A paranormal impression warning of a future event. Premonitions
may range from vague feelings of disquiet, suggestive
of impending disaster, to actual hallucinations, visual or auditory.
Dreams are frequent vehicles of premonitions, either direct
or symbolical, as well as veridical dreams. Spiritualists do
not know if the warning comes from an external intelligent
source such as a knowledgeable spirit being, from claivoyance
(precognition), the intuitive projection of the outcome of presently
existing trends, or coincidence or self-fulfilling prophecy,
a form of autosuggestion.
A premonition differs from prediction. Reportedly the latter
has a degree of precision and tends to detail the basic who,
what, when, where, and how questions. When the event foreseen
is not precisely outlined or is too insubstantial to prompt
a prophetic utterance, premonition is the more appropriate
term. For vague future events of a personal nature, presentiment
According to psychical researcher Charles Richet, premonitions
should have two fundamental conditions
1. The fact announced must be absolutely independent of
the person to whom the premonition has come.
2. The announcement must be such that it cannot be ascribed
to chance or sagacity.
Richet did not employ the term presentiment. He also
ruled out personal premonitions. It was believed subconscious
Precipitation of Matter Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
perception or suggestion is possible if sickness or death were
announced. Richet claimed a photograph taken of a person
suffering from a slight attack of fever may show signs of a rash
or eruption on the face invisible to ordinary sight. The photograph
foresees the sickness. However, Richet accepted personal
premonitions (auto-premonitions, to use his term) in
cases when accidental death figured in the paranormal perception.
According to legend, the Earl of Hartingtons dream illustrates
pseudo-premonitions. In good health, he dreamt of a
skeleton that looked like him; it raised the coverlet bedclothes
and slipped in bed between him and his wife. He died fifteen
Premonitions where the subconscious is ruled out may be received
under hypnosis, in trance, or accidentally in the dream
or waking state. The Seeress of Prevorst (Frederica Hauffe),
claimed while in hypnotic sleep she saw a spirit anxious to
speak of misfortune threatening her daughter. Reportedly a
few weeks later, the girl was almost killed by a tile falling on her
If the percipient is positive the event in question is about to
happen, the term precognition is used. If it takes visual form,
prevision is the appropriate label. When predictions involving
the fate of larger units, countries, or nations are made,
prophecy is the appropriate term. Premonition may be conceived
of as the lowest degree of prophecy. Whether the premonition
comes in the waking state or during sleep, it is believed
the impression is usually deep and lasting. The recipient
may write it down or narrate it for later verification.
In the 1880s, the Society for Psychical Research collected
668 cases of death premonitions; 252 more were added in
1922. Camille Flammarion collected 1,824 cases. From time to
time, cases were registered in English, German, French, and
Italian psychical periodicals. Ernesto Bozzano collected 260
cases in his Des Phénomènes Premonitoires. Count Cesar Baudi de
Vesme analyzed premonition in games of chance (Le Merveilleux
dans les jeux de hasard, Paris, 1930). An earlier work of William
MacKenzie (Metapsichica moderna, Rome, 1923) related experiments
in the same field with mediumistic intervention.
In LAvenir et la Premonition (1931), Richet referenced Julien
Ochorowiczs experiment (Annales des Sciences Psychiques,
190910), stating a telekinetic explanation in stopping the roulette
ball at the announced number should be considered.
Incidents of Premonitions
Many prominent people have left records illustrative of the
general nature of premonitions
Charles Dickens dreamed of a lady in a red shawl, who said
I am Miss Napier. He did not know who this woman was.
Some hours later, he was visited by two ladies, and a girl in a
red shawl was introduced as Miss Napier. (Proceedings of the
American Society for Psychical Research, vol. 14, 1920).
Sir Oliver Lodge quoted the account of an English minister
who dreamed of a terrible storm and lightning that entered the
dining room and destroyed the chimneys of the roof opposite.
Under the impression of the dream, although it was bright sunshine,
he directed his wife to prepare lunch at an early hour.
Events happened just as in the dream. Soon a storm broke out,
and lightening struck through the dining room and demolished
the chimneys of the neighboring roof.
Field-Marshal Earl Roberts (18321914), in his autobiography
Forty-one Years in India (1897), related his experiences when
commanding My intention, when I left Kabul, was to ride as
far as the Kyber Pass, but suddenly a presentiment which I have
never been able to explain to myself, made me retrace my steps
and hurry back to Kabul, a presentiment of coming trouble
which I can only characterise as instinctive. The feeling was justified
when, about half way between Butkhak and Kabul I was
met by Sir Donald Stewart and my Chief of Staff, who brought
me the astounding news of the total defeat by Ayub Khan of
Brigadier General Burrows brigade at Maiwand and of Lieutenant-General
Primrose, with the remainder of his force,
being besieged at Kandahar.
