It all started when I was alone at Christmas time again and I was due to go to Nepal to climb in the Himalaya and so I wanted to break in my new pair of high altitude climbing boots. I decided to drive to Hadrian’s Wall and walk along the low path below the crags that I had climbed on for many years. I was in a dark mood and not at all feeling pleasant or cheerful. I left the car in the high car park and walked below Peel Crag admiring the many climbing routes that adorned it before reaching the gap between it and the next climbing crag (Crag Lough) which was by far the highest and longest in the area.
As I continued on my way below Crag Lough, I started to think about some of the strange events that I had experienced, but got distracted by a group of climbers on Hadrian’s Buttress. I became annoyed that they seemed to be enjoying themselves whilst I was in such a negative frame of mind. Given that I was hooked on rock climbing, it should be no surprise to learn that I suddenly found myself stuck at the crux of a route, some sixty feet above the ground on a small ledge on a route later identified as Jezebel Direct, a Very Severe climb of some 70 feet.
How I got there was and still is beyond my comprehension but there I was stuck just below the top unable to move in any direction and to cap it all, it started to rain heavily again. I had no idea how long I had been perched on that ledge but my body was starting to shake with the intense cold. The rain began to pulsate down the rock face in tiny rivulets, finding its way down inside my sleeves, past my neck, through my clothes and down to the boots. I looked around and in horror saw directly beneath me the large boulders which lay menacingly in their dank surroundings some 60 feet or so below. Spanning out below that extending down to the lake, was the scree slope that was also strewn with boulders of every shape and size and which looked as inviting as walking into a lion’s den with a feather duster to defend myself with.
I was aware that I was unable to feel my toes in my boots so could not tell whether they were on the small lip but reasoned that they must have been as I was still standing there. Seconds seemed minutes, which seemed hours, as I was unable to move side-wards, upwards or downwards. I knew I had to try for the hold I could see over to my right but was just unable to reach it with my outstretched arm. I decided that I had to make for the hold as there was nothing else I could do other than drop off and take my chances on the rock strewn scree below, an option I discounted immediately I thought about it.
As my hands started to lose contact with the rock surface, I began to slip away from the rock. I accepted that there was no doubt that I was going to die right there and then and that the ferryman was at last going to be rewarded for all his patience throughout my life and finally collect my soul. For what seemed minutes but in reality can only have been a micro second, I had a mental discussion with someone to this effect and I felt them say that it was ok to feel this way and ‘they’ were ready for me so ‘just to let it all go’.
I suddenly became aware that I had become totally detached from the rock face but something was wrong, I was not falling. I sensed time had stood still. Total darkness descended. Everything went quiet yet I could hear the blood coursing through my body with every heart-pounding beat. I felt warm and cozy both internally and externally in addition to feeling happier than I have ever felt before. I was at peace with not only my-self but with the universe and everyone and everything in it.
I distinctly remember knowing every answer to every question there ever was and ever would be and that all negative feelings and emotions felt on this material plain was meaningless and futile. I spent an eternity wallowing in a universe of knowledge that made me whole, connected and an integral part of everything that had ever existed, past present and future. I felt what love really is, not an emotion but knowledge and it was housed in every gene that my identity and awareness was composed of. I welcomed such a feeling with eager open arms like a long lost friend. It resonated with being back in my mother’s womb, safe and out of harm’s way and I had no cares in the world.
I was surrounded by peace, which permeated the very core, soul and essence of my body. Then without warning, I was conscious again and was surprised to find I was still in the same position as I was when darkness engulfed me. I became acutely aware of everything around me and I was able to spend time looking at the very rock texture in front of me which I had just become detached from. I saw tiny schist particles shining in the sunlight that had broken through the brooding clouds and noticed the rain had stopped. But I was still not moving.
Time appeared to have ceased to exist. I looked into the very rock itself past the individual particles that made up the rock and saw in them life itself in every conceivable detail. I saw dancing colored lights in everything, and was able to steer my mind’s eye in any direction I wanted it to go. I felt something touch me in the center of my back just like I did when on the Dream of White Horses and the darkness engulfed me once again which I welcomed back enthusiastically and unconditionally. I sensed I was once again floating in this sea of darkness. Although I had no sense of smell, touch or hearing, I did have a distinct and acute sense of intellectual awareness. I was so happy that I wondered what all the fuss about death and dying was all about.
As I floated in this sea of darkness, I felt the love of everyone I had ever known caress me in a way that made me feel whole, safe and satisfied that I had lived my life as it was meant to have been lived. I sensed that the universe was in order and that what was about to happen was meant to happen right there and then. My ‘mind’ felt rich and full with all the answers of the universe once again and I felt powerful and in total control of my thought processes. I saw everyone I had ever known both those still living and those who had since ‘passed on’ and felt connected to them directly. Then it happened.
I came face to face with my soul my internal spirit and I suddenly knew everything there is to know about spirituality in the human context. I remember laughing at the idiosyncratic ideas mortal human beings have of both the soul and spirituality, as they are not the same thing, at least mine isn’t! Time continued with no apparent movement and my senses became heightened to such proportions that I heard everyone I had ever met talking all at once yet understood what they were all saying all at the same time. At one point, I even recognized my own thoughts as they swept over my very senses and it all made perfect sense at long last. Once all the voices and thoughts had dissipated, I floated endlessly in a sea of unconditional compassion, understanding and recognition, which gave meaning and explanation to every question I had ever asked and thought about the concept of the word ‘love’. I was totally happy and content. I did not want this feeling to ever stop.
The dancing colored balls of light were part of the energy that I sensed was me and that their very movement exuded songs that wafted in and out of my being leaving nothing but feelings of love. The darkness was still there but I did not have to see as I felt and sensed everything that ever was and ever would be. If this is the meaning of heaven here on earth then so be it. I was totally and unconditionally free. All of a sudden, I heard a whooshing sound as I opened my eyes to see the rock face zooming past at 32 foot per second per second. I was filled with utter horror and dread, fear, and terror. Then it all went black again and I was back ‘home’ in the sea of tranquility. All was well with the universe once again. I had no concept of time or space, let alone my place within them. I just became aware of ‘being’ but in a sense I had never experienced before.
Everything surrounding me and within me felt dark, not a shimmer of sliver of light anywhere but it was not a frightening darkness more of a comforting blanket. No wind, no heat or cold sensation and no noise just a soothing feeling floating in and around my senses. I felt no part of my body but this did not seem to worry me. It was as if my mind, my brain my very thought processes were in tune with everything and had no problems to consider so was also at total peace with itself. Then I felt control of my eyes and slowly opened them to witness pale blue skies above, birds flying in circles over me then a sudden and unexpected tender touch of a soft breeze as it blew across my face just like it does on a warm balmy summer’s day. There was no sense of anything other than this vision. All was peaceful and quiet.
Just as suddenly as the soft breeze came, along came a strong sense of smell of newly mown wet grass and I was pleased that I was in heaven at last. As time had no meaning the thought of it did not enter my head and I was happy to just exist in this wonderful peaceful and solitary scene before my eyes. Suddenly some white fluffy clouds came into view and I took great delight in the knowledge that if this was heaven, then all those in my past who said that you have to lead a totally blameless life without sin, in order to go to heaven, was wrong. All fear of being dead or even of dying had evaporated and I was content to exist in this state for an eternity no matter how long this actually was. As I could neither see nor feel my body. I assumed that my soul had left its bodily shell and had traveled through the darkness to come to rest at a place which it felt at most peace. As I lay there I sensed that time was something that had no meaning here in my little piece of ‘heaven’ which suited me perfectly. I heard voices over to my left and was pleased to see groups of people standing around on a sea of green bedecked with wild flowers.
I moved towards them and was pleased to see a river of blue bells, my favorite wild flower flowing in the breeze to my left and right. They stood so tall I allowed my hands to gently brush their dancing heads and as I made contact, I felt their energy pulsate into my body, which I still could not see but could definitely feel. As I approached the first group of people they disappeared which made me want to express my annoyance but all I felt was love permeating my thought processes. I turned towards another group of people and they did the same. This repeated itself for group after group and so I decided to stop moving. In an instant, I was looking back up into the blue sky above with a gentle summer breeze wafting across my face. I cared for nothing and decided that if I heard any more people talking I would wait for them to come over to me.
As I stared into the pale blue sky above, I started to see shapes in the clouds as they floated on the breeze across my line of vision. First, I saw Geordy, then Milky Bar Kid D and then a rush of faces as they sped past at a rate of knots that would make any self-respecting athlete be pleased with. My head was spinning and I was beginning to feel nauseous so wanted the scene to stop. When I opened my mouth in an attempt to shout for it to stop, there was nothing but a deafening silence. I started to panic thinking that if I could not be heard, then when I met up with any departed family or friends I would not be able to converse with them, which made me sad.
Suddenly I was looking into a dark light, which on one hand appeared familiar but on the other hand appeared disturbing so I tried to look away but my head and eyes appeared to be frozen in front of the dark light. I saw a multitude of hands reaching out for me but I knew I did not want them to touch me so made every effort to scream to make them go away but the cold hands flowed over me like a tidal wave and just when I thought I was going to drown, everything vanished.
My heaven if this is what it was, was shattered when a face appeared over the top of my head complete with climbing helmet. 'Are you ok pal' came his question which vexed me as I thought that if anyone was to be with me in my ‘heaven’ it would either be a relative that I loved or a climbing friend who shared similar values about nature and the environment, but this was a total stranger. His question made me move my head, which is when I felt the sharp rock protruding into the back of my neck. Up until then, I was totally unaware of it so was a little annoyed with him for bringing this to my attention. Then another face came into view, then another, and then it hit me. I was not dead. This was not my heaven.
