Dreams have been associated with a variety of paranormal phenomena, including mediumship (the ability to communicate with spirits), precognition, divination, telepathy, out-of-body experiences, and even alien abductions. Of these phenomena, dream mediumship and dream precognition have the most believers. According to a survey conducted by a paranormal research organization called the School of Metaphysics, more than 50 per cent of the respondents reported having dreamed of departed loved ones, with 30 per cent of these people saying that they believed the dream was an actual visit from the deceased. Fifty per cent of participants reported having at least one precognitive dream.

Precognitive Dreams

Precognitive dreams show images or provide ideas relating to an event that has not yet occurred. Most of the precognitive dreams reported as part of the survey showed images of a disaster, such as a car accident or bridge collapse, that would involve the dreamer. The researchers contend that such dreams are meant to warn the dreamer not to do certain things or go to certain places. The intent of dream mediumship, meanwhile, appears to be to allow a departed loved one to visit with and perhaps offer comfort to grieving relatives. In a few cases, however, the visiting spirit is said to have provided information meant to be acted upon. For example, the spirit of a deceased person whose body has not been found might appear in a dream to tell a relative the body’s location.

There is no proof, of course, that the spirit of the deceased loved one was actually present in the dream. Indeed, sceptics say that images of deceased loved ones come from the dreamer’s own mind, and that if the supposed spirit’s information is correct, it is because the dreamer subconsciously already knew or had a hunch about the information. Sceptics say the same things about the “senders” of the images and ideas in precognitive dreams, dismissing as nonsense a variety of complex theories regarding the precognitive nature of dreams.

Dream Telepathy

With dream telepathy, however, it is not always possible to say that the dreamer’s mind has invented the experience because there are two people involved; the messages seem to jump from one person’s mind to another. The most common type of dream telepathy occurs when two people have the exact same dream, as though their minds have been linked while sleeping. In some cases where a dream is shared, the two people actually talk to one another in the dream and then awake to learn that both remember the same conversation—though sceptics say this memory is unreliable, arguing that as the two people compare dreams they adjust their stories to make them more similar.

Sometimes these dream meetings join people who are many miles apart. Other dreams seem to allow the dreamer to travel across great distances as part of an out-of-body experience in which the dreamer’s consciousness seems to separate from his or her body and go elsewhere. After such dreams, the dreamer might awake and think that he or she has been in another land, another time, or another realm. Some people think this is a misperception, but others think that dreams really do allow people’s spirits to travel, whether to see other places or to connect with other minds.

Some of the people who believe that spirits can travel during dreams think that this journey takes them to a place where images have been stored since the first humans were created; all dreamers, they say, can access these images. (Some psychiatrists share this theory, though they say that the images are stored within the human mind, and that these mental attributes can be inherited from previous generations the way such physical features as hair and eye colour are.) This concept has led some believers to suggest that alien abduction experiences are actually symbolic dreams of ancient, communal memories. Sceptics, however, generally consider dreams to be private experiences and dismiss any notion that two or more minds can be linked while dreaming, no matter how strikingly similar two people’s dreams might appear to be.


  • Out-of-Body Experiences
  • Precognition
  • Telepathy


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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