Case studies

Here are some examples of NDEs to highlight what people experience. All of the following have been included with the permission of the person who had the NDE.
William Howell

In 2009 I had a heart attack and cardiac arrest at the age of 44. There were many times before and when I was in hospital that I’d feel sick or dizzy and have chest pain. Once in work it happened and I woke up in the cold store with a cut on my head and bad chest pain. When I was in the hospital ward my aunt was visiting me, the next thing I knew I woke up in CCU. Another time I was talking to the doctor and she said ‘are you ok?’ I said yes but there were colours in front of my eyes. I must have been out for a while because I came to with the doctor standing over me asking if I was still there. I have no idea what happened in between me losing consciousness and waking up. I have an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) pacemaker now.

The day I had the cardiac arrest I was lying in the hospital bed and my wife was visiting then the nurses said to my wife I think you’d better go outside for a few minutes.

All of a sudden I was in a long dark tunnel with voices all around and people calling me. I was just floating down and I could hear voices around me. There was a man at the end of the tunnel calling me. He was a dark figure but I knew he was friendly – it may have been my grandfather. He was calling me towards him.

Next thing I could see the doctor in front of me – I could just see his eyes and teeth and he said to the nurses, ‘it’s ok, he’s back’.

After Effects

Since then some really weird things have been happening to me. I thought I was losing it and I was traumatised after the heart attack so I went to counselling. The more I talked about it the more these things were happening but my counsellor seemed to understand and helped me a lot.

About two or three months after I got home the dog started looking at something behind me, it just had a fixed stare and was wagging its tail while looking at something behind me. I turned and saw a white shadow just disappear.

Then I started having out of body experiences – any time of day. I feel as if I’m drifting away and I can see myself below then find myself in my grandmother’s house. I can see everything that’s going on. I went back to when I was ten or eleven years old. It’s like I’m reliving something that’s already happened.

When I have these experiences and go to my grandmother’s house I can smell the smoke from her cigarette – she always used to have a cigarette in one hand and a rolling pin in the other hand. It’s all so plain and real, I’m actually there again.

When these things happen I can’t respond to anyone in the room with me. My wife said I just look ahead with a fixed stare, I don’t blink. My body is down there but my spirit is up there and they can’t interact with each other.

I hear voices and people calling me then people touching me on the shoulder. I was talking about a dead friend to someone else then heard a whistling noise – there was no one else around so I don’t know where that whistling came from.

When I’m in a relaxed state things happen more. I was sitting at home with just the two dogs in the room with me. The dogs seem to notice if something happens. All of a sudden there were two pieces of paper and one started to flicker and the other one turned over completely right before my eyes. There were no windows open so how do you explain that?

I also get a lot of flashbacks of looking down that tunnel. I’ve had a lot of counselling to help me get over all of this but these experiences just keep happening, I don’t know how to explain them.

Some really strange things I’ve also noticed is that I can’t wear a watch – they just stop or the second hand will stop. My computer always crashes on me, I have to turn it off and reboot it nearly every time I use it. It works fine for my wife and the children; it only plays up with me. The last computer I had was quite new but didn’t last long, the man who came to repair it found that the fan inside had completely melted and he didn’t know why as there was no reason for it to have melted. I’ve also noticed that my hearing has become much more acute since my heart attack.

I’m not afraid of dying either, my time just wasn’t up. I now live every day for the day and don’t worry about going. I feel as if I’ve got something to do in my life but I don’t know what it is.

When I’m in public places I can see spirits around people. This sounds mad I know but I can see different auras around people, some have white, some have dark the different auras mean different things. The dark auras mean keep away. If I’m watching something like ‘Most Haunted’ on TV I can see something that others who are with me can’t see. On one show there was a mist on the camera but I could see an actual man, I could see him but no one else could.

A friend of the family has been having strange things happening in her house like things moving for no reason. I went to visit one day and could see an old lady at the top of the stairs just looking at me. I said hello and she just disappeared. My friend made me a cup of coffee and I put it down on the side and it fell onto the hearth – it just moved off a stable, solid surface without anyone touching it. I’ve been back to the house twice since then and I haven’t seen that woman again but my friend still senses her presence.

