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The paranormal experience of Henry Morton Stanley

Sir Henry Morton Stanley


Best known as the man who famously asked, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" upon finding the lost explorer in Africa, Sir Henry Morton Stanley was a celebrity with worldwide fame for his explorations of the Congo Basin. He is also a man with a most unusual past.

Born in 1814 in Wales, Stanley emigrated to America at the age of eighteen and served in the Civil War as both a Union and Confederate soldier. As a soldier in the Confederate Army's 6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, he was captured at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 and imprisoned at Camp Douglas in Illinois. While a prisoner, he caught the attention of the prison camp's commander, Col. James Mulligan, who convinced him to join the Union Army.

While Stanley was a prisoner of war, he had a brush with the paranormal. On the morning of Wednesday, April 16, 1862, Stanley was playing cards with other Confederate prisoners when he felt something soft touch the back of his neck. He suddenly lost consciousness.

During his unconsciousness he saw clearly the small village in Wales where he had been born and raised. He later wrote that he felt as if he was floating over the landscape. He floated into the house of his aunt, Mary, and into her bedroom, where he discovered her near death. He heard his aunt's dying words, stating that she was sorry that she had been so unkind to him as a child. Stanley clasped her hand and his aunt breathed her last breath.

Henry Stanley then jolted back into consciousness and asked the Confederate prisoners at the card table what had happened. They stared at him in confusion, and told Stanley that he had just spoken to them a few seconds earlier. Stanley's unconsciousness, which seemed to him to last for almost an hour, had only lasted a fraction of a second.

Stanley later received word that his aunt had passed away on April 17, just a few hours after his strange experience.


A Massachusetts native, Anna Newburg is a freelance writer and co-creator of Journal of the Bizarre.

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