“Near-Death Experiences: Hopes of Heaven, Horrors of Hell, and Suspicious Scientists” #WeirdDarkness
We look at the cosmic riddle of life and death… and the place in-between… the near-death-experience… from the view of those who have personally gone through it, those around them when it happened, and the doctors and scientists trying to make sense of it.
Listen to ““Near-Death Experiences: Hopes of Heaven, Horrors of Hell, and Suspicious Scientists” #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
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SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
CHURCH OF THE UNDEAD: “What Will Heaven Be Like?”: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yn6xjcve
CHURCH OF THE UNDEAD: “Myths About Hell”: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4urz9av6
BOOK: “Independence Ave: How Individualism Killed Me and Community Brought Me Back” by Lauran Canaday:https://amzn.to/3TK21Da
BOOK: “There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” by Anthony Flew: https://amzn.to/41W9qkV
Lauran Canaday story: http://tinyurl.com/msmnd6yx; http://tinyurl.com/yc7f8bc5; http://tinyurl.com/2385zpes;http://tinyurl.com/2p8ef7c4; http://tinyurl.com/bdn9xjbn; http://tinyurl.com/yck5cn4t; http://tinyurl.com/mvekkjjr
“Ancient NDEs” by Blake Lynch for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3audrx8y
“The Seven Types of NDEs” by Fiona MacDonald for Science Alert: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ycyze3js
“Doctor Believes in Life After Death” by Kelly Burch for Insider: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5d79dkxz; and from Oddity Central: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/njbemyvb
“What It Was Like For These Undead” posted by Adan Matthews for DidYouKnowFacts and reposted at TheLineUp:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/39xwt8kp
“They Died And Saw Heaven” by Matt McWilliams for Church Creative Pros: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4xavwzw9
“They Died And Saw Hell” by Joe Harker for Unilad: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/23anjmau,https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p9758r4, and Katherine Ripley for Graveyard Shift: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yudk289p
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Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music provided by Alibi Music Library, EpidemicSound and/or StoryBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ) Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and Nicolas Gasparini (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission of the artists.
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OTHER PODCASTS I HOST…
Paranormality Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
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(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
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Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Death: it is the ultimate unknowable. Unless you die during surgery or in a car accident or a heart attack… and then are miraculously brought back to the land of the living. Whether or not these people were able to accurately remember being dead is debatable (seeing as forming memories is something only a living person and brain does – as far as we know), but they’ve died and lived to tell about it anyway. What do they see? How does it change them? What do scientists and doctors think about the phenomenon? What happens when you temporarily die?
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
To some, the idea of life after death is comforting. It gives them a sense of hope that they will be reunited with loved ones who have passed away. For others, the thought of an afterlife is scary and uncertain. But regardless of how we feel about it, the topic of life after death is one that fascinates us all. And those who have had a near-death-experience are about the closest we’ll ever get to finding an answer to that question – until we pass on ourselves. Tonight, we look at the cosmic riddle of life and death… and the place in-between… the near-death-experience… from the view of those who have personally gone through it, those around them when it happened, and the doctors and scientists trying to make sense of it.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: LAURAN CANADAY=====
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re standing at the very edge of life and death, teetering on the precipice of an eternal abyss. Your heart has fallen silent, your breath stolen by the cold hands of the reaper… and then, against all odds, you return. Lauran Canaday found herself in a place that transcends the veil between this world and whatever may lie beyond. This woman was dead for 24 minutes – but what did she see on the other side?
It was an ordinary day in Virginia, the kind where life’s little routines hummed along like clockwork, until the fabric of reality ripped apart for 39-year-old Lauran Canaday. A sudden cardiac arrest, a violent grand mal seizure, and then… stillness. Lauran’s world went dark as her heart ceased to beat, her breath stopped short, leaving her clinically dead on the floor of her own home. Her husband, panicked, rushed to her side, his hands desperately pressing against her chest in a rhythm of life or death.
EMTs battled against the clock, four defibrillator shocks, and 24 solemn minutes later, Lauran’s heartbeat stuttered back to life. But what of those minutes lost in the void? What did Lauran Canaday experience while the world believed her to be gone?
Tonight, we’re not just examining the medical anomaly that allowed Lauran to return with her cognitive faculties intact,. No, we’re here to explore the enigmatic journey she embarked upon. Lauran speaks of a profound peace, a dissolution into a friendly nothingness that has reshaped her existence. The memories of her time in that other place may be elusive, but the sensation of tranquility lingers, a haunting serenity that refuses to be forgotten.
What does it mean to cross over, if only for a fleeting moment? How does it change you? Lauran’s story is a tapestry woven with threads of mystery, human resilience, and the age-old question of what awaits us after our final breath. Her memoir, “Independence Ave: How Individualism Killed Me and Community Brought Me Back,” is not just a tale of survival; it’s a testament to the profound impact a brush with death can have on the living.
Lauran Canaday, a 39-year-old woman whose life was about to be forever altered, found herself in the most unexpected of circumstances. She was at home, a place where we all feel safe, a sanctuary from the chaos of the world outside. But within these walls, Lauran’s heart would cease to beat, her breath would falter, and for several minutes, she would be clinically dead.
Before her near-death-experience, at 39 years of age, she was a vibrant presence, known for her intellectual curiosity and the quiet strength that characterized her individualistic nature. Lauran was no stranger to challenges; she had been managing controlled epilepsy with medication for years, a testament to her resilience.
But nothing could have prepared her or her husband for the grand mal seizure that would suddenly overtake her—violent muscle contractions, loss of consciousness, and then, silence. Her last words were an expletive before collapsing, her husband rushing to her side, her body turning an asphyxiated shade of blue.
The call to 911 was made, the emergency call crackled through the dispatcher’s headset, a lifeline thrown across the airwaves. The dispatcher’s voice, calm yet commanding, guided Lauran’s husband in performing CPR until the paramedics arrived.
Law enforcement officers, often the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency, were en route, their sirens cutting through the stillness of the neighborhood. Upon arriving, they assessed the severity of Lauran’s condition, securing the scene for the EMTs who were close behind. It was a race against the clock, where every second could mean the difference between life and death.
Emergency medical technicians burst into the home, taking over the life-saving efforts with defibrillator shocks that shattered the air with their electricity.
Minutes felt like hours as Lauran’s husband and the paramedics fought to keep her alive. And as the clock ticked on, each second became a battle against a silent assailant. Time was the enemy, and with every passing minute, Lauran’s odds of survival dwindled. Every second was a battle against time, each compression a desperate plea for life to return.
The human brain, that intricate tapestry of thought and memory, begins to fray after just one minute without oxygen. By ten minutes, so many threads have unraveled that the picture it once held is likely lost. At fifteen, the possibility of restoration becomes a whisper, barely heard. Lauran’s tapestry, however, somehow, would not disintegrate that day. Lauran’s heart resumed its steady drum, her brain spared the fate that statistics grimly predict.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Hart, a renowned neurologist, “It’s fascinating and quite frankly, miraculous. The brain can only survive for a very limited period without oxygen. Lauran’s case is exceptional not just because she survived, but also because she did so without cognitive impairments. This suggests that there may be protective factors at play, possibly related to her previous medical history or the immediate CPR she received, which we don’t yet fully understand.”
