Almost all of the cases reported by Flammarion are cases presented for the first time in his book, because they were reported in writing to the astronomer. Part of the reason he got so many accounts is that he put out a public notice in a magazine asking to be sent accounts of unusual experiences involving apparitions. We can only imagine what a flood of such accounts would come to today's scientists if they were to ask the public to receive them.
Flammarion asked the magazine readers to send him a postcard or letter answering “Yes” or “No” to two questions, and to include an account if the answer to either was “Yes.” The first question was “Has it ever happened to you at anytime to experience, being awake, a distinct impression that you saw or heard a human being, or were touched by one, without being able to refer this impression to some known cause?" The second question was, “Did this impression coincide with the date of any death?” On page 69 Flammarion tells us that he received 4280 answers, 2456 of which answered “No,” and 1824 answered “Yes.”
I will apply a quality filter when choosing which of these accounts to summarize. I will only summarize a fraction of the accounts reported in the first person by a person who either directly experienced something that seemed inexplicable or was very nearby someone who experienced something that seemed inexplicable at the time the experience occurred, rather than mentioning second-hand accounts in which someone said that a friend or relative told him about something that happened a long time ago.
We will see two astonishing characteristics in many of these reports:
(1) It will very often be reported that the apparition of someone appeared on the same day or the same hour and day that such a person died.
(2) It will very often be reported that the apparition was effectively a notification that some particular person had died, with a confirmation soon thereafter (through word, mail or telegram) that exactly that person did die.
Page 51-52, Case III: Not long after 1896 a distinguished musician named Andre Bloch reported to Flammarion that in 1896 his mother came to him in a state of great excitement, and said that she had suddenly seen her nephew Rene, who stated, “Yes, indeed, I am quite dead.” Later, after finishing a trip, Andre and his mother found out that the young Rene had died at the age of only 14, at the same hour and day as the apparition was seen.
Page 53, Case IV: In 1889 M. V. de Kerkhove reported to Flammarion that in 1876 while in Texas he saw an apparition of his grandfather. He found out weeks later that his grandfather had died in Belgium on the same day and hour that the sighting occurred.
Page 59, Case IX: Madame Ulric de Fonvielle reported to Flammarion in 1899 that she had seen at the foot of her bed one of her childhood friends, who said, “I am going away now,” and asked, “Can you forgive me?” The vision suddenly disappeared. The next morning word came by telegram that the friend had died the previous evening, during the same hour the apparition was seen.
Page 60, Case X: In 1899 Baron Deslandes reported to Flammarion that he had seen a servant suddenly state that he had seen an apparition of his mother. Days later word came word that the servant's mother had died at the exact day and hour of the apparition.
Page 62, Case XIII: M. Binet reported to Flammarion that she had seen the apparition of a young girl named Leontine, causing her to cry out, “Leontine.” She said it was a shadowy, luminous form. She later found out that the child Leontine had died on the same day and hour as the apparition appeared.
Page 72, Case XIX: Angele Esperon reported to Flammarion that at half past three in the morning, she had seen “a most distinct vision of the apparition of my brother Joseph,” who was in the military service far away. He said, “Goodbye, Angele, I am dead.” That day she received a dispatch that her brother had died far away, at three in the morning. (It is not clear from the narrative whether it was the same day.)
Page 81, Case XXXII: M. Mine reported to Flammarion that on the day in 1887 his grandmother died at about 6:00 AM, his father went to his school to report that the young pupil (M. Mine) would not attend that day because of the grandmother's death. But, mysteriously, the school had already been told of the grandmother's death. After inquiries, one of M. Mine's schoolmates said that he had seen that morning an apparition of his dead sister and M. Mine's grandmother holding hands, and had then reported to the school that the grandmother had died.
Page 100, Case LXV: A. Nyffeley-Potter awoke to see a vision of his brother being pierced by a spear. Some weeks later he received news that his brother traveling far away had died after being pierced by a spear.
Page 101, Case LXVIII: Aug. Glardon reported this:
It has twice in my life happened to me to experience a distinct impression to have near me a person who was absent, and to mark the exact hour at which this occurred. Both times the impression received was found to coincide within five minutes with the death of a person whom I knew to be ill, but who I had no idea was so near his end.
Page 104, Case LXXV: A. Deupes reported that in bed his wife reported a man calling her name. She predicted that it would soon be reported that M. Gantier of Marseilles had died, because she recognized his voice as the one calling her. Word soon came by mail that exactly that person had died, at a date and hour matching the strange voice.
Page 129-130, Case CXX: Juliette Thevenet reported that at one o'clock in the morning a picture of her father seemed to make a sudden move. She then found out that her father had died that day, at one o'clock in the morning.
Page 135, Case CXXVIII: A Jacques C. had a true love named Martha, who he had been unable to marry, and who lived in another city. He reported Martha entering his room. When he tried to grasp her hand “the phantom disappeared.” He later found that Martha had died at the exact hour he had seen her apparition, and that she had called out his name on her deathbed.
