My Visitors

I MEAN visitors who woke me up. They woke me up fully all at once, and left me excited. There were six of them.

The first one came more than seventeen years ago. He was a young man who by sheer merit had risen to the position of general counsel of a great railroad system. He enjoyed richly his well-deserved success; around him were a charming family and a large circle of devoted friends. One night he was killed instantly in a railroad accident. At the time of his death, his wife was awakened by hearing him call her pet name, which no one else ever used. His friend, who now fills the same position, also was awakened by hearing himself called by name by the man who was killed. A few months later I was traveling alone on my way to Spain, and slept in a little hotel at Gibraltar. While I slept, I saw my friend. He appeared to me so vividly that I put my arm around him joyfully, protesting to him all the while that he was dead and could not possibly come back again. I do not recall that he spoke a word, but the shock woke me. When I returned to Chicago, I told this story to my friend’s successor, and what a queer look he gave me! ’Why,’ he said, ‘I saw him, too, in a dream, and I begged him to take his old position back again.’

My next visitor was my uncle, whom I lost several years later. I dreamed I was in the old house at home, and all the members of the family who were dead were sitting on the front stair. In my dream, my dead father took my uncle, who had been dead only a few weeks, by the hand and brought him to me, and again I awoke.

The next time I had a visitor and was awakened I saw no one, but as I waked I heard my pet name which no one ever called me but my little cousin with whom I played when she was a little girl in Mississippi. She had been dead for years, but was a sweet and lovely memory in my mind, and I was glad to hear my pet name again.

The fourth visitor was a distinguished lawyer, vice president of one of the great title companies. We had sat together in a little circle at lunch every day for years at our favorite club. Within a few months before his death we had lost two other members of this circle. In a dream I saw, gathered around the table again, all three of the dead men and myself, and when I saw them I awoke.

My next visitor was a lawyer of Memphis, Tennessee — a man who by middle life had achieved great distinction in his profession. He had been dead some weeks when in a dream I saw a man sitting in an armchair and evidently trying to show me his face, which was all a blur. I could feel how he was trying to make his face appear and I was striving with him to help all I could, and at last the face came in a flash, perfect and unmistakable, and I awoke.

I supposed that I was through with visions of this kind, but just recently I had another. A dear friend, a noble and admirable gentleman, distinguished in public life as well as in his profession, was lost to us a few months ago. Again in a dream I saw the familiar club, the sofa on which we used to sit together, and this time two men; one I did not recognize, but the other was my delightful friend. He did not look old as when he died, but seemed in the prime of life; his face was full of color, and he was beautifully dressed. He did not disappear immediately, but suddenly as I looked at the place where he had been sitting I saw that he was gone. I said to the third member of our party, ‘Do you know who that was? It was [I gave the name], and he is dead’; and as I looked the face of the remaining man, whom I did not recognize, also faded away, and I awoke.

The peculiar feature of these instances is that in each case my dream was of one who was dead and I knew each was dead at the very time I saw him, and the shock of recognition awakened me. In no instance do I remember any conversation. Like, I suppose, everyone else, I have had frequent dreams about dead people, but in such dreams they always seemed to me to be living and to talk and act just like other people, and there was neither shock, nor excitement, nor awakening. Were the six really visitors? They could not have been more real to me if they had been in the flesh. Would I believe even though one should rise from the dead? Or six?