The Evidence for Out-of-Body Experiences

Very many people are familiar with how people in recent decades have reported moving out of their bodies during near-death experiences.  But many people are not aware that the evidence for such out-of-body experiences goes way back before the publication of Raymond Moody's famous 1976 book Life After Life

An early account for an out-of-body experience can be found on page 447 of the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, dating from 1889. A  Mrs. N. J. Crans wrote the following to the distinguished researcher Richard Hodgson, telling of an out-of-body experience that seemed to have details corroborated by another person:

"After lying down to rest, I remember of feeling a drifting sensation, of seeming almost as if I was going out of the body. My eyes were closed ; soon I realized that I was, or seemed to be, going fast somewhere. All seemed dark to me ; suddenly I realized that I was in a room, then I saw Charley lying in a bed asleep; then I took a look at the furniture of the room, and distinctly saw every article of furniture in the room, even to a chair at the head of the bed, which had one of the pieces broken in the back ; and Charley's clothes lay on that chair, across the bottom of chair."

The full account includes a "veridical verification" element, as Charley later writes back to Mrs. Crans to say that the room looked exactly as described, and that he also saw someone named Allie at the time Mrs. Crans reported seeing her during the out-of-body experience. 

A few years later there was published an account you can read at the link
 here, which takes you to page 180 of Volume 8 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, published in 1892. I have summarized this account of an out-of-body experience at the post here

A long account of out-of-body experiences was given in the 1929 book The Projection of the Astral Body by Sylvan J. Muldoon, which you can read here. Muldoon claims to have had many out-of-body experiences, but gives little in the way of corroborating evidence to back up his tales. 

In the 1960's and 1970's the scholar Robert Crookall PhD collected many accounts of out-of-body experiences.  His works on the topic include these:

  • The Supreme Adventure (1961), which you can read here
  • The Techniques of Astral Projection (1964), which you can read here.
  • More Astral Projections (1964), which you can read here
  • Out-of-the-Body Experiences (1970), which you can read here.

The More Astral Projections book gives about 160 cases of out-of-body experiences. Below are some examples, none of which involved people under anesthetics:

