An Innocent Omen
On 23 December, 1964 when I was 11 years old I dreamed that I was unwrapping a gift and was delighted to find a pretty dress. The dream dress had a full skirt and fitted bodice, but it was the printed fabric that was memorable -- royal blue with hibiscus flowers drawn in black and edged in gold.
Since it was the first one of its kind I attached no special significance to it until the next night. On Christmas Eve we went to the annual reunion at my great aunt's house. When I was handed a soft package I felt a chilly tingle. Excited I tore open the paper to find dress. Although the style was different (a Hawaiian mumu) the fabric was exactly the same as my dream, right down to the gold edging on the flower petals.
If that had been all it would have just been a coincidence, but it was the only non-violent prophecy I would ever experience.
Not My Fault -- October 1966
That summer we moved to Salisbury, England for a year so that Mother could study cathedral architecture and stained glass. Salisbury is in the middle of a plain and features a magnificent cathedral with a tall graceful spire. We packed up our favorite possessions, rented out the cottage and boarded a ship, taking up residence in a lovely old house. One night in mid October I had a dream.
The above is the best rendering I can make with my current graphic skills. I was standing on a mountain looking down at the cathedral in the valley below. Above the spire a shallow iron dish full of coal floated in the air. I could hear a children's choir singing inside the cathedral. Suddenly the dish tipped and the coal fell on the spire which sank straight down. The singing stopped and as I watched I saw a few children run out, but I knew many more were trapped inside, probably dead.
I was so shaken that I told my mother. She reassured me that it was just a dream, there was a peculiar feeling to the dream and I remembered the dream about the Christmas dress. The feeling was the same and I was afraid that this one would happen. I was frantic, being only 13 years old, but I wanted to figure out what was going to happen so that I could save the children. All I knew for certain was that it would be in the mountains, would involve falling coal (the specific term I used was "tipping") and that many children would be crushed when the building they were in sank under the weight of the coal.
When a week went by and nothing happened I began to relax. Then one day I came home to find Mother watching the television. Heavy rains had loosened a coal tip in Aberfan, Wales, crushing a school. Of the 144 killed, 116 of them were children. I was horrified and full of guilt -- and Mother staring at me as I recounted the dream didn't help. I wondered if I had caused the accident because I dreamed it and went to talk to a priest at the cathedral about it. He said it was an "odd coincidence" but nothing more than that. Perhaps he was trying to reassure me, but by dismissing it he only made matters worse. Now I didn't know what to think.
Aberfan was only the beginning. As years passed I had more dreams. The characteristics were always the same. I was given a few specifics that meant I would recognize the passing of the event, but only in hindsight. I was never given enough to prevent anything. Further, if the dreams pertained directly to me, as with the dress and a later one recounted below, the results were benign. If the dream presaged violent death then the victims would never be known to me.
It is not that I never lost friends and family -- to accidents, drugs, disease -- but of those I was never warned. Whether or not that is a mercy, I do not know.
The dream was of the same quality as the others. There is just something different about a dream that demands that I take notice of it. Most commonly the dream occurs just before I wake or when I am only lightly asleep as in a nap. On this occasion I dreamed that a woman known to Mother, but not to me was lying in a bed while little demons poked and prodded her. It was as though they were consuming her and she was in a lot of pain. When I woke up I knew the only really distinguishing fact was that the woman was known to Mother but not to me. Also, I felt that the woman was already dead and that death was a release from torment.
We were on our way to the Post Office while I told Mother about the dream. I had just finished the account when Mother opened a letter from her mother. Her cousin Mary Mouton had suddenly died of cancer while on a family trip to India. I asked "Who is she?" Mother answered, "Oh, you don't know her." She stopped and stared at me, then added, "I will never doubt your dreams ever again."
The Following Curse -- Spring 1969
In the dream I was visiting my very pregnant neighbor Liz. We were gardening, and as I dug into the soil I uncovered a tiny human skull, no bigger than an egg. I looked up to see some sort of dark floating figure following me. I gave the tiny skull to Liz and watched as the darkness followed her.
I woke up sweating and panicked. As usual I told the dream to my mother who always accepted the information with interest, ever since I knew about the death of her cousin before she did. I said nothing to Liz because I did not want to frighten her needlessly since I had no idea what the dream meant. It probably would not have made any difference. There was nothing I could have done.
A week after the dream -- and only 10 days after I had gotten my driver's licence -- I was driving my friend Gail home. My sister Roo was in the back seat of the station wagon. After stopping at a stop sign I cautiously pulled out at a blind corner, the view obscured by tall cattails on a vacant lot, and was hit by a fast moving pickup truck. Gail was knocked unconscious and Roo received minor cuts to her legs. We were lucky that all survived. I spent the night, first in the ER and then with Gail, keeping her awake until we were sure that her head injury was not more serious.
