Tracking a Near-Death Experience

We recently wrote about out-of-body travel, which is usually a spontaneous experience, at least the first time. Near-death experiences are another spontaneous way that people travel beyond their bodies. Of course, it’s not the preferred method, since the person is literally dead for a short period of time.

That said, NDEs have become a specialty research area usually involving medical practitioners, who have decided to explore the the nature of these experiences from the stories told by patients who have been revived.

One of the best documented stories comes from medical social worker Kimberly Clark Sharp, who is the founder of the Seattle International Association for near-death studies. In 1977, she was a young social worker at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle when her life was forever changed by the experience of a middle-aged Mexican migrant worker named Maria. She described Maria’s out-of-body experience in depth in an essay published in Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife, by Leslie Kean. Here’s a summary of it.

While visiting friends in Seattle, Maria suffered a massive coronary and was rushed the Harborview emergency room. Several days into her hospital stay she had a coronary arrest. While medical personal attempted to revive her, the heart monitor showed that she had flatlined—she was clinically dead. Fortunately, her heart was shocked into beating again and she was revived, though still unconscious. She woke up several hours later and was breathing on her own. However, she was extremely agitated and a nurse paged Kimberley for assistance.

Kimberly had met Maria and was aware of her recent in-hospital coronary arrest. In fact, she had looked in on the team as they had attempted to revive their patient. Maria didn’t speak much English and Kimberly’s Spanish was basic. But they were able to communicate through Spanglish and gestures. Maria, it turned out, was excited and anxious to tell anyone who would listen that she had left her body and watched the recovery effort from a corner of the room near the ceiling. She accurately described the people in the room, where they had stood, what they had said, and what they had done. She also correctly described the electrocardiogram machine and how it had produced a long scroll of paper that was kicked under the bed.

Maria then said she had hovered above the doors of the emergency room, and accurately described the view of the curving driveway and the direction that vehicles were parked. She had no view of the entrance from her room. What makes her story truly compelling and ultimately documented is what she next told Kimberly.
Maria said that while out of body she drifted to another part of the hospital and saw a single, large-sized sneaker outside of a window ledge on an upper floor. She moved closer to it and described it as dark blue and scuffed on the side near the small toe area. She said a white shoelace was tucked under the heel.
She asked Kimberly to go find it to prove that while her body was dead she was not only conscious, but able to float inside and outside the hospital walls. Kimberly thought it would be a fruitless search, but agreed to take a look. She walked around the hospital on the sidewalk that encircled it, but was too close to the building to see ledges on the upper floors. She couldn’t move away from the building because of heavy traffic and a nearby cliff on one side.

She went back inside and decided to look around on the third floor. “I went into the patient rooms, walked to the window and looked down.” She found nothing on the ledges on the east and north sides of the building. While searching on the west side, she was stunned when she peered out a window and saw a man’s dark blue sneaker. The end of a lace was tucked under the heel, as Maria had described. After she retrieved the shoe, she saw that the area of the shoe near the little toe that had faced outward was scuffed.
She wrote: “I was shocked.Time stopped. For that first moment I could not support my own body weight and slumped against the glass, hitting it with my forehead. This was impossible.”

Kimberly knew that Maria could not have unhooked her IVs and monitor leads and wandered to the other side of the hospital and looked out a window of a patent room. She would’ve attracted immediate attention upon leaving her bed. Another far-fetched explanation that avoided out-of-body travel was that someone planted the shoe on the ledge, then convinced Maria to conspire in a hoax. In fact, Maria had no visitors the day of her resuscitation. Kimberly could not imagine a busy doctor or nurse taking part in such a charade. Besides, why would Maria agree to participate? Beyond that, none of the staff on duty, beside Kimberly, spoke enough Spanish to convince Maria of something so bizarre.

That left Kimberly with one other option: “While unconscious with her eyes closed, with no heartbeat or respiratory activities and a roomful of medical professionals working frantically to resuscitate her, Maria somehow had visual and auditory awareness of distant locations. While I watched her body being thumped and jolted, she was somewhere else.”
Strange as it was, Kimberly realized it was the most likely scenario, and that some people experiencing temporary deaths could remain conscious as they traveled out of their body.