In our house an old man had passed away there before we moved in. I always hear a bang upstairs and it’s always at a certain time. It comes from the room that he died in, I feel as if I am hearing him hit the floor and die.

I don’t know why all of this is happening to me, I can’t explain it. I didn’t ask for it, it just started happening after my heart attack. I’ve had lots of counselling but no one can explain exactly why this has started to happen to me. I just have to learn to accept it and that my life is very different now.

A few months ago I was contacted through my website by children’s author Shelley E Parker. She described some fascinating experiences that she has had throughout her life. Not only has Shelley experienced a NDE but she has also had many interesting premonitions. As a taster of Shelley’s experiences, she has given her permission to put her NDE below.

The most profound premonition that Shelley has had was that of her fiancé’s (and soul mate’s) death in a helicopter crash followed by an after death communication from him, while she herself was being treated for cancer. As heartbreaking as the death of her fiancé was, she was able to gain strength from her premonition and pick up the pieces and get on with life without him. To read more of Shelley’s inspiring and fascinating experiences look out for my forthcoming book.


Shelley’s NDE:
I’m 39 and was diagnosed with Birkett’s Lymphoma, a type of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, in August 2009. It’s an aggressive form of cancer and I was treated with a very aggressive form of chemotherapy, which I had for 4 months (two 16 day regimes, two 7 day regimes and seven intra-thecal chemotherapy injections.).

After the treatment, I was extremely weak and am still not fully recovered. I was discharged from hospital in December 2009.

Several weeks’ later, I was watching television in the evening. I felt very ill and mentally and physically exhausted. I remember feeling I didn’t realise it was possible to feel so ill and still be alive.

I was looking at the bookshelves on my left in my bedroom and it felt as though the room went silent, despite the television being on. As I was looking at the shelves, I actually felt myself start to feel as though I was floating and began to see the bookshelves from a new angle – as though I was rising up from the bed and floating up towards the ceiling. It felt very peaceful and I felt calm, suddenly very happy, very well and healthy. It was a wonderful feeling and I remember feeling emotionally and physically healed and as though everything suddenly became perfect. This is strange and I can’t properly explain this part but I ‘felt’, rather than heard voices and, I think, possibly choral singing.

I remember suddenly being aware that I was dying and, for a split second, it really didn’t matter. The emotions were almost so overwhelmingly wonderful that I just accepted it and continued to rise. There was a feeling of being ‘at one’ with something, if that makes sense and that calm, relaxed feeling you get when you’re in the countryside and looking at a beautiful view.

Almost as soon as I became aware of the fact I was dying, however, I remember thinking I couldn’t do that to my mum because she’d been through enough. As soon as I felt this, I felt as though I’d been ‘dropped’ back onto the bed and the wonderful, peaceful, healthy feelings disappeared and I was immediately flooded back with feeling ill and weak.

I can remember feeling really upset and shocked that the positive emotions had gone and instantly wanted them to return but there was nothing I could do. I remember staring at the bookshelves in the hope that they’d come back but I’ve never felt anything like this again.

As I’ve had many prophetic dreams, I don’t think it affected me as much as it would ordinarily have done. It just added to what I’d already been shown that this isn’t ‘it’.


The following is an edited version of an email that I received from Ken Ebert, from Taos, New Mexico, USA.  With his kind permission I have put his email and an excerpt from his book Theater of Clouds: A Near Death Memoir.

Dear Dr Sartori,

I had a major NDE  on February 3rd, 1984, at the age of 29. The trigger was a bicycle accident in which the front wheel of the bike came loose, then free. It happened in the Florida Keys, but due to the severity of my facial injuries I was transported to the University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital. The NDE happened there on the road in the Keys. I experienced a full segue from the visionary portion into waking consciousness. Not long after the accident I ceased any efforts to speak of the NDE due to the negative reactions I received, but I was explicitly aware at the time that I had gone elsewhere, into celestial realms.

An interesting feature of my experience was that it occurred on the Celtic Sabbat of Imbolc and through years of interaction I have come to know the Divine Feminine entity that met me in the Otherworld as the Celtic Goddess Brigid. She gave me the choice, during the celestial visit to her realm, of remaining or returning to my life. If I chose to return to life, she said, I must agree to write a book about my experience. It took me 16 years from the experience to begin the actual writing of my book,  Theater of Clouds: A Near Death Memoir.  My website, the first three chapter of Theater of Clouds are available in full on the site.

