09/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Mind Benders: Tales From the Tour

During my meanderings around the country on tour for my book, The Power of Premonitions, I have been flooded with people's experiences. Some of them make one's hair stand on end. If you're bored with how your world works, try these on for size:

A String of Numbers

A middle-aged woman living on the east coast suddenly developed a powerful feeling that her son, who lived thousands of miles away, was in serious jeopardy. She tried to ignore the feeling, but it became stronger. Suddenly a string of numbers popped into her mind, whose meaning was utterly obscure. Then she developed the urge to dial the strange cluster of numbers on her phone. This connected her with the emergency room of a major hospital in the far-off city where her son lived. A physician came on the phone. The woman told him she was desperately worried about her son. The physician said that he had just taken care of him and that, although he was seriously injured, he was going to be fine.

A similar story was related to me in another city by a woman who suddenly became concerned about her daughter for no apparent reason. She saw "a jumble of numbers," dialed them, and was connected with a hospital emergency room where her daughter was undergoing treatment following an automobile accident.

The Insistent Friend

A young engineer flew to South America on a private plane piloted by an acquaintance of his. He planned to visit a friend whom he had not seen since college days. When it came time for the return flight to the U. S., his friend came to his hotel room and told him he should not fly back on the plane. He'd had a dream the night before that the plane would crash and everyone on board would be killed. The engineer told his friend his premonition was nonsense, and an argument followed. A fight ensued, in which the engineer's friend tackled him and physically restrained him. Not until the plane's departure time had passed did he let him go. The engineer was furious; he would now have to fly home at his own expense. Then word arrived that the private plane had indeed crashed, killing everyone on board.

An Intimation of Doom

In December 1972, an American businessman was visiting Nicaragua. He had been in the capital city of Managua for a week and planned to stay for another week. He suddenly experienced an urge to leave the city. This made no sense, because leaving early would mean that his business deal would probably collapse. The compulsion to leave became so strong that he knew he must leave as soon as possible, so he gathered his belongings, dashed to the airport, and fled the country on the first available flight. He felt silly doing so, until he heard that, two hours after he left, on December 23 an earthquake of magnitude 6.2 occurred beneath the center of the city. Five thousand people were killed, 20,000 were injured, and a quarter million were left homeless.

The Collapsed Bridge

On August 1, 2007, a middle-aged woman was commuting home during evening rush hour in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her route was so routine she said she could drive it blindfolded. Her boredom was interrupted by a sudden compulsion to take another route. She knew this would result in considerable delay, so she resisted the urge. The feeling became so intense, however, that she found herself veering onto an alternate road. Before she reached home she heard on her car radio that the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, which was on her customary route, had collapsed into the river, killing 13 people and injuring 145. She was so shaken she had to stop her vehicle to regain control of her emotions before proceeding.

The Secretary Knows

A young woman who worked as a secretary on a busy medical ward of a large metropolitan hospital realized that she knew in advance which patients were going to experience medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest during her shift. She had no medical training nor any direct contact with patients, however, and she knew that if she went public with her premonitions she would be scorned and possibly fired. When she learned that a particular nurse on her shift had an interest in such matters, she made friends with her and eventually opened up to her. At the beginning of each shift, she would covertly tell the nurse which patients to pay special attention to. She was almost never wrong. She and the nurse kept their communication secret for years. Both women were certain that many patients' lives were saved as a result.

And so it has gone on book tour, as ordinary Americans have opened their hearts and revealed experiences that, many of them said, they'd never told anyone before.

Even physicians have come forward. In one lecture I presented to a large group of physicians, one female internist announced to the entire group, "I get numbers in my dreams. I see the actual values of my patients' laboratory tests before I even order them."

I have often been told that "real" scientists don't believe things of this sort. This is a false claim. In one survey of more than 1,100 college professors in the United States, 55 percent of natural scientists (biologists, chemists, physicists, e.g.), 66 percent of social scientists (excluding psychologists), and 77 percent of academicians in the arts, humanities, and education reported believing that extrasensory perception is either an established fact or a likely possibility.

"Just" stories? You decide. I'm reminded of the capricious way we physicians regard patients' stories in medicine. If you don't like the story, you call it an anecdote. If you like it, you call it a case history.

Shakespeare, in Hamlet, implied that we can apprehend information in mind-boggling ways: "What a piece of work is infinite in apprehension how like a god!"

The courageous individuals who have shared their experiences would probably agree.

-- Larry Dossey, MD