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Messages from a ‘Dead’ Soldier to His Mother

Posted on 17 June 2024, 7:28

A heartwarming movie titled A Rumor of Angels was released in 2002 and is occasionally seen on television reruns.  The film stars Vanessa Redgrave as an elderly recluse in a small ocean-front town.  She befriends a 12-year-old neighbor boy who is grieving the loss of his mother in an auto accident.  She tells the boy about how her son had communicated with her following his death in the Vietnam War during 1974 and gives the boy her diary of spirit communication from her son.  The boy reads various entries in the diary and finds comfort in them until his stepmother and father discover the diary and conclude that the boy’s mind is being poisoned by the elderly woman and prohibit him from further visiting her.  When the elderly woman dies, she communicates with the boy from the Other Side.


Probably few people who have viewed the movie realize that it was purportedly based on a true story, although it took place in World War I, not the Vietnam War. The story, with many Hollywood modifications, came from the 1918 non-fiction book, Thy Son Liveth: Messages from a Soldier to his Mother, by Grace Duffie Boylan, a popular journalist and author of that era.  The book was initially released anonymously, but later issues carried Boylan’s name.  It was not stated that Boylan was the mother of Bob, the young soldier about whom the story revolves, but that seems to have been the implication. When the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, questioned Boylan as to the authenticity of the story, she replied, “I ask you to regard this book as truth, unaccompanied by proofs of any sort, making its own explanation and appeal.”

A more complete summary of the story is told in my book, Dead Men Talking, along with the stories of four other victims of the Great War – Raymond Lodge, Claude Kelway-Bamber, Thomas Dowding, and Rolf Little, all of whom communicated after-death messages.  Bob is given the surname “Bennett” in the book.

Bob is said to have grown up with his widowed mother in an old home on the Hudson, below Tarrytown, New York.  He went to Columbia University, where he studied electrical engineering, and soon after joining the United States Army was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent off to fight in World War I. Well before he went to college, Bob developed an interest in telegraphy and set up a wireless in his home with a large mast on the roof.  “Bob took to telegraphy as a spark takes to the air wave,” the story is told by his mother. “He was one of the first to raise a wireless mast from the top of his home, and of course, I had to study and experiment with him.  He bullied me into learning the code and being the party of the second part to take his messages.  Looking back upon this now, I am impressed with the methods that are used by the Destiny that shapes our ends.  Had it not been for that inkling of the science of telegraphy which I gained in our play, I should not have heard [from Bob].” 

After Bob’s deployment, she received several messages from him by Morse Code. The news of his death also came by wireless. “Mother, be game.  I am alive and loving you.  But my body is with thousands of other mothers’ boys near Lens.  Get this fact to others if you can.  It’s awful for us when you grieve, and we can’t get in touch with you to tell you we are all right.  This is a clumsy way.  I’ll figure out something easier.  I’m confused yet.  Bob.”

Grace realized that such communication would be difficult for most people to believe. “I have no knowledge of established psychic laws or limitations,” she wrote. “But I know what I know.” A month later, official notice of Bob’s death on the battlefield was received by Grace. She concluded that Bob’s first wireless message to her came not long after he fell.

No Horror in Death

A second wireless message read: “Attention: Get this across – there is no horror in death.  I was one minute in the thick of things, with my company, and the next minute Lieutenant Wells touched my arm and said:  ‘Our command has crossed: Let’s go.’  I thought he meant the river, and followed him under the crossfire barrage the Tommies made, up to a hillside that I had not noticed before: a clean spot and not blackened by the guns.  Lots of fellows I knew were there, and strange troops.  But they looked queer… I overtook Wells. ‘What in the deuce is the matter with me, with us all?’ I asked.  He said, ‘Bob, we’re dead.’  I didn’t believe it at first.  I felt all right.  But the men were moving, and I fell in line.

“When we marched through the German barbed-wire barricades and in front of the howitzers,” Bob continued, “I realized that the body that could be hurt had been shed on the red field.  Then I thought of you.  Sent the wireless from an enemy station in the field.  The officer in charge couldn’t have seen me.  But he heard, I guess, by the way his eyes popped.  He sent a few shots in my direction, anyway.  I am using an abandoned apparatus in a trench today, depending on relays.

“We are assigned to duty here for the present according to Wells. I don’t know how he knows.  It seems while we have no supernatural power to divert or stop bullets, we can comfort and reassure those who are about to join us. There has been much talk about the presence of one supposed to be the Savior among the dying.  I should not wonder if that were true.  The capacity for believing is enlarged by experience. But as yet I have no more real knowledge than any of the other fellows.  I will let you know as I gain information.”

Grace faithfully recorded her son’s messages, inserting the proper punctuation and apparently adding some missing words to provide the necessary flow in otherwise truncated verbiage.  In the fourth wireless message, Bob encouraged his mother to attempt automatic writing, as it was too difficult trying to get through on a wireless.  She confessed ignorance of such “occult” practices, admitting that she had always turned away from books of alleged spiritual sources because the “author souls” seemed so unadvanced intellectually, whereas she expected an all-wise, all-seeing, all-knowing angelhood. However, she slowly developed the ability to do automatic writing.

Grace had heard the skeptical theory, that the messages were all coming from her subconscious. “Well maybe they are,” she wrote.  “I cannot say that they are not.  For I do not know what subconsciousness is. What stuff it is made of.  Whence it comes or whither it goes.  Maybe it is the bridge, the link between the mortal and immortal part of man.  Maybe it is the inherent life which all scientists from first to last, have sought without finding; that invisible stumbling block over which every well-built theory of atoms and electrons takes its headlong fall.  If subconsciousness is one of these, it is more than probable that my boy is using its avenue of communication.  For they must be clear enough from his end of the road…”

Bob repeatedly stressed the need to get all of this information to other parents in order to comfort them and urged his mother to write a book. He warned his mother about mischievous spirits interfering with the messages, referring to them as “scalawags.”  He further informed his mother that those on his side knew nothing about the outcome of the war or if there was some cosmic purpose to such war, though in the great scheme of things it might not be as terrible as people in the earth life view it.

As Bob came to understand it, the earth is a preparatory planet.  “The human race is marked for an advanced existence and is brought to as high a degree of perfection as may be necessary to bring up the average,” he communicated.  “That is: The high degree of intelligence of the greater number lifts the lesser in the scale.  We begin the new existence where we left off in the old.  The more we have gained, the greater our advancement among far more favorable conditions.  That is not clear.  I’ll get a better hold on the idea.”

Near-Death Experience

In one communication, Bob told of another soldier named Cooper, who at first appeared to be “a sniveling ‘willy’ boy” who was afraid of the dark.  However, when a grenade fell in the trench, he grabbed it and jumped out of the trench, saving many others.  Cooper temporarily joined the “dead” and was very much concerned about his mother’s grief.  “Coop says he was a rotter to his mother, and he has lately heard her crying that she had been too harsh with him when he was a little boy.” Cooper returned to his physical body.  “I have permission to tell you that Cooper has, because of his understanding and compassion, been sent back home as an instructor,” Bob told his mother.  “His body, sustained by some life principle which I cannot explain, has been all this time in a reconstruction hospital back of the French lines…[He] will take up his old life on earth, and his mother will have her son. But he will not be the same. None of those who go back will be the same…”

Bob had much more to tell his mother, some of which is related in my book, but he stressed that there were many things he did not yet know about or was incapable of understanding.  “…I am not yet far enough advanced to make any definite or authoritative statement,’ he informed her.  “ I only want to start this whole propaganda of comfort, on the one sure thing:  There is no death.”

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog:  July 1




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Taking Your Toys With You At Death!

Posted on 03 June 2024, 7:16

An aging friend who appears to be nearing the end of his life has become a very angry man recently.  There was a time not long ago when he was very jovial as we talked over coffee or tea about such trivial matters as baseball and football, as if they are the most important things in the world.  When I occasionally attempted to change the subject to spiritual concerns, he was quick to reject the topic and return to the real weighty stuff.  I learned over time not to make any attempt at discussing spiritual matters and we recycled the sports topics over and over again.  I don’t know how many times he told me how great Mickey Mantle was or the distance of his longest homerun, but I know I don’t have enough fingers on which to count them.


I offered my friend a copy of my book, The Afterlife Revealed, but he reacted with a sneer.  The nature of his anger is difficult to identify, but I sense that he is mad at the world because he knows he is dying.  As he has no real spiritual foundation, he apparently sees himself marching into an abyss of nothingness, i.e., total extinction, or perhaps into the humdrum or horrific afterworld offered by orthodoxy, and I suspect all that goes to the root cause of his anxiety and anger. Although most psychiatrists are apparently grounded in materialistic behaviorism and don’t really seem to be familiar with it, my friend appears to be suffering from a disorder known as “existential angst.”  While his consciousness continues to strive to be one with his toys, his subconscious is nagging his conscious self to find some meaning in all of it, while driving across the point that he can’t take his toys with him when he dies.  It’s that nagging that is bringing on the subtle and undiagnosed anxiety and anger.

No, I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I’ve had enough experience with aging relatives, friends and acquaintances over my 87 years, along with extensive studies in psychical research, to have some clues as to what is happening.  They are clues, nothing more. I may very well be wrong. I’ve come to the conclusion that absolute (100%) certainty on anything, including consciousness surviving death, is contraindicated for optimum mental health and that some doubt is necessary for us to deal with our challenges and progress in this lifetime.

All that is not to suggest that we should be lifetime skeptics and sit on the fence our entire lives, as so many insist on doing. I believe that seeking, searching, studying, striving, struggling, sacrificing, surrendering, and serving come before solving and soaring.  Such a pursuit often leads from skepticism to conviction.  Conviction does not mean absolute certainty, but it provides a confidence that borders on certainty and permits some peace of mind relative to life’s meaning while avoiding much or all of the existential angst that seems to be affecting my friend.   

