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Why the Titanic Story Fascinates Us

Posted on 15 April 2019, 8:52

As today, April 15, marks the 107th anniversary of the day the Titanic sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic, it seems like a good time to recall that disaster and examine the fascination we have with it.  No doubt the many movies made of the disaster, especially the 1997 epic film, play a big part in our continuing knowledge of and interest in the story, but that only leads to the question of why movie makers find it so much more interesting than other disasters. The sinking of the Dona Paz in 1987, south of Manila in The Philippines, involved 4,386 fatalities, the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history, almost three times as many as the 1,517 lost on the Titanic, and yet relatively few people remember the Dona Paz tragedy. 

As I wrote in the Introduction of my book, Transcending the Titanic, The Titanic story offers us the opportunity to examine death in a safe haven with the added bonus that, unlike most stories involving death, the parties actually have time to contemplate their deaths, some to escape, some to succumb.  More than any other modern story, the Titanic might be viewed as a microcosm of life, a “community” isolated in the vast reaches of the ocean, one offering wealth and poverty, the opulence of first class and the drabness of steerage class, with a middle or second class in between.  Every type of emotion, mindset, virtue and vice is represented – love and fear, hope and despair, courage and fear, bravery and cowardice, arrogance and humbleness, pomp and shame, selfishness and brotherhood.  To accent it all, the iceberg impacted by the ship was reported as being a rare black berg looming high over the vessel, as if a giant evil predator. More than anything though, the Titanic story represents the struggle between man’s inner self and outer self, a struggle which many people are interested in but prefer to avoid except in books or movies.
One must also consider the era in which the tragedy took place.  It was a time when science was conquering religion and the educated class had not yet been able to reconcile its former religious beliefs with the “truths” provided by science.  Beginning in 1859, Darwinism accelerated the underlying Weltschmerz (despair). More and more educated people began to see life as a march toward an abyss of nothingness, toward extinction, toward obliteration.  Biological evolution had, for many, nullified God, and few seemed to be able to grasp an afterlife without God; thus, it was also dismissed.  Suddenly, life had no meaning beyond what one could leave behind for his descendants or future generations, but even this worthy goal left the reasoning man wondering to what end the progeny or to which generation full fruition.

Whether entirely fiction or not is unclear, but in a 1986 book titled The Secret Conan Doyle Correspondence, author Leslie Vernet Harper quotes her father Samuel Harper, supposedly a Titanic survivor though not listed on the passenger manifest, as seeing the Titanic as a symbol of the times and its fate as a foreboding cosmic message:  “Words are inadequate to convey the awesome impact of that enormous floating palace – the epitome in every respect of the biggest and most lavish the Western world had to offer in material luxury. In an era idolatrously committed to the proposition that science unquestionably could overcome every obstacle standing between mankind and Utopia, the Titanic was living, dynamic proof of this utopian ideal.”

As Harper further viewed it, the disaster changed the world in unfathomably deep ways. “The death of the Titanic tipped the scales in favor of those who, like historian Oswald Spengler, looked for the ‘going under of the West.’  And it fatally shook the confidence of the optimists, those who thought it possible to resolve mankind’s dilemma through science without any moral improvement in man himself…Now, the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic having demonstrated the inadequacy of the science alternative, there remained only what a majority viewed as unworkable – the need for mankind to live the Christian ideal.” 

“We have measured the earth, the stars, and the depths of the seas; we have discovered riverbeds and mountains on the moon,” wrote renowned Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  “We have built clever machines, and every day we discover something new ... But something, some most important thing, is missing, and we do not know exactly what. We feel bad because we know lots of unnecessary things but do not know the most important — ourselves.”

Thus viewed, the Titanic story may represent a search for meaning.