I hoped that was the end of it, but it wasn't. A week after the accident Liz went into preterm labor and the baby was stillborn.
And if that was all, it would have been enough, but the dream had one last act. In 1976 not long after I had returned home from college, Gail, her younger sister and a friend were driving home from her uncle's funeral (he had been my allergist) when their VW ran into the back end of a flatbed truck parked during road maintenance. All three were killed.
Christmas Day Tragedy
Once I got past childhood nap time it was rare for me to fall asleep during daylight. If I slept during the afternoon it usually meant I was coming down with something, but on Christmas Day, there was another reason.
The dream was brief and the details vague, but when I awoke I was shaking. In the dream I was in Augusta, Georgia (the next big town to Aiken) and the streets were shiny wet. Flashing lights reflected off the streets, red, blue, and yellow. There had been a car accident, and someone had been killed, but I didn't know anything more.
Later that evening came word that the older brother of a good friend had been killed in a car accident in Augusta. Again, as with the other tragedies, I did not know Gus personally, but was familiar with his family.
Sweet 16 -- 27 October 1973
This dream has bothered me for nearly 40 years. I had nearly all the pieces and still could not prevent the tragedy. In the dream I was walking along a two lane paved highway in South Carolina. I knew I was not in Aiken but that it was nearby. In the grassy median there was a reddish car, but I could only see the rear right of the vehicle. There was another car parked about 30 feet behind the first. I could not see much of this second car because I was staring directly into its headlights. I knew that it was dark blue and roundish, an older model. The scene in front of the car was illuminated by the headlights.
I turned again to the right where I could see flashing lights from an ambulance just out of sight. A young man lay face down in the grass and two men were pulling him by the wrists. I ran up and stopped them, saying "Don't move him like that. He's badly hurt."
"He ain't hurt, ma'am," one of them replied. "He's dead."
"No, he is not," I insisted. "Look! He is breathing, but he has internal bleeding, a ruptured spleen, spinal injuries. Now move him properly." They seemed very put out that I was insisting on correct medical procedure, but it seems that even when asleep I am still a doctor's brat. While I was talking to them the blue car disappeared. As soon as they had put him on a gurney I touched the back of the reddish car and it rolled away, vanishing as I turned back to my left.
The only person I saw was a girl sitting in the grass. I knew only one thing about her: she was exactly 16 years old, no more, no less. It did not occur to me in the dream that this must be her birthday. I asked her if she was alright. She shrugged. "I don't know."
I asked her name. She said "I don't remember." I was worried that she had some sort of head injury.
"Well," I said, "I am going to call you Sarah until I know your real name. What happened here?"
"I don't know. I don't remember anything." Even in the dream the vagueness of her responses troubled me. I found her purse and in it a wallet. I had her driver's license in my hand, but woke up just before I looked at it.
I panicked. The dream was of that ineffable quality to set it apart from others. My own sister had just passed her 15th birthday and my best friend's sister was about the same age. I couldn't stand the idea of waiting for a year for something to happen, but I didn't know anyone in Aiken who was about to turn 16. I called Mother that morning and told her everything in the dream. The girl's age was so exact we both felt certain that was the key element, so in the unlikely chance that Mother was invited to someone's 16th birthday party, we could only wait and worry.
It did not take long. About a week later Mother called. There had been a car accident on the night of October 27 just outside of Kitchings Mill, South Carolina, not far from Aiken. Deputy Sheriff Charles Payne, age 26, was driving Aiken County Sheriff Grant's daughter Meg home from the State Fair where she had been celebrating her 16th birthday. After crashing into a tree, the critically injured Payne was removed from the vehicle. His condition was serious, then critical. After a brief improvement he relapsed and died in Augusta's University Hospital on 12 November.
Meg never made it out of the car, which had hit the oak with sufficient force to rupture the gas tank. Before rescuers could reach her the vehicle was engulfed in flames that climbed to 30 feet. To this day I do not know if she was conscious or even alive as the car burned.
I was horrified. Although I did not know Meg personally, I did know of her. She lived across the street from my best friend. In the 36 years since the accident when I have gone out to the cemetery to visit an old friend, I always pass Meg's grave and the dream plays out in my head again. When my old friends recall the accident it seems that none of us feels "right" about it. Admittedly there is a sharp turn along that road, but no reason for someone to veer into a tree, especially not a deputy sheriff familiar with the road. It never made sense to others either and gave rise to a crop of wild rumors.
I think the stories are total nonsense. Payne would not have risked his career and their lives by doing something so stupid. Although recently divorced, there is no reason to think he was sexually irresponsible with his boss' jailbait daughter. Further, he was the father of two very young sons. Even if we accept that Meg was a determined young lady often defying her father, even she knew she had to return to the home of the county sheriff. I will accept that one or both were drinking at the State Fair, but having a couple of beers and being so impaired as to slam into a tree are not the same thing, even in SC in the '70s.