At the hospital, Lauran was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, her condition precarious.
The involvement of law enforcement didn’t end with Lauran’s resuscitation. The investigative process that followed was meticulous. Officers documented the scene, collected statements, and ensured that Lauran received the medical attention she urgently needed. They collaborated with medical personnel to unravel the mystery—what had caused a seemingly healthy woman to collapse so suddenly?
The breakthrough came when Lauran’s medical team, deep within the sanitized walls of the ICU, discovered an unwelcome intruder—COVID-19. The virus, a global marauder of bodies and lives, had infiltrated Lauran’s heart. A diagnosis of myocarditis followed—her heart, inflamed and struggling. This revelation provided a crucial piece of the puzzle, aligning with emerging research that connected the virus to increased instances of sudden cardiac arrest.
It’s a harrowing thought, isn’t it? To be on the precipice of the unknown, to stand at the threshold between this life and whatever may—or may not—await us. Lauran’s experience in the ICU, her testing positive for COVID-19, and the diagnosis of myocarditis paint a picture of a medical anomaly, a case that, by all accounts, could have… should have… ended in tragedy.
The most unexpected twist is the Lazarus effect, a rare phenomenon where patients declared dead suddenly show signs of life. Canaday’s story begs the question: was it a medical wonder or something else? Her case, as documented by the New York Post, is fascinating because of the rarity of such recoveries.
Lauran’s recovery in the ICU was nothing short of miraculous. After nine days, she emerged, declared cognitively intact, despite the odds stacked against her. Her memory, however, bore the scars of her ordeal. The week leading up to her collapse was lost to her, the time in the ICU a foggy haze punctuated by frustration and confusion. Her short-term memory scattered like leaves in the wind, her understanding of her own existence blurred and uncertain.
What are we to make of this? Is it merely the brain’s last defense against the encroaching darkness, or could it be a glimpse into something more?
Either way, against all odds, Lauran was discharged from the hospital just nine days after being admitted, a walking miracle, cognitively intact, with no visible brain damage.
But what lies beyond that veil of death? What did Lauran see, feel, or experience while she was gone for those 24 minutes? The answers are not as clear-cut as one might expect. As Lauran emerged from the shadows of death’s domain, her experience remained shrouded in mystery. No memories or visions to report, only a profound sense of peace that had embraced her in those lost minutes. Law enforcement and medical teams marveled at her cognitive resilience, her mind unscathed by the ordeal that would have left many others in darkness.
Lauran herself describes a friendly and welcoming dissolution into something beyond our understanding. No shapes, no visions, just an overwhelming serenity that stayed with her, even as she awoke.
Yet, it wasn’t just the absence of damage that astounded everyone—it was Lauran’s transformation. A shift in perspective, a newfound appreciation for life’s simplicities. Her second chance at life wasn’t just a continuation; it was a rebirth.
Dr. Michael Freeman is a criminologist who has an interest in near-death experiences. He spoke of Lauran’s case, saying, “The psychological and sociological implications are vast. Near-death experiences often lead to transformative personal narratives that can alter behavior and societal contributions. In Lauran’s case, her shift from individualism to a community-focused mindset exemplifies this. It’s pertinent to understand these experiences not as anomalies, but as potential catalysts for change in both the individual and their wider community.”
“I remember feeling so frustrated,” Lauran says, “I couldn’t grasp what had happened to me. But then, these small moments… taking a shower, eating, they were like… little islands of happiness in a sea of confusion.”
She speaks of a second life, a new perspective where the trivialities of status and success have faded into insignificance. She finds profound joy in simplicity—a cheeseburger, a hike, the act of walking 10,000 steps. And through her memoir, “Independence Ave: How Individualism Killed Me and Community Brought Me Back,” (which I’ll link to in the episode description) she advocates for a life rooted in connection and care for others.
Lauran’s story is not just a tale of survival against the odds. It’s a reminder that life can change in the span of a single heartbeat, that every moment is a gift, and that sometimes, the greatest wisdom is found in the aftermath of our darkest trials.
Lauran Canaday is only one of the most recent stories of someone experiencing an NDE – and coming up, we’ll look at a few other cases that span over the years… over hundreds and even thousands of years… when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: ANCIENT NDES=====
Near-death experiences (NDEs) are complex events that modern science still cannot quite understand. They’re routinely described as events triggered in response to life-threatening stimuli in which a person seems to be awake and notice their body and the world outside of the physical body. Sometimes, NDEs result when a person has already been declared clinically dead but ends up surviving and continuing their physical life. While the term “near-death experiences” or “NDE’s” is fairly recent – the phenomenon of someone rising back to life from being dead – and reporting what happened during their brief demise – has been with us almost from the beginning.
There’s a 13-question Greyson NDE scale to assess whether a person had a near-death-experience. The scale measures things like whether past scenes came back to the person, if the individual saw a bright light, if the person saw some unearthly world, felt separate from their body, and saw deceased or religious spirits. Scientific researchers, however, have suggested that these events result from multisensory integration in the cortex. While NDEs might sound like new experiences, they date back to the earliest recorded history. While 21st-century researchers like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Raymond Moody helped to provide a modern representation and account of these events, NDE origins go back to much earlier. Spanish and French cave paintings have been found depicting these events. Historical tales are full of these tales too. Everyone from the average person to landmark historical figures like Thomas Edison, Carl Jung, and Ernest Hemingway has also described these events. It’s interesting and enlightening to consider a few of the earliest and most notable accounts of NDEs, each of which dates before the 18th century.
***Er – around 375 BC: Er’s story is told in Plato’s Republic and is about a soldier who experiences an NDE. Er died during a battle, where he afterward went to a place with doors: two into the sky and two into the earth. Judges decided the path that each soul should follow based on the type of life they’d led on Earth. Good souls went to the sky, while bad souls returned to the earth. Souls returned from the sky filled with positive feelings, while souls returned from the earth talked about the misery and punishments they faced. The worst souls (murderers and criminals) could not exit the earth. Er was informed he would not be judged and instead was there to describe things to mankind. Several days later, Er was led to the Spindle of Necessity. At the Spindle, souls receive a lottery name, and after choosing their next lives, the souls were transported under the throne of Necessity to the River Lethe (Forgetfulness). The soldiers were then told to drink something to forget their previous lives. After each soul fell asleep, they went to new bodies. Er skipped this step so he could remember the process. When Er woke, he was in his old body on a funeral pyre with fellow soldiers. Fortunately, Er was saved.