There is one story involving the Titanic, however, that is little known – one of unusual heroism.  It was told by Colonel Archibald Gracie, one of the survivors. He called it a “transcendent piece of heroism that will remain fixed in my memory as the most sublime and coolest exhibition of courage and cheerful resignation to fate and fearlessness of death.”  After the ship plunged to the bottom, Gracie managed to crawl onto an Englehardt raft that was occupied by a dozen or so others. When another swimmer approached the raft, he was turned away by several occupants as it was filled to capacity. In a “deep manly voice of a powerful man,” which Gracie did not recognize, Gracie heard the swimmer reply: “All right, boys; good luck and God bless you.”  The man then swam away. 

To my knowledge the brave swimmer was never identified.  When I first read Gracie’s book many years ago, I wondered if that swimmer might have been William T. Stead, a British journalist who was observed by other passengers courageously facing up to his demise as the ship was sinking. But as I did research for my book, I came upon information suggesting that Stead was hit by the falling funnel, and other information that leads me to believe that the brave swimmer was more likely Robert J. Bateman, a 51-year-old Baptist minister and physician from Jacksonville, Florida. A second-class passenger, Bateman (below) had been visiting relatives in Bristol, England and taking part in a revival. He was returning to Jacksonville with his sister-in-law, Ada Balls, and other members of the revival group.  Ada Balls later recalled: “Brother forced me into the last boat, saying he would follow me later.  I believe I was the last person to leave the ship.  Brother threw his overcoat over my shoulders as the boat was being lowered away and as we neared the water, he took his black necktie and threw it to me with the words, ‘Goodbye, God bless you!’”

As Bateman reportedly said “God bless you!” to his sister-in-law before leaving her, and the rejected swimmer said “God bless you!” before swimming away, Bateman emerges as the best candidate for the heroic swimmer mentioned by Gracie. Moreover, Bateman was a second-class passenger and Gracie a first-class passenger, which could explain why Gracie did not recognize the man’s voice.


Ten days after the disaster, Bateman’s widow received a letter her husband had mailed to her when the Titanic had stopped for more passengers in Ireland.  “I feel that my trip has not been in vain,” Bateman wrote. “God has singularly blessed me. We had a glorious revival… It was the Time of My Life.”  His nephew, Tom, also received a letter mailed from Ireland. “Tom,” he wrote, “if this ship goes to the bottom, I shall not be there, I shall be up yonder. Think of it!”

Later, when the family opened up Bateman’s locked roll-top desk, a poem he had written was found on top of his papers. It read:

Do you shudder as you picture
All the horrors of that hour?
Ah! But Jesus was beside me
To sustain me by His power.
And He came Himself to meet me
In that way so hard to tread
And with Jesus’ arm to cling to
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Bateman’s body was recovered three weeks later by a cable-laying vessel.

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.

Next blog post:  April 29




Wow!  Thanks for the comment and the history lesson.  I got to wondering if “anniversary” was the proper word to use in the case of something tragic. One dictionary definition says it is and the other, suggesting a celebration, suggests it is not. 

Interesting stuff on Lincoln and Kennedy, but
I’m highly skeptical on that one.

Something curious I did not comment on is the information that Bateman sent a letter to his wife from Ireland. It seems that he would have beat the letter home, unless he was not going directly home after leaving the ship in New York.  Since there was no air mail in those days, and we are told that she received the letter 10 days later, the letter obviously followed him on another ship.  Perhaps he collected stamps. 

Incidentally, the Bateman story is not in my book as I did not link up Bateman with the Gracie story until after the book was published.

Thanks also to others who have commented here

Michael Tymn, Wed 17 Apr, 17:25

Great article, Michael. I might add that the date April 15th is associated with critical dates in the history of America including the astrological karma of President Abraham Lincoln. When Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina, thereby officially starting the Civil War, Lincoln responded on April 15, 1861, by issuing a public declaration that an insurrection exists for which Lincoln mobilized a Federal Army by calling for a 75,000 militia to stop the rebellion. As a result of Lincoln’s call for volunteers, four southern states seceded from the Union. While the Civil War was happening, Lincoln passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a tax on personal incomes - the first in U.S. history - to help pay war expenses. Since 1955, April 15th has been Tax Day on which personal income tax returns are due to the U.S. government. Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, the day after being shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre.

