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Man Overboard!

Experienced 1916 by Sir Stephen King-Hall as reported to J.B. Priestley 1963


In 1963, writer J.B. Priestley put out a request on a BBC show for examples of strange experiences with time, whether waking or dreaming. Over a thousand responses came. Some were off-topic, but he found hundreds of predictive dreams and visions of varying clarity, accuracy and credibility. The following year he published many examples (though withholding most dreamers' names for privacy reasons) in his book Man and Time. Here's one who gave permission to be named.

--Chris Wayan

Man Overboard

Sir Stephen King-Hall, the well-known writer who was for many years a naval officer, has sent me an account of how he felt compelled to act after a premonition:

One afternoon in 1916 I was officer of the watch in the Southampton as we approached Scapa Flow [naval base in the Orkneys, north of Scotland]. A mile ahead I saw a small island, and I knew that as we passed it a man would fall overboard. The sea was flat calm. The Commodore, navigator, and other officers senior to me were on the bridge. An officer and a number of men were on the forecastle clearing away the anchor. I thought to myself it must be one of these men who will fall overboard. But what could I do? ... We got nearer and nearer the island and the feeling grew stronger.
Grayscale photo of WWI-vintage British cruisers off Scapa Flow; illustration from JB Priestley's 'Man and Time', page 226

Staking everything on this feeling--and for this reason his experience is of exceptional interest--he gave a number of orders, to put the lifebelts out and muster the sea-boat crew, and so forth. The orders, as would be expected, were soon sharply challenged:

The Commodore said "What the hell do you think you are doing?" We were abreast the island. I had no answer. We were steaming at 20 knots and we passed the little island in, a few seconds. Nothing happened!

As I was struggling to say something, the cry went up "Man overboard" from the Nottingham (the next ship in the line, 100 yards behind us) then level with the island--30 seconds later "Man overboard" from the Birmingham (the 3rd ship in the line, and then abreast the island). We went full speed astern; our sea-boat was in the water almost at once and we picked up both men. I was then able to explain to a startled bridge why I had behaved as I had done. This is a brief outline of a fully authenticated case of precognition....

And an excellent case too, here gratefully acknowledged. The fact that a junior officer, on active service, took the risk of giving these orders, testifies to the compelling force of this premonition. It might have reached him in the form of a precognitive dream. Arriving when it did, when he was officer of the watch and concentrating his attention on his various duties, it could only force its way into consciousness as a strong feeling, a feeling that refused to be dismissed and even grew stronger. Possibly there was a moment earlier when he relaxed his concentration on the present, so that part of his mind went wandering, as in sleep and dreams, and returned from the future with a premonition about a man falling overboard near the small island.

Actually no man fell overboard from his own ship; it was two men from two other ships; but "Overboard" gave him the essential clue as to what would happen, and the "small island a mile ahead" more or less gave him the time and place; and the action he took was incontestably the right action.

And very similar to such a premonition, I suspect, are the "hunches" that appear to play an important part in the lives of many successful men and women. They are, these lucky people, secret time-jumpers.

--JB Priestley

Lucky? So are those they rescue. It should be pointed out that King-Hall's career-risking action may have saved two lives; the waters around Scapa Flow are icy, and a few minutes's extra immersion could easily kill.

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: on the job - ships and boats - visions and hallucinations - intuitions and urges - falling and swimming - cold - rescues - warriors and hierarchy vs intitative - premonitions and predictive dreams - ESP in general - tales of the waking world - JB Priestley - 4 years before, an acted-on premonitory dream saves two more lives: Titanic Nightmares

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