***Cleodemus (200 BC): In Lucian’s book The Liar, he tells of Cleodemus. After falling gravely ill and being attended by Antigonus, Cleodemus grew further sick. Finally, after having a fever for seven days, Cleodemus had an NDE. Cleodemus woke to find a ghostly young man in a white cloak. The young man led Cleodemus to a place that looked like Hades (the Underworld). Cleodemus described seeing Tantalus (a rich but wicked king), Tityus (a giant chained to a rock), and Sisyphus (a king forced to roll a boulder up a hill forever). He was then led to the Judgment Hall, where he met with Aecus (a king of Justice) and Charon (the ferryman of Hades). Hades (the God of the Underworld) then arrived and read the names of the people due to die. Pluto told Cleodemus to get away because his thread was not yet out. Instead, Pluto really wanted a blacksmith named Demylus instead. When Cleodemus awoke, his fever was gone, while Demylus passed away shortly after.
***Prince Gad (AD 20–46): The “Acts of Thomas” is an early 3rd-century New Testament text. The following potentially apocryphal tale (based on your view of the Bible) concerns Thomas, the Christian “apostle to India,” and the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares. One section of the “Acts” sees a visit to India where King Gondophares I’s brother, Gad, fell sick. After the King imprisons Thomas and the merchant Habban, Gad dies. Gad goes to heaven and notices that Thomas has constructed the king a palace in heaven. The angels then let Gad go. While the angels were placing clothing back on Gad, his soul entered his body. Gad then revived. This leads to both the king and Gad converting to Christianity and celebrating the Eucharist with Thomas and others.
***Timarchus of Chaeronea (AD 46–119): Timarchus was a young student of Socrates, whose story Plutarch narrated to Simmias of Thebes, another Socrates follower. Timarchus’s story was prompted by isolation when he wandered into a crypt for two nights and days. By this time, most had given up hope on Timarchus, and his loved ones lamented his death. When Timarchus left the crypt, he told an NDE story. First, he experienced darkness, prayed, then lay for a long time, unaware of if he was awake or dreaming. Then, he was struck on the head, and he claimed his soul was released. Soon after, he began to experience auditory buzzing and other noises. Timarchus also said he saw the Underworld by looking down a great abyss, from which he heard the roars of animals and humans. A disembodied guide-like figure greeted Timarchus and asked if he wanted to see his relatives. Timarchus was also given a glimpse into the future. Timarchus recovered from his experience and noticed he was lying on the crypt floor, where he had first laid down.
***A Roman Shepherd (252–260/264): During a period of pestilence in Rome, a shepherd of the emperor Valerian became infected with the plague. After all the man’s loved ones viewed him as dead, the man had an NDE. The shepherd recalled being taken to heaven, where he was given the names of everyone who would die at the house of Valerian. The Shepherd noted, though, that Valerian was to survive. To convince Valerian about the truth in his encounter, the shepherd spoke foreign languages, which he previously did not know, including Greek. The shepherd claimed to gain this knowledge while he was having his NDE. Unfortunately, two days later, the shepherd passed away. Eventually, everyone named by the shepherd also died from the plague, but not Valerian.
***Curma (circa 354–430): Saint Augustine (Aurelius Augustinas Hipponensis) was a Latin philosopher and theologist from the Roman Empire’s Africa Province. His book Caring for the Dead addresses burial practices, the prayers of saints, and prayers for the dead as well as gives the Vatican instructions on burial. It also includes a notable near-death experience. Curma the official was a man in the town of Tullium, close to the town of Hippo in Algeria. A poor member of the working class, Curma became ill and lay unconscious and nearly dead for several days. Curma then felt slight breathing from his nostrils, suggesting he was still alive. In his visions, Curma saw other people he knew while he was alive and the dead being treated with merit based on their acts during life. He also told how he had gone into paradise. After his release from there, he was told to return to his family and be baptized if he wanted to go to heaven. When he rose from his sickness, Curma requested someone go to the house of the ironworker named Curma. When someone went there, it was discovered the man had died. Curma told how this other man had been required to surrender himself because it was Curma the ironsmith and not Curma the official who was to die.
***Thespesius (563–568): Plutarch told the story of Aridaeus of Soli, who experienced a fall from a great height and landed on his neck. Aridaeus then passed away. On the third day, he was carried away to be buried when he suddenly recovered. Aridaeus’s narrative revealed how he died and experienced his spirit body exit his physical body through his head. He also described a new ability to view all directions at once easily and quickly. He was then shown how the afterlife operated before he was revived. Aridaeus fully transformed both himself and his lifestyle after his recovery. These changes included becoming purer of heart and more supportive of his community. He also changed his name to Thespesius, which means divine or wonderful.
***Venerable Nichizo (941 AD): The Japanese monk, Nichizo’s trip to heaven and hell was depicted in the 13th-century Origins of Kitano Tenjin Shrine, as well as other manuscripts. One day in 941, he began to experience a high temperature followed by the closing and swelling of his throat, tongue, and windpipe. Unable to speak or call for help, he wept and fought for his breath. Soon afterward, he died. The first thing Nichizo encountered in his NDE was a monk who brought him a drink of mountain waters. Then, various youths brought Nichizo more food and water. The deity Bodhisattva Zaogongen then appeared on top of a boulder as a simple monk and led him to the mountain tops, where a pure land existed. The monk told Nichizo that he was a peacock in his previous life and requested he follow the Bodhisattva Protector of Law. The Prime Minister Dignified Moral God then appeared from the skies and invited Nichizo to visit his palace, which was on an island. Nichizo was then given a tour of heaven and hell. The NDE ends with Nichizo crawling into a hole to be reborn. When Nichizo awoke, thirteen days had passed.
***Saint Christina the Astonishing (late 1100s AD): Saint Christina lived in the 12th century and into the 13th century. In her early 20s, while working as a shepherd, Christina experienced a seizure. She woke to find herself on the ground. She was soon pronounced dead, and a funeral was held. In the middle of the funeral, Christina awoke. She started levitating and even ascended to the roof. When the levitating stopped, Christina explained she had died. Her soul had left her body, and she was granted a glimpse of purgatory. God gave her a choice to either stay alive or ascend to heaven. Compassionate for those suffering, Christina returned to earth to do penance. She was soon returned to life. From those days forth, Christina lived a life of poverty and avoided human contact. She even threw herself into fires and stayed there for long periods, as well as allowed herself to be attacked by dogs. Strangely, she always emerged unharmed. Concerns that Christina was demon-possessed were taken so seriously that she was jailed twice, but only briefly. After her second release, Christina joined a Dominican monastery, where she lived until the age of 74.
***Pierre-Jean du Monchaux’s Patient (1740 AD): More recent than the other ancient cases I’ve covered, this one marks the first time that a physician recorded an NDE. The report was authored by Pierre-Jean du Monchaux, a physician from Northern France, who described a case of near-death experience. The patient was a well-known pharmacist in Paris who fell unconscious. Monchaux’s staff was worried the man would not awake. During his NDE, the man then experienced a light so bright and pure that he believed he was in heaven. The pharmacist also recalled never having a nicer moment in his life. Ever the doctor looking for rational explanations, Monchaux stated that too much blood flow to the brain may very well explain the accompanying mystical feelings.