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New Moon in Sagittarius


To astrologers, new and full moons are time markers for each month. The full moon, when the moon and the earth are opposite each other, is the most visually beautiful. Its astrological significance is news, harvest, insights, and illumination that sometimes occurs in areas we wold rather not see or acknowledge. New moons, when these 2 are holding hands and cuddling up in the same sign and degree, are about new beginnings and opportunities, new chapters opening in our lives, new doorways appearing out of nowhere.

The last new moon of 2018 occurs on December 7, at 2:20 a.m. at 15 degrees and 07 minutes. You can see it and the sun there in the 3rd house of the chart. And notice the planet to the left of the moon. That’s Jupiter, at 6 degrees Sagittarius, widely conjunct. There’s a lot I love about this new moon, and here’s why.

First, Mercury the trickster, the communicator, turned direct on December 6, in Scorpio. It had been retrograde since mid-November. For me, there were many snafus during this retro – returned Xmas gifts, miscommunication, missed appointments, computer weirdness, confusion, bewilderment about writing projects. I’m grateful we won’t see it against until 2019 – between March 5-28.

The second thing I love about this new moon is that Jupiter is widely conjunct, suggesting that the planet has our back. That’s important. Jupiter represents the best of who we are as human beings. It’s the planet of expansion, luck, the higher mind, foreign people, cultures, and travel, the law/courts, and well, FUN! It and the new moon fall in the 3rd house of communication, so that’s where our new opportunities may manifest themselves. For your chart specifically, look at where Sagittarius – that arrow – falls for you.

The third thing – and I love this – is the grand trine in water signs. In the 2nd house, Mercury is at 27 degrees in water sign Scorpio. In the 10th house, the North Node falls at 27 degrees in water sign Cancer, and in the 6th house, Chiron is at 27 degrees Pisces. The general indication is that there’s an easy flow of intuitive information and communication that helps us to evolve – and heal – as individuals and as a nation.

In the questionable column is the rising at 2 degrees, 26 minutes of Libra with the transiting ascendant and the part of fortune conjunct in that sign. We bend over backward collectively to make ourselves understood and liked?

Then there’s the exact conjunction of Neptune and Mars in the 6th house of health. Perhaps a health issue is due to anger or something unsettling in the workplace.Or maybe we defend our idealism.

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Shamanism & Clashing Cultures

Four hundred years ago, the Christian European culture began overwhelming Native American cultures slaughtering masses and converting survivors. Not surprisingly some descendants of Native American tribes are particularly sensitive about members of Western culture borrowing their spiritual traditions, “playing Indian,” so to speak.

Indeed, for the past several decades, a growing number of Westerners have begun exploring shamanism, usually through the window of these surviving traditional cultures where psychic phenomena is a central theme of life, not an outlier. The interest probably began with Carlos Castaneda’s anthropological adventure tales that blurred the line between non-fiction and fiction, beginning in the late 1960s. It became more real and grounded when Michael Harner published, The Way of the Shaman in 1980.

There’s considerable confusion and disagreement about whether or not those of us in Western culture should pursue shamanism. Some say non-Native Americans are appropriating traditional cultures by exploring this aspect of ‘non-local’ reality. In other words, demeaning it. While shamanism is commonly associated with tribal cultures in some distant mountains, jungle, or desert, actually everyone alive today is a descendant of shamanic practitioners. From the Druidic traditions in the British Isles to the Tungusic people of north Asia to the caves of Galilee in the Middle East, shamanism is the world’s first mystical tradition.

However, it’s more about experience than faith, more about wisdom and self-mastery than belief. It’s about seeking helpful spirit guides, sometimes in the form of power animals. It’s at least 10,000 years old going back beyond the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and classical Greece to hunter-gather cultures.

Surviving traditional cultures have an unbroken link to shamanism, and that’s the reason the interest of Western people in the spiritual tradition has become a point of controversy. While Christian missionaries typically want everyone, no matter what culture, to become Christians, some Native Americans fear the dominant culture will illegitimately change the nature of traditional shamanic practices. Those concerned about the issue tend to see little difference between missionaries, who convert, and outsiders, who appropriate and mimic their ancient practices.

