Also called hunches, premonitions are a type of precognition (the ability to see the future) in which, instead of receiving a strong image believed to foretell a future event, the experient only gets a vague feeling that something is about to happen. For example, Winston Churchill, who was the prime minister of Great Britain during World War II, once avoided being killed by a bomb after a premonition told him not to sit where he normally did. Later he said that he often had strong feelings that some “guiding hand” was helping him avoid trouble.
Some people have premonitions that involve just enough detail for the person experiencing the event to know not only that something is going to happen but also exactly what that something might be. For example, on several different days in 1968, a piano teacher in London, England, named Lorna Middleton had a hunch that U.S. senator Robert Kennedy was about to be assassinated. She reported her premonition to researchers who had established a registry for all kinds of precognitive experiences, and when Kennedy was indeed killed, her premonitions were verified as accurate.
Middleton’s hunches were among 469 similar premonitions registered with the researchers; 18 proved accurate, with Middleton and one other individual providing twelve of those correct premonitions. Another registry, the Central Premonitions Registry in New York, also received a correct prediction of Robert Kennedy’s assassination prior to the event. Though these statistics indicate that the phenomenon is rare, paranormal investigators suspect that many more people have experienced premonitions but fail to report their hunches because the feelings are vague and the experiencer does not want to risk appearing overly fearful, superstitious, or foolish.
Some people do, however, apparently act on their hunches by changing their customary habits if they have a vague feeling that something bad is about to happen to them during the normal course of their day. For example, in the early 1960s an extensive study by American parapsychologist William Cox of train passengers’ behaviour patterns found that far fewer people than normal turned out to be on board a particular train on a day when it ended up having a serious accident; Cox calculated the odds against such drops in passenger numbers as more than one hundred to one, suggesting that many of the missing passengers might have avoided taking the train because of a premonition.
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning