Saturday, March 13, 2010

Precognition and Death

IN THE morning of December 16, 1897, Frederick Lane, an
actor in William Terriss's company, entered the Adelphi
Theatre, London, to take part in a rehearsal.

Before arriving at the dressing rooms he encountered Miss
Olive Haygate, also a member of the company, and they ex-
changed greetings.

"There will be no performance to-night! " declared Lane
jovially, and went on to explain that a few hours earlier he had
dreamed that he saw Mr. Terriss lying on the stairs leading
to the dressing rooms. His chest was bare and his clothing torn
aside, so that Lane thought he must be in some kind of fit.
Various people belonging to the theatre were standing by, and
doing their best for him. Immediately afterwards Lane
dreamed that the theatre would not open that night.

He did not take his dream in the least bit seriously. Rather
did he regard it as a waggish story about the chief, and on
entering the dressing rooms he repeated it in this spirit to
several men members of the caste.

In the evening of the same day, as William Terriss reached
the private entrance of the theatre in Maiden Lane, and was
putting his key in the lock, a man who for some time had been
lurking about the lane, rushed forward, and, with a long thin-
bladed knife, stabbed the unfortunate actor in the region of
the heart and again in the back.

Lane, who was himself on his way to the theatre about this
time, heard the outcry resulting from the outrage, and learn-
ing what had happened, rushed for a doctor. When he got
back to the theatre he saw Terriss lying in the place where he
had seen him in the dream. In the interval the wounded man
had been carried inside the theatre, but it had been found im-
possible to take him further than the foot of the stairs leading
to the dressing room, and there in less than twenty minutes he
died. Terriss's clothing was open as Lane had seen it in the
dream, and the same people were standing round and tend-
ing him. There was no performance at the theatre that night.

At the request of the Society for Psychical Research, Miss
Haygate, H. Carter Bligh, and S. Creagh Henry, members of
the caste, wrote out signed statements confirming that Lane
had told the dream to them in detail in the morning, when
neither he nor anyone else attached any serious importance to
it. These statements, with that of Lane himself, are included
in a full report of the case published in the Society 's Proceed-
ings, vol. xiv, 1898-9. 1

Telepathy from the murderer (who, by the way, was found
to be insane) , would not account for this dream, because the
deed was committedwhere the murderer obviously intended
to commit it outside the theatre, and he could not know that
his victim, on being carried inside, would have to be left at the
foot of the stairs.

The case well illustrates that it is the coming experience of
the percipient himself that is precognised, and not the event.
Lane did not foresee the crime. He dreamed a picture ("I saw
it like a tableau") of the scene at the foot of the stairs as it
would be presented to him, individually, in the future. His
dream did not even tell him that Terriss was wounded, let
alone that he would die. So far as the demonstration of Pre-

cognition is concerned Lane's dream could as well have re-
lated to some trivial matter, but then it would never have been
recorded, and even the dreamer himself might not have re-
membered his experience for long.

The too-ready assumption in all ages that experiences un-
der the head of Precognition must be intended as "warnings"
ol what is to come has prevented a detached judgment of
them. The records of mankind teem with legends and anec-
dotes of solemn premonitions given to kings and to every
grade of their subjects. These prophecies or premonitions
generally portended death or some great calamity.


France Olive Haygate, one of the witnesses of Lane’s dream account.

Taken from:


By W. H. W. SABINE, 1951

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