By contrast, Western spiritual seekers—especially those of us with heritage from the British Isles and Europe—are bearers of a broken tradition, whose shamanic roots were abolished by foreign invaders. Ancient sacred sites were destroyed replaced with churches and monasteries. The ancient rituals honoring the Earth and the spirit in all things were banished and replaced by beliefs that emphasized an all-powerful male deity requiring faith and obedience. Because the link to our shamanic heritage was broken, Western people are generally unaware of our connection to the spirit world.

Contrary to cultural concerns about appropriation are shamans from traditional cultures—mostly in South and Central America—who have prophecized in recent decades that shamanism would reach out into Western culture. These shamans, who have trained many of the Western neo-shamans, see this expansion of shamanism as a positive act that ensures continued pursuit of these ancient practices.

In traditional cultures, shamans are considered the spiritual guides for their community. They move between matter and spirit, between form and energy. They are animists—meaning that through their experiences they have become convinced that everything that exists in this world is alive and has a spirit, including the earth, trees and rocks. According to shamans, we are spiritual beings manifested as humans. Our true home is elsewhere; our true essence is non-physical.

In addition, shamans say that these spiritual energies are all interconnected in a vast web of life. So anything that happens to one form of life affects the entire web. That’s similar to India’s net in Hindu mythology. It’s said that one tug on the god India’s net ripples throughout the universe.

This post is adapted from a chapter on shamanism in our forthcoming book in summer 2019 called VISIONS: The Sane Person’s Guide to Common Paranormal Experiences.

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Save the Cat


David Wilson of Crossroad Books recommended this book. I emailed him one night with a question about something else and we started discussing scriptwriting, Inktip,
and Stage 32

Over the years I’ve read a lot of books on storytelling, screenwriting, the construction of a story for both novel and the big screen. Joseph Campbell and his Hero with a Thousand Faces remains my personal favorite in terms of overall storytelling for any venue. Campbell understood Jungian archetypes and mythology like no one else. Robert McKee’s Story and anything by Syd Field tie for second place. But now, well, Save the Cat may become my all time favorite.

The author, Blake Snyder, is funny, irreverent, and puts forth his own ideas about the construction of a story. As a screenwriter who wrote on spec, he had the credentials to write this book. One of his early revelations is how he once came up with a title for a screenplay – Nuclear Family. But instead of writing about what most of us perceive as a “nuclear family,” – mom, dad, kids – he gave the phrase a wicked twist. Snyder’s logline: “A dysfunctional family goes camping on a nuclear dumpsite and wakes up the next morning with super powers.”

The script sold in a bidding war for $1 million to Spielberg. But as Snyder puts it: “It’s a movie I still want to see, if anyone’s listening.” Apparently the movie still hasn’t been made, but the sale probably raised Snyder’s visibility and definitely made him a millionaire.

His book is filled with stories like this, but also with really solid nuggets of information that any writer can use, study, experiment with. He presents his format and asks you, the reader, to sit down and watch a bunch of movies and identify the points he discusses. What fun, right? He also gives breakdowns of movies with which most of us are familiar and explains why those movies works – and why others in the same genre don’t work.

One genre he talks about made me laugh out loud. It’s the Dude With a Problem. Dude or gal, the idea the is the same. Ordinary dude/woman encounters extraordinary situation-  (the sort of thing at which Stephen King excels). Here are Snyder’s examples for this genre:

“My wife’s building is taken over by terrorists with ponytails (Die Hard).

“Nazis start hauling away my Jewish friends (Schindler’s List)

“A robot from the future (with an accent!) comes and tells me he is here to kill me and my unborn child (The Terminator).

And he caps this with: “And these, my friends, are problems. Big primal problems.”

After reading the first 50 pages or so of the book, I returned to Inktip and revised my logline for Black Water. It initially read: A mother will do anything to find her abducted daughter, even follow the kidnapper 50 years back in time.

Now it reads: A mother follows her daughter’s kidnapper back 50 years in time and must find her before the portal closes, trapping them both in 1968.

The actual novel is more complex, with multiple viewpoints. But this logline, I think, captures the heart of the story, provides the bigger emotional picture – and the stakes.

I was checking out Snyder’s website and was sorry to discover that he died in 2009, at the age of 52.