- Meg was drunk and Payne let her drive with the license she had just gotten that day.
- Payne was drunk and Meg had to drive.
- They were both drunk and no one knows for sure who was driving.
- That Meg was a manipulative over-sexed teen who had Charles completely in her thrall and thus could do as she wished, even if it killed them both.
I didn't learn what had happened to Charles Payne until August 2011. That he died did not surprise me. What did surprise me is what I learned while researching this article.
So what did happen? The article I came across revealed a far stranger possibility: that Payne was the target of a drug dealer hit and Meg was collateral damage.
According to an article published in the Augusta Chronicle Payne's two sons have learned that their father was an undercover narcotics agent involved in some drug busts in several southern states. He was supposed to leave the country in four days, a safety precaution until the dealers he had taken down were tried. The hit against Payne was carried out two days later. When pulled from the wreckage, Payne said he was fired on by a car that pulled alongside, the gun flashes causing him to loose control and slam into the tree. While SLED and local agents took the 1972 Ford Gran Torino apart, they found no evidence that anyone had fired into the car. Doctors stated that they found no bullet wounds in Payne.
But what about at the car? You don't have to hit the car or the driver to cause an accident. In my dream there were two cars. For years, I have wondered why give me a clue if it doesn't mean anything or help anyone. If anything in that dream can provide some peace to the officer's family, then maybe it was worth knowing after all.
Friends in SC have warned me to let this matter drop. The drug dealer that Payne was most involved with, was a man named Mark Warner, died not long after Payne in another fiery car accident in Florida. Does that mean justice has been served? I don't know -- and I intend to proceed cautiously, hoping that Payne's sons will someday contact me. It was afterall just a dream, but it still resonates even as the years pass.
Protecting My Feet -- Spring 1974
It is very rare for me to have a repeated dream, but over a period of about two months I had the same dream three times. In the first I cut my foot on a piece of glass and woke up only with the knowledge that I had cut my foot. Later I had the dream again, only in this version there was blood. When the dream played out a third time, there was not only blood, but pain. When I woke up I felt as though I really had cut my feet.
While on spring break my mother and I were visiting my maternal grandmother in Arkansas. During the course of this trip we had an opportunity to meet with a psychic. I told him about the dream I had the previous fall in which Meg Grant died. I asked him why my dreams never gave me enough detail to prevent a tragedy. He told me that my young mind could not as yet handle all the gruesome details and therefore I only saw as much as I could manage.
I told him about the repeated dream and asked what it meant. He advised me to direct my subconscious to prevent the accident in which I would be cut. From that day on whenever I meditated or was going to sleep I repeated to myself "prevent the glass."
About a month later when I was back at college in Ohio I had returned to my apartment in the late afternoon. Normally I would take off my muddy boots and leave them at the door, but the newspaper caught my eye and I stopped to read it. Again I thought to take off my boots but a glance at my watch proved that it was time for a favorite TV show (ok, I confess it was Mod Squad). I watched the program and was once again about to remove my boots when I noticed that my roommates had not put away the dishes in the drain rack. While in the kitchen I bumped against a plate not seeing a juice glass underneath. The glass fell -- oh so very slowly -- until it crashed and broke on top of my boot.
Normally I would have been horrified to have broken a glass, but my roommates came home a moment later to find me laughing. This once was I able to change the outcome, but only because I knew what was to happen and how it could be prevented.
Run Through The Jungle -- 18 November 1978
On that chilly weekend I was completely unaware of anything going on in the world beyond my DC apartment. I had no TV and no newspaper. That Saturday morning I dreamed that I was being chased by masked men with guns through a jungle. As I ran in terror the trees gave way to racks of empty clothes of men, women and children. The men fired at me as I crossed into an open space and took refuge behind a large black disk. I could still hear the echo of the guns as I woke up.
Although I sensed that the dream meant something, it had been five years since the last event. I shook it off and went on with my weekend. It was not until I reached work on Monday morning that I saw a newspaper account of the slaughter in Jonestown.. At first I did not make the connection between the events in Guyana and the dream until I came to the passage which described how one of the cameramen tried to hide from the gunmen by taking refuge behind one of the airplane's tires. Suddenly I remembered that in the dream I had hidden behind the large black disk, something very like a plane tire.
That was the last of the prophetic dreams. After that, I sought the advice of a Transcendental Meditation TM teacher who suggested that I was not ready for such powers. He said that in time I would be better able to handle the details and the dreams would become more clear, more useful. Using the same technique I had when I wanted to avoid broken glass I shut down the dreams.
Perhaps that was a mistake. Not long after that I developed migraines that have plagued me ever since to the point of disabling me. One reason for writing these experiences is to make peace with my past while I attempt to reopen those long closed channels. It might end the migraines. It might allow me to help others. It might do nothing at all. But at least I am willing to give it a try.