As I neared completion of the rough draft a second, stranger, NDE occurred when a van came through the wall of our house. Again, the entity came to me, and I was shown a metaphorical bridge between the two NDE’s, radically changing the story. I finished the rough draft within months.

Recently I underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct the spinal injury that happened along with the NDE. That injury was only uncovered during the past year. Since I had to sit for weeks after surgery I took the time to figure out how to publish through, Create Space. My book is now available through Amazon, and is endorsed by Stephen and Ondrea Levine.

Below I have copy/pasted the actual NDE vision/journey, but my experience unfolded over many years after the impact, as is portrayed in my book. I remain open minded about the whole thing but I am certain that there is a free-standing reality involved in NDEs. My studies led me to the work of Dr. Rick Strassman and his research into the possible biological agent involved in NDEs and other mystical experiences, through his studies using DMT at the University of New Mexico. Rick’s book DMT: the Spirit Molecule is one I read twice, then had the good fortune of meeting the author. Have a look at his website, his work is intriguing in its implications.

Thank you for your time, Penny. I feel strongly about NDEs and am indeed excited to hear of your ongoing work. My partner, Carol, is an RN and does Hospice as part of her Mountain Home Health Care, here in Taos. She and  I met at my mother’s death bed, where Carol was mom’s hospice nurse. Below is pasted the NDE, from the text of my book.

Ken Ebert, Taos, NM, USA


“All I saw was the handlebars swiftly approaching my eyes as the forks hit the tarmac and my head was plummeted against the yoke of the handlebars, where the gear shift levers were also situated. My face was raked across that hardware by the momentum. That violent impact changed everything in an instant.

The last thing I remember is the handlebars approaching my eyes. I feel as if I am doing it on purpose, that I pull my face against the bars. A new memory takes over here. Something changes in a big way. There is no time or space – only actions and feelings. It is dark. Totally dark. I look around and see nothing. I try to feel something. There is nothing to feel. Everything seems so distant. I am very frightened. It is beyond imagination. I can’t imagine.

There is a cavern before me now. It appears to be a grotto, yawning across my field of vision. I hear water running. It is running somewhere. I sense that it is within the grotto, but I cannot see it. I can only hear it rushing. Then I can only feel it rushing, even though I still cannot feel anything. It is like the air is moving very quickly. But it is far away. The feeling is very far away, very distant.

I am flying. Flying upward. Although I had perceived this grotto to be leading down, it was actually leading up. And I am flying into it, through it. There is something before me. It is intensely blue. This blue light is brilliant, almost blinding. As I enter this blue place, this blue light, I feel that it is slowly forming even though it is already in existence. The paradox irritates me briefly. Only briefly.

I am in a valley. The sky is the blueness I had seen. It is even more brilliant now. The valley is nestled between two ranges of jagged mountain. The mountains are the color of burgundy wine. I feel the wind rushing by me because I am still flying. And I still hear the water running in the distance. The valley itself is silent. The sound of the water comes from some place else. It is distant yet pervasive.

Far down, in the depth of the valley, I see something like a dome. I say down but I am still going up. The domelike thing is a brilliant light which does not seem to project beyond itself to shine upon the valley. The dome is golden-white. It is painful to look at this brilliant light, yet I would rather look at it than look away from it. What perplexes me is that the dome looks white and it almost looks yellow. I don’t understand this. When I look at the dome everything else disappears. I feel as if I have been tossed, thrown, or projected through the valley, instead of walking through the valley. Yet I am also being drawn toward the light in powerful summons.

My emotions are a very warm feeling. Somehow I want to panic but I sense that it is not allowed because it is not necessary to panic. This is something good and warm. There is nothing to fear. I feel welcome and I want to stay for at least a little while. And I feel that I should go inside.

I do go inside. Someone is there in this dome of light, someone who wants me to know them. They want me to know that I can stay and rest. Now I see that this person is female. She is wearing a robe. All of her is uniform light, golden-white like the dome, but more brilliant – her hair, her face, and her robe. It is uncomfortable to look at her but it is painful to not look at her. At first I sense that she is an angel, but she is more than an angel.