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Traveling in a Second Body

Woman lying down in dark place with image of her body floating above her

It’s one of the most unusual types of phenomena—leaving your body and flying off in a second body. These experiences typically happen spontaneously, are startling, and short-lived. They may occur once or twice, then never again. But some people learn to master the technique for entering OBEs and directing their adventures.

Others are naturals, such as Robert Monroe, founder of the Monroe Institute which explores the nature of consciousness, especially out-of-body experiences (OBEs). Monroe, who wrote Journeys Out of the Body, the seminal text on the subject, was concerned that he was going crazy in the 1950s when he started lifting from his body as he lay in bed trying to sleep. Eventually, he heard about yogis who traveled out of body, and decided not to fight it any longer. He was worried that he might die, but he committed himself to going with the experience. After that, he gained more confidence and soon was able to initiate the experience and even explore realms beyond the physical world.

One day in the spring of 2004, our daughter came home from high school and told us that one of her friends was going out of body all the time. We asked what she meant by all the time. “Like almost every night when she lies on her back.” Megan replied. “She lifts straight up and she can see herself lying on the bed below her.”

The teenage girl was frightened and disturbed by the repeated out-of-body experiences and so was her mother, who took her to a neurologist. She was given a CAT scan and to the relief of the girl and her family, there was no sign of a tumor or other brain disorder. She was told that her “imaginary” experiences were probably related to stress, and she was prescribed a drug to block any further OBEs. The neurologist thought the experience was related to the functioning of the girl’s brain, not her spirit.

However, science writer Michael Talbot in his book, Beyond the Quantum, offered another point of view when he described an out-of-body experience from his teen years. At first, he thought he was dreaming, but everything in his dream seemed real. Nothing was distorted and nothing about his appearance on the bed below him or the furnishings of his room had changed.

“I floated weightlessly out of my bedroom and into the living room, still marveling at the fact that all of the features of the house seemed identical to how I knew them in my waking state….Suddenly, as I swam like some airborne fish through the rooms, I found myself heading on a collision course with a large picture window. But before I had time to panic, I drifted through it, effortlessly, and looked back in astonishment to see that my passage had not affected it in the least.”

He continued drifting along looking, looking at the dewy grass below him, then suddenly he saw a book in the grass. He moved closer to it and saw that it was a collection of short stories by the nineteenth century author Guy de Maupassant. While he was aware of the author, he had no knowledge of the book or any particular interest in it. After that, he lost his awareness and fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning on his way to school, a neighbor girl joined him and said she’d been walking in the woods near his house and said she thinks she might’ve lost a library book. She told him it was a collection of short stories by Guy de Maupassant and asked him if he’d seen it. “Stunned, I related to her my experience of the night before, and together we strolled to the spot where I had seen the book in my dream,” he wrote. “And there it was, nestled in the grass exactly as it had been when I had lazily floated over it.”

Talbot thought his OBE could have been a dream that, in a remarkable coincidence, mirrored a real-life incident—the lost book and its exact location. A second possibility was that information about the lost book had entered his consciousness even though he didn’t realize it. Talbot noted numerous studies that show the mind has a remarkable ability to pick up information without our consciousness awareness of it. In other words, Talbot might’ve seen the missing book in his peripheral vision without realizing it. However, he wrote that he had not walked in the area during the time the book was missing, nor had he talked to his neighbor between the times when she lost the book and they recovered it.

The other explanation was that a part of his consciousness left his body during his sleep and he’d actually seen the book. Talbot added that the explanation was the most likely of the three, based on the impact of his own experience as well as cases that he’d read about.

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Carl Jung on Hearing Voices

One of the chapters in the book we’re working on, Visions: A Thoughtful Guide to Common Paranormal Phenomena, deals with voices that people hear.

Carl Jung  treated patients who heard voices. One of the most interesting cases, which he talks about in his autobiography, was that of a schizophrenic older woman who heard voices “distributed throughout her entire body, and a voice in the middle of the thorax was ’God’s voice,’” Jung writes.