  • Case #161. A Mrs. J. Douglas Newton reported this: "My son, then 8 years of age, who had never heard of any¬ thing of this sort, had gone to bed one night and was lying reading. Suddenly he called rather urgently for me. I found him sitting up, rather scared. He said, 'Such a funny thing has happened. I was just lying reading when I felt I was rising into the air. I seemed to go up,near the ceiling. Then I looked down and could see myself lying in bed. I came slowly down.' "
  • Case #162. A B. Barrett reported this: "I was in perfect health when one night I found myself looking down at my earthly body and could not make out why it was not lying there dead as I thought."
  • Case #164. A Florence Roberts reported this: "I have had many out- of-the-body experiences when a child. ... I found myself above my physical body on the bed. "
  • Case 165. A Mrs. Lambert reported this: "Suddenly I shot out of my body. I lay about six feet up, looking down at myself."
  • Case 170. A Peter Urquhart stated this: "I went outside and found myself out of the body again. This time the sensation was like being in a balloon, attached by a cord somewhere in the region of the navel, like the umbilical cord."
  • Case 172. A Mrs. Argles reported this: "I found myself standing on the top of the steps, looking down on my body, lying on the floor. There was a cord connecting me to the body on the floor."
  • Case 173. Vera Oates stated this: "in the early hours of the morning I was suddenly wide awake, but, to my amazement, I was hovering between the railing and the bed. I looked down and saw myself on the bed."
  • Case 174. A Mrs. G. Teakel stated, "I have many times been outside my body and found it a lovely experience. It happens mostly around 3 a.m."
  • Case 175. A Mrs. Harris stated this: "I have left my body many times, walking round the room and looking at my body which is joined by a cord." Reports of such a cord connecting body to soul are not very rare.
  • Case 176. A Mr. Jebb stated, "I walked round the room twice when out of my body."
  • Case 183. A Mrs. M. F. Hemeon stated this: "Suddenly I felt myself  ‘swimming’ up out of my body...I was very startled, and by an effort of will... returned to my body."
  • Case 194. A woman states, " Suddenly I was floating with my nose almost touching the ceiling—I saw all the little imperfections in the distemper."
  • Case 201: An R. J. Carlson states, " I suddenly found myself out of and above myself—and yet I could either sense or see my body in bed."
  • Case 204: A Rebecca Schreiber stated "I suddenly felt I had left my body and was flying over the ocean until I came to the ship" (the Queen Mary) that her daughter was on. After asking her daughter what was wrong, and being told she was sea-sick, she told her daughter she would soon feel better. Her daughter later said she had an experience matching this visitation account, while on the ship, at about the same time. 
  • Case 236. Oscar Mockler stated, "The next thing I was aware of was standing on the floor of the cabin and looking down at my body lying asleep in the bunk."
  • Case 241.  Mrs. N. Matile stated this: "I found myself floating above my bed (about three feet above). I then quickly passed out of the window to the middle of the Mews where we were living. It was a starry night and it was a lovely feeling, floating in the air. "
  • Case 243. An M.E. Fearn stated this: "I felt myself arise and float off the bed and ... was at the foot of our bed, looking at myself asleep, facing my husband’s back. Then I floated towards the window."
  • Case 246.  A Mrs. Eyres stated, "I had a feeling that the real Me came out of my body through the head and I had the sensation of flying.” She claimed to have visited other countries in out-of-body experiences. 
  • Case 247. A Mrs. Watkin claimed to be visited by two figures who took on a visit to some spirit world. She states this: "I was brought back to my bedroom and there the three of us again stood looking at my lifeless-looking body. Suddenly I slipped easily and swiftly into it."   
  • Case 259. A Miss Douglas stated this: "“One night I awoke from sleep to find that I was in a horizontal position and suspended in mid-air. In this position I travelled at moderate speed through the bedroom windows out into the night. It was moonlight and I could see the houses very clearly. I felt thrilled as I travelled along ...It was so real. I drifted across the roof-tops and identified the neighbours’ gardens. ... On the return journey I seemed to be losing height but not speed. ... Finally, I arrived in the garden at home, still remaining in a horizontal position and suspended in mid-air."
  • Case 267. A Mr. Hall stated this: "Presently a most strange sensation passed through my body. Next I floated out through the winidow and across the town. I seemed to be several hundred feet above the ground."
  • Case 268. A C. H. Normanby stated, "About the age of 15 years I experienced passing out of my body on two occasions."
  • Case 269. A Mrs. Flint stated, "One afternoon, while resting on my bed, I felt myself floating, or rather suspended in the air, and I was actually looking down at my body on the bed."
  • Case 285. A Mrs. Mansergh stated this: "In February, 1939, my husband and I retired to bed as usual and I awoke to find myself standing by the side of the bed looking down on the sleeping forms of my husband and myself. I moved away from the bed to the window. As I moved, I noticed a glistening cord trailing from me." 
  • Case 309. A G. Bradley stated this: " I awoke about 7 a.m., and had the sensation of leaving the body. All I could see was the frame of myself left in the bed. I was floating around the room feeling peaceful. Suddenly I had the urge to get back into the shell of my body. What a struggle I had to do it!"
  • Case 310. A Mrs. Shakespeare stated this: "During the night I seemed to float down the ward and then returned and hovered over my bed, looking down at myself. I felt calm and peaceful.”
  • Case 313: A Mrs. Fyal stated this:  "Suddenly I felt myself leaving my body and looking around my bedroom... I saw my own body...Suddenly I found myself wandering again and floated to my body where, in the morning, I was astounded that I was in it."
  • Case 314: A Mrs. Langridge stated this: "I was outside my body, suspended in air, and looking down upon my body. Three or four people were reviving me. I was in a pleasant state of freedom and thought, ‘I wish these people would leave me alone!' "
  • Case 327. Dr G. B. Kirkland stated this: "To my surprise, I found myself looking at myself lying on the bed. The thought; just flashed through me that I didn't think much of me —in fact, I didn’t approve of me at all. Then I was hurried off at great speed. Have you ever looked through a very long tunnel and seen the tiny speck of light at the far end ? It seems an incredible distance off. Well, I found myself with others vaguely discernible hurrying along just such a tunnel or passage—smoky or cloudy, colourless, grey and very cold."
  • Case 329:  A Mrs. Florence Phillips stated this: " Suddenly I began to float away from my body and entered a grand garden. ... I seemed to float through the trees into a mist. Suddenly it seemed as if a gun went off  and I was back in bed."
  • Case 336: An F. W. Talbot stated this: "The next  moment I was suspended in mid-air, horizontal, and looking down at my body on the bed. I could see myself lying in bed quite clearly. I watched an attendant go to my body, lift my arm and plunge in a needle. This was extremely interesting; I was suspended over his head and my feeling was that of detached curiosity."
  • Case 337: A Mrs Rowbotham stated, "I remember being on the ceiling of the room looking down at the two doctors and two nurses—just floating and watching."
  • Case 339: A Kathleen Snowdon stated this: "Suddenly I realized a feeling of great excitement, wonder and delight surpassing anything I had ever experienced as I felt my body [‘double’] completely weightless and floating upwards in a golden glow towards a wonderful light around hazy welcoming figures and the whole air was filled with beautiful singing. I floated joyfully towards the light and then I heard my mother’s voice calling me. My whole being revolted against going back."
  • Case 343: An S. H. Kelly stated this: "As I lost consciousness, certain things in my life came in front of me. This was followed by a queer sound of music and the next thing I was suspended in mid-air and looking at them bringing my body out of the water and trying artificial respiration. I was very happy and free and wondered why they were doing that when I was here! At that moment I was transported to my mother’s room. I stood beside her as she was by the fire in an easy chair, trying to tell her I was all right and happy. Afterwards, I was back, looking at my body, when a brilliant light shone around me and a voice said, ‘It is not your time yet—you must go back. You have work to do!' "
  • Case 346:  A Mrs. Maries stated this: "Meanwhile I  had left my body and felt myself floating in what seemed like a dark tunnel (with a glimpse, at the end, of a lovely countryside). I had no pain, only a wonderful feeling of happiness. I felt I had somebody with me, but saw nobody. Only I heard a voice which said, ‘You must go back! That child needs you!’ I returned to my body and heard the doctor say, ‘No, by Jove, I can still feel her heart!’ "
At the end of his book More Astral Projections, Robert Crookall has some interesting summary statistics regarding how often such accounts had recurring characteristics. He used the term "the double" for a kind of spirit body that was a double of the human body. For what he called "single-type cases" the statistics included the following:
  • "The fact that the ‘double’ left the body chiefly via the head was noted in 29 natural and two enforced cases (i.e. 13.5 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively)."
  • "The fact that, the newly-released ‘double’, often took up a horizontal position (usually not far above its physical counterpart), was noted in 50 natural and 7 enforced cases (i.e. 23.3 per cent and 18.9 per cent respectively)."
  • The percentage of people reporting a "silver cord" or "shining cord" connecting the human body and a spirit body (or something like that) was "43 (20.0 per cent) natural cases, 6 (16.2 per cent) enforced cases." 
For what Crookall called "double-type cases" the statistics included the following:
  • "People who saw the ‘dead’ (including ‘deliverers) comprised 57 natural and 6 enforced cases (26.6 per cent and 16.2 per cent respectively)."
  • "‘Level’ of consciousness: (a) ‘super-normal’ (with clairvoyance, telepathy, foreknowledge, etc.)—41 (19.0 per cent) natural cases and 2 (5.4 per cent) enforced cases; (b) normal—6 (2.8 per cent) natural cases and 1 (2.7 per cent) enforced case; (c) ‘sub-normal’—3 (1.4 per cent) natural and no enforced case." In the book people often report having a sharper or faster or clearer mind during an out-of-body experience. Such cases are consistent with the hypothesis that the brain is not the source of human thinking, but a kind of valve that restricts the human mind, allowing a mind to focus on mundane little tasks such as food gathering and wealth accumulation. 
We surely would not expect anything like such percentages if mere hallucination was involved.  In random hallucinations, you would expect matching specific details in fewer than 1 in 1000 cases, there being innumerable thousands or millions of ways in which a random hallucination might unfold. 