She is concerned but she is not worried or afraid. She is telling me this though she is not speaking. Her concern is about my urgent need for rest. Somehow there is an intense blue color around her. Her communication is labored, but she tells me that I can only stay for a short while, that it is not necessary for me to leave, but that I should go back. I want to stay only because it is such a long way back. It is so far away. I want to rest. But I can’t.

She reaches out and places her hands upon the sides of my neck with her thumbs pressing against the corners of my jaw. Her hands are warm and extremely soft. Her touch is gentle yet intimate. Upon this contact I become totally relaxed. It is the finest feeling that I have ever known. Her arms seem to be very long, as if she has to reach a great distance in order to touch me.

There is information flowing through her arms, into her hands, and into me. It is a wave of sheer power, of surging energy that becomes information when it reaches me. She is speaking through her hands, speaking without words. Now I know that she is troubled and her communications were labored because I was not relaxed. Her touch gives me the calmness necessary for me to be able to hear her. My overwhelming tenseness made communication nearly impossible. This is what she wanted me to know. And now that I know this it is time for me to go back. Also, I know that it is she who called me and projected me. She did both with one intention. Her concern was the force. Her intent was the focus. The valley was the path.

She takes my right hand with her left hand. We are suddenly outside of the dome of light and headed back through the valley. She is slightly ahead of me, still holding my hand. But it is not that she is leading me. We are a unit, our bodies motionless in themselves, gliding through the valley. The colors all change into violet. Everything is violet except for us.

Now I am back on the road. My body is motionless and I am somehow in it, unable to make myself fit. There is an image of a horizontal line of purple light which is behind the setting sun. I do not understand this. Is it an image of the place that I have been? She is smiling and she is still holding my hand. I don’t want her to go away. She laughs at me. She laughs because she knows of my struggle. I need to re-occur. This is what she tells me: I need to re-occur. “Re-occur” is her word. She is laughing with joy. And I am crying. But it is only my right eye that is crying. The left eye is dry and untroubled. There are two halves of me, and when I realize this I hear what she is telling me. Half of me is laughing with her, laughing at the silly sadness of the half that believes that she will go away. She never goes away. She has always been holding my hand and she will always be holding my hand. When I believe that she goes away, I feel sadness. But it is only because I look at it this way. When I look with sadness she is a glowing ball high above the road where I lie, struggling to re-occur, trying to regain my dying body. When I laugh with her I am both places, on the road in a broken body, and also above the road.

She is still holding my hand. She is only far away, she is only going away, when I see her that way. It is my choice. This her message for me. We are a unit. Now, knowing this, I can regain my body. I can see her above the road and I am resolved to be on this road. She smiles. I share in her joy. The struggle to regain my body feels like when you get wrapped up in the bed sheet and you wake up trying to extricate yourself. She is laughing again. Her mirth is irritating yet understood.

The body is responding. I have re-occurred. I open my eyes. The sun has set. Two friends are here. One of them is the local Fire Chief. The other is a woman who is special for me. I see her and I know that it is all right to be here. I want to laugh but I do not laugh because I don’t think that they will understand. This is freedom. She never goes away.”

12 Responses to “Case studies”

  1. Tim August 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Hi, Penny,
    Thanks for posting these very interesting cases. Mr Howell’s unusual after effects are not unheard of. I think Phyliss (PMH) Atwater has dealt with them in one of her books. I always used to think of Atwater as a bit of a kook (american) but it’s clear that these things happen because it doesn’t seem likely that they would make them up. Mr Howell’s initial experience is fairly textbook. May I ask if he had ever heard of NDE’s before ? Also during these OBE’s, is he certain that he is actually out of his physical body ?

    • Dr Penny Sartori August 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

      Yes, they are interesting cases – all NDEs fascinate me. I’ve come across a few others who have had similar after effects to Mr Howell. I am very grateful to Mr Howell for allowing me to publish his experience on the blog. Although quite a few people get these after effects most people are very reluctant to talk about them publicly. He’d never really heard about NDEs before but as a young child recalled having some unusual ‘psychic type’ experiences. Yes, he felt as though he clearly existed apart from his body.