STORY: THE SEVEN TYPES OF NDES=====
Depending on your beliefs, the experience of death hovers over our lives like an unknowable but inevitable void. Aside from the well-cited ‘bright-light at the end of the tunnel’ cliché, we have no idea what it’s going to look or feel like, but we know for sure that we’re all eventually going to find out.
One person who has a better idea than most is Sam Parnia, the director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in the US, who has conducted the largest study to date on resuscitated patients in an attempt to try to unravel the mental and cognitive experience of dying. As part of his research, he’s interviewed more than 100 people who’ve been brought back to life after suffering from a fatal cardiac arrest, and found that nearly half of them have some memory, ranging from terrifying to blissful, of their death.
Publishing in the journal Resuscitation, Parnia has grouped those memories into seven broad categories, proving that dying is a far more diverse experience than we’ve previously imagined. These categories are:
* Seeing animals or plants
* Bright light
* Violence and persecution
* Recalling events post-cardiac arrest
That last one is pretty fascinating, with two of the patients interviewed able to recall the events that happened after they had technically died and, according to our understanding of the human brain, should have ceased to be aware.
“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating, but in this case conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds after the heart has stopped,” Parnia told The National Post in 2014.
However, these recall experiences only occurred in 2 percent of patients, and the majority of people remembered seeing and feeling things that weren’t real at the time of their death.
“I was terrified. I was told I was going to die and the quickest way was to say the last short word I could remember,” said one patient. Another explained that it felt like “being dragged through deep water with a big ring and I hate swimming – it was horrid”.
But it’s not all bad news: 22 percent of patients had a pleasant experience, seeing plants and animals, their family, or simply feeling a warm light before the end.
In 2015, a reddit thread probed the experience of death, asking those who have technically died to report back on what it REALLY felt like. Obviously the responses are unverified (thus unscientific), but they back up Parnia’s conclusion that the experience is incredibly diverse.
Adam Withnall over at The Independent has written a fantastic review of the responses, but overall, he finds that they can be broadly grouped into three categories. “There are those who felt nothing at all; those who had an experience of light and some interaction with another person/being; and those who felt they could watch what was happening while they were ‘dead’ without being able to do anything,” he writes. Here is just a small sample of the more than 700 comments on the thread:
* I was getting an angiogram done, wide awake watching the screen and talking to the doctor. Alarms started to go off and everyone became panicked. My world became soft and foggy and everything faded to black. Next thing I remember was opening my eyes and hearing a Dr ay “we got him back”. It was really a peaceful feeling more than anything.”
* “I collapsed at a work meeting in February 2014 and had no pulse or cardiac rhythm for about five minutes. My last memory was from about an hour prior to the incident, and my next memory was from two days later, when I emerged from a medically-induced coma.”
* Pure, perfect, uninterrupted sleep, no dreams.”
* “I do remember a little bit of the ambulance ride, but not from my own body. It was seriously the strangest thing I have ever experienced. It could have been a dream, but I saw my own unconscious body, completely flatlined, in the ambulance. I remember the EMT who was in the ambulance with me (whom I did not see before I passed out) had mint green hair and I couldn’t remember his name, but I asked for him when I regained consciousness about three days later.”
* “I was standing in front of a giant wall of light. It stretched up, down, left and right as far as I could see. Kind of like putting your eyes 6″ from a fluorescent lightbulb. The next memory I have is waking up in the hospital.”
* “I saw nothingness. Black, long empty, but I had a feeling like everything was great and nothing was wrong at all. Imagine how preexistence felt, much the same as post existence.”
We’ll hear from a few more people who had their own NDEs a bit later. Parnia hopes his research opens the door for further research into near-death experiences, and will also encourage people think about the end of our lives in a more scientific way, and taking death out of the realm of religion or superstition. “Anyone with a relatively objective mind will agree that this is something that should be investigated further,” Parnia told BBC Future. “We have the means and the technology. Now it’s time to do it,” he said.
Is it really “superstition” or “religion”, as Dr. Parnia describes it, if there truly is something beyond death and we just don’t understand it yet? Another doctor has studied nearly 5,000 near-death experiences… and he is convinced there truly is something after this world. We’ll hear what he has to say up next.
STORY: DOCTOR BELIEVES IN LIFE AFTER DEATH=====
Jeffrey Long was an oncology resident when he first came across an article describing a near-death experience. He was studying how to best treat cancer using radiation at a library when he came across this fascinating case that ended up changing his life. Up to that point, he had been taught that people were either alive or dead, but here was this cardiologist describing the incredible experience of a patient who had died and then came back to life. Long was eager to learn more about near-death experiences or NDEs, and he became so obsessed with them that after his residency he founded the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation, and he has since collected and studied thousands of NDEs. His conclusion – there is definitely life after death.
Here is the story in his own words, from essay printed in Insider Magazine based on an interview with Dr. Jeffrey Long.
***Thirty-seven years ago I was an oncologist resident, learning about how best to treat cancer using radiation. These were the pre-internet days, so I did my research in the library. One day, I was flipping through a large volume of the Journal of the American Medical Association when I came across an article describing near-death experiences.
It stopped me in my tracks. All my medical training told me you were either alive or dead. There was no in-between. But suddenly, I was reading from a cardiologist describing patients who had died and then came back to life, reporting very distinct, almost unbelievable experiences.
From that moment, I was fascinated with near-death experiences or NDEs. I define a near-death experience as someone who is either comatose or clinically dead, without a heartbeat, having a lucid experience where they see, hear, feel emotions, and interact with other beings. Learning more about these experiences has fundamentally changed my view of the universe.
When I finished my residency, I started the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. I started collecting stories from people who had NDEs and evaluating them with the mind of a scientist and doctor. I made opinions based on evidence and came into this as a skeptic. But in the face of overwhelming evidence, I’ve come to believe there’s certainly an afterlife.
No two NDEs are the same. But as I studied thousands of them, I saw a consistent pattern of events emerging in a predictable order. About 45% of people who have an NDE report an out-of-body experience. When this happens, their consciousness separates from their physical body, usually hovering above the body. The person can see and hear what’s happening around them, which usually includes frantic attempts to revive them. One woman even reporteda doctor throwing a tool on the floor when he picked up the wrong one—something the doctor later confirmed.
After the out-of-body experience, people say they’re transported into another realm. Many pass through a tunnel and experience a bright light. Then, they’re greeted by deceased loved ones, including pets, who are in the prime of their lives. Most people report an overwhelming sense of love and peace. They feel like this other realm is their real home.
These experiences may sound cliché: the bright light, the tunnel, the loved ones. But over twenty-five years of studying NDEs, I’ve come to believe that these descriptions have become cultural tropes because they’re true. I even worked with a group of children under five who had NDEs. They reported the same experiences that adults did—and at that age, you’re unlikely to have heard about bright lights or tunnels after you die.
