Dreams are usually cluttered with nonsense: dogs speak English and cats get elected president. While we know that these dreams sadly mean nothing (sorry, General Whiskers), sometimes we experience episodes so real, so vivid that they seem as though they’re showing us glimpses of the future.
The proper term for this is precognitive dreaming. And, according to a survey conducted by psychologist David Ryback, roughly 66 percent of people believe to have had one in their lifetime. What should we make of them? Well, one camp says they’re still meaningless, while another believes they need to be embraced and investigated.
Throughout history, there have been instances of dreams that have foretold death and tragedy. Abraham Lincoln famously dreamed of his death; the passengers of the Titanic saw visions of sinking ships. Whether you think precognitive dreams are premonitions or just our minds playing games with us, there’s one thing the eerie episodes prove: The subconscious is one slippery bitch.
Abraham Lincoln Dreams He's Assassinated
According to Ward Hill Lamon, a friend and bodyguard to the 16th president, Lincoln reported having a dream of his death only three days before his assassination. In Lincoln’s dream, he was walking through the White House as weeping sounds of mourners filled its halls. Eventually he arrived at the East Room where he saw a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. When Lincoln demanded to know whose body it was, a soldier responded “The President, he was killed by an assassin.”
Lincoln supposedly told this dream to a number of people, including First Lady Mary Todd.
Titanic Passengers Envision a Sinking Ship
After the Titanic sank in 1912, several survivors came forward and said they had visions that tragedy was going to strike the Ship of Dreams. One of the people who perished on the boat, journalist Archibald Willingham Butt (heh), allegedly had a dream that he wouldn’t survive the trip and even put his will together before making the voyage.
It’s not a stretch to say that nerves played a role in these supposedly precognitive dreams. The fact that those dreams came true, well, could just be an unfortunate coincidence.
Man Dreams That American Airlines Flight 191 Will Crash
In 1979, American Airlines Flight 191 was flying from Chicago to Los Angeles when an engine detached from the aircraft. The ensuing crash resulted in 273 deaths, making it the deadliest aviation accident in North American history.
Ohio resident David Booth reportedly had recurring nightmares about a terrible plane crash in the days before the accident took place. He apparently phoned the Federal Aviation Administration and American Airlines to tell them of his concerns, but they did nothing. Years after the tragic event, Booth told his story on the British paranormal series Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers.
This is just one of many legends surrounding the flight. Another one says that actress Lindsay Wagner, best known for her role on the TV series The Bionic Woman, had booked a ticket for the flight, but skipped the trip after a prophetic vision warned her against it.
Sharon Tate Dreams of Her Murder
Actress Sharon Tate, the wife of Roman Polanski, was famously murdered by members of the Manson family in 1969, along with three friends who were with her at the time. But some people believe that Tate may have foreseen her horrific ending in a nightmare.
According to celebrity reporter Dick Kleiner, who had interviewed Tate, she once had a dream while staying at the home of her boyfriend at-the-time, Jay Sebring, a Hollywood hairstylist. In her dream, Tate saw a person tied to the staircase whose throat had been cut open. She believed that the person was either her or Sebring.
Of course, everyone must have grim dreams of this nature at some point in their lives. What makes Tate’s so surreal, though, is the fact that Sebring ended up being one of the people murdered with her. The two of them were tied together by the neck.
Lynyrd Skynyrd Vocalist Dreams the Band Will Die in a Plane Crash
Three members of the “Sweet Home Alabama”-singing rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd perished in a plane crash in 1977. Vocalist JoJo Billingsley, however, skipped the trip because of a prophetic dream she had days before.
In an interview with music publication Gritz, Billingsley said, “I saw the plane smack the ground. I saw them screaming and crying, and I saw fire. I woke up screaming, and my mom came running in going ‘Honey what is it?’ I said ‘Mama I dreamed the plane crashed!’ And she said, ‘No honey, it’s just a dream.’ And I said, ‘No mom, it’s too real.’”
Billingsley said she begged her fellow bandmates not to get on the plane, but they didn’t listen.