The True Story of the British Premonitions Bureau
Clairvoyance has been present in different cultures since antiquity. In fact, it seems that human beings have always believed in the possibility of seeing the future and in the existence of people who possess this gift. The psychiatrist, John Barker, wanted to examine the phenomenon more closely. For this reason, he created the British Premonitions Bureau.
Barker was a prestigious psychiatrist, which makes this story even more interesting. He wasn’t a tarot reader, astrologer, or fortune teller. Indeed, he was a man of science who graduated as a doctor from Cambridge in 1948. He specialized in aversive therapy. In fact, a famous article of his published in The Lancet was instrumental in improving conditions for psychiatric inmates in Britain.
For much of his career, Barker worked with David Enoch, another well-known psychiatrist, on psychiatric orchids, or rare cases in the discipline. Among these were Othello syndrome, Couvade syndrome, and a rather special one: dying of fear. The latter eventually led Barker to found the British Premonitions Bureau.
“No matter how rational you are, DO NOT underestimate instinct, premonition or presentiment, remember they were around before any kind of logic” .
-Luis Gabriel Carrillo Navas-
A catastrophe in Aberfan
Aberfan was a small Welsh town that almost no one had heard about until October 21, 1966. On the morning of that fateful day, a slag heap on the side of a mountain collapsed. This led to 50,000 tons of mud falling on several houses and a school where children attended class every day. In total, 144 people died, including 116 children.
The whole country turned its eyes to the small town. What caught John Barker’s attention, however, was a boy who was unharmed in the tragedy, but died soon after, without explanation, apparently of fear. The psychiatrist visited the village and heard some extremely strange stories.
In fact, he learned that an eight-year-old boy named Paul Davis had drawn a mass of figures digging in the hillside under the words ‘The End’. Another girl, Eryl Mai Jones, told her mother a week earlier that she wasn’t afraid of dying. And the night before the tragedy, she told her mother about a dream she’d had: “I dreamt that I went to school and there was no school there. Something black had come down all over it”.
The British Premonitions Bureau
Barker was certainly given to interest in strange phenomena. In fact, he was a member of the British Society for Psychical Research, which studied paranormal events. The events at Aberfan led him to become interested in clairvoyance. It occurred to him that it might be a good idea to collect the testimonies of premonitions of a tragedy.
To achieve this, he asked Peter Fairley, the science correspondent for The Evening Standard to run an ad requesting stories about premonitions. He received a total of 76 responses. Several of them included details that the press didn’t publish. Among the messages were those of Kathleen Lorna Middleton and Alan Hencher, two of the people who become the pillars of his studies.
This was the beginning of the British Premonition Bureau, an institution that studied the predictions of catastrophes. Barker believed that clairvoyance was probably more common than previously thought. Moreover, he believed that many people were capable of predicting disasters. In effect, he saw them as human sensors.
A strange ending
Over the next few months, there were some truly startling predictions, especially from Middleton and Hencher. In fact, 18 premonitions appeared to have come true, and 12 of them were from these two people. Among the most notable cases were those of a plane crash and a train tragedy. Extremely striking was Middleton’s prediction about the death of Robert Kennedy. In fact, she warned of it almost a month before it occurred.
However, the agency faced a contradiction. If a catastrophe was foreseen and announced, it would then be difficult for it to occur, since efforts would be redoubled to prevent it from happening.
Early in 1968, two years after inaugurating the British Premonitions Bureau, John Barker received a disturbing announcement from Alan Hencher. He warned him to be careful because his life was in danger. Amazingly, Middleton, unaware of this fact, also called him to warn him of something similar. On August 18, 1968, Barker suffered a stroke and died. He’d been stressed for a few days beforehand due to the premonitions. So, did he die of fear? We’ll never know.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Gómez, M. A. (1999). Premoniciones y realidades. Uaslp.
- Morgan, L., Scourfield, J., Williams, D., Jasper, A., & Lewis, G. (2003). The Aberfan disaster: 33-year follow-up of survivors. The British journal of psychiatry, 182(6), 532-536. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/aberfan-disaster-33year-followup-of-survivors/AC7358FC5D7F362BB8080FC1579C074A
- Castro Zamudio, C., & Godoy Ávila, A. (2000). Eficacia de un programa de entrenamiento atribucional y terapia aversiva para la conducta adictiva tabáquica. Análisis y modificación de conducta, 26(109), 673-688. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=7063830