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Does Pain Accompany Violent Death?

Posted on 25 June 2012, 13:07

Does a person who suffers a sudden, violent death experience pain?  A number of messages from the spirit world suggest that there is no pain, although there are indications that the spiritually-challenged person, i.e., the person who still thinks of himself as only his physical body, can “sense” the pain through his spirit body because he does not realize that he is “dead.”   

What may have convinced renowned author Victor Hugo of the reality of spirits was a mediumistic communication on December 9, 1853 from André Chénier (below), a French poet, who was executed at the guillotine on July 25, 1794.  By means of table raps or taps, Chénier tapped out the remainder of the poem he had been working on just before his execution.  It was in the same style as his work when living.  While there is apparently an opposing view holding that it was more in Victor Hugo’s style, it was recorded that Victor Hugo was not present at that particular séance.  Chénier also communicated new poems in his old style. 


Chénier told of his last moments on earth, seeing the slop basket swaying beneath his head, half-filled with blood from those executed before him, and, suddenly, hearing the creaking sound above his head.  After the sensation that his head was falling into the slop basket, he found himself far above his headless body, his soul body being enveloped in a diaphanous sheath.  He then felt the presence of his mother and mistress.  He observed a luminous line separating his head from his body.  “Death appears to me simultaneously on the earth and in the sky; while my body, transfigured by the tomb, plunges deep into the beatitudes of eternity,” he communicated.  “I see, at an immense distance below me, my other body which the executioner is throwing to the worms, my head rolling in the gutter, my wound gushing blood, my guillotine blade being washed, my scalp hanging at the end of a stick, and my name being execrated by the crowd. (For more about Victor Hugo’s experiences, see my latest book, The Afterlife Explorers, and John Chambers’ excellent book, Conversations With Eternity.)

Although Chénier does not clearly address the pain issue, one might infer that he felt no physical pain.  Pioneering French psychical researcher Allan Kardec asked a communicating spirit if one retains consciousness after decapitation.  “He frequently does so for a few minutes, until the organic life of the body is completely extinct,” was the response, “but, on the other hand, the fear of death often causes a man to lose consciousness before the moment of execution.”  Based on other communications, Kardec explained that “in all cases in which death has resulted from violence, and not from a gradual extinction of the vital forces, the bonds which unite the body to the perispirit are more tenacious, and the separation is effected more slowly.”  Kardec and others have said that the more spiritually evolved the person, the quicker the separation.   

In communicating through South African trance medium Nina Merrington, Mike Swain, who died in an auto accident, told his father Jasper Swain, a Pietermaritzburg, South Africa lawyer, that he left his body an instant before the cars actually impacted.  Heather, his fiancée’s young sister, was also killed in the accident.  As set forth in the 1974 book, On the Death of My Son, by Jasper Swain, Mike told of being blinded by the glare of the sun reflecting off the windscreen of the oncoming car.  “All of a sudden, the radiance changes from silver to gold.  I am being lifted up in the air, out through the top of the car.  I grab little Heather’s hand.  She too is being lifted up out of the car.” 

When they were about 30 feet above the car, they witnessed the collision below them and Mike heard a noise like the snapping of steel banjo strings.  He said that they had suffered no pain. 

There have been a number of other communications suggesting that the individual leaves the physical body before violent death is experienced and thus does not experience any pain.  In her intriguing 2011 book, The Survival of the Soul, Lisa Williams, a popular medium of the present day, offers the words of her spirit guide, Ben, on the subject. Ben told her that when a person is about to die under violent circumstances, his or her spirit team knows about it in advance, although they don’t know the exact moment.  Thus, they have to be ready to “catch the soul when it pops out of the body, before any trauma or shock can hit the body, which is why so many on this side say they did not feel anything at the moment of a fatal accident.”  Ben further explained that the soul will remove itself to protect itself from pain.

Williams tells of a reading in which a person named Chris came through to communicate with his mother. Chris had died in a bike (motorcycle?) accident.  He told his mother that after his body was ejected from the bike and was heading toward a rock wall, he was bracing himself for the impact when he was “tugged out” of his body.  He then watched what happened to his body from above.