Other people report seemingly unbelievable events, which we can later confirm. One woman lost consciousness while riding her horse on a trail. Her body stayed on the trail while her consciousness traveled with her horse as he galloped back to the barn. Later, she was able to describe exactly what happened at the barn because she had seen it despite her body not being there. Others who hadn’t spoken to her confirmed her account.
I’m a medical doctor. I’ve read brain research and considered every possible explanation for NDEs. The bottom line is that none of them hold water. There isn’t even a remotely plausible physical explanation for this phenomenon.
I take a particular definition for NDEs. The person must be unconscious. But there’s another type of phenomenon that fascinates me too: what I call “fear-death experiences.”
These are situations when you feel your life is in imminent danger. It might be a near-miss car accident or a sudden fall. These people generally don’t experience the tunnel and light, but they often report their life “flashing before their eyes.”
While some people with NDEs report these life reviews, they’re more common with fear-death experiences. People even recall events from toddlerhood that they can’t consciously remember but that we can later confirm by talking with family members and others.
While I’m passionate about NDEs, my day job still revolves around helping patients fight cancer. I don’t tell my patients about my NDE research. And yet, my work with NDEs has made me a more compassionate and loving doctor.
I’m able to help my patients face life-threatening diseases with increased courage and passion. My goal is to help them have more healthy days here on Earth. But I firmly believe that if and when they pass, they will be at peace.***
STORY: WHAT IT WAS LIKE FOR THESE UNDEAD=====
Although every one of the over 4,800 near-death experiences he has studied over the last three and a half decades is different, many of them share certain patterns. For example, about 45% of people who have a near-death experience also have an out-of-body experience, which can be described as ‘their consciousness separating from their physical body, usually hovering above’. Here are a few more stories from those who have actually lived to tell what they experienced during that brief time they were no longer on this mortal realm. I’ve cleaned them up a bit to make them a bit more palatable for sensitive ears.
* r/monitormonkey died during surgery and “flipped through a book of snippets” from her life. *** “I always get nervous about having surgery, but this time I knew something was going to go wrong. It sounds silly but I felt so strongly about it that I wrote a will and left it on my dresser just in case. Anyway, things go wrong during the surgery and I start to bleed out. Things went even further south and then my heart stopped beating. I found out later that I was dead for several minutes. Now I don’t know if this was real or a hallucination or a mixture of the two. I woke up in what looked like space but there wasn’t any stars or light. I wasn’t floating so to speak, I was just there. I wasn’t hot/cold, hungry, tired, just a peaceful neutral kind of thing. I knew there was light and love somewhere nearby but I had no urge or need to go to it right away. I remember thinking over my life, but it wasn’t like a montage. More like I was idly flipping through a book and snippets stood out here and there.
I don’t remember making a decision to stay or go back, I just woke up in the ICU two days later. Whatever it was, it changed my thoughts on a few things. I am still afraid to die, but I’m not worried about what happens after that.”
* r/TheDeadManWalks was 15 years old when he was afflicted with sepsis and an infected colon while undergoing chemo. His body began hemorrhaging blood and he was rushed to a hospital where he “slipped in and out of life.” He beautifully relates his near-death experience to hitting a snooze alarm on life. *** “The worst part of it all, looking back, is how peaceful it can seem. When I started vomiting blood, I went into shock. Hitting the wall to get my mum’s attention was a subconscious thing, the rest of me just … stopped caring. When the doctors were trying to save my life, I just wanted to black out again. I didn’t want the lights to hurt my eyes and the doctors to hurt the rest of me any more, the unconsciousness seemed easier. And that’s how it felt when I was in the ICU for a few weeks after that, doped up on ketamine and slipping in and out of life. Being asleep was easy, being awake meant more pain and less dignity. So if you want to know what it’s like to be that close to death, it’s tempting. It’s like wanting to hit the snooze button on your alarm at 7:00 A.M. And maybe you do hit it once or twice but then you remember that you have work or school and that sleep can wait because you’ve still got (stuff) to do.”
* r/Schneidah7 (temporarily) died from a motorcycle accident, and gives hope to anyone who wants to see their loved ones again. *** “I passed out while cruising along at about 50mph (they still have no concrete idea why I passed out) and I was thrown into a light pole. I only have two clear memories of that event. The first is being upside down and wondering idly why the opposite road was passing by inverted. The second is hitting the pole and stopping. It hurt, a lot. I cannot accurately describe how badly that hurt but suffice it to say I’m a person with a high pain tolerance to begin with and if I had been in my right state of mind I would have wept like a child. I just remember being on the pavement and things slowly going black and quiet, which honestly was a relief because it made the pain feel more distant instead of the crushing immediacy it had before. The only reason I didn’t fall asleep was a bizarre moment where I heard someone yelling “Ranger up you candy (pansy)! Come on man, get up. Get up. GET UP!” and then someone slapping my helmet (which was basically smushed really hard onto my head; the faceplate was bent up into my face and a good chunk was more or less shaved off). When I opened my eyes I saw my brother squatting on the pavement next me to. This was odd because my brother has been dead from an OD for several years. I couldn’t really gather the presence of mind to speak so I just looked at him.”
* r/TheBawlrus went into renal failure, and relates his brush with death to being powered down. *** “It was like turning off a TV. One second things were working and the next I’m waking up surrounded by doctors and nurses with my feet in the air and a unit of blood being shot into me at high speed. ‘Heeeyyyyy budddyyyy … how ya feeling? We uh … lost you for a minute there’.”
* r/CDC tells us how things could have gone in the movie My Girl if only Macauly Culkin had lived around the corner from a hospital and they were able to bring him back to life. *** “I got stung by a… nest of wasps right next door to my home. They stung me all over my head, neck, behind my ears. Thirty nine stings the doctor counted. It was insane. I ran away as fast as I could, the nest was on the door of a garage I had just come out of and bumped. I got home and was like… ok… I’m ok. I’m cool. Told my mom I got stung by some bees but I thought I was ok. She didn’t seem too worried. I decided to go take a shower. I began feeling dizzy and my back started hurting. I quickly turned the shower off and got my clothes on and began feeling dizzier and dizzier. Then when I came out of the bathroom my mom looked at me and had a look of horror. Told me to get in the car immediately. My face and head had swollen hugely. We lived just around the corner from the hospital, so she just drove me. Between my house and the hospital I started losing consciousness. Everything I saw had a yellowy tinge and I suddenly felt very heavy and tired. My breathing got very labored, but I sort of of didn’t care. I felt like I was slipping away into sleep. You know old TVs, when they were turned off the screen would be basically engulfed in black and the light shrank down into a pinpoint before disappearing? My vision slowly started feeling like it was doing that. I remember arriving at the hospital and they didn’t even bother with registration, they threw my butt onto a gurney and started pushing me back. As I was going back I remember closing my eyes and thinking ‘I guess whatever happens …’ And then nothing. Just like going to sleep when you’re SUPER exhausted. I felt kind of peaceful and wasn’t really thinking about anything much at all and the lights just went out. Some minutes later I opened my eyes and a very large man was staring at me, smiling and said ‘Well bad news, you’re gonna feel completely fine within a couple of hours, you probably won’t even get out of going to school tomorrow.’ He was right.”