He told her that was the voice they should rely on, because this particular voice made sensible remarks and enabled him to manage this patient. One time the voice in the thorax, God’s voice, told the woman to allow Jung to test her on the Bible. So for the next seven years, once every two weeks, Jung assigned her a chapter in the Bible to read and then tested her on it. “In this way,” Jung wrote, “her attention was kept alert, so that she did not sink deeper into the disintegrating dream.” After six years, the result of Jung’s technique was that the voices that had once been everywhere throughout her body were now just on the left side. The right side was totally free of them.  He concluded that she was cured, but only halfway.

Through his work with patients like this woman, he realized that paranoid ideas and hallucinations hold a kernel of meaning. “A personality, a life history, a pattern of hopes and desires lie behind the psychosis….At the bottom we discover nothing new and unknown in the mentally ill; rather, we encounter the substratum of our own natures.”

It would be interesting if psychiatrists or psychologists conducted a study of mediums in the spiritualist town of Cassadaga, Florida, where most of the residents hear voices, communicate with the dead, and constantly are honing their skills. In Cassadaga, this is considered normal. Business as usual.

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More Spirit Contact with Mike Perry

This synchro and spirit contact story comes from our blogging friend, Mike Perry, who also writes about synchronicity.

He and his wife, Karin, were visiting the wife, Sara, of Mike’s closest friend, Jim, who died some years ago. Mike has experienced a number of synchros connected to Jim, including one that began during Jim’s funeral service. A butterfly flew into the church and landed on his coffin. It stayed there until the coffin was carried out. Not surprisingly, he experienced several synchros while visiting Mary.

“A couple of days ago Sara received a small package, which she knew was a spiritual magazine to which Jim subscribed. She put the package to one side.

Later in the day it was pouring with rain so she decided to watch a Johnny Cash movie that was on one of the TV channels.

“There was a commercial break during the movie and she reached out to open the package I mentioned. The magazine opened on a page where the words of the song Far Side Banks of Jordan were printed – at the exact same moment there was Johnny Cash actually  singing the same song and she heard the words “… and my one regret is leavin’ you behind’.  She said she felt so emotional and overcome.

“Now a silly bit to our visit to see Sara! We sat in her living room and a fly started buzzing about. She wanted to swat it. I said, “Don’t do that,” and quoted her something a relative wrote in my autograph book when I was six or seven years old:

“Little fly upon the wall

Ain’t you got no home at all

Ain’t you got no mum or dad

Are, ain’t that sad.

“The fly disappeared and Sara laughed that she would never look at a fly in the same way again!

“We then had a sandwich and the fly started buzzing again and I said something like, “I’ll get rid of it”. This is a crazy bit. The fly settled on my thumb! I said to Sara that I would put the fly outside, so I walked out of the room and to her front door. The fly stayed exactly on the same place on my thumb, it didn’t move at all. I called to Sara to unlock the door, which she did. I said to the fly, “Off you go,” and away it went!

“These are the words of that Johnny Cash song:

“I believe my steps are growin’ wearier each day
Still I’ve got another journey on my mind
“Lures of this old world have ceased to make me wanna stay
And my one regret is leavin’ you behind

But if it proves to be his will that I am first to go
And somehow I’ve a feelin’ it will be
When it comes your time to travel likewise, don’t feel lost
For I will be the first one that you’ll see

And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand.”


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…Old Black Ambulance

Here’s an odd and somewhat creepy synchro. As you look at the cover of this short story collection, it’s pretty clear that it’s a collection of tales from  the horror genre. Now look at the name of the editor. His last name is GRAVES. Very fitting.

The publisher has put together a 3-minute video to introduce the book. I’ve never seen a trailer for a book. But this one has it. It’s well done and quite eerie. The book hopefully will be published sometime in early 2019, but the publisher needs some help. Hence, the related Kickstarter campaign. Good luck, Graves & company.





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Ivanka’s Premonition

Senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump faces a House investigation into her alleged use of a personal email account for government business. You would think she would’ve been more careful, considering that Hillary’s use of private email as secretary of state was the crowning issue for Trump in the 2016 election. Not only that but Ivanka wrote a book nine years ago warning readers about the danger of communicating by emails. Very prophetic.

Just to review the supposed danger of Hillary’s use of private emails, in October, 2016 Trump said: “We can’t have a president who is under criminal investigation.” That was also quite prophetic. Prophecy runs in the family, I guess. Along with arrogance and a sense of entitlement.

Now that  the Democrats took over the House in the mid-terms we might see what those emails hold when the House gets into session after the first of the year.

In her 2009 book, The Trump Card: Playing To Win In Work And Life, Ivanka wrote: “My friend Andrew Cuomo, New York’s great attorney general (who is now Governor of New York), tells me that e-mail is the key to prosecuting just about everyone these days.”

She added that people “can be so incredibly slapdash with their electronic messages, as if they were some modern version of smoke signals that can disappear without a trace.” But it was “just the opposite,” she noted. “E-mail correspondence can be retrieved in perpetuity, so there’s no hiding from what you’ve written in haste or just hoping it goes away.”

Russia, if you’ve got Ivanka’s emails….

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From us to all of you

May all of you enjoy the  Thanksgiving holidays!

And mark these dates on your calendars: November 25-26. On these 2 days, the sun and Jupiter will be traveling together in fire sign Sagittarius, making these 2 days the luckiest all year!

Here’s  the link to our great discussion with Monique Chapman about spirit contact and synchronicity.

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Archetypes of Death and the Trickster

I’m writing this on Hallow’s Eve, the day when the veil between the physical and spirit worlds is thinnest. We’re waiting to do a radio show on the topic of spirit contact and also, at the host’s request, the widespread fear of death as part of our ‘publicity tour’ for  Secrets of Spirit Communication. So it seemed appropriate to start writing about the subject before the show begins.

On the blog today is a post about the sudden death Piper, our daughter’s cat. The woman who was with Megan when the cat was found stayed to comfort her. The next day the same woman called Megan and told her that her cat had just been killed by a car, and Megan went to comfort her. That was National Cat Day, and the day before Halloween.

These types of synchronicities underscore the power of the archetype we call death. “An archetype is like a natural force,” wrote Robert Hopcke in There are No Accidents. It can be as powerful as a tornado, whipping into our lives, creating chaos.”

The fear of death is common, but mediums have often said that being born is  more traumatic than the passage to the afterlife from death. I was only part way through this post when the call came and the radio show began. Trish had appeared on The Donna Sebo previously to talk about astrology and had also talked with Donna’s husband while making arrangements. So as the show was about to begin, Trish asked Donna how her husband was doing. Donna, who is a medium as well as radio show host, very casually said that he died earlier in the month. It wasn’t that she didn’t miss him or care that he’d died. On the contrary, she was certain that he still existed elsewhere and mentioned that he’d been in contact with her. So an interview about spirit contact certainly came at an appropriate time for  Donna.

Sometimes it seems that the Universe actually makes light of death, like it’s no big deal or even reason for humor, or at least irony! That’s particularly true when the Death and Trickster archetypes merge. Here are some examples that we’ve written about.

Will Rogers, humorist, actor, and writer, died in a plane crash with his aviator buddy, Wiley Post, shortly after taking off from a lagoon in Point Barrow, Alaska. Rogers’s typewriter was found in the debris, a piece of paper rolled into it, and the last word he typed was death. Even Rogers probably got a kick out of that one.

Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain, was born just after Haley’s Comet appeared in 1835. The comet only appears in our skies once every 76 years. In 1909, he wrote: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’”

Indeed, Clemens died one day after the comet appeared in the sky.

Hours after famed Trappist monk Thomas Merton proclaimed in an important meeting with religious leaders that the times ahead were electrifying, he died by electrocution while sitting in the bathtub.

The last movie that John Huston directed before his death was called The Dead.

The last book of poetry that Anne Sexton published before she committed suicide in 1974 was entitled The Death Notebooks.

At the time of his death, Philip K. Dick was working on a novel entitled The Owl in Daylight. In esoteric traditions, the owl is considered a messenger between the living and the dead.

The last song that Hank Williams wrote was Angel of Death. When he died, he had a hit single at the top of th charts: I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.

Hank got that one right. But also wrong. We’ll all die, but our consciousness survives. The so-called dead are alive and well just beyond the veil.

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A Cluster Curse?

We rarely write about football here on our synchronicity blog. That’s probably because first downs, field goals, and touchdowns don’t usually involve meaningful coincidence. A football game is all pretty much cause and effect plays, one after another,  even when a miraculous play is pulled off. For example, if  a team wins in the last seconds of play because of an 80-yard passing play, skill and timing were probably the major factors, not coincidence.

