What to Expect If Visited By The Dead

A study by Haraldsson looks at the features of 337 more recent cases of personal encounters with the dead in Iceland. Inspired by a similar work released by the Society for Psychical Research (Gurney, Meyers, & Podmore, 1886), the current article reviews more modern cases to examine the characteristics of experiences of being visited by the dead.


Haraldsson’s data from the early to mid 1980’s shows interesting themes. Of participants who reported an experience with the dead, 69% had a visual experience, while 28% reported an auditory experience. The remaining reported either touch, a smell, or a strong sense of presence.  Contrary to assumption, only 22% of participants were resting during the experience, while almost 50% reported being active in an activity. Also contrary to myth, over 50% occurred during daylight or full electric light.


Who were the undead visitors? Over half of participants reported family or close friends (54%), Sixteen percent were coworkers or acquaintances, and 30% were reported as strangers. In terms of the cause of death of the undead visitors, the bulk was verified to have died from disease (70%), while accidents, suicide, and murder (as well as unknown) comprised the rest of the sample. For those visited by relatives or friends, the cause of death for these visitors was in bulk disease (77 to 82%) or violent death (18 to 23%). Oddly, the odds of being visited by someone murdered increases as the closeness of the participant to the person grows more distant (i.e., being visited by an apparition that was murdered is most likely if they are a stranger to you).


Haraldsson, E. (2009). Alleged encounters with the dead: The importance of violent death in 337 new cases. Journal of Parapsychology, 73, 91-118.

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