As I tried to move, I realized I did not know where my left arm was or my right leg. I struggled to get them moving just to let me know that I had not broken my neck or back, but nothing happened. Just then, someone said to lie still as they had sent for the mountain rescue team and an ambulance and they were already on their way. I was both shocked and taken aback at where I had landed. I thought I would be lying at the bottom of the rock face but I was in fact lying down by the water’s edge way below the crag. How did I get there? Why did I not have any broken bones? Why did I not have any cuts or bruises? Why was my head free of any injury? Where was all the blood? Such questions came and went in microseconds and then were interrupted by someone telling me to get onto the stretcher.
We arrived at the Hospital and there waiting was a medical team clearly expecting to see a mangled body with severe injuries when the call came in that a climber had fallen. Instead, they saw me walk out of the ambulance without a scratch. Their disbelief at the lack of injuries swept through the hospital as nurses and doctors even medical orderlies came to have a gawk at the patient sitting in a side ward. Before I walked out of the hospital, the doctor who met the ambulance came over to me to ask if I really did fall 60 feet without a helmet on. He also wanted to know if I really walk to the ambulance. Once I had convinced him that this was the truth he just shook his head and said 'your guardian angel must have been with you that’s all I can say'.
For my part, I have no idea why I was neither injured nor killed. Perhaps my late maternal Gran who was the spiritualist and medium did have something to do with it, or maybe it was just not my time to die. Either way, the one question, which still begs an answer, is why I suffered no major injuries given the distance I fell and the terrain I fell on, this is without taking into consideration the distance I was supposed to have rolled down the scree slope before coming to an abrupt stop. As far as this experience or any other similar experience having any significant effect on any religious insight or revival, I have to admit that it has had the opposite effect which is nothing out of character for my sometimes disconnected way of thinking especially when it comes to any all supernatural being called God.
Most people who experience such near death events tend to adopt a more religious approach to their existence, and whilst they may have different opinions of who or what any God could be, they none the less voice their intention to lead a more ‘spiritual’ life style of one sort or another. I would like to believe that these experiences have helped shape my attitude towards humanity and nature. We can land a man on the moon and replace a defective heart in a human being among a plethora of other things that fifty years ago would have been scoffed and laughed at. Yet, it is these experiences that have woken my senses to the wonder of the Universe and that we will hopefully never know all there is to know.
Date NDE Occurred: July 1976
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Accident 'fell whilst solo rock climbing sixty feet, no injuries, walked away without a scratch.' Other 'fell whilst solo rock climbing sixty feet, no injuries, walked away without a scratch.'
Possibly death or serious injury when hitting the rocks below where I was climbing and fell.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Entirely pleasant
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes I heard the voices of everyone I had ever known all at the same time yet I understood what they were saying. I also saw 'love' in its physical form and I saw dancing colored balls of light, as I often do in such situations.
I lost awareness of my body
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? At the instant I fell off the rock.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Incredibly fast
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
From the moment I fell off the rock face given Newton's law of gravity, 32 foot per second per second, I should have hit the ground below in less than three seconds. The experience I had spanned an eternity in that it had no beginning and no ending, it just was.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Heightened to a degree impossible to measure
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Heightened to a degree impossible to measure
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
The experience included: Presence of deceased persons
Did you see any beings in your experience? I sensed their presence
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes Everyone I had ever known and was going to know in the future.
The experience included: Darkness
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? No
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes Only the dancing colored balls.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? Some unfamiliar and strange place I felt I was in a void but not alone and not in my body shape more of an energy presence along with that of those I knew and would meet in the future.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Wonderful. rich (not financially but emotionally and spiritually, every pore in my body was alive, immensely powerful in that I knew every answer to every question ever asked and ever would be asked, knowledgeable in that I understood everything there is to know about being human with a soul.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? incredible joy
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
The experience included: Special knowledge or purpose
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe
The experience included: Life review
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
Did you come to a border or point of no return? No
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Slightly important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Christian- Protestant
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No Having a maternal grandmother and mother who had the gift of mediumship, both with their spirit guides, I do not believe what they told me a child was a lie, it was what they beloved in and as such I accepted their word. However, outside this understanding, I do not believe in any supernatural 'god' or heaven or hell or even in the words of any religious text.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Slightly important to me
What is your religion now? Christian- Protestant
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was both consistent and not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience Having a maternal grandmother and mother who had the gift of mediumship, both with their spirit guides, I do not belive what they told me a schild was a lie, it was what they belived in and as such I accepted their word. However, outside this understanding, I do not belive in any supernatural 'god' or heaven or hell or even in the words of any religious text.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? No The answer to all life's questions is Love and nothing more. Love was the energy and it connected us all. As I only heard and felt the presence of those people I had known and were going to know, I felt that energy of others were outside the realm I was in during my experience.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? No
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I sensed their presence
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? No
During your experience, did you gain information about premortal existence? No
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Yes As I said before, I felt as energy we were all connected, as part of one big energy force. It felt like the universe was njothing more than energy and only existed in this form without shape, smell, color or texture.
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God probably does not exist
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? No
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God probably does not exist
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes I felt I knew every answer to every question and that love somehow was the key to spiritual enlightenment. I felt as energy we were all connected, as part of one big energy force. It felt like the universe was nothing more than energy and only existed in this form without shape, smell, color or texture.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are probably meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? Uncertain I thought I was feeling that love is the only meaning or purpose of 'being'.
Did you believe in an afterlife prior to your experience? An afterlife probably exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife probably exists Uncertain I felt that we existed as energy which was connected to all other forms of energy.
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I slightly feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I slightly fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are probably meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? Yes The answer to all life's questions is Love and nothing more.
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? No
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes Love was the energy and it connected us all. As I only heard and felt the presence of those people I had known and were going to know, I felt that energy of others were outside the realm I was in during my experience.
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Large changes in my life I still do not believe in any supernatural 'god' or being nor do I believe in any religious texts. I have doubts that religion as we know it today is what we are supposed to believe in as many religions are self-fulfilling in that they only pay lip service to other beliefs. I do, however, now believe that there is something after death although it may only be a continuance of what we already are, energy but not in human form.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Yes They involve a love, not an intimate love but a love of being.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? No
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience as accurately as other life events that occurred around the time of the experience
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain As I have had many similar experience before this event and after, I am uncertain as to whether or not the voices I sense are just me in my head, and the balls of light I see dancing around is nothing more than an illusion caused by my brain that is aware of impending death or serious injury.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? Yes, all the parts are significant to me as they form a pattern that has been flowing through my life from an early age. I believe that I should be doing something with this knowledge but have no clue as to what. I know I have to share this knowledge but fear being ridiculed and belittled.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes With my wife and soul mate, it was immediately which is why we got married immediately despite only having met a few weeks before the incident. I have never told my family or my mother who still lives. My gran died some 30 years ago, otherwise I would have told her immediately. I started to tell my story through my work in 2008.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes Many others including unexplained paranormal phenomenon.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real I remember every single detail, all except the answers to every question that has ever been asked and ever will be asked. Of course, I have met people I did not know before the experience whose lives I have touched through my work and in turn they have touched my life in many ways and still do.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No Thank you for asking me to send some of my NDE and other unexplained occurrences that has happened to me these mast 50 years or so as I pursued my somewhat erratic adventurous lifestyle which sometimes was on the edge of reason and sometimes going over it, yet I walked away from them all as I was told I would when I was 11 years of age during my first real near death experience.
Below are only some of the unexplained events and NDE’s that have surrounded my life up until they finally fizzled out around the year 2005 when I was aged 61.
I did not talk to anyone about my experiences, not even my family and my reasons for this are complex. Basically it has to do with my mother and her mother, (my maternal grandmother) who has played a significant part in what occurred to me throughout my life. Therefore, before I can talk about a life time of unexplained occurrences that I have experienced, I need to put such reasoning into perspective and I can only do this by telling you a little bit about my maternal grandmother.
My Gran was born in Devon in 1894. Little was known about her father [George] except that he may have come from Brittany in France. He married an Annie T a local girl of Romany origin who travelled the country with her family telling fortunes at fetes and other community gatherings. They had several children the eldest being my grandmother.
Mt Gran married a local man and they in turn had 5 children with my mother being the second youngest daughter who was born in 1922. At this time, my grandmother was running her own spiritual church holding regular séances in her church and also in the front room of their house in Plymouth, Devon.
When my mother was eight years of age she was taken along by her mother to an open séance as it was my grandmother’s intention that her daughter take over the church when she died as she believed that like her, her daughter also had ‘the gift’ and of course, a spirit guide who messages would come through during a séance.
On this occasion, my mother was made to stand behind her. She was not allowed to say anything but had to watch the proceedings. Séances during the 1930’s in the UK and possibly elsewhere, was delivered through mediums going into a trance during which time they would call on their spirit guides to bring souls to them so they (the medium) could be used as a conduit to deliver messages to those living on this side of the life-death divide. In this respect, my Gran was no different. However, there was one major difference between her séances and those of her contemporaries and this was that when she spoke whilst being in a trance, she did not always speak English but several different foreign languages – a Russian/Ukraine dialect, language of the Sioux Indian and various other far eastern languages.
The unusual thing about this was that my Gran was considered poorly educated and could not speak any other language other than English and even then it was with a strong local accent that many people outside her community could not understand. Similarly, she had never travelled anywhere outside of Devon in her entire life up to the point she ceased to be involved in running her spiritual church.
My only evidence of what my mother witnessed that day comes directly from her for when I lived with my Gran in the 1940’s she no longer held séances and indeed had closed her own church several years before the onset of the second world war never more to take it up again. I have no reason to doubt my mother’s stories, indeed, there were some that my Gran ratified when on the odd occasion she decided to have a conversation with me about her belief in spiritualism, souls moving to another plane of existence, and of course, life after death, the existence of angels and spirit guides.
There were around twenty people in the audience including several refugees who had fled from an unsettled Germany and Stalin’s Russia. The evening started slowly with my Gran going into a trance and remaining silent for some time. During this period my mother says she was standing just behind her mother’s right shoulder when her mother started to shake and convulse to a point where she nearly fell off her chair. She opened her mouth and a tirade of foreign language came out of her mouth, not in English but in a language that my mother thought was Russia, or something very similar.
