraksha bead necklace to commemorate the happening. Love her account of it.

Kenda Elise, Tue 2 Aug, 23:10

My cat was killed by hunters. He was 10 years old. He survived two nights but died in 2nd morning. When I went to see his corpse at the vet, I decided to take pics. My digital camera would be focus, and there was a bright white light rising from his entire body. When I finally took 5 pics, they were all bright and sparkly,and nothing like the pics I took indoors in daylight- as it was at the vets office.
The pics appeared to have a rosy glow and surrounded only his body and also engulfed my hand. On the side of the pic, the examining table was a normal color. I knew that my cat was my guardian angel- he nursed my mom through cancer, took care of me, and died protecting me from hunting dogs. I was so happy to know that he had a spirit that rose and eventually went to heaven as he so richly deserved.

LynMari Fukuda, Fri 24 Jun, 07:24

Auras have a distinct look like a clear substantial cloud or light around a person (animal, plant, mountain, etc.). But the sparkly light around a being who has just died, seems sparkly and not solid. It is distinctly different. Maybe it is the light of the portal to the other side?

Jon, Fri 10 Jun, 05:20

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