Page 136-137, Case CXXIX: Valentine C. looked at the photograph of his friend Helene, and was astonished that it looked as if the face was animated, as if it was about to speak. The clock struck eight. He found out later that day out that Helene had died at the same hour.
Page 140, Case CXXXII: H. Poncer reported that in 1884 this happened:
As I got out of bed I saw a figure standing upright, surrounded by a circle of light. I gazed at it, a good deal moved as you may imagine, and I recognized my husband's brother-in-law, a doctor, who said : 'Warn Adolphe— tell him I am dead.'
The next day a telegram confirmed that the brother-in-law had died unexpectedly from cholera.
Page 149, Case CXLVIII: Jh. Junod related this story:
I had been asleep some hours when I was awakened (my father, my mother, and my four sisters, too) by a very loud voice calling my father, Florian. A second call was not so loud, and a third was almost a whisper. My father said, ' It is the voice of Renaud ' (a friend of his living in Paris), and, rising, he went to open the front door. But no one was there. The newly fallen snow showed no trace of any footsteps. A short time after my father received a letter telling him that his friend Renaud had been run over by an omnibus, and that, as he was dying, he had several times pronounced his name.
Page 154, Case CLV: A. Michel reported that he felt a very strong slap to his face when no one was near him. The slap created a hand-like mark that lasted for six months. At the same time that the strange slap occurred, his grandmother died.
Page 156, Case CLVII: Countess Amelie Garandine reported this story:
“My sister, who was seventeen, passing along the corridor, saw under a lighted gas-burner a tall and handsome girl whom she did not know, dressed like a peasant woman. The apparition alarmed her, and she began to scream. The next morning our cook, a girl twenty-five years old, told my mother that about nine o'clock the night before, as she was going to bed, she saw before her one of her friends, a young peasant girl, whose description exactly corresponded to that of the apparition that my sister had seen. They afterwards learned that this girl had died that same day.”
Page 157, Case CLIX: Madame Adam stated the following very spooky account:
“As I opened my eyes I saw my grandmother at the foot of my bed, and I cried out, 'What a pleasure, grand-mother, to see you!' She did not answer, but raised her hand to her eyes. Then I saw her eyes were gone, leaving two empty holes. I sprang out of bed and ran towards her. As I was about to clasp her in my arms she disappeared. My grand mother had died that very day at eight o'clock in the evening."
Page 168-169, Case CLXXI: A Mrs. Isabelle Allom reported that while she was attending school in France, she saw an apparition of her mother. She later found out that her mother had died on the same day and hour that the apparition was seen.
Page 169-170, Case CLXXII: Captain G.F. Russell Colt reported that on the night of his brother's death at a very distant location, he saw an apparition of his brother "surrounded by a sort of phosphorescent mist." He reported that he walked right through the apparition. Later he learned that his brother had died with a wound similar to the wound observed in the apparition.
Page 171, Case CLXXIII: In 1867 while listening to an orchestra concert, a woman named E.T. Taunton saw a vision of her uncle. She later learned her uncle had died at the same time as the vision occurred.
Page 172, Case CLXXIV: Frederick Barker reported that he saw an apparition of his aunt, one that disappeared. He later found out that his aunt had died on the same day and at about the same hour.
Page 175-177, Case CLXXVII: H.B. Garling saw a "phantom," and exclaimed, "It is Harrison." She said, "The specter disappeared." Soon after this she learned that Harrison and his whole family had died of cholera.
Page 178, Case CLXXVIII: Minnie Cox reported seeing in 1869 an apparition of her brother, who was far away in Hong Kong. This occurred an hour after the brother's son had reported seeing his father. The next mail which came from China informed her of her brother's death, which had happened on the same day Minnie had seen the apparition. Here we have a case of the same apparition seen by more than one person (see below for a mention of 21 such cases).
Page 179, Case CLXXVIX: Eugenia Wickham reported that in 1886 at three o'clock she and her eldest son had seen seeing an apparition of a "Mr. B." floating about a half a foot above the ground. About 30 minutes later, someone came to report that Mr. B. had died at about three o'clock.
On page 187 Flammarion discusses some reasons why the accounts he has presented cannot be dismissed as hallucinations. He states:
"If cases of this kind had been hallucinations, illusions, freaks of the imagination, there would have been a much larger number of them reported that had no coincidence with a death than with such a coincidence. Now it is just the contrary....I requested people to be so obliging as to furnish me with all kinds of cases, whether there was any coincidence with death or not. There are not more than seven or eight percent of cases of apparitions without such coincidence. The opposite thing would have occurred had we been dealing with hallucinations."
He is correct, because the first question he asked the public to respond to was: “Has it ever happened to you at anytime to experience, being awake, a distinct impression that you saw or heard a human being, or were touched by one, without being able to refer this impression to some known cause?" The second question was, “Did this impression coincide with the date of any death?”