My mother watched in fear as her mother’s body was gripped by something which contorted her face and made her body convulse even harder. My mother believed that her mother was either possessed by an evil spirit or dying as she started to froth at the mouth but she was too scared to move or to try to intervene, such was her mother’s warnings about the dangers of doing so. She saw her mother’s hair stand erect and wave in synchronized movements with her convulsing body movements.
The voice was not that of my Gran but was a deep gruff booming voice of a male and it appeared to be demanding something from one of the audience participants. A conversation ensued between the voice coming out of my Gran’s mouth and this individual in the audience (who turned out to be a Russian sailor). People in the audience got up and left in a hurry leaving the near empty room echo with the sound of their hurried footsteps as they rushed out of the building not wanting to witness any further proceedings. At one point my Gran gave one large convulsion and her head slumped forward onto the chest, all went quiet.
After several minutes, Gran’s helper move forward and lifted her head up to wipe the froth off the corners of her mouth. Her body was wet with sweat as was her silver grey hair which appeared more white than usual. Her face was tightly screwed up in a grimace and she was very pale. My mother took courage and asked her mother what had happened. For her part, Gran said she could remember nothing about anything except that at one point she remembered her spirit guide – White Star – breaking off contact with her suddenly and without warning which had never happened before.
My mother noticed that her mother’s eyes were sunken and she had deep black lines below them and she appeared to be shorter than usual. Several days later, my Gran held a séance in the dimly lit front room of the family house which just happened to be photographed by her sister for reasons unknown.
Nothing happened, that is, her spirit guide did not come to her. This was repeated for the following few days but still her guide White Star did not come despite the numbers at the séance being decreased by one each day. Then during a small séance in the family home where there were only five people in attendance, her spirit guide came and had a conversation with her in the Sioux language. She came out of her trance, gave the sign of the cross and never held another séance thereafter. No explanation was given for her decision and no one ever asked not least my mother.
However, one evening when I was around six or seven years of age, I could not sleep and as I slept in a large bed with my gran along with my sister (a year older than myself), I asked her why she always kept a beautiful silver metal crucifix under her pillow. She told me a bit about good and evil spirits fighting for souls and that she had seen or heard something that angered some evil spirits and that it was for her protection as well as ours given we were together at night in the same bed. She could see that I was frightened but said she would contact her spirit guide one more time to ask him about my safety. She went into a trance and spoke something I did not understand, opened her eyes and said she had three Indian spirit guides and that White Star was the main one.
She said that he did not know what his two spirit companions were going to do but that he had a message for me. I was to live to a ripe old age and would die of natural causes despite the adventurous path I would walk throughout my life.
Note: My mother did see/experience White Star when she was twelve years of age and was dying with double pneumonia with complications. She was lying in bed with her parents (one of the few times her father was sober during the day time). A priest was in attendance giving her the last rites as the doctor present said she only had minutes to live.
My mother remembers seeing and hearing those present but at one point she said all went quite even when she saw the lips of the priest still moving as he was saying a prayer. A light appeared in the far left hand ceiling corner above the door and she saw an Indian complete with feather head-dress come over and sit on her chest. She tried to call out but nothing came but silence. She tried to move but was rigid. He spoke quietly to hear reassuring her she was not going to be harmed in any way and he was there to help her as she had a long journey to travel before she joined others in the after-life. He placed his hands on her chest and wrenched out of her a dark cloud and she felt her chest pain ease and her breathing became less difficult and erratic.
White star left as quickly as he came, saying as he left that he was to be her spirit guide and guardian angel and that he would always be around her family. Within 24 hours of this experience, she had made a full recovery which surprised everyone including the doctors as rarely did any child (in those days) ever survive such a serious bout of pneumonia with complications As it happened, her pneumonia disappeared along with the complications and to this date (she is aged 90) has never suffered from any chest infection of any kind.
I have no idea whether my sister has experienced similar incidents during her life as when we were in contact we never spoke about such things and for these past few decades, there has been no communication between us at all.
As I grew up, I started to feel that I was invincible and so began a life time of teasing death, poking fun at it, laughing at it when I put myself in dangerous situations whilst rock climbing, ,mountaineering, caving and participating in many other outdoor adventures. This then is in part, my story.
Thank you for your attention.
Sometime around the age of eight or nine I remember thinking about what my Gran had said her spirit guide had told her about me living to an old age and dying of natural causes and so at some point around that time, I wanted to test it out. The opportunity came one Sunday after early morning matins in the church situated inside Portchester Castle, a fortified castle on the coast in Portsmouth, Hampshire. I was a soloist choir boy and always sang at all five church sittings every Sunday despite my none interest in religion, it just got me out of the family home and away from my parents so I could experience freedom which seemed to be the major factor at that time of my life, to feel free.
On this morning after church, the sun shone in a cloudless sky and I did not go home straight away but ambled around the outside of the castle admiring the pebbly walls that stood tall and proud. I met up with a school friend, Bernie. We chatted about nothing in particular but we somehow got around to talking about death and dying and what was there after death. The thought came into my mind about what my Gran had said and I shivered as we approached one of the turrets as I heard a voice calling my name. Bernie said he heard nothing but the voice kept calling me not by the name everyone used (Frank) but another name that only my maternal gran used (Frankie) so I felt an urge to follow the voice.
I knew this was the turret that had its entrance door inside the keep, boarded up due to some damage to the roof and that no one was inside the turret working as it was a Sunday and no one ever worked on a Sunday (back in the 1950’s) so the name was not coming from inside the turret. There was no one around apart from the two of us and I began to become curious as to whether or not there someone inside and perhaps the boarded up entrance door was a ruse and there was nothing wrong with the roof at all.
Without saying anything, I started to climb up the corner between the main wall and the rounded turret wall, making my across the knobbly stones to an opening which was a small window that the archers would use to fire their arrows at the enemy. It was big enough for a small boy like me and so I wanted to climb in through the opening to see who might be playing tricks on me.
As I pulled up on the lower window ledge I saw someone walking up the circular stairwell inside which startled me as I did not expect to see anyone. My grip on the sandstone window ledge loosened and I started to slip backwards. I suddenly felt someone grab my wrists and pull me back into the tower wall which allowed me to get a grip again on the window ledge. I was shaking and trembling and heard someone say “it’s not time yet”. I assumed it was the person who I saw walking up the spiral stairs that had grabbed me but when I looked into the tower, there was no one around.
I assumed they had just continued on walking up or down the stairs so I rolled over the window ledge into the spiral stair well as I wanted to thank them for pulling me back to the wall. I ran up the stairs until I came to a blocked passage way and could find no one. I turned around and ran back down the stairs past the window where I had entered the tower until I came to the boarded up doorway at ground level. It was still boarded up. I shouted for Bernie to pull off the boards nailed across on the outside as he had run inside by this time.
Once outside I sank to the grass my insides shaking like the last remaining leaf on a tree in a gale force wind. Whether or not this was from fear or excitement I am unsure all these years later, but I distinctly remember feeling sick whilst at the same time enjoying an intense surge of adrenalin rush through my whole body making me feel alive to a heightened awareness I had never felt before.
My head was full of emotions that swam around in a vortex of euphoria and excitement which made my arms and legs tingle with pleasure. I tried to stem the flow of excitement in order to stop my arms and legs shaking but it just got worse so I allowed myself to wallow in it whilst sitting on the grass with my knees drawn up to my chin.
Bernie asked how I managed to stop myself falling and so I asked him if he saw the person grab me by the wrists and pull me back, He said that all he saw was me falling and all he heard was me shouting that I was falling and then suddenly he saw me stop falling and climb into the open window. I told Bernie what I thought I saw and what I thought happened but all he said was that I had a good imagination.
On the way home I tried hard to rationalize the experience but by the time I got home, I had accepted that perhaps my Gran knew something that I didn’t!
Several months later, I was with a group of friends who were playing around in an old chalk quarry on the South Downs when we met up with another group of lads from another housing estate and who did not attend the same school as us. An argument ensued about which I have long since forgotten but it had something to do with gangs and which was the better and who had the right to play in this out of the way quarry.
How it came about I am unsure but after the arguing had stopped, it was agreed that a competition should be held with the winning gang being considered having the sole right to play in the quarry. Another argument ensued about what the competition should be and after some heated exchanges between the two gangs, I suddenly said that I would challenge anyone from the other gang to climb up the back of the chalk cliff face and the person who either got the highest or did not fall off first, would be the winner.
I had no idea what conditions were like on the chalk face but inside of me I arrogantly knew I could do it. The challenge was accepted and a lad was selected to represent the other gang.
After some failed attempts to get off the ground I managed to get a good hand hold which allowed me to raise my feet off the ground and up onto an upward line of good looking flint nodules. I slowly made my way upwards not giving any thought to where I was going or how far off the ground I was. I soon became engrossed in my own world and began to move effortlessly up and across the cliff face.
I used the flint nodules occasionally that stuck out randomly up and across the cliff face to my advantage as best I could as I knew enough about climbing to know that my best chance of making upward progress was by using these nodules for hand and foot holds. My opponent did not appear to be aware of any of this as he was already scrambling his way up the easy angled slope which led to a steeper vertical face avoiding the rows of flint nodules like the plague for some unknown reason best known to him-self.
I did not hear the shout from my opponent or the subsequent shouting from those below as he slid down from the top of his sloping ramp unable to get contact on the vertical face above this. I became oblivious to the height I was at but this was quickly rectified when I noticed that the flint nodules ran out and there was nothing left but a smooth chalk surface.
It was then that I looked down and saw that I was a long way off the ground and a fall now would end in my immediate demise if not serious injury. I looked up and saw the top of the cliff face some ten or twelve feet above me. Below I judged there to be some thirty to forty feet to the ground. I started to sweat and my legs went weak as I suddenly realized my serious predicament.
I became aware that my arms were aching and my fingers were getting cramped. My mind went blank and the wind ceased to make any noise as it whistled past. My knees were trembling to such an extent that my feet started to slip off the tiny flint nodules that was my world. Just as I felt my arms and legs go dead I sensed something behind me which I could not see no matter how hard I tried to turn my head to get a glimpse of what or who it was.
I suddenly felt calm and at peace. Morbid thoughts vanished and were replaced with thoughts of serenity and tranquility. I heard a voice from behind telling me softly that everything would be alright if I gave in to whatever it was that was behind me. I did so and suddenly found myself rolling over the top of the cliff face. I lay there face down smelling the sweet grass as it covered my face. I heard that same voice I heard earlier when climbing Portchester Castle “not yet Frankie, not yet”.
I rolled over onto my back and sat up just as the gang appeared from the side where they had scrambled up to welcome me on winning the challenge. The quarry was ours.
A few years later I found myself living on the sunny Mediterranean Island of Malta where my military father was posted to. I attending a Royal Naval School which did little for my sense of calmness and freedom I so craved but it did allow me to do my own thing every Wednesday afternoon as it was always sports and I loved cross country running as it meant you could be alone.
The route was always the same. Down one end into the gorge, along the gorge floor and back up the other end and back to the school. All in all the trip usually took an hour and a half, enough time for the teachers to finish what they were doing and still have time for a smoke!
The gorge floor was used by the Royal Navy to store equipment using fenced off compounds. On the cliff face in the gorge were two small caves and one large one which from time to time a crane would lift up boxes to be stored. The cave was approximately 30-40 feet off the gorge floor with another 20-25 feet to the top of the cliff itself. Attempts to find out from the men who worked there what they were putting in the caves was always met with a polite ‘piss off’ although sometimes it was something much cruder!
Never a one not to rise to any adventurous challenge, I decided to make it my duty to find out what was in the big cave, so on one particular Wednesday, I set off as usual on the run. When I got below the cave I waited until the coast was clear and set off up a large crack line which seemed to go almost to the cave entrance. The surface was rough and hard and the holds were solid. After a few minutes of upwards movement I forgot completely why I was climbing as the sheer delight was overpowering my senses blotting out all thoughts of life outside my own ‘little’ world on the rock face. I became aware of a ‘noisy silence’ despite the airport across the gorge and began to feel an integral part of the rock I was touching. At one point, I actually felt like I was detached from my body as if I was climbing ‘spiritually’ rather than physically. This was all new to me, a sensation I had never experienced before, climbing with purpose and ‘drunk’ with the free flow of adrenalin.
It was as if my whole body was at one with the rock face and that movement was without thought, it just happened. My movement was swift and sure. I was full of confidence. Nothing could stop me now in my pursuit of the truth. Not far below the cave, the crack thinned out to such a degree that the holds it provided suddenly disappeared. I stopped for a well-earned rest in the small scoop that the end of the crack provided, relishing standing there for a while, taking in the views across to the airport and to soak up the adrenaline that was surging sweetly through my body. It looked like I would have to traverse to my right for a few feet to be able to gain another obvious fault line which clearly provided some good holds that seemed to go to the cave itself.
Traversing was never difficult as this was well practiced on the sea cliffs around the Island but this time, something felt different. I had no idea what it was but it shook me out of my dream-like state as I reached for a small ledge which would take me to the start of the upwards fault line. There was no real good foot holds for the toes to caress, just some small indentations in the limestone which took all my concentration to maintain contact. This was it, the difference. I had to think the moves, to concentrate on what to touch, how to touch it, how to stay in contact with it, something I was not used to doing whilst climbing for fun in the islands coves, lagoons and rocky bays.
I eventually made the fault line and was relieved to see that the holds leading up to the cave entrance were many and of such good size that I felt I could get up it within a few minutes. I moved off and was just below the lip of the cave when I was startled and distracted by shouting below in the gorge. As I looked down I saw several Maltese security guards and two naval policemen standing directly below. Several of them were pointing in my direction, shouting and gesticulating for me to get back down.
This sudden and unexpected distraction brought home to me just how high I was and how serious it would be if I fell or slipped. I knew that it would be more dangerous if I tried to climb back down and that even if I managed it safely, the thought of what the naval police would do to me was enough for me to decide to continue up into the cave before I made a decision on what I was going to do next to get myself out of this predicament.
Just as I continued upwards, I heard an engine start just out of view and then saw a yellow crane trundling into view and heading for my direction. They were obviously going to come and get me. For my part, I had no intention of waiting around for them to do so. With a concerted effort, I surmounted the last few feet which was both taxing and difficult especially as I had no idea at that time, what a mantle shelf was or how to do it effectively. Suffice to say that I did it and as I stood there legs shaking and my heart pounding hard in my chest, I gasped for some pure oxygen.
I was relieved, pleased, chuffed and elated all at the same time. These feelings however, were soon to be dampened when I became aware that the crane was nearly at the foot of the cliff face. The naval police were shouting threats that they were going to arrest me and that I would be in trouble when I got down. The thought of what my father would say and do far outweighed whatever they thought they could do to me so I had no option but to continue to climb up and hope that they could not raise the crane fast enough to get to me or even hope that it was not high enough to do so in the first place.
I looked for a way up and found nothing. My heart sank. I looked back down hoping to see no one there but two men were driving off in a jeep in what I could only assume was the direction to get to the top of the cliff, whilst the Maltese security guards were trying to distract me by pathetically throwing stones at me whilst the crane started to raise its jib.
I worked out that it would take the naval men at least twenty to thirty minutes to drive around the gorge floor up the end slope and along to where I was expected to come over the top so I knew I had a little time to work out what to do next. I craned my neck to look for a line but found nothing, even prayers were not working. However, over to the right was what looked like a scoop which disappeared around a blind corner, I determined to reach the scoop to see if a line went to the top.
I traversed very carefully over to the scoop where I found I had some room to move around. I moved into the far right hand ledge of the scoop to see what was around the curve in the cliff and saw a small line of little protrusions leading off in the direction I was going in, but where they led to I had no idea as I could not see what was above as the cliff face curved backwards.
I took a chance and committed myself to moving along that small line of protrusions making sure that I remembered the moves in case I had to make a retreat back to the scoop. What little I had left of a heart, sank even further when I quickly found out that the small holds ended just a few feet from the curve I wanted to look around. I began to feel that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I had at last been arrogant enough to get myself into trouble. In the space of a few seconds, a million and one thoughts flashed into and out of my mind but the thought that stayed uppermost in my mind was not the thought of what my father would do to me for embarrassing him this way but that I would never get to know or experience what Karen had in mind for me behind that school playing field wall assuming I won the bet!
I did not know what to do and began to think that my boasting would be the end of me. I tried to reverse the moves to make an attempt to get back to the safety of the cave but found that nothing that I tried would work. My fingers became very cramped and my arms were losing their ability to have the strength to hold on. Just when I thought I would have to fall off I sensed that quietness again, the one where time seems to stop. It was then that I got that old familiar feeling carousing through my veins. This was not my time to die.
I felt, no sensed something beside me, something that could not be seen but was definitely there. I saw nothing and tried to be rational but my youthful arrogance prevented me from thinking nothing else but that it was a guardian angel. I felt a soft warm wisp of wind on the nape of my neck and turned my head first right then left but saw nothing. Then my right hand seemed to want to move rightwards across the rock on its own accord for no apparent reason as there was no holds to grasp. I fought this urge until I felt that soft warm wind caress the nape of my neck again and heard my name (Frankie) being called softly so just gave in.
As I relaxed my whole body and mind, I heard that familiar voice telling me to move my right leg over to a small protrusion then to slide my right hand over to a small bulge in the rock and to press my palm down on it, then to move my left leg over to meet the right leg. I did so without questioning the motives or logicalness of the instructions and as I completed the move I suddenly found a small crack that was hidden from view.
I inserted two fingers and leaned side wards. The angels were singing loud and clear as I saw a nice wide corner leading right to the top. All I had to do was reach it and I was safe. Just as I leaned a little further to gain access to the corner I felt myself slipping away from the rock face but suddenly felt something pushing gently into the small of my back which allowed me to gain entry with no further problems.
After all these years I cannot recall what moves were involved that day, all I know is that I made that corner and was up it in a flash and running back to the school alongside other runners. I smiled with sweet satisfaction as a jeep flashed past in a hurry with two naval men inside blowing their horn like no tomorrow, obviously in a hurry to get somewhere!
The years rolled by and at the tender age of seventeen I found myself serving in the military and stationed at a Royal Air Force base in North Yorkshire.
One Saturday I was walking past a pub when I saw a shiny new motor bike standing there alone and crying out to be rode so as the key was still in the ignition, I obliged it and climbed on and started the engine. It was a BSA Road Rocket, 1,000cc of power and energy and something I had never rode before.
Without helmet or any protective clothing, I roared off down the road south opening the throttle as far as I could just so I could feel that adrenalin rush of excitement of riding over 100mph on an open straight stretch of road again. As soon as I topped speeds of over 100mph I decided to return to the pub and leave his bike there hoping he would not know it had been taken. I turned around and started back up the long straight stretch of near empty road.
I felt alive as the oncoming wind pushed my breath back down my throat and before I realized it, the pub suddenly appeared from nowhere and I slammed on the brakes forgetting I was doing about 80mph. The bike spun, we parted company, the bike falling on its side spinning in frantic circles around the middle of the road, and me taking flying lessons without wings.
The noise emptied the pub and a few local houses nearby but as I had landed over a large hedge that runs around the airfield of RAF Station I was posted to, I was out of everyone’s view which was just as well as the bike owner looked big and angry.
I lay there for a long time not because I thought discretion was the better part of valor but mainly because I couldn’t. My legs were numb and my head hurt like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was not worried about any injuries but was annoyed because I was starting to feel cold as the day was losing its warmth as the sun had long since departed the sky above giving it over to darkness and the full moon slowly arcing its way higher into the heavens.
Military planes took off and landed a few hundred yards away from where I lay in the fading light, the pilots being totally oblivious to my world. The lights of the pub were shinning bright and I heard music seeping out of the walls and I got angry at those inside who were enjoying the warmth of an open fire which would be blazing away casting its randomly yet ordered dancing shadows across the smooth white washed walls. I envied them. No I hated them.
As the night drew on, I started to succumb to sleep not with tiredness but with hypothermia setting in. The night mist was creeping across the airfield and the absence of any aircraft now taking off and landing was noticeable by the silence that gave way to the distant call of a snipe making its last call before turning in for the night.
I continued to lay there with the cold seeping into my very veins and I was starting to regret taking the bike but what the hell, I had enjoyed the ride despite my eventual predicament. I heard the pub emptying and voices saying goodnight to each other. Then silence. Lights go off. A whisper a few yards away, rustling in the bushes. Thank god I muttered, someone is taking a short cut home to the barracks across the airfield so they’d help me up and back to my billet, might even know them so no problem. Then silence again and I was alone still in my cold little world on the grass.
I sat up the minute I felt the warmth from the bright sun envelop me in a cocoon of heat. I did not recognize the place at all nor any of the people milling around who were chattering away to each other all at the same time. Someone came over to me and held out their hand to help me up. I was grateful and thanked them for their efforts. They replied in a foreign language but I made no bones about it, I was just glad to be off the cold and damp ground. I was also pleased that nothing appeared broken although my clothes were a little worse for wear but then, clothes are just material and can be replaced so why make a fuss about it.
I tried to join in some of the conversations that various small groups were having but everyone was ignoring me. I got angry and frustrated and shouted out for some attention. No one moved they just kept on with their own little conversations oblivious to my concerted efforts to get their attention. I decided to walk away but every time I did, I just seemed to come back to the same spot. It was as if I was in an enclosed space with no obvious barriers but whichever direction I walked in the groups of people were always there.
The thought struck like a bolt of unexpected lightening, I was dead. I shrugged my shoulders and sat down. I decided to just lie down and take it easy if this was all there was to being dead, trying to have boring conversations with groups of people who could not even be bothered to speak English.
Someone was grabbing me by the arms and so I struggled but could not see anyone. Then a voice said, “hey pal, take it easy, too much to drink eh, I’ll get you back to your billet, just keep quiet”. Then darkness and silence enveloped my body and I remember nothing further until that is when I heard a loud trumpet blaring as if it was next to my ear. It was morning taps at reveille.
Was it a dream? Who were those foreigners? Why could I never get away from them? Such question were soon forgotten when other strange events came along.
During a military exercise across the wilderness and moors od Dartmoor in Devon I chanced to get separated from my group and as they had the map and compass, food and other necessary equipment for surviving in such wilderness, I struggled to get back to the main camp. After walking for hours in a direction I hoped would lead me to the main camp, I suddenly came upon a fenced forest which was unusual given that it was not a private forest and in the middle of nowhere. I needed to go straight through the forest as any deviation around it would get me even further lost so I decided to climb the fence and try to cut through the forest. Everything went well until I came to a very large clearing in the forest which again had a wire fence around it. Without thinking I took hold of the top wire strand with the intention of vaulting over it into the open space. My upward vaulting movement was interrupted by a sudden surge of electrical energy as it surged from the electric fence through my whole body throwing me backwards into some very marshy ground.
I lay there with my ears tingling and my toes and finger tips dead to the senses. My breathing was very irregular and my chest hurt so bad that it felt like someone large was using it for a dance floor. My mind began to clear and thinking became logical again but I panicked when I realized I could not feel or move my body below my neck.>
As I lay there I got that sinking feeling, literally as I started to slowly sink into the marshy bog. My body became covered and I was concerned it would cover my face and I would drown alone in some god forsaken marshy bog somewhere on the moors. I struggled every which way to get my body to move but it was difficult to feel any sensation below my neck. I stopped sinking and hoped that I was at the bottom of whatever it was I was lying in and turned my head a little, why I don’t know as being able to turn it would not help me extricate myself nor allow me to move.
However, when I turned my head to the right I saw a white sign post attached to a corner post of the fence. On it was painted in red, the words “Danger, Trial Electric Deer Fence. M.O.D.” (Ministry of Defense). I called them a few names and allowed my head to flop back down into the bog and regretted it the instant the murky water covered my face in a tidal wave.
I knew I had to get out of the bog so tried painfully to move my fingers which responded with some difficulty. Pins and needles were surging through my arms but at least I was able to move the hands then the arms a little before I was able get them to move unconditionally.
I looked around to see what I could grab and saw the bottom strand of the wire fence and stretched with all my strength I could muster only to be reminded again very painfully that it was electrified the moment my fingers touched it.
I shouted profanities as the pain coursed incessantly around and around my body making me feel useless and helpless. I thought about crying but even that was difficult to do as my face was partially frozen.
I have no idea how long I lay there but the moon certainly had moved its position in the night sky enough for it to come to my attention. I cried out to anyone to do something to help me as I knew that if I could not get out of the bog I was still lying in, soon I would start to suffer from hypothermia and after that, who knows.
I closed my eyes and prayed, not sure who to or what I actually said but I do know that I suddenly got all the use of my limbs at once and I rolled out of the bog onto a piece of hard cold ground which was quickly being enveloped in a frosty blanket. I rolled over onto my knees and fell over side wards into the bloody fence but before the pain could even make it-self felt, I stood up with a mighty bounce and screamed at the top of my voice for a few seconds which must have frightened any nocturnal animals roaming within a mile radius let along anything closer that may have had ideas about tasting my flesh.
I sat beneath a sweet smelling pine tree and noticed the sun’s rays pushing the dull grey night time colors out of the way. I regulated my breathing pattern, closed my eyes and emptied my head of all thoughts, good and bad. I allowed the comforting stillness to permeate my senses and physical being, absorbing the moment fully. There in the distance was the camp. Rushing towards it the only thing on my mind was a long hot shower and then some sleep in my tent.
When I arrived I took a long shower and then went into my tent and fell into my sleeping bag and slept like the proverbial baby. It was not long before I started to dream about getting lost on the moors and meeting the devil’s disciple at a small rock pool. I did not know at first who or what he was but I sat down and started up a conversation with him. He asked me what I wanted most in the world and I told him without giving it another thought. He said I could have it for a small price. When I asked how much, he said not money but a promise that when I had got everything I ever wanted in life, my soul would belong to him.
I made the pact and some years later I met the same person whilst climbing in the Andes who said my time was up as I had achieved everything I had ever wanted in life. But I had not got to the summit of Cerro Torro and started to argue with him and a fight quickly ensued and we both fell off the mountain into an icy abyss. I spent an eternity fighting with him trapped there in my icy tomb. I woke up in a sweat and went outside for a smoke and to clear morbid thoughts that were swimming around in my head.
As I sat by the dying camp fire, I sensed someone sitting beside me. Terrified, I slowly turned to see the person who had been in my dream but this time he was wearing a sickly grin. Nothing was said but then we started to fight again and we rolled into the dying embers and my clothes caught fire. I pushed him away but my breathing was stifled by the smoke from my burning clothes. I could not breathe and screamed for help which drew a bucket of cold water being thrown over my face and I came to still lying in the bog beside the electric fence in the forest, fingers and toes tingling just a little less than they were a few minutes ago. o:p>
It had all been in my head and nothing was real so I said something unprintable and managed to roll over a few feet out of the wet soggy bog but took care not to touch the fence again. I had had enough shocks for one day.
Whilst I sat there for a while being angry at it all being a dream, surreal maybe but none the less, just a dream, I tried to make sense of it all and especially what if any, were the message someone was trying to give me. Nothing made sense so I assumed it was the second electric shock that had drove me into a dream-like state and my sub conscious took me into the surreal world to compensate for my physical pain.
A bird called out somewhere in the darkness and I knew trying to find the camp that night was hopeless so ambled back under the forest canopy and settled beneath a large tree resting my back against the bony trunk.
I know I dozed on and off through the night as the cold refused to allow me to sink down into a deep slumber despite being very tired and weary. After an eternity passed, I was pleased to see the dark sky turning lighter ushering in a new day and renewed hope in finding the camp site.
AAs I sat and watched the sun rise slowly and effortlessly into the new day, pushing the cold dank darkness away, I marveled at the natural way shapes changed color in the rising sun’s rays. I was glad to be alive but could not help recalling time after time, the dream I had had whilst unconscious. I felt it disturbing, feeling somehow that the dream was a message and one that would have significant meaning for me at some stage later on if I could only work out what the hell it all meant.
I shuddered and caught something move over to my right. It was a shadowy figure moving slowly towards me. I knew instinctively that it was not going to hurt me and so I accepted it into my consciousness when it came right up to me and appeared to go through me. Time stood still and noise vanished into a soothing silence of other noises. I heard laughter, sensed warmth and love permeate my body and I felt a sense of spirituality as I thought had done earlier.
I closed my eyes and heard a voice inside telling me that I had to do what I had agreed to do with my life, with the time I had been given and the knowledge I would gain in the future. I heard myself agree and with a loud silent sigh, the figure vanished. I stood up and felt fit and satiated so set off in the direction I knew the camp would be in.
As I turned the edge of the forest I came upon a steam and followed it as it was going in the direction I was travelling in. I took great delight in seeing that the stream started to run uphill to a cut in a hillock and down the other side. I knew I was on the right track and this was just the sign I needed to lift my spirits. I smiled as I strode uphill alongside the stream. It all made perfect sense. Soon I heard a muffled voice then another then a bugle playing Taps. Back to reality at last.
Some years later I was stationed at a Military base in Germany when I was called out to an aircraft rescue which was in a sensitive part of the country given that the Berlin Wall was till standing and the USSR was still occupying the eastern part of Germany and surrounding countries. We were dropped by helicopter somewhere in the Alps and told to search for the crashed aircraft and aircrew in silence, no radio or flares and that we had to make our way down the southern part of the mountain when we had finished our search.
After many hours stumbling around the mountain slopes we eventually found the aircraft standing on its nose poking into a steep snow bank high up in the mountains. The cockpit cover was missing as was the two wings. We needed to know if the aircrew had ejected and the only way to find out was for someone to climb up the snow slope to the side of the front nose cone, climb onto the fuselage shimmy up towards the open cockpit and peer in.
The pilot’s front ejection seat was missing but the co-pilot was still strapped into his ejection seat and was clearly no longer alive.
Two from the search party went to look for the pilot who had ejected. Two started to dismantle the black box from its resting place and two others started to extricate the co-pilot and wrapped him in the survival life raft we inflated which was in the aircraft.
The cloud base had come down without warning and we found ourselves spread out across the side of the mountain barely able to make visual contact with each other. Someone suggested that we should regroup and discuss our options. Someone else said we should leave the co-pilot where we were as we would have a better chance of getting down the mountainside safely and someone else said we should just bury him there and say that we did not find anyone when we got back down.
Clearly, we could not come to any consensus about what to do. For my part I just sat on the edge of the proceedings and listened to everyone else putting their own point of view. I found myself agreeing in turn with everyone so I continued to hold my peace.
I felt a deathly cold creep over my body despite being warm inside. Everything went silent despite the group shouting and arguing c about what we should do. I knew instinctively that something out of the ordinary was going to happen as it always did in situations like this so I just sat and waited.
I did not have to wait long when I felt, sensed, heard, not sure which, something standing behind me. I turned my head knowing that there would be nothing there, there never was, it was just a habit I had adopted in the hope that one tine, just one time, I would see something, but like every other time before, there was nothing but the cloud base ever present, ever creeping into the soul eliciting the odd shudder from those unhappy airmen standing around trying to come to some consensus of opinion, which of course, they never would do just like every other time. In essence it was a foregone conclusion that the argument would drift into the ridiculous which of course, it did just when I had this feeling.
I waited some more whilst the feeling got more intense and more unsettling. My heart rate increased and my body tingled as I felt a wave of electricity flow over and through me. In the distance I heard someone shouting over the wind and it just kept saying “now Frankie, now, now, now, now”.
I stood up and interrupted the musical row going on and said my piece which was brief and to the point. “Don’t care what you all think we are taking him back down, that’s our job, end of story”. I took hold of the half inflated rubber life raft and started to pull the bundle. The cloud base had gotten even worse and it was impossible to see more than a foot or two in front of myself but I somehow knew I was safe despite our situation being serious and that any error of judgment could well end up with our own bodies being collected by another search and rescue team at a later date.
I had to agree with every ones assessment of our predicament and just when I felt they were right and we should leave the body there, I saw a clearing in the cloud base and shouted out to the others that this was the way down. They looked at me with that familiar look which always appeared to be saying: “here he goes again, off his head into realms of fantasy”.
Of course, I knew that they could not see it but I could and that was enough for me to head for, dragging the bundle behind me. I yelled for everyone to follow me which for some reason, they did without so much as a ‘why’.
Just as I got to the clearing that no one else could see, we met the two who had gone off to search for the pilot who had ejected and who told us they had not had any luck finding the pilot or the wings of the aircraft but did find an empty ejection seat imbedded in a snow slope. I quickly explained what had happened to us after they left and they agreed that I had made the right decision and followed on behind as we continued on our way down the mountainside. Eventually we saw the LZ on the glacier and every one cheered and the feeling vanished as quickly as it came into the cloud covered mountains leaving me warm as toast and feeling relaxed and satiated with internal pleasure.
Once back at the RAF station, the story quickly got around of how I had led the team to safety in a white out conditions without a map or a compass but I kept my silence and enjoyed the free beer for many nights that followed.
I thought no more of the incident until many months later when I was looking through an old copy of the Readers Digest and came across a story detailing how a mountain walker got lost in the mist high in the Andes and followed a moving, living gap in the clouds all the way to safety in the valley.
I smiled a satisfying smile in the knowledge that I was not alone in the Universe and that others had experienced what I had experienced and that trying to give it explanation was pointless so I just moved on with my life.
Sometime later I had to do some work in the cockpit of a Canberra bomber which I was not looking forward to as the cockpits are both small, tight and difficult to move around it, but the work had to be done.
When aircraft are usually standing in a parked state, an Armourer has to replace the ejection seat safety pins which are then removed just before the aircraft takes off again. However, on this occasion for this was not done so I decide to get in do my work and get our as fast as I could knowing that there would be no room for error due to lack of space to be in if one of the ejections east decided to go off if I nudged it accidentally whilst working on the parachute and ejection harness attached to it.
Whilst I was busy inside the aircraft another plane was taxing down the flight pan towards us with the intention of parking alongside the aircraft I was working in so that I could get to it quickly so it too could get airborne as soon as I had carried out the required modifications.>
I had just finished modifying the pilot’s seat and was squeezing my way between the front two seats in order to get to the rear seat to finish that one. The grating sound came first then the sound of tearing metal as the wing tip of the taxing plane tore into the fuselage of the aircraft I was in. In the silence that followed as the plane came to a standstill, I heard the unmistakable click of an ejection seat firing pin slipping into action which made my heart sink rapidly to the soles of my boots. My bowels felt bereft and abandoned as I could not know which seat it was that was about to fire off, burst through the cockpit ripping me to pieces as it went.
II saw a ball of colored light to my side and instinctively dropped into the space it was occupying, hunching myself up into as small a ball as I could. I held my breath and prayed for death rather than any serious injury. The click was followed by a loud bang as it hit the rocket and the pilots chair lifted off brushing the hairs on my arms.
The cockpit shattered and the splintered glass showered me like a bad case of dandruff. Silence. Shouts from outside. A siren going off in the distance. Not wanting to move in case the other ejection seat was about to go too, I just held my breath and stayed where I was for what seemed like minutes but in reality was only seconds. A head poked into the cockpit doorway asking if anyone was inside. I tried to answer but the saliva had all gone and the mouth was as dry as a well-used piece of coarse grain sandpaper in the bottom of a budgerigar cage.
I saw the colored ball of light fly out the cockpit door and without hesitating, I just stepped to one side and dived out of the cockpit door just as the click of the other seat fired its ejection rocket. I rolled out onto the tarmac as the second seat rushed through the broken cockpit and ran for cover under the waiting aircrew bus which had appeared as I knew that what went up inevitably had to come back down again and I was not going to be standing there to welcome its return to terra firma.
A few days later when my nerves came back from their impromptu holiday, I tried to get wedged in between the seats in a Canberra which this time had its ejection seat safety pins in but try as hard as I could, it was impossible it just could not be done. Without a doubt, this was one of those incidents which defy all rational explanation unless of course, you have angels for companions!
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? At one point in my life I was very depressed about my personal situation and decided to end it all by taking my own life despite this being against everything I believed in. I left ,my parent’s house and walked in a daze not knowing where I was going and suddenly I was brought back to reality with the sound of screeching right beside me.
I was standing at the end of the cargo pier by the local docks where I was brought back to reality by the hooter of the large cargo ship tied up at the end of the pier just a few feet away from where I was standing.
The suffocating weight came back and was pushing me down inside and just about every negative thing that had ever happened to me came flooding in all at once. My brain was overwhelmed and I could not take it any longer. I started to cry which turned quickly into a pulsating sobbing, body shaking and mind hurting. Just end it all now came that thought. One more step and the pain would go away, go on do it cried my inner self, suffer no more just step forward.
The freighter was rising and falling as it pulsated in tune with the tide as it lifted the ship’s hull away from the end of the pier then came crashing back when the swell returned. All I had to do was just step off the pier when the boat moved away from the side and let the returning metal hull do the rest. It was that simple. What had I too lose? Absolutely nothing.
As I stood there not being able to prevent the mind from fighting off the multitude of negative and depressing images and thoughts that fought to gain control of my senses, I came up with a thousand reasons why I should do it. ‘Why are you arguing with yourself’ came a voice deep inside my head, ‘you’ve made the decision now go through with it’.
Just as I was about to take another forward step as the ship moved away from the end of the pier on an outgoing swell, I was distracted by someone calling out my name and although it sounded miles away, I knew somehow that it was right behind me. The ship reached its zenith and was about to start slamming back into the pier. This was it, just step off. It looked oh so easy.
The ship returned with the down swell banging into the pier making me jump at the same time. My eyes which had been clouded suddenly cleared and I was comforted by the knowledge that the familiar sounding voice was around me talking to me in soft words that washed away my pain.
Then I heard, no sensed a whisper in my left ear which was both clear and simple, “Life is your gift, take it Frankie use it wisely and live it to the full” I turned to find the pier deserted, there was no one around as I knew it would be.
My life turned around that same day.
Following my desire to rock climb I found myself in North Wales climbing a well-known sea cliff route called ‘Dream of White Horses’ with a friend. He led off and I waited patiently to follow him. After an hour or so we were at the crux of the climb, that part which is the hardest move of the whole climb. My climbing partner was out of sight but a tug on the rope told me he was secured to the rock and that I should untie from my secure stance and follow him across the crux and up the top of the climb.
The wind had increased and the temperature suddenly dropped even though the sun was swimming in a blue cloudless sky so I knew something was going to happen. As I was untying myself from my secure belay, I heard voices all around me. It was impossible to make out what they were saying but many of the voices were familiar. I shook my head to clear the brain box and it worked for all of a second as the brain flooded again with the voices but this time they were shouting at me but with the wind and the many voices, it was impossible to hear what was being said.
I shouted out for them to go away and leave me alone but they ignored my plea. I was getting upset as I knew I needed to be moving as I was starting to shiver with the cold.