out of body experience

The source here discusses a variety of surveys taken to try to determine how common out-of-body experiences are.  It gives  numbers which suggest that out-of-body experiences occur to significant fractions of the human population, something like between 10% and 20%.

The 1973 book Glimpses of the Beyond: The Extraordinary Experiences of People Who Crossed the Brinks of Death and Returned by Jean-Baptiste Delacour preceded the much more famous Life After Life book by Raymond Moody. (Reading the book may require setting up a login with and doing an online "borrow" of the book.) Some of the accounts in Delacour's book sound like the well-known type of near-death experiences Moody described. For example, on page 14 Daniel Gelin (a well-known French actor) states that when being treated in a hospital "suddenly, I found myself floating through the room." On the next page, Gelin describes encountering his deceased mother and father, who led him to a "rose-colored world, a sort of fairy garden" where he encountered his deceased son. But then an "inexorable force" caused him to return to the hospital room.  

On page 20 of the same book, we hear the account of Betty Patterson, who said this:

"At first I felt as if my spirit, my self, was separating from 
the bulk of my body and floating up to the ceiling of the room.
From up there I could look down at my body on the operating table. Then this scene vanished from my field of view, and
suddenly I was surrounded by gentle light and soft music. 
I was overcome by a feeling of deep content that I had
never felt in life. This sensation overpowered me in such a 
way that I no longer felt any desire for earhly life. I tried
to move in the direction the sounds were coming from, 
but something forcibly prevented me. Apparently, the time had not come for the final separation from the body."

On page 20 of the book, we also read of a James Lorne who was clinically dead for five minutes after suffering a heart attack. Lorne states this:

"I felt myself floating in the air and could clearly see my body lying down there. I landed in a long corridor filled with soft twilight. At the end a bright light was shining.  I could also hear voices coming from there." 

Lorne describes encountering some "splendid garden" with people in it, but when he tried to move closer, the scene always receded. 

On page 37 we read of a Mrs. Francis Leslie who had her heart revived after it had stopped for quite a while, for so long that she was declared dead. She said that she found herself mysteriously "floating in a long shaft" that she also described as a "tunnel." She heard a voice calling from far away in the tunnel, which she identified as someone who had died.  She then felt herself back in the hospital. After describing her experience, she died about 12 hours later. 

On page 40 a doctor says that heart patients "again and again have the sensation of being disembodied" and that "in a sense they feel they are floating above themselves," and that they see their body "lying below them on the ground." 

What is interesting about the accounts I just gave from the 1973 Delacour book is that at the time it was published, almost no one except scholars of the paranormal had heard about out-of-body experiences or near-death experiences, so such accounts cannot be dismissed as some kind of conformity to a widely-known pattern. Several years after Delacour's book (after the publication of Moody's Life After Life) a host of people began reporting out-of-body experiences, and such reports have continued at a constant pace. 

In a book by Colin Wilson, we read the following:

"In the 1960s the psychologist Charles Tart studied a borderline schizophrenic girl whom he called Miss Z., who told him that she had been leaving her body ever since childhood. To test whether these experiences were dreams Tart told her to try an experiment: she was to write the numbers one to ten on several slips of paper, scramble them up, then choose one at random when her light was out and place it on the bedside table. If she had an out-of- the-body experience in the night she had to try to read the number (she claimed to be able to see in the dark during her OBEs). She tried this several times and found she always got the number right. So Tart decided to test her himself. The girl was wired up to machines in his laboratory and asked to try and read a five-digit number which Tart had placed on a high shelf in the room next door. Miss Z. reported correcdy that the number was 25132."

Wilson tells us the following: 

"Many thousands of examples of out-of-the-body experiences have been reported in the literature of the paranormal: one eminent researcher, Robert Crookall, devoted nine volumes to such cases. Another, the South African investigator J. C. Poynton, collected 122 cases as a result of a single questionnaire published in a newspaper. A similar appeal by the English researcher Celia Green brought 326 cases. One survey even produced the incredible statistic that one in ten persons have had an out-of-the-body experience."

Out-of-body experiences are very powerful evidence against the central dogmas of modern neuroscientists, the dogma that the brain is the cause of human mental phenomena such as consciousness, self-hood and thinking,  and the dogma that the brain is the storage place of memories.  There are a host of good reasons for rejecting such claims, such as the fact that brains are too slow and noisy to account for instant very accurate human recall, the fact that many people think very well and remember very well after half or most of their brain has been destroyed by disease or surgery (as discussed here and here), the fact that the brain has nothing like what it would need to have to instantly store and instantly retrieve memories, and the fact that the proteins that make up brains have average lifetimes of less than two weeks (1000 times shorter than the longest length of time humans can remember things).  Out-of-body experiences are just exactly what we would expect to have happening if mind and memory are not brain effects, but something like soul effects.  Nature never did anything to tell humans that brains make minds and that brains store memories. Neuroscientists merely jumped to such conclusions without any adequate warrant, ignoring many a reason for rejecting such conclusions. 

Attempts to explain away such very common out-of-body experiences as hallucinations make no sense at all. For one thing, such experiences show strongly repeating very distinctive features (as discussed above), which we would not see in hallucinations (which would merely have random content).  There are a billion-and-one things someone might hallucinate about, so given so many possibilities for hallucination content and the rarity of visual hallucinations, we would expect that only once in a blue moon would any person on Earth have a hallucination about floating above his body.  Instead, a signficant fraction of the human population seems to report out-of-body experiences (about 10% to 20% according to the surveys listed here).  There are many veridical out-of-body-experiences in which someone reports seeing something he should not have been able to see if he was hallucinating.  Such experiences powerfully refute claims that out-of-body experiences are mere hallucinations.  For example, in the case described here, #41, a person (S. H. Beard) tried to deliberately produce an out-of-body experience targeting the location of a second person unaware of such an attempt, and the second person reported seeing an apparition of that person at the same time, with a third person living with the second person also reporting the sight of such an appartion at that time.