Dreamed before 1961 by Ned's mom and his sister Ethel, reported to the Rhine Institute
A few [ghost] cases are reported in which some special circumstance seems to add weight to the likelihood that the deceased was the active party. One such instance involved a Canadian woman of my acquaintance and her twenty-one-year-old son, Ned, who had been instantly killed in an accident. For some time after his death his mother had dreams in which he appeared. And then his sister Ethel too began to have vivid and lifelike dreams of him. One night his mother, lying awake, was thinking of him and of the possibility of sending him a message "by telepathy" as she thought he might have been doing to them in the dreams of him she and her daughter had been having. She tried to think what message she could send that would be vital enough to penetrate the "great silence."
Suddenly she knew just what it should be. She had longed to tell him after he was gone how she had regretted that she could not even kiss him good-bye.
I decided to try to concentrate on this and to send him that last kiss, so with my mind a blank to all else I tried to send the message. Then in a moment of hopeful enthusiasm I asked him to send me back a kiss if he received my message.In this case, although one cannot distinguish between the strength of motive of mother and son, or of daughter and son, the process by which the living persons could have produced the effect is complicated by the introduction of the third person, the sister of the deceased. This tends to tip the balance toward him, without absolutely excluding the living.
Once it was done I thought it was a pretty foolish request. The only way he could send me a kiss would be in a dream and then I would think I had cooked it up in my own subconscious. I had asked the impossible, so I dismissed it from my mind, thinking, "That is that."
Several days later, but within a week, Ethel called me up to tell me that she had had another dream in her series. Incidentally, I had not mentioned my experiment to anyone, and in fact had not thought further about it. So imagine my surprise when Ethel said, "It is a funny thing. Always before when I have dreamed of Ned he has come at once and put his arms around me and kissed me. But this time he turned his back on me and kissed you instead. I was rather hurt and said, "Why, Ned, aren't you going to kiss me?" He laughed like anything and came over right away and kissed me, too."
Naturally I was struck forcibly by this answer coming out of the blue. It was such a clever way around the difficulty. She did not know she was getting a special message for me, and furthermore, the time interval of several days made it appear that she had not received the message telepathically from me, but that it had traveled by a more round-about way through other intermediaries.
There was another interesting thing about it. Ethel had mentioned being puzzled by Ned's laughter, and was hurt, for she didn't see anything funny about his having neglected to greet her. In my mind, his laughter was about the most pointed part of the dream. If she had been receiving the material for her dream from my mind, this part which was so clear to me should not have been so obscure to her. That seems fairly obvious. Furthermore, she recognized the dream as one of her series because it carried, too, reassurance to her over an immediate problem of her own. It did not occur to her that it contained any special import for me until I told her. I have never undertaken any further experiments of this sort, for the only message I felt a real need of getting across had gone.
--Louisa E. Rhine
Louisa Rhine's point seems legitimate to me. Since the Rhine Institute's lab experiments had convinced Louisa that ESP is unexplained but real, a ghost with a message the living wouldn't know cannot be watertight proof of an afterlife. Just as a subliminal dream can pick up signs of an illness and put them in the mouth of a trusted doctor in a dream, so a living person, if motivated, could use ESP to ferret out secrets only a 'ghost' should know, and present them through an appropriate dream-figure.
Paradoxically, the case for ESP weakens the case for souls!
But Ned's mother set her dream-figure a challenge that it met ingeniously, by answering through another's dreams--and that is evidence that this figure wasn't just an internal image.
Rhine's assessment seems even-handed; if you accept ESP, then this could have been achieved by a conspiracy of mother's and daughter's unconscious minds--but as Ned's mom points out, it'd require simultaneous coordination and misunderstanding. Conceivable, but hard to swallow.
So Ned's family takes him at face value. He certainly comes across (across two minds!) as a living, playful personality, not a sock puppet of the brain (and whose brain?) If Occam's Razor won't decide the matter, maybe we should try the Turing test. And as far as the two who knew him best are concerned, Ned passed.
SOURCE: Hidden Channels of the Mind by Louisa E. Rhine, 1961, p. 243-245. Account untitled, author's name witheld; title & byline added to aid searching & indexing.
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