Many of us will have experienced the feeling that we are going to die at one time or another. Maybe that feeling came when we got into trouble while swimming or in the seconds before a car accident. Then again, sometimes we have a hangover so brutal that we just really want death to come.
A smaller number of people have foreseen their own deaths and proven to be absolutely right though, suggesting that there is more to premonitions than we know, and sometimes those who have that sense of impending mortality are notable public figures.
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10 Martin Luther King Jr.
Possibly the most famous example of someone appearing to know that they were going to die is that of Martin Luther King Jr. In April 1968 he traveled to Memphis to lend his support to a strike by African American workers who were protesting the response of the city to the accidental deaths of two bin-men. King Jr. was a man used to facing threats to his life as the most prominent face of the struggle for racial equality in the US, but despite that there was something genuinely ominous about the speech he gave in the Mason Temple on the night of April 3rd.
Quoting from the Bible, King Jr. told the assembled crowd that had been to the top of the mountain and had seen the “promised land” of equality on the other side, assuring them that they would make it there. However he added “I may not get there with you” and pointed out that while he would like to live for a long time, he was not worried about that or his fate. The following evening he was shot dead on the balcony of his hotel, and his final speech suggested that he sensed that something was going to happen to him but that he was leaning on his faith for strength.
9 Mark Twain
Novelist Mark Twain had to correct “exaggerated” reports of his death in 1897, leading to one of the most frequently repeated quotes ever, but what is less well known is that he actually made an eerily accurate prediction about when he would die. The creator of legendary fictional characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn was born in 1835, which was also a year in which Halley’s Comet made an appearance.
This comet has an orbiting time of roughly 75 years, coming close to earth again at the end of that period of time and Twain seemed to know that his destiny was tied to its orbit. Just before it was due to make its next appearance, in 1910, he was quoted as saying that: “I came in with Halley’s Comet…It is coming again…and I expect to go out with it.” Sadly, this proved to be all too accurate a prediction of events, as Twain was to die on 21st April of that year. While some have pointed out that the orbiting timescale of the comet is similar to the average human lifespan, we do not all live for exactly 75 years, so that does not really explain the forecast.
8 Oliver Reed
Given his legendary love of booze, Oliver Reed did not need to have a sixth sense to guess that it would have something to do with his death, but there is difference between that and forecasting almost the exact circumstances of it. For that reason there is something more than a little eerie about the interview he gave to Channel Four in the UK five years before he was finally admitted to the Great Bar in the Sky.
Reed was taking part in a program called The Obituary Show, in which a different public figure was asked each week how they would be remembered after they died – while celebrity guests pretended they already were. With the studio set up to look like he was in heaven, Reed stated that his death came “in a bar of a heart attack.” In 1999, while filming his part in the movie Gladiator, Reed collapsed and died of a heart attack in a bar in Malta. The only difference between prediction and reality is that he was involved in a drinking contest, rather than a cabbage competition, at the time.
7 Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly was the first in a long line of talented rock musicians to die very young, and apparently he had some advance warning that this was going to be his fate. Holly died in a plane crash on February 3rd 1959, alongside JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson and Ritchie Valens, while they were taking part in the Winter Dance Party tour of the Midwest, However in the days before the tour began Holly and his wife Maria Elena both had frightening dreams that seemed to be telling them something.
Years later Maria Elena stated that she had experienced a vivid nightmare where she was standing in a field and saw a fireball fall to earth leaving a burning crater in the ground. When she woke up in a state of shock, Buddy told her that he had also had a strange dream in which he was flying away from her on a plane, with the feeling that he would not be back to see her again. The fact that both of them had these weird plane and crash related visions at the same time, days before his fatal journey is a very odd and unsettling coincidence.
6 Arnold Schoenberg
Phobias can be pretty horrible for those of us unlucky enough to suffer from them, but not many have been quite as damaging as that endured by composer Arnold Schoenberg. He had triskaidekaphobia – which is a fear of the number 13 – and became convinced that it would have something to do with his death.
Given that he was born on the 13th, his birthdays were never cheery affairs, but his 76th on 13th July 1951 had been a particularly bad one. He had spent the entire day in his bed, riddled with fear and certain he would die before it ended. His wife later said that she felt relieved when she looked at the clock and saw there were only 15 minutes left before the date changed. She went on to add that it was at almost exactly that moment that she heard the doctor shout to her and when she went up to the bedroom he told that Schoenberg had died of a massive heart attack. Some have suggested that his sheer terror helped to cause the attack that killed him, which is surely a lesson to the rest of us to get some therapy.