In her 1973 book, Peter’s Gate, medium Jane Sherwood relates the communication by a man who had died in a motorcycle accident. “The grey road rose swiftly to meet me and a shattering blow put me out,” the man, who had adopted a nihilistic view of life when alive, said. “Immeasurable time seemed to pass before I came to myself without the accompaniment of pain.  Then I opened my eyes with a shock of surprise because somewhere in my mind was the conviction that I could neither move nor see, but the nightmare had lifted and I opened unbandaged eyes.  I raised a hand to feel my head and was reassured.  The last half-hour terminating in the crash had retreated into a misty past and I saw and contemplated the small distant views of roadsides reeling past, grey skies and spring blur of hedgerows. There had been an accident in which I had been knocked out.  I ought then to be in bed somewhere, perhaps in a hospital.”

At first glance, the above case seems to conflict with the communications suggesting that that a spiritually-challenged person might “sense” the pain, until we remind ourselves that a nihilistic view does not necessarily mean that the person lacked spiritual qualities.  He could have been a morally righteous person who simply didn’t believe.  As William James put it, “If religion be a function by which either God’s cause of man’s cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much.  Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life with its dynamic currents passing through your being is another.”     

In a 1922 book, Our Joe, author Charles S. Mundell tells of communications from his brother Joe (photo below), who was killed during a hunting accident in California.  Joe communicated that he set his rifle down against his leg as he rolled a cigarette.  As he reached for a match, he knocked the rifle over and he remembered nothing else until he awoke in his deceased grandmother’s arms. He recalled no pain.


In his soon-to-be released book, Tell My Mother I’m Not Dead: A Case Study in Mediumship Research, Trevor Hamilton, the biographer of pioneering psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers (Immortal Longings), tells of communications coming from his son, Ralph, after he was killed in an auto accident during 2002.  In one sitting the medium related: “No pain.  The body felt pain but he had left it. He was jammy.”  Not familiar with the word, ‘jammy,” I asked Hamilton for a translation.  He explained to me that it is English slang meaning “lucky” and that it was the kind of word that Ralph would use with his mates.  But Hamilton recognizes that there is nothing evidential in such statements and that they lend themselves to “a rather rosy sense of wish-fulfillment.”  On the other hand, Hamilton gives weight to the consistency in a large number of post-mortem communications, referring to cases cited by Dr. Robert Crookall in his 1961 book, The Supreme Adventure.

In addition to after-death communications, Crookall cites cases of people in the jaws of death who survived and told about it.  He quotes David Livingstone, who was attacked by a lion:  “He shook me as a terrier does a rat.  It caused a sort of dreaminess in which there was no sense of pain or feeling of terror, though I was conscious of all that happened.”  The pain began later. 

Crookall theorized that the violent shaking caused an exteriorization of the “soul body” and therefore a loss of physical sensation.

Crookall further mentions a case which sounds very much like the Mike Swain experience mentioned above, except that the person survived.  One R. H. Ward is quoted: “A car in which I was a passenger seemed to be on the point of…a head-on collision…I felt myself to be actually shocked out of my body.  I had the strange impression that one aspect of myself was several yards distant from the cars, and watching, quite calmly and objectively all that was happening to the bodily aspect of myself, which was still sitting in one of the cars…It mattered not at all to my separate and usually conscious self that my body was likely…to be smashed to pieces; death was quite unimportant, and evidently something which might happen to a quite unimportant part of my total nature.”

A doctor who survived a plane crash reported:  “The moment it became obvious that a crash was inevitable…one lost all apprehension.”  The doctor recalled a “pleasant awareness” while looking down at his body some 200 feet below.

Mountain climber A. C. Benson told of falling into a crevasse when climbing in the Alps.  “My first feeling was amusement,” he said.  “I hung over an immense depth…They tried to haul me up, but could not.  I was certain of death.  I hung like this for twenty minutes and all that time I had no single thought of fear.  I was being slowly strangled by the rope.”

Benson went on to say that he actually felt disappointed upon being rescued.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After we Die, Transcending the Titanic, and The Afterlife Explorers Volume 1., published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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More Witnesses to “Soul Mist”

Posted on 11 June 2012, 13:04

In her journal, Louisa May Alcott, (below) the author of Little Women, wrote of being present at a deathbed and watching “a light mist” rise from the body, float up and vanish in the air.  Her mother saw the same thing and the attending physician told them that it was “the life” departing visibly.