But now comes Peter King of NBC sports who has compiled a list of oddly related events that we typically would refer to as a cluster synchronicity. However, in this case, it’s probably best to refer to them as a cluster curse. It’s an NFL nightmare that involves the coaches of the hapless Cleveland Brown, widely considered the worst team in football over the past decade.

It seems that every time the Browns play the Steelers and lose by more than 10 points, the coach is fired within 24 hours. The synchronicity involves the entanglement of the Steelers in this series of firings, since the Steelers should have no more effect on the future of the Browns coaching staff than any other team the Browns play. After all,  the Browns have lost by more than 10 points to numerous opponents since 2008. But it’s only after playing the Steelers that the coach gets canned. Interestingly, the firings were made by two different owners.

Writer King describes the unlikely nature of this cluster synchronicity  this way: “That sounds preposterous, which it is. Impossible, which it almost is. But I’ll prove it to you. One decade, six really bad post-Steeler hangovers.”

• Dec. 29, 2008: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 0. The next day, owner Randy Lerner fired Romeo Crennel after four playoff-less seasons and a 24-40 record. “I would like to think we’re a more compelling organization to be a part of now,” Lerner said (whatever that means) in making the announcement.
• Jan. 2, 2011: Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 9. The next day, owner Randy Lerner fired Eric Mangini after two playoff-less seasons and a 10-22 record. Mangini said: “Our goal was to build a team for long-term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal.”
• Dec. 30, 2012: Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 10. The next day, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Pat Shurmur after two playoff-less seasons and a 9-23 record. Shurmur said: “This group of players will achieve success soon, and part of me will feel very good when that happens.”
• Dec. 29, 2013: Pittsburgh 20, Cleveland 7. That night, after word of a coaching change leaked via text messages and solid rumors on the Browns’ bus back from Pittsburgh, owner Jimmy Haslam fired coach Rob Chudzinski after one playoff-less season and a 4-12 record. “One year? One year? C’mon. You don’t fire a coach after one year,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said.
• Jan. 3, 2016: Pittsburgh 29, Cleveland 12. That night, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Mike Pettine after two playoff-less seasons and a 10-22 record. A team statement said: “We don’t believe our team was positioned well for the future.”
• Oct. 28, 2018: Pittsburgh 33, Cleveland 18. The next day, owner Jimmy Haslam fired Hue Jackson after 2.5 playoff-less years and a 3-36-1 record. Jackson told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Cleveland is currently the Mount Everest of the NFL.”

I guess that last comment means that getting the team to win games is a seriously difficult climb for any coach. As of this writing, Nov. 5, the Browns had lost 25 consecutive games on the road, including the last one to the Steelers. That’s a long ride.

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William Goldman, RIP

During the evening on November 16, I saw a tweet from Stephen King that author William Goldman, who wrote the script for Misery,  had died. What a loss of a great talent – a novelist and screenwriter who won two Oscars.

Every writer has favorite writers, those authors who books captivated you, taught you something about writing, plotting characters, the art of storytelling. Goldman was one of those authors for me. I first came across him through his novel Control, one of the eeriest, most tightly plotted  paranormal stories I’ve ever read. I looked on Amazon to see if it was still in print (no, but it will probably be brought back into print now) and was surprised that it only has 10 reviews and 3.5 stars. In the years since 1983, when I first read it, I’ve read the book two more times and each reading deepened my appreciation for Goldman’s command of language, suspense, subtlety, plotting, and characters.

Some of his other books are in our library, too. Heat, The Color of Light, Marathon Man, The Princess Bride. I also loved many of the movies for which he wrote the screenplays – Misery, of course, Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President’s Men.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote an interesting retrospective piece on Goldman. If you haven’t read any of his novels, start with Control. The opening line is brilliant: “If there was one place in this world Edith never expected trouble, it was Bloomingdale’s.”

This line then leads into the kind of trouble Edith encountered and when you surface for air again, you’re at the end of the book.

My hope is that William Goldman in the afterlife is already busy coaching aspiring writers to write the best stories they can.

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