My hand started to tremble and my eyes glazed over in a cloud of warm mist and I felt nauseas from the pit of my stomach. I could not finish untying myself from the belay which added to my frustration and just when I thought I was going to throw up, I was sucked into a bright vortex of colored lights, all dancing in a whirlwind of confusion.
As I floated in the prone position with the dancing lights playing tag all around me I saw a figure coming towards me. I sat up to get a better look of the image but when it came into view I was disappointed to note that the figure was shimmering and it was impossible to make out any facial features. They came towards me, embraced me and then I felt myself spinning in a pleasant way in tune with the dancing lights. I felt something touch me in the small of my back and push me away from them and it sounded like a whooshing sound you hear when a speeding train passes a row of buildings close beside a track. The sound was mesmeric and I enjoyed the feeling as it appeared to last forever.
The cold water from the spray brought me back to reality again and I was still frantically trying to undo the rope from the belay. I was shivering but not from the cold as I was still feeling warm both internally and externally from the experience I had just had.
All sound died away and time seemed to stop. My hand moved in slow motion which eventually managed to free me from the belay. I exuded a deep long satisfying sigh and all sound returned like a full orchestra tuning their instruments all at once which was both deafening and delightful at the same time. I shouted to Mike that I was moving off but my words were quickly whisked away on the gusting howling wind.
I traversed out and up across the wall following an obvious line of small flakes until about half way across, I came to a good ledge for a rest. We were climbing with two ropes so that my friend had put in runners along the way to protect both ropes separately.
On a traverse, this form of protection would prevent either of us from swinging downwards if we slipped. As I looked across to where I would be traversing, to my horror I saw that all the protection he had placed had been whipped out of the rock by the wind and was flying around in space around head height. In essence, the rope was flying out from the rock face and above my head with the runners dangling in space and rapidly congregating together at the lowest part of the flying rope. I looked well over to my left and saw the opening mouth of the cave and the uninviting roof which I would certainly hit if I fell.
Efforts to shout to him above out of sight to inform him that the protection had all blown out proved fruitless as the words were once again lost on the wind. There was nothing for it but to give it a go and try not to fall. Easier said than done given that I was shivering with cold, my fingers were numb and my arms felt like lead weights. Muscles had long since gone on holiday, abandoning my arms to their weakest state, and to cap it all, I had not seen how to negotiate the crux as I was day dreaming when my friend had done it.
All I remember was that you had to negotiate a sloping convex chimney somehow but when I finally got to it, I could not work out whether to go high or go low to overcome it. As I stood there shivering with cold, I tried to invoke that old safe feeling of going to live forever but nothing came, everything was blank apart from the thought of falling and hitting the roof of the cave if I was to fall and swing outwards and downwards until my body made contact with the cave lip.
After what seemed minutes but was probably only seconds, a huge swell came in and threw spray right up over my feet which brought me back to reality and the task to hand. I had to attempt to get across the chimney and do it fast as the weather was not going to get any better. I chose to go at the crux head on which was a mistake as the clue to getting across it was by going lower.
Straddled there across the chimney I knew the inevitable was going to happen and it did. I slipped. I grabbed the rope thinking this would somehow protect me when I hit the roof of the cave, which of course it didn’t and suddenly realized that if I swung in at the wrong angle, the roof of the cave could cut both ropes sending me down to the cold sea below and possible death by drowning.
I hit the roof of the cave and heard a snap but felt no pain. I oscillated side wards until the rope was taut and I was dangling on the end of it some ten feet out from the face of the rock. I started to go in and out of consciousness almost in unison with the swell of the sea as it oscillated in and out against the base of the cliff. I shouted to my climbing partner but again the wind carried my words away. My chest started to hurt and I became acutely aware that the harness was cutting off my breathing as it rose up and pulled tight across my chest. My fingers were numb and so it was impossible to grasp the rope to prevent myself from leaning backwards which did little to ease the pain I was now feeling in my lower back area.
I clung onto the ropes with my arms but knew that my situation was hopeless. If my climbing partner could not hear me, would he wonder why the rope became taut or would he just assume that I was taking a breather! Either way, time was running out as the spells of going in and out of consciousness was getting longer and at more frequent intervals.
Trying to reach the rock face was impossible and despite seeing in front of me a good ledge for my feet and some jugs to hold onto, the space between us may as well have been a thousand miles as to make any difference to my situation.
I felt myself going unconscious again into a world of darkness, peaceful and welcoming. No noise just beautiful silence. A wave of peace rolled over me like the breaking sea and I was happy to be there. But then something disturbed my peaceful darkness and I was angry at its intrusion. I remember trying to rationalize what it was but nothing came, just a feeling inside which was at odds with what I thought I was experiencing. Suddenly I felt something push me from behind. I felt myself moving forwards within this sea of darkness and a sudden in rush of oxygen brought me back into the light and reality as the harness eased off my chest allowing my lungs to operate once again.
The end result was that I hit the rock face and bounced back again to the original position hanging away from the rock face back to the same position I was in before.
Everything went quiet, and whilst I saw the swell of the sea crashing against the cliff face, I heard nothing, and although I was conscious of several gulls flying above, I did not hear their calls. Then another feeling of being pushed brought me into contact with the cliff face and this time I managed to grab hold of the jugs and get both feet on the small ledge. My chest again exploded with air as the harness eased back down off my chest and I knew somehow that everything would be ok. I gasped and panted to keep the oxygen intake high so that I would not slip back into unconsciousness.
I thought I heard a voice but could not make out from where it was coming from or even who it was, just a voice but the blood was rushing around my brain so fast I could not make out what it was. Dancing balls of colored lights spun around me and I could hear their music as they rotated in rhythmical waves.
Suddenly I started to be pulled upwards, first a few inches, then a foot more until I managed to get to sloping holds that led to the top of the last pitch. I started to climb the last pitch to find my climbing partner pulling on the rope that he had passed through a pulley system knowing that something was wrong when the rope was not freely moving as it should if I had been climbing. It was him who was responsible for pulling the rope far enough up so that I could gain access to the pitch. But who or what pushed me into the cliff face in the first place?
Similar events took place over the next few years but as they were getting to be so frequent, I had long since stopped bothering to ask the questions as to what was happening, and arrogantly I assumed that my Gran was probable right and I was not meant to die whilst doing adventurous activities but would live to old age and die naturally. It was this arrogance that got me into tight spots many more times whilst rock climbing alone, caving and mountaineering. However, each time I experienced dancing colored balls of light, heard familiar voices calling me ‘Frankie’ and was able to walk away without any injuries although one caving incident brought into question my Gran’s adage about living to an old age and dying of natural causes..
It happened just before Christmas the year I was packed and ready to fly to Patagonia to climb some major summits. I was relaxing with my family when a phone call came from a colleague asking if I would take him and his three friends caving that weekend. I declined saying I was packed and ready to fly to Patagonia and wanted to spend the time with my children as I would be away for a few months. He persisted and finally I reluctantly agreed.
They arrived and we drove to a local cave system I had done many times before and felt comfortable doing again even in the depths of winter but my mind was elsewhere, possibly in Patagonia for I did not pay attention to what I was doing.
I rigged a ladder down a shaft into a fast flowing stream and lowered the group down saying that they should go upstream to take some photographs of the calcite formations there and as the cave up stream was a dead end, I knew they could not get lost.
Once they had left, I started to rig up an abseil as I preferred this way of descending a cave. Unfortunately I did not pay attention to what I was doing and threaded the rope the wrong way so the moment I stepped off the edge, I fell straight to the bottom into the stream.
It was unfortunate that whilst moving around in setting up the ladder for the others, my battery attached to my belt had slid along the belt until it was sitting squarely over my coccyx, the tail bone of the spine. Again, unfortunately, the place where I landed was strewn with large boulders which were sitting in the stream. The end result was that I landed flat on my back on the biggest boulder there, with the battery between my coccyx and the boulder. Something had to give and my coccyx lost.
The pain shot down my legs at such a pace that I immediately thought I had broken my back which is when fear really set in. I tried to move my legs but felt nothing. It was suddenly apparent that I was lying in the middle of the stream with my head facing upstream which allowed a rush of very cold water to enter my clothes at the neck, travelling across my body exiting out of my trouser legs into my boots. Normally I wear a wet suit which under such circumstances would have gone some way to keeping me warmer than I was feeling. Instead I was wearing a dry suit, which consisted of a full length one piece fiber pile with a water proof over-suit.
Normally this would have sufficed in keeping the body warm when participating in ordinary caving activities, but was not made with lying prone in a fast flowing stream in winter in mind.
I lay in the water with my back lying on top of the boulder at such an angle that it prevented me from being swept away into the cave entrance itself where the others had gone earlier. At least I had little fear of being swept away to drown under the rock face where the water disappeared below to join some other subterranean stream way a few feet further on down-stream .
After what seemed a very long time, my body started to convulse uncontrollably which added to the already present level of fear brought on by thinking that I may have broken my back. I tried to rationalize whether this violent shaking and trembling was due to shock or worse, from the onset of hyperthermia. Either way, things did not look too good for me.
Time can be one of those things that flashes past so fast that you wonder where it went and yet at other times, it can creep by so slowly that you cry out for it to speed up. This was one of those times when I pleaded with my God, any God to make time go faster and get the others back to my position so they could lend some assistance, how I had no idea, in fact I couldn’t care less what they could or could not do for me I just needed someone to be there even if it was to keep me company as I drew my last breath as I suddenly had a fear of dying all alone.
But prayers like time, does not always respond or react the way you want it to and so I cursed, first internally inside my head, then verbally and then in a loud tirade directed at everybody and everything. I cursed my-self for allowing myself to agree to come caving when I really did not want to. Then I cursed the cave system, followed by the damn battery still digging into the small of my back, and then I screamed abuse at my own stupidity. Suddenly this was interrupted by my thought processes as I recalled the cursing of the battery. If I could feel the damn thing digging into my back, surely then my back could not be broken, could it! I rationalized it so much that I began to calm down in the belief that this was in reality the truth and that the reason I could not feel my legs, was in fact due to the intense cold they were experiencing.