President Abraham Lincoln had strange presentiments of
his coming end. John Forster, in his Life of Dickens (3 vols.,
1872), quoted a letter written to him by Dickens, dated February
4, 1868. Charles Summer had told Dickens that on the day
of Lincolns assassination an extraordinary change was noticeable
in him. Lincoln said Gentlemen, something extraordinary
will happen, and that very soon. Later he spoke of a
dream that came to him for the third time and said I am on
a deep, broad, rolling river; I am in a boat, and I am falling in!
I am falling in! Six weeks before his assassination he saw a
great concourse of mourners in the White House in a dream.
The mourners surrounded a coffin in which he saw his own
body. Presidents Garfield and McKinley also had premonitions
of their violent ends.
William T. Stead, the Spiritualist journalist, had a presentiment
that he would not die normally. He thought he would be
kicked to death by a mob. Instead, he went down in the Titanic
in 1912. In 1892 Stead had written a fictional story about
a ship called the Majestic, that received a psychic message
from a survivor of another ship that had struck an iceberg in
the Atlantic. The novelist Emile Zola always dreaded asphyxiation
by gas. It was the cause of his death.
A method of experimental premonitions was described by
Richet in LAvenir et la Premonition (1931) and La Grande ésperance
(1933). To quote from the latter (p. 198)
Thirty six pieces of paper, each containing a number written
in pencil. They are carefully folded, all alike. Armand, a
painter of my friends, the brother of Brigitta, indicates the
number which Brigitta is going to draw. There are errors, certainly.
Armand is not always correct, but the result is far superior
to the probability. There are periods of error and periods
of astonishing lucidity. At my formal recommendation Armand
only makes one experiment per day which gives the probability
of 136. Well, during a certain week, in six draws, his predictions
was five times correct. This is about 130,000,000.
We have no satisfactory explanation for premonitions. Possibly
Richet was right when he stated If we knew the totality
of things in the present we should know the totality of things
to come. Our ignorance of the future is the result of our ignorance
of the present.
According to novelist Maurice Maeterlinck, the phenomenon
of premonitions is far less exceptional than generally
thought. He believed in human foreknowledge and observed
that the great catastrophes usually claim fewer victims than the
probabilities of each case would allow. He found that generally
some strange chance keeps a number of people away who otherwise
would be there and perish. They are warned by a mysterious,
Richet concluded, from his belief in the reality of premonitions,
that the future is determined. His conclusion is a possible
logical surmise from his line of reasoning, but it is not the only
or right one. The basis of premonitions need not be the supposition
of either a closed future or an eternal present. The consideration
of the presence of presupposition leads directly to
questions of freedom and the nature of the future. Do premonitions
announce an unalterable future or suggest a future that
can with attention be altered
More recently an extended study of precognitive dreaming
was done by Mary Stowell with a group of five women tabulating
32 characteristics of such dreams. Syntheses of the narratives
of interviews indicated common patterns across the dream
descriptions and the responses to the experiences. Both traumatic
and nontraumatic situations arose, some of which would
benefit by professional counseling to assuage guilt and a sense
of helplessness. In some cases intervention was possible to prevent
the dreams from coming true.
Premonitions registries founded in recent decades included
(with their last known address) the Central Premonitions Registry
(Box 482, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10023);
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Premonition
the Southern California SPR (via Carolyn Jones, 4325 E.
Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90803); and the Toronto Society
for Psychical Research (10 North Sherbourne St., Toronto 5,
Barker, J. C. Scared to Death; An Examination of Fear, Its Causes
and Effects. London Muller, 1958. Reprint, New York Dell,
Brier, Robert. Precognition and the Philosophy of Science; An
Essay on Backward Causation. New York Humanities Press,
Central Premonitions Registry. httpclever.netyaron
precogprecog.htm. April 10, 2000.
Dunne, J. W. An Experiment With Time. London Macmillan,
London, 1927. Reprint, New York Hillary, 1958.
Greenhouse, Herbert B. Premonitions A Leap Into the Future.
London Turnstone Press, 1972. Reprint, London Pan, 1975.
Jaffé, Aniela. Apparitions and Precognition A Study From the
Point of View of C. G. Jungs Analytical Psychology. New Hyde Park,
N.Y. University Books, 1963.
MacKenzie, Andrew. The Riddle of the Future A Modern Study
of Precognition. London Barker, 1974. Reprint, New York Taplinger,
Osborn, Arthur W. The Future Is Now The Significance of Precognition.
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1962.
Saltmarsh, H. F. Foreknowledge. London G. Bell, 1938.
Stowell, Mary S. Precognitive dreams A phenomenological
study. Part I. methodology and sample cases. Journal of the
American Society for Psychical Research 91 no. 3 (July 1997).
. Precognitive dreams A phenomenological study.
Part II. Discussion. Journal of the American Society for Psychical
Research 91 no. 3 (July 1997).
. Researching precognitive dreams A review of past
methods, emerging scientific paradigms, and future approaches.
Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 89 no. 2
UK PsychicsPremonitions Registry. http
www.ukpsychics.compremonitions.html. April 10, 2000