* r/Axesta died a little bit as a result of sepsis from a dentist’s tools. *** “Once arrived at the hospital I was put on the most uncomfortable bed ever and drifted off. I couldn’t stay awake. That’s when I saw nurses and doctors around me injecting me with things and shouting. I remember thinking that it must be serious if a doctor was shouting, as they usually don’t show panic. I was lucid enough to laugh internally thinking ‘Wow.. I must be really sick if I don’t even freak out over all of these injections’ and then it happened, I saw my mom crying and I thought ‘Oh crap.. this must be for real.’ As soon as I thought that, I fell asleep. I say asleep, but I died for exactly two minutes. It really feels like falling asleep, but … for me it was beyond peaceful. It felt like you didn’t really have to worry about anything anymore and obviously in my case–I didn’t feel sick anymore. As someone that was once suicidal–this was actually a horribly dangerous feeling as for the first time I got confirmation that dying wasn’t all that scary. I woke up seven days later in the hospital. It took me another seven to start eating and they told me that I more than likely got sepsis from infected tools at the dentist. The scariest part was after that happened–I no longer feared dying. So I consciously try to pull myself out of a depression whenever I feel it coming. But–for whoever is scared that their loved one felt pain in death, I can honestly say–it’s a very peaceful feeling.” And another note for everyone who is using this as an excuse to never go to the dentist, he adds: “I had chosen an out-of-home dentist with a very small practice that wasn’t charging me a lot. I never checked reviews because I’m a cheapskate. Don’t let this scare you! I’ve had dental work since and it all went swimmingly!”
* r/deag_bullet got a teensy bit killed in a car accident, but is at a loss for how to interpret his experience. *** “I was in a serious car accident (hit by a drunk driver) a week before my high school graduation. Without going into all the gory details, I lost so much blood that they declared me dead. Although I do not remember much, between the rescue workers extracting me from my car and a tree and waking up three weeks later, I do remember feeling very warm and seeing lights. I’ve always believed it was due to medications and moving between areas with different lighting, but I’m open to otherworldly suggestions.”
* r/z91x almost drank himself to a peaceful death. *** “When I was 14 and at a party, I drank way too much. (I was sort of an alcoholic even at that age, due to easy access to alcohol at the time. Also a family full of alcoholics who didn’t care.) Woke up on the bathroom floor vomiting my guts out, in and out of consciousness. I could faintly hear my brother in the background, calling for an ambulance. Woke up in a hospital bed where the doctor said I had been dead for two minutes, but they managed to revive me. My BAC was 0.56. In my experience, being dead was like being asleep. Absolutely no difference. No flashbacks, no afterlife that I could recall … It was exactly like sleeping. Very peaceful.” Fortunately, this redditor is now finally sober.
* r/SonOfDavor was a five-year-old who almost drowned in a pool and now sees shimmering visions. *** “Well, nothing official and I hope this is okay, mostly for the head trip it occasionally gives me: I almost drowned in a pool when I was 5. I remember looking up and seeing my mother dismissing the lifeguard because I was ‘only playing’ and his legs starting to break through the water because he knew better, before I began blacking out. There was nothing between that moment and throwing up water after he pulled me out of the pool. Though I can remember with absolute clarity how the water made everything shimmer as I was looking up, and sometimes I see that swimming shimmer as I’m walking around outside or if the light is really bright. And I can’t help but wonder in those moments if my entire life, all my failures, successes, falling in love with a woman and having two children with her, the love of my life cheating on me, if everything for the last 30 years is just all inside my head during the last few moments before I die, still in that pool.”
* r/MinusThelela flat-lined for ten whole minutes in the ER and doesn’t want to die again. *** “I was 16 years old and encountered tachycardia for the first time. Went to the ER with my mom, not really thinking it was a big deal (hardly any symptoms aside from high heart rate). I didn’t realize how intense the situation was until two cardiologists and several nurses rushed me to what looked like an operating room of sorts. Again, I didn’t really know the full extent of what was happening, I felt pretty normal and never had a history of heart issues up until then. However, my mom worked in the medical field for several decades and I could see the utter fear and concern on her face. Fast forward to the doctors trying to slow my heart down but couldn’t. Last resort is some drug that essentially stops your heart and resets it at a normal beat. Right as they’re giving me the drug, they warn me I might feel a heavy weight on my chest. What an… understatement. Felt like someone was bit by bit, squeezing all the air and life out of me. Eventually the room went black and a feeling of peace came over me, like I was going to sleep. I didn’t see anything good or bad, just emptiness. When I awoke, I assumed only a few seconds had passed. Instead, the drug caused my heart to stop for 10 minutes or so and the doctors were trying to revive me, assuming I was dead given the flat line. I’m 27 now and two years ago I had a second episode happen. Luckily, when they gave me the drug I didn’t pass out, yet I was forcing myself to stay awake, I didn’t want to die again.
* r/HoboJesse wrote in with another dental scenario. This is why no one wants to get their teeth checked, people! *** “Two months ago I was OD’d on anesthesia in an oral surgeon’s office. Coded in the ER and was dead for under a minute, but it counts. Between me going out and me waking up in the ICU there is nothing. No black void, lost loved ones, messages from the other side. Nothing. Processing it since then, I don’t know if there’s nothingness is comforting or terrifying.”
* r/7Stories died at seven years old during surgery, and it gave him an incredibly bleak view of death. *** “When I was a kid I needed eye surgery a few times. The last time I, at seven, told the doctor I couldn’t do it today because my asthma was acting up. The doctor ignored me and put under anesthesia regardless. I had an attack, as I knew I would, while under anesthesia and my heart stopped. I remember the anger at the doctor, and then feeling something soft on my hands upon waking up with absolutely nothing in between. I was blind when I woke up and don’t remember when I regained the sight, maybe a day or two later. It may have also been really thick bandages with my eyes closed, I just remember not being able to see anything thus I latched onto the stuffie my sister or mom handed me. It was like waking up from a deep sleep, the kind you get after a hard day at work in a nice comfy room. One moment you’re just awake like someone pressed the start button on the controller that is your mind and body. So, it doesn’t hurt. The heart stopping must’ve hurt and the asthma attack, but actual death is painless. It isn’t scary, though like all humans I do fear it. It also isn’t some magical experience … you’re just sleeping, except sometimes you can wake up from it, like I did, and sometimes you can’t, like my daddy who died when I was a child. It is sad though cause it’s nothing … life is smelly and loud and busy and interesting and fun and colorful and death, death is absolute nothingness.”
* r/CalgaryKid who was surrounded by his regrets during their visit to the afterlife. *** “It was a really bad car accident where I went through the windshield and became trapped between the two vehicles. I was fading in and out and heard the scene get more and more chaotic as EMT’s and cops showed up. Then everything started sounding far away and I felt like I was disappearing. Then I had this montage of regrets (really cliche I know) blast through my mind, right down to not wearing a seatbelt that night. Probably hundreds but only a few really stick out now. Then I ‘woke up’ in the ambulance. Kind of a turning point for me.”