As I waited and waited, the trembling and shaking returned and this time with a vengeance, so much so, that I thought I was going to break my teeth or jaw as they clattered together. I could feel nothing below my waist at all and my arms were beginning to get pins and needles which again brought on the anxiety and fear that I had done something serious to my back or neck. The earlier held belief that feeling the battery digging into my back was a good sign was quickly evaporating into abject fear like an ice cube swimming in a thermal spring.
I again became angry at myself for allowing such a stupid thing to happen and berated myself for not checking before I swung out into space to abseil down the pot. I thought not of Patagonia but of Sandy and what feelings and emotions she would experience when she got the phone call. I again berated myself for putting her in this position. She did not deserve it nor did my three children or my mother.
But lying there unable to move in any direction including sitting up, all I could do was shout out in the hope the others would return faster but I knew that my voice was lost amid the crashing and roaring of the waterfall that fell down the pot right beside the cave entrance where I lay.
My feeble efforts at shouting suddenly stopped when I opened my mouth to shout once more and my whole body shook and trembled so much that I got a fright stunning me into total numbness. I really believed that this time, death was finally upon me and was having the last laugh!
I decided to relax and allow life or death to do what it wanted to do. No more fighting. I was too tired to fight the good fight anymore. I closed my eyes and decided that my body could not take much more of this shaking and trembling so made my peace with Sandy, with my mother, with my children, with myself and finally with my God and allowed myself to drift off into unconsciousness where I knew hyperthermia would remove the pain and uncertainty for all of eternity.
Everything went quiet. My head was empty. The cold became warm and that old familiar feeling of being at eternal peace was once again permeating through my body and mind. All sensation and pain vanished. Just close your eyes I told myself and let go. I knew once again, that there was nothing to be scared of in dying and that I would once again become aware of all the answers to every question in the entire universe. This pleased me to such a degree that the very thought of death became something to look forward to, something I was happy to welcome without any regrets.
I jumped as something invaded my tranquil and peaceful moment, someone was calling my name. I lifted my head and a sudden rush of cold water splashed over my face and down the inside of my clothes which shocked me back to reality. I looked around me but there was no one there, just me and the cold rushing water.
I became angry at the thought that perhaps my brain was playing tricks on me so I closed my eyes again and suddenly saw a light above me. The thought rushed into my brain just as the water was rushing over my cold and almost lifeless body, somebody was at the top of the cave looking down. Rescue. I would be saved. But my eyes were closed and I did not have the energy to open them so how could this be.
Just in case it was not a mirage, my mouth opened and I managed to call out, “hello, help me” but the words fell on stony silence. No answer was forthcoming. Then I heard a voice to my left calling me by my name. I turned my head and forced my tired cold eyes to open but saw no one. Then a voice on my right side called my name so I turned to see who it was but again there was no one there. I made one last effort to shout at the top of my voice and within seconds, the others appeared from out for the blackness of the cave system they had been exploring. I sighed with relief, I was really going to get another reprieve. I felt smug at cheating death yet again but at the same time, felt sorry for what I was about to put the others through.
They knew instantly that I had fallen. They rigged up a pulley system and they miraculously hauled me slowly back up the cavern until I was at the spot where I fell from. The water that drained out of my caving suit as they were hauling me up helped reduce the weight they were trying to haul so that it did not exacerbate any injuries.
However, when they tried to move me sideways to rest on the rock beside the pot entrance, the pain was so intense that I blacked out for a while and when I came to, I was being carried to the mini bus at the end of the drive. Someone ran off to the farm to call for an ambulance.
I lay wrapped in several sleeping bags inside the warm womb that was the mini bus and drifted in and out of consciousness. I pleaded and begged the pain searing through my upper body to make its way down to both my legs and out of my boots but it resolutely refused causing waves of pulsating pain as it raced around my body like a headless chicken gasping for its last life’s breath as it ran towards the inevitable. Like the headless chicken, I accepted that death could be inevitable if I wanted it to be, all I had to do was will it just one last time.
Memories flowed endlessly over me and through me in a crescendo of emotions and feelings, all of them positive and gladly welcomed. My childhood came and went with the blink of an eye as did my adolescent years which were so painful if the truth be known.
Numbness was everywhere. I heard the others talking outside as I drifted on waves of euphoria brought on by the seesaw movement of consciousness and heard the words ‘broken back’.
Just before I succumbed to one wave of final unconsciousness, I felt someone cuddle up close to me and whisper in my ear. I was unable to make out what was being said but as I knew everyone was outside the mini bus waiting for the ambulance, it didn’t really matter as I rationalized that it was just my imagination playing tricks in order to cope with the shock that was running in spasms through my entire body. I heard a siren in the distant as the ambulance rushed to my aid, then I heard someone say in my ear, “not yet Frankie”. I manage to open my eyes for a second and spent an eternity wallowing in the dancing colored balls that effortlessly spun around my senses. Then sweet wonderful silence enclosed me in a cocoon of love and that familiar loving darkness entered my every pore in a gently flowing ebb until I remembered nothing more.
Patagonia did not happen. I spent the whole festive season in hospital with mixed feelings. First I would feel arrogant at cheating death once more, then I would be engulfed in waves of guilt that I could do this to my wife and children and such emotions continued for many days in and endless game of badminton with the shuttlecock of emotions swinging from one side of the court to the other.
In 1976 I had an urgent need of some vision quest solo time and so went to the highlands of Scotland alone to walk and climb over the Christmas holidays. The snow was deep and the ice was in good condition for climbing so I was in my element. I stayed there for 14 days and kept a daily diary of my thoughts and feelings and experiences of which the following entries came from:
7.20pm. Still not able to sleep. Suddenly I feel my stomach turn, my body twitch with electricity. I feel decidedly strange. My hair on the back of my neck is standing up. I feel very very cold. The darkness all around is frightening, suffocating me. I don’t know what’s going on. I sit up and look out the frosted window and in the moonlight I see a dark shadowy figure walking up the steps towards the hut. He has a long stick or pole. He appears to be wearing what I believe to be a shoulder cape of some sort and a strange looking hat.
He appears to be carrying something on his back, a pack perhaps. I calm down and feel relieved that I will have some company at last although I hoped he would stay in the outer room for the night. I heard the door latch open, then the door is shut. I gave him time to get himself sorted out.
8pm. I shouted out to him to ask if he is ok. Silence. No reply. I heard a match strike and soon I smelt the sweet aroma of his pipe tobacco, distinct and aromatic. I was both pleased and annoyed as at that point in time I was trying hard to give up smoking so I found the smell of tobacco repulsive. However, I shouted again. No answer. Ignorant person! Settled down and tried to sleep.
Dec. 25th Christmas Day.
Awoke early around 9.15am and wish myself a happy Christmas by eating a bowl of cold muesli. I smell the pipe tobacco again. I shout out good morning and merry Christmas but get no response. I decide to go into the outer room to find out why he has been ignoring me. I opened the door and find the room empty. The air suddenly becomes clean, no smell of tobacco, nothing. No puddles of water from any boots. No sign of anyone being there. I opened the outer door to see smooth white snow stretching way off into the distance. No footprints. No one has broken last night’s snow fall.
I return to the inner room. Sit on my bag with my knees up to my chin. Had I dreamed it all? Was it a ghost? Is my mind playing tricks on me? Is the lack of human company getting to me? Is it a message of some kind?
II try to dismiss the incident as just a dream but I know the smell of tobacco was real as was the noises I heard. I decided to leave the hut and move on to the Rynack Bothy.
6pm. Had a good days walk. Peaceful and calm. Snow conditions great. Truly exciting walking across pristine snow. Brain feeling lighter. Head not aching. Lungs working steadily.
Did a lot of thinking today. About my past life etc. Feel I am coming to terms with the divorce and everything else or am I just fooling myself?
Not a bad Christmas day after all. Didn’t even miss the traditional turkey dinner but enjoyed my tin of peaches. A pity the bothy stinks of animals. Will move on tomorrow. Even considering going to the youth hostel for one night to shower and dry clothes.
Dec. 26th Boxing day.
6.15am. A strange day. Didn’t sleep very well last night, foul animal smell was too much for my nostrils. Some strange dreams and images coming in and out of my mind. At one point I had an image of me climbing Everest by a new route. I was alone except for a faceless person who was carrying a flag with a star and a moon on it. They were wearing ordinary clothes and I was in a space suit.
As I got to the top, there was a party going on and I was told I was not invited. This dream changed suddenly to me standing in a crematorium looking into a coffin. Again the figure inside was faceless but I could hear others crying around me. A tap on my shoulder made me jump and I too jumped as I lay in my sleeping bag. The dream was almost surreal. The dream melted into a scene now in the bothy with me waking up to find some magical little people sitting around playing cards. Above their heads spun small colored balls of light. They looked familiar!
One of the little magical people dealt me a hand which I picked up. As I looked at the cards, I felt my heart rate and pulse double and without warning, I sat bolt upright to find myself sweating profusely. My hands were shaking as I recalled the hand of cards I was dealt.
Each card had the face of a friend who was deceased. The fright came not from seeing their faces, but that one of the five cards had a faceless figure on it.
I sat up in the corner of the bothy waiting for the morning light to take away the dark depression I was feeling. Tried to work out what if anything it all meant. If I had been drinking, I would have had no problems in understanding the hallucinating images!
I did not come to any conclusion but assumed the loneliness was playing games with my emotions and thought processes. I was glad when daylight started to filter in through the dark and oppressive long night.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I would have liked to have said that whilst I do not fear death, I also like life very much and therefore I struggle with the knowledge that one day I will not exist anymore despite knowing that I will in energy form. My problem is that I love the world, nature and my existence in this bodily form as it allows me to savor the wonders of sight, smell, sound, dreams, hopes desires, wishes and fears which to me at least, is something worth having for as long as I can.