I doubt that most of the clues are even discussed in psychology classes. Such discussions would border on religion, a no-no subject in a scientific approach to mental health and well-being.  Modern medicine wants none of that, nor does academia or the media.  They don’t grasp the difference between the dogma and doctrines of organized religions and the indications from psychical research. Moreover, the media, clearly not understanding the difference, does not want to upset readers with “unscientific” subjects or even conflicting religious views.  Better not to discuss the subject at all than risk censure by angry readers who are unable to reconcile such views with either their nihilistic or religious worldviews.

Being Philistines

As existentialist philosopher Sǿren Kierkegaard saw it: “If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the foundation of all there lay only a wildly seething power which writhing with obscure passions produced everything that is great and everything that is insignificant, if a bottomless void never satiated lay hidden beneath all – what then would life be but despair?”  Kierkegaard referred to those who took no interest in the subject as “philistines,” and opined that they are in despair even if they don’t realize it.

Or to again quote the famous French philosopher, Michel De Montaigne: “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death.  All well and good. Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!”

Actually, there is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that you can take your toys with you when you die. It’s likely, however, that you won’t know you are “dead” when you play with those toys. It’s said to be as if you are stuck in a monotonous never-ending dream world. Those who scoff at such an idea might ask themselves if they know they are “alive” when they are dreaming at night. Such consciousness is clearly little understood by mainstream science, but many maverick scientists and scholars have studied the evidence for survival and to some extent what happens immediately after death.  They include Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, Sir William Crookes, a world-renowned chemist of yesteryear, Sir Oliver Lodge, a physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, on up to current near-death experience researchers such as Drs. Raymond Moody and Bruce Greyson, to name only a few.  Unfortunately, their views are suppressed by the mainstream. When they dare publish their unconventional or non-conformist findings, they become outlaws in their professions.

Believe it or not, there is even a little anecdotal evidence suggesting that there are “beings” in the afterlife environment who don’t believe that humans or “earthlings” exist. Such weirdness boggles the mind and invites even scoffs from those who assume that other dimensions of reality must resemble ours or believe that reductionistic science has it all figured out. 

Many have abandoned beliefs about an afterlife because they assume that an old man with whiskers is calling the shots and allowing all kinds of bad things to happen to good people. They conclude that no loving “God” would permit such atrocities. They haven’t stopped to consider that this life seems to be a small part of the larger life – one which is all about exercising free will in learning lessons by overcoming adversity.  Nor do they consider that it is not necessary to have proof of God before accepting the evidence for survival.  If there is a God overseeing it all, great, but if there are ballistic missiles headed our way, the president doesn’t need to know their origin before ordering them shot down.  Identifying the country of origin is secondary to accepting that they are headed our way. The same goes for the survival and God issues. 

Even though psychical research, the subject of seven of my eight published books, as well as about a dozen other books to which I have contributed, has nothing to do with religion, or even a belief in God, some of my non-religious friends think I am a “religious nut.”  I tell them that the books are essentially about consciousness and research strongly suggesting that consciousness survives death in a greater reality than the one we are now experiencing. However, the distinction between consciousness research and religious dogma is slow to sink in for most of them.

Agent of Satan

At the other extreme, some of my religious friends consider me an agent of Satan.  Even though psychical research supports about 97 percent of their religious beliefs, especially the most critical one, life after death, it conflicts with some seemingly insignificant beliefs adopted by church authorities over the centuries, and these conflicts, they have been told, mean that it’s all the work of the devil.  Those researchers are all wolves in sheep’s clothing, they claim. 

I’ll never make it on any best-seller list, but I’m satisfied with about 12,000 or so sales of the books.  My best seller is The Afterlife Revealed, which is approaching 6,000 sales and now has 165 reviews at I’ve had a number of people tell me that the book has made their terminal years much more endurable than it might have otherwise been had they been looking ahead to an abyss of nothingness.  Some of my non-religious friends react with “one life at a time for me.”  I agree with them, but as the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung put it, “A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.”  The problem is that most people don’t recognize the loss until they are within shouting distance of what they think of as the abyss, at which point they scream in despair. 
Even Sigmund Freud, who was not spiritually inclined, was concerned that one’s attitude toward death has a bearing on his or her psychological health.  “Is it not for us to confess that in our civilized attitude toward death, we are once more living psychologically beyond our means, and must reform and give truth its due?” he asked, while also reportedly telling a friend that if he had his life to live over again, he would pursue psychical research rather than psychiatry.
If I am interpreting those and other great thinkers correctly, the conscious self wants pleasure and luxury, but the subconscious (the soul) wants peace of mind, and that comes only with seeing this life as a part of a much larger one.  Therein is the conflict that goes unrecognized by presidents, politicians, and the media.  It is much easier for them to say that people are angry than to say they are in existential despair.  If they suggest that people are in such despair, they have to explain what they are in despair over.  It would not be politically, journalistically or scientifically correct to say that their materialistic lifestyles have detracted from their spiritual values and pursuits and that they have lost sight of the larger life. It is so much simpler to blame it on anger over economic deprivations and social injustices than to say it results from the pursuit of pleasure and luxury, the very things we think we want. 

But back to the important stuff.  I agree that Mickey Mantle was a great player, but Willie Mays was a bit greater.  Just my opinion. 

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Next blog post: June 17

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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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