And because I have photographic and synchronistic evidence of Lincoln reincarnating as President John F. Kennedy (see, the date “April 15th” is associated with critical dates in the karma of President John F. Kennedy as well. The Soviet statesman Nikita Khrushchev was born on April 15, 1894 and led the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War during the Kennedy Administrastion, serving as premier from 1958 to 1964. On April 15, 1959, without U.S. government invitation or approval, Fidel Castro began a tour America which directly led to the rapid deterioration of relations between the U.S. government and Castro. On April 15, 1961, U.S. B-26 bombers began the attack on Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion; thereby alerting Castro to quickly order his military forces to the area and ultimately defeat the invaders. The Bay of Pigs invasion attempt directly led to Nikita Khrushchev taking actions against Kennedy which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Other “April 15” disasters within the 20th century include: the Great Mississippi Flood of April 15, 1927, which was the most destructive river flood in the history of the U.S. During the Cold War, nuclear bombs were tested on April 15 by the following nations: the U.S. on April 15, 1952 at a Nevada Test Site; Great Britain on April 15, 1978; and the Soviets on April 15, 1984 at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR.

So the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, resulting in the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew, making it one of the deadliest maritime disasters in modern history, and now the April 15th destruction of France’s Notre Dame Cathedral shows April 15th to be an astrological date of destructive karma indeed. When the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, several well-known American millionaires were counted among the 1,503 dead: Jacob Astor, the New York builder of hotels and skyscrapers; Isidor Straus, a banker and owner of Macy’s department store; and Benjamin Guggenheim, a builder of mining machinery. But one of the world’s richest men had avoided his fate: J. P. Morgan, the American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation in the U.S., whose International Mercantile Marine company owned the White Star Line and the Titanic. Because of this, a conspiracy theory arose that J.P. Morgan had somehow sabotaged the Titanic because his supposed enemies, Astor, Guggenheim and Straus supported the creation of the Central Banking system. Alternate versions of this theory blame the Rothschild banking family who also was also supposedly behind the assassinations of both Lincoln and Kennedy for instead wanting to abolish the Central Bank system in favor of creating a National Bank run by the Department of Treasury.

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams, Tue 16 Apr, 21:39

Also, friends, some of you who cannot track down The Blue Island may enjoy my reading from it, recorded on Youtube some years back.


wordofgord: The Titanic And The Afterlife

Gordon Phinn, Tue 16 Apr, 18:55

Thanks so much for this illuminating video Keith.  I have enjoyed several of your other videos and and although being very famiiar with the material from my own expereinces and research, consider them valuable contributions to our understanding of eternal life.

Gordon Phinnm, Tue 16 Apr, 18:20

I have been reading your pieces for sometime they are so interesting. Your ability to see and point out the content of ourselves that we seem to ignore because trained experts are telling us all that they understand.But those in the circle see more. ‘Our little life rounded with a sleep’ how true keep writing Michael.

Mike Wadd, Tue 16 Apr, 08:53

Michael, I so appreciate your efforts in putting out these fascinating newsletters and for so many years. I will not likely drown on a large ship as I have suffered terribly from seasickness even on a small boat. Also, I can eat good food, play poker, and sit in a hot tub as comfortably on land as on sea. My constant question when reading such phenomenal evidence for survival of consciousness is what might I be doing today that I’m not. Such a profound stage seems to invite a drama worthy of it. I am certain I am limited only by my imagination.

Brian Anthony Kraemer, Mon 15 Apr, 21:55

Oh, so nice! Michael. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 15 Apr, 13:22

An excellent and moving piece, Mike. Oh, that we all had such bravery as Bateman, if it was he. I note that you mention W.T. Stead as a possible candidate, and as a promoter of my own ‘afterlife evidence’ videos on Youtube, I would like to recommend a viewing of my video ‘Sensational Stead and the Spirit World”. I launched it online almost exactly a year ago, 12th Aril, and currently it has had 3,455 views. Personally, I think it is one of my best efforts. You can find it here:

Keith P in England, Mon 15 Apr, 10:18

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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