Flammarion was not the first to publish accounts like the ones cited above. In the long report of the the London Dialectical Society reporting on its investigation of the paranormal, which makes fascinating reading as a whole, we find on page 160-161 the following eyewitness account of a transparent apparition by Cromwell Varley:
"One night in my room there were a great number of loud raps. When at length I sat up in bed, I saw a man in the air -- a spirit -- in military dress. I could see the pattern of the paper on the wall through him...The spirit informed me that when at school in France he was stabbed. This fact was known only to his eldest surviving brother and his mother. It had been concealed from his father on account of the state of the latter's health. When I narrated this to the survivor, he turned very pale, and confirmed it."
There is no reason to think that sightings of apparitions is merely a "way back when" type of thing. In 1975 the little-known writer Celia Green was able to get 1500 recent first-hand accounts of apparitions, and published 400 of them in a book. In the same year Erlendur Haraldsson asked 902 people in Iceland, "Have you ever perceived or felt the nearness of a deceased person?" 31% reported "yes." The next year a survey of 1467 people in the US asked, "Have you ever felt that you were really in touch with someone who had died?" 27% answered "Yes." Below is a quote from the abstract of a paper entitled "Alleged Encounters With the Dead: The Importance Of Violent Death In 337 New Cases" by Haraldsson:
"Personal encounters with the dead are reported by 25% of Western Europeans and 30% of Americans. Three hundred thirty-seven Icelanders reporting such experiences were interviewed at length. Ninety percent of them reported sensory experiences (apparitions) of a deceased person; 69% were visual, 28% auditory, 13% tactile, and 4% olfactory. Fewer than half of the experiences occurred in twilight or darkness. In half of the cases the experiencer was actively engaged or working. Disproportionately prominent were apparitions of those who died violently and crisis apparitions observed close to the time of death of the person who was perceived, although in the majority of cases, the percipient did not know that the person had died."
It is interesting that he notes a prominence of people seeing an apparition at the time of someone's death, before they even knew the person was dead. This is similar to what we have seen so often in Flammarion's cases cited above. The term "veridical near-death experiences" is used for cases in which someone observes or learns something during a near-death experience that is subsequently confirmed (such as details of his medical resuscitation efforts). Many examples can be read here. We can use the term "veridical apparitions" for these cases in which someone effectively learns in a seemingly paranormal way of a death he was not aware of.
Below is an example of such a veridical apparition, an eyewitness account from page 20 of Haraldsson's paper:
"A little later I see him again and close to me, and think again this cannot be and I must be hallucinating and try to shake it off. I felt a strange feeling going through my body and I look behind and see his face. Then I felt sure he must have died. I went home and told them. They said of course that I was talking nonsense. The next morning there came a telegram announcing his death. We did not have a telephone."
Below is another example, an eyewitness account from page 11 of Haraldsson's paper:
"I was having a pleasant trip, stayed at Blanda for two nights, or rather was going to. I was not in any hurry. All of a sudden I sensed my grandfather right there with me. I instantly knew that he had passed away, went to the post office and called. It was confirmed that he had died the day before."
Below is another example, an an eyewitness account from page 13 of Haraldsson's paper:
"Suddenly I see the bedroom door opened and on the threshold stands Jacob, with his face all covered with blood. I look at this for a good while unable to speak or move. Then he disappears and I felt as if he closed the door behind him. I became my normal self, call my husband and tell him about the incident: “I can swear that something has happened at the sanatorium.” I telephone in the morning and ask about if everything is not alright with Jacob. 'No,' said the nurse, 'he committed suicide this night.' ”
Below is another example, an an eyewitness account from page 18 of Haraldsson's paper:
"When I had been shovelling for a while, I suddenly felt Karl Kristjánsson standing in front of me in one of the stalls in the stable and he says something rather peculiar: “You were lucky, you did fine,” and that was all; then he disappeared. That evening his death was announced on the radio. While pondering about the incident and trying to figure it out, I learnt that he had suffered a heart attack and been brought to the Reykjavik City Hospital where he died. I had been admitted to that hospital a year earlier after suffering a similar attack. I luckily recuperated and could go home, whereas he died."
On page 19 of the Haraldsson paper we are told that in many of the cases it was reported that an apparition was seen by more than one person at the same time. Haraldsson tried to interview the people who had seen the apparition at the same time as someone else. He reports on page 19, "In 21 instances out of the 30, the witnesses verified the respondent’s description of the case." Such a result is quite inconsistent with the hallucination theory of apparitions, for under such a theory no more than one person at a time should see an apparition.
I have not even mentioned here any cases from the massive two-volume work "Phantasms of the Living," which would probably have in its 1000+ pages quite a few other additional cases of veridical apparitions. Quite a few additional cases not discussed in this post can be found in this paper. I therefore think it will be easy to one day write a sequel to this post, one with the title "25 More Who Were Ghost-Told of a Death."
Postscript: Such a sequel post is now available here.