Misty vapors, referred to by some as “soul mist,” have been reported by a number of deathbed observers.  As discussed in my October 2010 blog (see archives), Dr. Raymond Moody, who is known primarily for his pioneering work in near-death experiences, discussed this strange mist in his book, Glimpses of Eternity.  “Some say that it looks like smoke, while others say it is as subtle as steam,” Moody explained.  “Sometimes it seems to have a human shape.  Whatever the case, it usually drifts upward and always disappears fairly quickly.”

As discussed in my most recent book, The Afterlife Explorers, John Edmonds, Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, began investigating mediums with the intent of exposing them as frauds.  However, he became a believer and even developed clairvoyant abilities of his own.  In his journal, on November 24, 1851, Edmonds wrote about being at the deathbed of his brother-in-law. “He had breathed his last, and I saw what I supposed was his spirit body issue from his mortal body in the shape of a cloudy frame,” Edmonds penned, “and directly over it, and in the room where it lay, it assumed the human form, but it seemed to have no intelligence.  Suddenly it lighted up, was alive and intelligent, and I was impressed that that was caused by the soul’s leaving his fleshy body and entering the spiritual body.  As soon as that intelligence appeared, he looked around as if somewhat in doubt where he was, but he immediately seemed to recollect what his present condition was not strange to him, and to know from previous instruction that he was in the spirit world.  He then turned his looks to his family and friends who were around his corpse, and bestowed upon them a look of affection, and was then wafted away on a flood of light fare into the distance, until he faded from my view.”

My earlier post on the subject included some discussion of the subject by Dr. Robert Crookall, a British geologist who spent the second half of his life analyzing psychic phenomena.  Crookall also quoted the words of W. W. Oaten, an English author:  “A smoke-like vapour rose from the dying body and stayed at a few feet above it.  Gradually it became ‘an exact duplicate’ of the girl.  The ‘duplicate’ was united to the corpse by ‘an umbilical cord.’  This eventually snapped….The floating form assumed an upright position.  She turned to me, smiled, and floated away.”

A number of interesting comments were left at that earlier blog post, and so I thought I would present them here, some of them abridged.

Stefanie Beauregard commented:  “My father passed away a few days ago. Minutes before he passed I felt a surge of extra people enter the room. I noticed that as he took his “last breath” a smoke/mist streamed out of his trachea and chest and spiraled up. The color in the room became a warm gold and I felt more love than the need to feel saddened. This is the second time I have been witness to this; however I shrugged off the first. It’s nice to know there are others who have the same experience. My father’s energy has allowed me to be strong a positive and aware that he is still with his family.”

Just recently, on May 11, Gerry offered:  “All down the years I have had quite a few deathbed experiences, one of which was my uncle’s death. Just a few minutes before he passed, I felt something pass through me three times; whatever they were they were shockingly cold, so much so I gasped out loud and the hair on my arms stood up as though exposed to static, and this on a hot July day. It came into my mind this was father, mother and brother coming to escort him to the afterlife. The priest at the bedside seemed shocked and bemused at my reaction and made no comment when I asked him did he feel that, meaning what I had just experienced.”

Hans wrote:  “I was seventeen when my dad passed away due to brain cancer. Our entire family was present at his deathbed. I watched him exhale for the last time and right afterwards I noticed a white mist leaving his chest. It floated for a moment above his upper body before rising through the ceiling. I looked around the room, gasping at what I had just experienced, but I could tell that I was [wasn’t?] he only witness, and I got it confirmed later when asking the other family members. It was life changing.”

Ron Parks had this to offer:  “My brother’s father-in-law had a long career working in the timber industry, here in Oregon. He told me that once a young man was crushed between two logs in an accident in the woods. They could do nothing for him because of the seriousness of his injuries. As he passed on, they observed a ‘mist’ rising above his body. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful comfort if that happened EVERY time someone passed away? Then there would be a certainty that they lived on.”

