Communications from the Dead?

Communications from the Dead? July 1, 2019


I like Stockholm. It's a pleasant city.
A Wikimedia CC public domain photo of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and a very important place in the lives of both Max von Sydow and Ingmar Bergman, by Tommie Hansen


Hales Swift offers another of his helpful and interesting video presentations on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


“Many Witnesses Testify of the Resurrection of Christ: A Video Supplement for Come, Follow Me Lesson 25: “He Is Risen””




A few days ago, I found myself looking up the Wikipedia entry on the Swedish actor Max von Sydow.  (I’ve been aware of him since I first saw him in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal during my late teens.)  I found what I was looking for, but I also found this intriguing and rather mysterious passage:


[Von] Sydow is reported to be either an agnostic or an atheist. In 2012, Sydow told Charlie Rose in an interview that Ingmar Bergman had told him he would contact Sydow after death to show him that there was a life after death. When Rose asked Sydow if he had heard from Bergman, Sydow replied that he had, but chose not to elaborate further on the exact meaning of this statement. In the same interview, Sydow described himself as a doubter in his youth, but stated this doubt was gone. He did not elaborate on what he did not doubt anymore.


(For the relevant portion of the interview with Charlie Rose, see




While on that note, here’s a passage from one of my unfinished manuscripts:


Other accounts speak of knowledge being conveyed that only the dead person could have known.  One of the Guggenheims’ informants, for instance, relates a story in which her deceased husband told her the location of some badly needed cash.[1]  The ancient Roman statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (d. 43 B.C.) recounts an anecdote about a murder that was solved when the victim appeared during the dream of a friend and supplied the details of the crime.[2]  A very interesting subcategory of such narratives involves a deceased friend or family member warning of danger or of an unrecognized health threat.[3]  A friend at the university where I teach tells, for example, of her two-years-dead mother (whom I also knew) coming to her in a dream—the only time she has ever dreamed of her mother—and telling her “You have cancer.”  Although my friend had recently been tested and found to be fine, new tests confirmed the diagnosis, and early detection saved her life.[4]  A remarkable instance of much the same thing was related to Osis and Haraldsson.  According to the account given to them, a seven-year-old boy had been hospitalized in critical condition with a mastoid infection.  Unfortunately, he was rebellious.  He refused to take the necessary medications, and resisted the nurses at every turn.  Suddenly, though, he had an experience, as he believed, with his deceased uncle, who had worked as a physician on that very hospital floor and to whom he had been close.

The boy insisted that Uncle Charlie came, sat beside him, and told him to take his medicine.  He also told the boy that he would get well.  The boy was very sure that Uncle Charlie had sat in the chair and told him these things.  After this experience, the patient was cooperative.  He was not excited, and he took the deceased doctor’s “visit” as a matter of course.  The next morning, the boy was much better—a dramatic change had occurred in his condition.[5]

The phenomenon of “after-death communications” is surprisingly widespread, even among unbelievers and skeptics.[6]  

According to a survey conducted by the prominent priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley under the auspices of the National Opinion Research Center, 42% of American adults claim to have been in contact, in some way or another, with someone who has died.  The figures are even higher in certain subcategories of the population.  Studies suggest that somewhere between 50% and 74.4% of widows claim to have had some such experience.[7]  A lower but still significant figure has been found in surveys of the general European population, many of whom claim to have been fully awake during their encounter, unaffected by drugs, and, sometimes, not alone in their perception of the presence of a deceased person.[8]  Such results cannot simply be waved aside.

Still, despite their commonness, and despite the fact that many stories of after-death communication involve multiple witnesses, they remain anecdotal.[9] 


[1] Guggenheim and Guggenheim, Hello from Heaven!, 42.  Other, similar, stories can be found at pages 243-256; $also the rather different case summarized at Raymond Bayless, Apparitions and Survival of Death (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1973), 185.

[2] See Cicero “On Divination.”  [Get specific reference.  Involves Arcadia and Megara.]

[3] Guggenheim and Guggenheim, Hello from Heaven!, 42, 257-270.  See, too, Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places (1974), 139.  [See original.] 

[4] $Compare the story recounted at Gallup, Adventures in Immortality, 94-95.

[5] $Osis and Haraldsson, At the Hour of Death, 151.

[6] $See, for example, the anecdote related at Guggenheim and Guggenheim, Hello from Heaven!, 329-330; also$ Lee Nelson, Beyond the Veil, vol. 2 ( Cedar Fort, 1996), 11, 55-57, 91-92, 111;$ Lee Nelson, Beyond the Veil, vol. 3 (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 1990), 36, 103-104, 121, 138-142.  In some of these encounters, multiple persons had the experience either simultaneously or serially, and/or seemingly corroborating details were noted.  Still, the evidence, though derived from varied sources, remains anecdotal and unconfirmed.

[7] See American Health (January-February 1987) [See original]; Sherry Simon-Buller, Victor A. Christopherson, and Randall A. Jones, “Correlates of Sensing the Presence of a Deceased Spouse,” Omega 19/1 (1988-1989): 21-30; Torill Christine Lindström, “Experiencing the Presence of the Dead: Discrepancies in ‘the Sensing Experience’ and Their Psychological Concomitants,” Omega 31/1 (1995): 11-21.  Scott H. Becker and Roger M. Knudson, “Visions of the Dead: Imagination and Mourning,” Death Studies 27/8 (2003): 691-716, closely examines a quite untypical case of such perception from an “archetypal” and “non-dualist” (that is, non-literal) point of view.

[8] Erlendur Haraldson, “Survey of Claimed Encounters with the Dead,” Omega 19/2 (1988-1989): 103-???.

[9] For stories of shared experiences with deceased friends or relatives, see Guggenheim and Guggenheim, Hello from Heaven!, 285-300.  On pages 296-298, the Guggenheims offer accounts in which animals appear to respond to visits from the dead;$several such cases appear throughout Bayless, Apparitions and Survival of Death.  [Sally Taylor.]  On page 290???, they illustrate the apparently greater openness of children to “after-death communications.”  $Bayless, Apparitions and Survival of Death, 84, 185, reports two cases in which a deceased mother appears to return to check on or comfort a child.  [Gus.]



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