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The Creek

Dreamed c.1930? by Dr. Louisa Rhine, as reported by J.B. Priestley

What follows now does not come from my own collection but from an article on "Precognition and Intervention" by Dr. Louisa E. Rhine, published in the American Journal of Parapsychology:

Many years ago when my son, who is now a man with a baby a year old, was a boy I had a dream early one morning. I thought the children and I had gone camping with some friends. We were camped in such a pretty little glade on the shores of the sound between two hills. It was wooded, and our tents were under the trees. I looked around and thought what a lovely spot it was.

I thought I had some washing to do for the baby, so I went to the creek where it broadened out a little. There was a nice clean gravel spot, so I put the baby and the clothes down. I noticed I had forgotten the soap so I started back to the tent. The baby stood near the creek throwing handfuls of pebbles into the water. I got my soap and came back, and my baby was lying face down in the water. I pulled him out but he was dead. I awakened then, sobbing and crying.

What a wave of joy went over me when I realized that I was safe in bed and that he was alive.

I thought about it and worried for a few days, but nothing happened and I forgot about it.

During that summer some friends asked the children and me to go camping with them. We cruised along the sound until we found a good place for our camp near fresh water. The lovely little glade between the hills had a small creek and big trees to pitch our tents under. While sitting on the beach with one of the other women watching the children play one day, I happened to think I had some washing to do, so I took the baby and went to the tent for the clothes. When I got back to the creek I put down the baby and the clothes, and then I noticed that I had forgotten the soap. I started back for it, and as I did so, the baby picked up a handful of pebbles and threw them in the water. Instantly my dream flashed into my mind. It was like a moving picture. He stood just as he had in my dream-white dress, yellow curls, shining sun. For a moment I almost collapsed. Then I caught him up and went back to the beach and my friends. When I composed myself, I told them about it. They just laughed and I said I imagined it. That is such a simple answer when one cannot give a good explanation. I am not given to imagining wild things.

Now many of the letters I have received describe vivid dreams of places unknown to the dreamer but then afterward visited, when the dreams are remembered at once. What is odd in the example quoted above is that although the dream made such an impression upon the narrator, she did not recognize the general scene when she actually saw it--the sound between the hills, the creek, the pretty little glade. There is no hint of precognition until she sees, for the second time, the baby she is about to leave throwing pebbles into the water. So she cannot intervene, so to speak, until the last moment. The whole stuff of so many precognitive dreams--the prevision of a strange place, subsequently recognized at once--seems of no importance in this experience, which hangs on one dramatic moment.

But if we accept it, as I am disposed to do, then we must also accept one of two things. We must believe that up to the moment when the mother leaves the baby to go and fetch the soap, the dream is showing her the future, but that her return to find the baby drowned is a dramatization of not unusual maternal anxiety: the dream therefore being part-future, part-fiction. Or we must believe that a future containing a dead baby is changed by the mother's action, into a future in which the baby does not die and lives to become a father himself: so that of two possibilities, one by deliberate intervention has come to be actualized. This leaves us with a future already existing so that it can be discovered by one part of the mind, and with a future that can be shaped by the exercise of our free will. We cannot have both, we shall be told; it must be either one or the other. Possibly, possibly not. We shall see.

--J.B. Priestley


This is from Priestley's fascinating study Man and Time, 1964. Louisa Rhine collected thousands of accounts of psychic dreams, visions and premonitions (the largest pre-Web database of ESP), classifying them Linneus-style in her book Hidden Channels of the Mind.

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