Skeptics say that the visions of the dying are nothing more than hallucinations. However, it is very difficult to so discount certain cases. Consider the case of “Jennie,” and “Bessie” (both pseudonyms for privacy purposes) as related by Dr. Minot J. Savage, a popular Unitarian clergyman and author, in his 1899 book, Life Beyond Death.
Jennie and Bessie, ages 8-9, were close friends in a city in Massachusetts, and both afflicted with diphtheria. Jennie died on Wednesday, but Bessie was not informed of her friend’s death, as her family felt it might stand in the way of her recovery.
On Saturday, Bessie apparently realized that she was going to die and began telling her parents which of her brothers, sisters, and playmates should receive her treasured belongings. “Among these she pointed out certain things of which she was very fond, that were to go to Jennie -- thus settling all question as to whether or no she had found out that Jennie was not still living,” Savage wrote.
A little later, as she approached death, she began seeing deceased grandparents and others gathered around her bed. “And then she turned to her father, with face and voice both expressing the greatest surprise, and exclaimed, ‘Why, Papa, why didn’t you tell me that Jennie had gone? Why didn’t you tell me of it?’” Savage ends the story, commenting that this and similar stories suggest that more than hallucination and imagination are involved.
Savage also relates the case of a small boy who had befriended a judge of some prominence living in the neighborhood. After the boy was put to bed one night, his parents heard him crying. They rushed to him and asked him what was wrong. “Judge says he’s dead! He has been here and told me that he is dead!” the boy sobbed. The next morning the parents found out that the judge had died at about that time the night before.