From Marilyn McNally:  “I was with my husband and sister when my father had the Last Rites in the hospital. I saw a grey mist floating around the ceiling of the room and no one else did. I always meant to go back to talk to the Chaplain but never had the chance. My brother and his wife went to see a medium a short time ago and she mentioned that someone in the hospital with my father had seen the mist.  My brother was shocked that it was true and that I had witnessed this event.”

Robin Lundgren wrote:  “My Mother passed away 1/4/2012.  She had been ill four years with cancer and myself, my father, brother, sister were in the room.  I was on one side of the bed and every one else was on the other side of Mom’s bed.  It was about 10 minutes after Mom had passed away the curtains were open, the sun was shining in, and I was just sitting there still trying to let this all sink in, and I [saw] a white cloud like smoke float away from my mother.  It seemed to be as if it came out the side of her head and this smoke cloud [floated] toward the window.  I right away thought something was burning and I yelled at everyone standing there and said something is on fire.  They all looked and no one else had seen anything, so I just shut up and the more I thought about it I wondered what is this – is it her spirit going out the window?

From Ivan B. Cvitan:  “Last summer a woman died not far from my house on the beach. I was watching the site were she was laying, there were people around the body in one moment I saw a smoky and lightning “something” above the people and the body, it was a few meters above (3,4 meters). I could not understand what it was till now.”

The last three are not deathbed observations, but are interesting nonetheless.

Paul Gilvary sent this account by Rosalena Kennedy:  “This is the first time I have spoke of my experience which took place around 14 years ago when my great grandmother died.  I was very close to her and also lived with her, although my family were all very close by.  My gran died four days after my 18th birthday and we had a traditional Catholic Irish wake from home for three days. On the last night of the wake just hours before the funeral something happened that changed me. Traditionally all the family stay together on the last night and support each other as we prepare to bury our loved one.  Things didn’t pan out that way and slowly but surely family members had to leave… So it was just me an aunt and an uncle. As the night went on, at around 4 a.m., I noticed from the corner of my eye a mist above the coffin but before I braved to turn I noticed my aunt crying at what she also could see. The third person in the room was sleeping and oblivious to what was occurring.  The mist is very hard to describe but almost like a nebula in colour. The difference with our experience was the feelings we experienced and the length of time in which this event elapsed. My aunt at the time was about 30, and in her young years she lived with our grandmother before me, so we were and still are very close to her…As the mist floated about two feet above the coffin I felt what I can describe as a light surge in my feet slowly rising through out my body removing any sorrow or bad feelings I had. The strange thing is that during this my aunt was describing exactly the same sensation. This experience felt like five minutes, but in truth it lasted until daybreak, which was about three to four hours.  The sense of joy the next morning was phenomenal and the sadness had all but disappeared, and we were strong that day. In loving memory of my grandmother.”

From Tracy:  “My partner has just passed away following a massive heart attack, aged 54.  Roughly a week after his passing I stayed at his house.  Strange things happened that night, but in the morning there was a mist in the kitchen all around.  I did feel a bit uneasy.  I went back out, waited [while] trying to make out what I had just saw, when I returned the mist had moved to the bottom of the stairs by the front door.  Does this mean that he was just visiting?

Heath James, Jr. wrote this:  “I saw my first ‘mist’ float up off the lawn of a graveyard on an otherwise relatively cloudless day. I was driving along a country road when I spotted it. It drifted up from the lawn of the graveyard and went very slowly spilling out over the road and I drove through it in my car. But it didn’t break up or blow around right then. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw it, still intact, float across the road and then suddenly dissipate. I didn’t know what to make of it but it was so clearly out of place and behaving as if it were intentionally moving itself. Later that day on my return home I noticed a fresh grave near the spot where I saw the cloud. That was about 3 months ago. Last week I saw another one near my back yard about an hour before sunrise. I was up trying to watch over a flock of chickens that had been getting harassed by a skunk and I had been up all night quietly lying in wait to get a shot at the critter when a mist just suddenly materialized right in front of me about 8 feet up in the air. I immediately looked around for signs of fog or rain clouds but there wasn’t anything like that around anywhere. It just suddenly appeared. It was about 8 feet in length and appeared to be lit from within. It appeared, then suddenly drifted upward to about 25 feet in the air, then it was gone. It just dissipated and was gone. It wasn’t more than 25 feet from me. Now I’m completely curious about it.”

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.

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