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5 Abraham Lincoln
When it comes to nightmares, one in which you appear as a corpse has to be in the front rank of horror, and that is what apparently happened to former US president Abraham Lincoln. On the night of 4th April 1865, Lincoln had gone to bed as usual, but the experience he had while asleep was anything but normal.
The next morning he told a friend that he had dreamt of mourners crying and of a dead body lying in the East Room of the White House. The corpse was guarded by a soldier and Lincoln asked him who it belonged to. The response would have disturbed anyone as the soldier said: “The president. He was killed by an assassin.” That was when Lincoln awoke, very shaken– for which we can hardly blame him – and he went on tell his friend that he remained “strangely annoyed” by the dream. He seems to have sensed that this was something more sinister than just eating too much cheese before bed and he was right. Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth exactly 10 days later, on 14th April.
4 Frank Pastore
Frank Pastore had two high profile careers during his lifetime, first as a pitcher in Major League Baseball, and then as a popular presenter on a Christian radio station. Despite these achievements though, the day of his death is perhaps the thing that he will end up being most remembered for. On 19th November 2012, Pastore presented his radio show as normal and at one point he talked about a television program he had seen the night before that dealt with the subject of the afterlife.
Pastore loved motorcycles and during his monologue he mentioned the risks, saying that, due to careless drivers: “at any minute I could be spread all over the 210.” This was a reference to the 210 freeway that he rode home each day and it was on just that road that he was hit by a car three hours after saying those words. He suffered massive head injuries and died later in hospital. However despite the disturbing nature of his death, Pastore was a devout Christian. The point of the radio monologue he delivered that day had been to emphasize his firm belief that we live on after our bodies die.
3 Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison was one of the brightest stars of the golden age of rock, in the 1960s and 1970s, but like most rock stars he lived a high-risk existence: ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ rather than ‘sleep, diet and veggie roll.’ It was that lifestyle that killed him at the cursed age of 27, but before breaking on through to the other side, Morrison made a casual remark that suggested he knew his life would soon be over.
He had been seriously spooked by the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin during 1970 – which we should not be surprised by as there were a lot of similarities between their lifestyles and his. During boozing sessions, Morrison took to telling friends they were “drinking with number three,” meaning that he fully expected to be the next big rock star to die young. Of course, we should remember that lots of people get a bit down when they are drinking, but his previous behavior suggests he was a manic rather than morbid drunk. Furthermore, the fact that he would be gone within months, in the summer of 1971, suggests it was not just the booze talking.
2 Mikey Welsh
People post horrifying things on Twitter all the time – mostly links to their YouTube movie reviews – but former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh surely wins the prize for the most disturbing tweets of all time. Welsh had a lot of problems with both drug addiction and mental health during the 40 years he was alive, which led to his exit from the band, but he had built a new life for himself as an artist in the years after that.
On 26th September 2012, Welsh took to the social media site to tell his followers: “Dreamt I died in Chicago next weekend (heart attack in my sleep). Need to write my will today.” This was then followed by a second tweet in which he clarified that his dream death had actually occurred the weekend after that. While this would have been pretty alarming to his friends and fans, due to his publicized problems, the tweets became much more upsetting two weeks later, when news broke that Welsh had been found dead in a hotel room in Chicago. What makes the whole thing extra creepy is that the cause of death was a heart attack caused by an overdose of drugs.
1 Indira Ghandi
Leading a country inevitably means that you make a lot of enemies and former Prime Minister of India Indira Ghandi was no different. 1984 was a particularly rough period for Ghandi and the country as a whole because during the summer she had ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple in Punjab, which was being occupied by Sikh political militants. This was called Operation Blue Star and led to high numbers of Sikh deaths, as well as angering a lot of their supporters.
On 30th October, Ghandi gave a speech similar to the one made by Martin Luther King Jr. in which she seemed to somehow know what fate had in store for her. It included the lines “I am here today, I may not be here tomorrow” and “I have lived a long life and I am proud that I spent the whole of my life in the service of my people.” The following day, Ghandi was due to be interviewed for a television documentary and as she walked towards the filmmakers – who included presenter Peter Ustinov – two of her Sikh bodyguards shot her to death in revenge for Operation Blue Star.
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About The Author: I am a freelancer writer who lives in Dundee. I also make short films as one half of Wardlaw Films.