      PMH Atwater has written many informative and interesting books on NDEs and has spoken to hundreds of NDErs. Some after effects seem too incredible to believe but my investigations have led me to conclude that these after effects certainly occur but our current science is unable to explain them at the moment. PMH has also had a few NDEs herself which gives the added understanding of NDEs.

      • Tim August 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

        Many thanks for the reply, Penny.
        The ability to have OBE’s after having had a NDE seems to be quite common (as you well know of course). Julie Chimes (the woman who was stabbed to within an inch of her life by a paranoid schizophrenic and had a very profound NDE) has recollected that she often has them. And the ability of NDErs to see ‘dead people’ I have read many times. All this research (your book I particularly enjoyed) has opened up so many possibilities.
        Do you personally think if the aware study fails to produce any target indentification that that will be a big enough set back to de-rail NDE research ? I hope not because I honestly believe that the patients are not going to see these targets. Not because they weren’t actually out of their bodies, but because they wouldn’t have been interested in looking about the room and being ‘aware’… that they should. I would hope that correct veridical information brought back on what the doctors and nurses were actually doing (during that patient’s Cardiac arrest) would be taken into account. I’m not sure if Dr Parnia said that it would, though.

      • Dr Penny Sartori August 13, 2011 at 10:05 am #

        HI Tim, You have a very valid and important question about OBE veridicality research and raise some very important points. There is a lot to add to this – in fact I mention this in my forthcoming book.

        I will write a short piece in reply to this and post it on the blog.

  2. Tony August 16, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Penny have you come across patients who’ve had an NDE but are not convinced – and believe it to be a hallucination?

    • Dr Penny Sartori August 16, 2012 at 8:55 am #

      Hi Tony, you ask a good question.

      In the research that I undertook in the hospital I found that not all of the patients attached much significance to their NDE. It would seem that there is a sub-set of people who have NDEs but don’t recognise them as being NDEs. Some clearly didn’t understand it and some had put it to the back of their mind. It would seem that NDEs are more common than we realise but many do not get reported as they are not very significant to some people. The ones we read about in the literature are usually the ones that have a deep impact on the person and this motivates them to share it with others.

      One patient in my study at first said he just recalled some hallucinatory experiences but didn’t understand them. When I interviewed him, I expected to hear about some bizarre hallucination but he scored quite highly on the Greyson NDE Scale and what he reported was definitely consistent with a NDE – he’d just never heard of NDEs before.

      I have come across a few other people who had a NDEs in the past and they just believe it was their brains. One of them was a nurse with many years of experience and she was quite matter of fact that what she experienced was just her brain malfunctioning. Another lady I spoke to had a similar view and was not convinced it was anything other than some sort of hallucination.

      • Tony August 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

        Thanks Penny for the response. Curious what is it about the experience (or the experiencer themselves) that makes one person find it completely compelling and the other to just toss it aside as an hallucination. I guess there could be many reasons.

      • Dr Penny Sartori August 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

        Yes, its really interesting to see the different responses of different people.

        I think the depth of the experience has some effect but the personality / psychological make-up of the experiencer also influences how the experience is interpreted. Of the two examples that I gave earlier one scored moderately on the Greyson NDE Scale (the other one didn’t complete the Greyson Scale) and neither of the cases had many components of the NDE. Maybe if they’d had more components of the NDE they may have had a different interpretation. Its difficult to say at this stage but these are things we should certainly keep in mind with regards to future research.

  3. Amy Duncan September 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    As for the nurse who thought it was “her brain,” Eben Alexander has blown that theory out of the water, since he had no brain function at all when he had his NDE.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      Hi Amy, thank you for your comment. I have just written a reply to Sandy which may also be of interest.

  4. Salina January 28, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    I was wondering if there is any connection to their religious belief and NDE?

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      Hi Salina, yes there does seem to be a connection with the religion of an individual and how the NDE is perceived. The NDE is very much influenced by the person’s cultural background. For example people in the West are more likely to perceive images of Jesus and people in India have reported perceiving yamdoots (messengers of Yama the god of the dead).

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