You might’ve noticed that none of those recollections of returning-from-the-dead saw either heaven or hell. No God… no devil. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of those who have had those experiences – up next!
STORY: THEY DIED AND SAW HEAVEN=====
People have always been interested in what happens after death. It’s a natural curiosity that we all share. And there are many different ways to explore the topic. Some people turn to religion and church for answers, while others look to science or philosophy. There are also those who simply believe that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience here on Earth. There are many different theories about life after death, and it’s a topic that has been debated for centuries. Some believe that we simply cease to exist when we die, while others think that our souls go on to another realm. There is no way to know for sure what happens after death, but that doesn’t stop people from wondering about it. However, there are some who have died and have claimed to go to Heaven and lived afterward to talk about it!
Medical emergencies happen every day, and sometimes people don’t make it. But thanks to the quick thinking and skilled hands of medical professionals, many people who would have died are brought back to life. It’s nothing short of a miracle, but it happens more often than you might think. Here are just a few examples of people who have been pulled back from the brink of death:
In 2008, construction worker Tomas Ortiz was working on a scaffold when it collapsed, sending him plunging 30 feet to the ground. He suffered severe internal bleeding and went into cardiac arrest. Ortiz was rushed to the hospital, where doctors worked tirelessly to save his life. Amazingly, they were successful, and Ortiz made a full recovery.
In 2014, a young girl named Abby was playing on a trampoline when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. Her mother, a nurse, immediately began CPR while her father called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they used a defibrillator to shock Abby’s heart back into rhythm. She was then taken to the hospital, where she made a full recovery.
These are just two of the many stories of people who have been brought back from the brink of death. There are many more, and some of these stories come with more than just a miracle–they come with a visual.
There are people who have died and been given a glimpse of Heaven before being brought back to life. It sounds like a fantastic thought in the midst of a scary situation. Take a look at some of the more well-known stories where this happened.
***Maria Hansen was a young woman from Denmark who died in a car accident in 2008. She was pronounced dead at the scene, but was revived in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and later recovered fully from her injuries. In an interview with a localnewspaper, she recalled seeing a bright light and feeling a sense of peace while she was “dead.” She also said that she saw her deceased grandfather during her time in Heaven, and that he told her she had to go back because it wasn’t her time yet.
***Colton Burpo is a young boy from Nebraska who underwent emergency surgery to remove a ruptured appendix in 2003. During his surgery, he claims to have died and gone to heaven. He says he saw Jesus, as well as his grandfather who had died several years earlier. Colton’s story was later made into a best-selling book, Heaven Is For Real, which was also turned into a major motion picture. Todd Burpo is Colton’s father, and a pastor in Nebraska. He has written about his son’s experience in heaven in the book Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. In the book, he describes how Colton’s surgery took a turn for the worse and how he was revived after being without oxygen for nearly four minutes. Todd says that his son’s experience has changed his own life and that he now knows for sure that heaven is real.
***Katie Wise was in a horrific car accident in 2010 that left her with multiple injuries, including a broken neck. She was pronounced dead at the scene but was revived in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Katie later said that she saw Jesus during her time “dead,” and that He told her she had to go back because her work on earth wasn’t done yet. Katie has since made a full recovery from her injuries and is now an outspoken advocate for Jesus Christ and how we should praise him.
***David Bennet was a young man from Australia who died of a drug overdose in 1992. He was revived by paramedics after being without oxygen for nearly 20 minutes. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Bennett said that he saw a “being of light” during his time “dead,” and that this being told him he had to go back because his work on earth wasn’t done yet. Bennett has since turned his life around and is now an ordained minister.
***Don Piper was a pastor from Texas who was killed in a car accident in 1989. He was pronounced dead at the scene but was revived in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Piper says he saw heaven during his time “dead,” and that he was met by his deceased father and other family members. He also says he heard angels singing and saw the glory of God. After coming back to life, Piper wrote a best-selling book about his experience, 90 Minutes in Heaven.
***Julius Bissinger was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who died in 2001. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bissinger’s son said that his father saw heaven during his time as “dead.” He also said that his father was met by his deceased mother and other family members. Bissinger’s story is detailed in the book The Jewish Book of the Dead: Life After Death in the World to Come.
***George Rodonaia was a Russian doctor who was killed by the KGB in 1976. He was revived after being dead for nine minutes, and later said that he saw heaven during his time “dead.” He also said that he was met by Jesus Christ, who told him he had to go back because his work on earth wasn’t done yet.
There are many different accounts of what heaven is like, but they all seem to agree on one point: it is a place of great beauty and peace. It’s obvious that heaven is a realm of intense happiness and love.
Some people claim to have seen heaven during NDEs. These are instances where a person comes close to death but is then revived. During an NDE, some people report seeing a tunnel with a light at the end. This has been interpreted as a person’s soul leaving their body and traveling towards the light, which represents heaven.
Other people have recalled meeting deceased loved ones during NDEs. This has led to the belief that Heaven is a place where we can be reunited with those who have passed away.
There are also accounts of people who have gone into comas and later woke up with memories of having been to heaven. Some people have even claimed to have had conversations with God when they went to heaven. Whether or not these stories are true, they do provide comfort to many people who believe that there is life after death. They give us a glimpse into what might possibly await us in the afterlife. That is pretty awesome… assuming that is, heaven is your ultimate destination. Coming up… those who died and went to hell… but survived to tell the tale!
STORY: THEY DIED AND SAW HELL=====
People of all religions debate whether hell is real , but for some people, those who believe they have first-hand experience with the location, the question is not up for discussion. Those who believe they have been there came back to tell everyone that it is a place you never, ever want to end up in. Obviously, the validity of all these stories can’t be verified. These people claim to have seen hell during near-death experiences, getting just a glimpse of the place of eternal damnation. So what is hell like, according to these travelers? Some of their descriptions are rather conventional, with lots of fire and endless suffering. Some of the descriptions are more creative and resemble Greek myths like Tantalus. In every case, getting a glimpse of hell changed these people’s lives forever.
***Bill Wiese is a man from California who had a Near Death Experience (NDE) in 1998. During his NDE, he says he went to hell and saw the torments that sinners suffer there. He claims to have seen people being burned alive, as well as being eaten by demons. After coming back to life, Bill became a Christian and now travels around the world sharing his story of what he saw in hell in the hopes of leading others to salvation.
