Could ‘Near Death Experiences’ Actually Be Painful?

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MJ WAYLAND explores stories of Near Death Experiences and how the “white light” can be a nightmarish experience

Near Death Experiences

Near Death Experiences are often portrayed as being spiritual, if not heavenly experiences. However, the popular media and authors often neglect to publish the reports that show negative or disturbing NDEs.

The usual descriptions of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) include being drawn along some vast tunnel towards a beautiful, beckoning light, where the experiencer will meet members of their family or friends who have passed away. However. this is not the complete truth, many people have a complete different experience, one that even verges on a visitation to Hell.

Darker stories of encounters with black-robed figures and of being sucked into some ebon pit of despair do exist and are more frequent than you think. One such person is Brian Bell, over 40 years ago, he was badly injured in a horse riding accident and was very close to death.

”People say when you are in this state you are drawn to the light, but I was going further and further down into the dark. I was terrified and very desperate. I was sure I was going to Hell. I definitely think there is another dimension when you die.”

Tony Lawrence, a lecturer at Coventry University is spearheading research into Hellish NDEs and has received dozens of letters describing quite disturbing experiences.

”There are two types of experiences, some people describe a void – an absence of experience, a feeling there is nothing after life. Others experience something obviously negative, often involving a feeling of being dragged down into a pit, rather than a tradition tunnel.

“Sometimes demons are involved. These experiences are, however, fairly rare. I am still trying to find as many people as possible who have had these experiences to see if a consistent picture emerges which may explain their cause.”

Near Death Experiences, Noises and Screaming

In April, 1997, a retired CID officer named Joyce Harvey had a massive asthma attack and was immediately taken to Colchester General Infirmary where she spent a week in intensive care.

“I got sat up on the chair opposite my bed and started reading a book. Within minutes I felt completely paralysed, unable to even blink.

“Then everything went dark and I was gripped by a sensation of falling at high speed.

“There were terrible noises, discordant notes, and screaming.

I could see thousands of faces without bodies beneath me; they were trying to pull me down further and further. I was terrified.”

Ms Harvey said that she felt she was dying and fought to come back to life. “Suddenly I was coming back up in the lift and the nurse was standing in front of me,” she said.

Another case supplied by Dr Lawrence concerns media studies student, Tracey Thornton.

“Three years ago I suffered terrible head injuries in a car accident and was in a coma at Edinburgh’s General Hospital for ten days. My family was told I had only a 50/50 chance of survival and kept a round the clock bedside vigil.

“After about six days I came around very briefly only to be plunged into something far worse than any nightmare. At first all I could see was complete darkness then a white light enveloped me. To begin with I was filled with a sense of peace and comfort, but then my entire body was gripped by indescribable terror.

“Out of the light appeared hundreds of small faces like foetuses whose features are not yet fully formed. They floated down and surround me.

“Although they didn’t have bodies, they were threatening and deeply sinister.”

Liz tells of Near Death Experience horror

Liz Rogers from North London had a similar experience in 1991.

“I was in the cinema with a friend, queuing for our tickets when I realised I was about to faint.

“There was a deafening buzzing in my ears like a huge hive of bees, a horrific noise that persisted throughout the experience. I couldn’t see anything but I felt as though I was falling at speed through a wide tunnel. I was gripped by a deep, petrifying fear such as I’d never felt before as though all around me was Evil.

“Everywhere was darkness, the only thing I felt able to do was scream – which I did, as loud as my lungs would allow me. As hard as I tried to resist the falling sensation some force or some thing that I couldn’t see was pulling me down into the unknown.
Then my mind seemed to explode and I could see patches of red like blood, interspersed with black.

“As soon as I opened my eyes I told my friend that I thought I had died. He told me later that I had let out two blood-curdling screams and then stopped breathing. Luckily he knew mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to start my lungs working again.

While Negative NDE’s have been associated with attempted suicides, while the majority of NDE’s are reported as positive experiences. Often, there is a reluctance to return, but once the person does, they strive to lead more spiritual lives and become better people.

“Often, it is reported that the experiment’s fear of death is greatly reduced. Strangely with a negative Near Death Experiment the experient still shows the same post-symptoms of trying to live better spiritual lives even though the whole experience is completely different.

Some people have attempted to explain NDE’s as hallucinations brought on by medical drugs or oxygen deprivation, however this does not account for the fact that some cases are reported as having taken place during a time when the experient’s brain wave record was completely flat, as with Liz Roger’s experience.

Remembering birth?

Another explanation put forth by Carl Sagan attempted to include the fact that NDE’s are reported all over the world, by people of different religions, and include many strikingly similar images. Sagan proposed that an NDE is the remembrance of a person’s most traumatic experience – birth.

However, psychological and neurological research has shown that newborns are incapable of perceiving or remembering the detail necessary to support this theory. Also, even if an infant could remember its birth, the general belief is that the experience would be one of leaving a serene place, the opposite of the experiences reported in NDEs.

MJ WAYLAND is an author, researcher and tutor specialising in paranormal and alternative subjects. He has an excellent blog called Walker of the Borderlands of Belief.


  1. Did you know there's aa annual Near Death Experience festival in Spain (As Neves, Galicia). Those who have had an NDE are carried in open coffins to church. Fireworks, octopus and brass bands also feature!


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