Famous cases of near-death experiences

Posted: 12/07/2018

Any report of a near-death experience or a religious experience in the same capacity can spark both excitement as well as scepticism. For those who believe in the concept of a near-death experience, they act as a way of proving that there is life beyond this realm and that some form of after-life must in fact, exist. Meanwhile, sceptics argue that there are explanations for such events taking place and that they are, ultimately, nothing sort of an illusion of the mind. We look at some famous cases.

What is a near-death experience?

According to the Dictionary, a near-death experience is “an unusual experience taking place on the brink of death and recounted by a person on recovery, typically an out-of-body experience or a vision of a tunnel of light”.

Essentially, a person claims to have come close to experiencing death, only to recover and remember what it is they saw, heard or felt during that experience. Many of the reported near death experiences share similarities as well as key differences, so there is not “right” way to have one, so to say.

The case of Pam Reynolds

Pam Reynolds was an American singer-songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia. She famously claimed to have had a near-death experience during a brain operation. During said operation she was rendered clinically dead due to the fact she was showing no brain wave-activity and had no blood flowing to her brain.

During her operation, Reynolds claimed to have heard a sound like a natural ‘D’ which seemed to pull her out of her own body, allowing her to “float” above herself and witness the operation. Interestingly, she claimed to feel “more aware than normal”, explaining that her vision was clear than usual.

She reported to have conversations between the medical staff, which were later verified. This was despite her having earphones in her ears the whole time which made a loud clicking noise in order to monitor her brain function.

At another point, she says that she was drawn towards a light. As she approached the light she claims that she saw figures which she interpreted as her grandmother, an uncle and other deceased relatives as well as people who she did not recognise. She said she enjoyed her time there so much that she did not want to return to her body. Her uncle was said to have brought her back to her body by force, which she likened to jumping into ice water.

The case of ’23 minutes in Hell’

Bill Wiese claims to have visited hell and then returned to earth, all of which he documented in his personal book “23 minutes in Hell”.  According to his book, he found himself in a small cell alongside two beasts, who were the personification of evil and terror, and who spoke in blasphemous language. These beasts were extremely strong with the strength one thousand times greater than a man, Wiese claims.

After the beasts threw him against a wall, broke his bones and ripped off his flesh, he managed to escape from the cell where he was met by the screams of billions of damned people in hell. He later claims to have encountered Jesus, who encouraged him to tell all people on earth that hell is real. The ordeal ended when he woke on his living room floor, screaming in sheer terror.

The case of George Rodonaia

Following a being hit by a car in 1976, George Rodonaia was immediately pronounced dead. He was then left in the morgue for three days, only to “return to life” when a doctor began to make an incision into his abdomen as part of the autopsy procedure.

Previous to his near-death experience, George was an avowed atheist and a neuropathologist by profession. After this event, he dedicated his life to studying spirituality, taking a second doctorate in the psychology of religion. He then went on to become a ordained priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Oldest record of a near death experience: Plato


Near-death experiences are by no means a modern-day phnenomenon. The oldest record of an explicit report of a near-death experience derives from the famous Greek philosopher Plato back in 380 BC. The event was outlined in arguably his most famous work, The Republic.

The story can be found in the 10th book of his work, The Republic and is named the “Myth of Er”. In this case, the use of the word “Myth” is meant to mean “word” or “account” rather than the modern sense of the word. In the story, a man named Er dies in battle. Ten days later, the bodies of the dead are collected. However, Er’s body has not decomposed at all. On his funeral-pyre, he revives and tells all of his journey into the afterlife. The tale introduces the idea that the moral among us are rewarded, whilst the immoral are punished after death. This account as greatly influenced philosophical, religious and scientific thought for many centuries.