***In May 1997, Jennifer Perez nearly lost her life after a group of friends drugged her soda and attempted to sexually assault her. Perez was hospitalized for three days, where she slipped in and out of consciousness. During this time, Perez claims she floated out of her body. She was led first to heaven, then to hell: “When we stopped, I opened my eyes, and I was standing on a great road. I didn’t know where it leads to. But the first thing that I felt there was thirst. I was really thirsty! I kept telling the angel, “I’m thirsty, I’m thirsty!” But it was like he didn’t even hear me. I started to cry, and when the tears ran down my cheeks, they completely evaporated. There was the smell of sulfur, like burning tires. I tried to cover my nose, but that made it even worse. All my five senses were very sensitive. When I tried to cover myself, I could smell the sulfur even more. Also, all those little hairs on my arms, they just disappeared. I felt all the heat, it was very hot.” Perez witnessed people being tormented by terrifying demons, and though she tried, she could do nothing to save them. After she was given this glimpse of hell, she was led back to heaven, where God gave her a second chance at life.
***In December 1943, Dr. George Ritchie, who was suffering from pneumonia, perished for nine minutes. Ritchie claims his spirit rose from his hospital bed and glimpsed his dead body below before Jesus escorted him through a tour of the afterlife. One section of hell was reserved for people who can never fulfill their longings. He saw dead people in a bar desperately grasping for drinks, and smokers reaching out for cigarettes in vain. In another part of hell, Ritchie saw a huge fight between souls of the dead, with endless physical conflict and terrible, perverse acts.
***Bryan Melvin says he was a ‘militant atheist’ until he technically died of cholera after ‘drinking some bad water’ and felt himself being shot through a ‘black void’ after taking his final breath. He described floating above his own body near the ceiling of the room he was in before going up towards a light where he said he could hear ‘beautiful, profound music’. Melvin then said he ended up face to face with none other than Jesus Christ, who told him he didn’t deserve heaven and instead sent him down to hell. Once down there he saw pretty much the one person in history you could 100 percent guarantee would definitely be suffering horribly in hell if such a place existed. Once down in hell he said it ‘smelled awful’ and was ‘very hot’, while all around him ‘things looked dead’ with a load of people he knew appearing to welcome him before they ‘would change and morph into another person with alligator eyes’. After meeting the ‘hellish creatures’ Bryan claimed he laid eyes on none other than Adolf Hitler down in hell, and as you might expect Hitler was on the receiving end of a terrible punishment for all the awful things he’d done. He said: “The individual that I saw was Adolf Hitler. He was inside of a fiery furnace, like Auschwitz where they would put the bodies and burn them. “He was going through what every single victim went through, from their arrest, from their arrival, from their strip down to where they were gassed. Every single one and every single thing, man, woman and child. That is what I saw. He wasn’t reformed. He was getting crazier.” Once he returned to the land of the living Bryan said he’d been full-blown converted to Christianity.
*** Howard Storm was a strident atheist until he nearly died from a perforated stomach in June 1985. He “woke up” in his hospital bed and realized he was a ghost. A group of figures then led him into a dark hallway filled with thick fog. He followed the figures as they retreated farther down the hallway, struggling to keep up. Eventually, these shadowy demons began eating his flesh. As he was tormented, a voice in his head told him to “pray to God.” Though Storm had never prayed before, he tried his best, and his prayers saved his life. After his near-death experience, Storm became a United Church of Christ minister.
***Angie Fenimore attempted suicide in January 1991 and claims to have visited hell before she was saved. After being subject to a “life review,” where she had to relive her entire life as a series of images, she entered hell. At first, all she saw was endless darkness and a group of other young people whom she refers to as “the suicides.” She also spent time in a different part of hell where lost souls rambled through a field, too miserable to interact with one another. Fenimore has since been named Her Royal Majesty Princess Angie Fenimore, the Divine Royal of Utah and the Prophetess and Leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latte Dei Saints.
***In September 1985, 15-year-old Tamara Laroux attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest. After pulling the trigger, she found herself in a fiery pit, where hundreds of souls were screaming in agony, unable to talk to one another, even though they were crowded together. Laroux also says she saw a creature with dragon-like heads, “more fierce than anything that the earth has ever seen.” Then, a shining hand descended and carried her up to heaven, before depositing her back in her own home again. Laroux survived because the bullet missed her heart by a quarter of an inch, and now dedicates her life to teaching others about the truth of hell.
***Anthony Flew was a well-known atheist philosopher who changed his mind about the existence of God after having a Near Death Experience (NDE) in 1988. Flew said that he saw a “being of light” during his NDE, and that this being told him he had to go back because his work on earth wasn’t done yet. He also said that he saw a vision of hell, which led him to believe in the reality of heaven and hell. Flew’s story is detailed in the book “There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” which I’ll link to in the show notes.
***One man who was pronounced dead by his doctor after being stabbed says that rather than seeing a bright light and some benevolent feeling of coming home he instead saw hell itself and met the devil. A doctor took to TikTok to explain that he’d encountered a young man in his early 20s who’d been stabbed in the heart after being involved in a drug deal that went wrong. Not willing to let the man die, medical staff took the victim into surgery, kept him from losing too much blood and treated the wound in his heart. The doctor remembers the man waking up four hours later and crying, claiming that he ‘went straight down into hell and looked straight in the eyes of the devil’. The man said he could see doctors working to save his life and having never prayed before gave it a try, at which point an angel pulled him back up out of hell. Remembering how clear the man had been, the doctor said: “It was the most amazing experience because he was legit, I mean nobody makes up an experience like that. “The last I heard, he’s completely changed his life; he gave his life to god, and I still to this day… the look in his eye when he woke up, the terror, I’m absolutely convinced he did meet the devil.”
***Matthew Botsford was shot in the back of the head outside a restaurant in March 1992 . To save his life, doctors put him in a medically induced coma which lasted 27 days. Botsford claimed to have spent that time shackled and dangling over a pit of magma being tormented by terrifying, four-legged creatures who would devour his flesh only to have it grow back to be devoured again. However, he says that worse than all these torments was the profound loneliness and isolation he felt, as every sufferer in hell is totally alone. Eventually, a gigantic hand pulled him out, while a voice said, “It’s not your time.”
***Apparently, just because you are a priest doesn’t mean you’re safe from hell either. In April 1985, Father Jose Maniyangat was hit by a drunk driver and nearly lost his life. Maniyangat claims he saw heaven, hell, and purgatory during his near-death experience. He says hell is about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and filled with souls screaming in agony. He also says there are seven levels of hell, and you are assigned to a level based on the severity of the sins you have committed. Interestingly, Maniyangat claims to have seen fellow priests and bishops there suffering in hell. “Many of them were there because they had misled the people with false teaching and bad example,” he says.
Well, as a priest he should know the bible. Deuteronomy 18:20 does say, “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
And Luke 17:1-2 says, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.”
So, with that being said, I’m guessing these false prophets and lying priests are in that seventh level of hell. It’s too bad you can know the bible intellectually, but not live it truthfully – and end up with eternally bad consequences.
Thanks for listening!
Back in June of 2022 I recorded an episode of Church of the Undead about the myths of hell, and if you’d like to hear it I’ll link to it in the show notes. I also recorded an episode in August of that year entitled “What Will Heaven be Like?” and I’ll link to that as well.
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
And a final thought… “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”― J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.