Premonition is a type of prophecy consisting of an impressionable warning of a future event. The phenomenon is characterized by such sensations as anxiety, uneasiness, a vague feeling of disquiet suggesting impending disaster to actual visual or auditory hallucinations. Premonition is sometimes referred to as a "gut-level" feeling. The sensation tends to occur prior to disasters, accidents, deaths and other traumatic and emotionally charged events.
The sensation of premonition may be considered precognition at times because there is no clear-cut line between them. However, generally premonitions are sense-oriented, dominated by a syndrome of physical uneasiness, depression, or distress that is without discernible source or reason. It is an unexplainable feeling that "something is going to happen." Precognition, on the other hand, is more precise, involving visions or dream of the event that is to occur in the future.
For some investigators premonitions can include actions of patients and individuals in magnetic and mediumistic trances who prophesy that their malady or some terrible event, to them, will occur within a certain period of time, and may subconsciously wish to fulfill that prophecy. It might be question whether the similar phenomena might occur in a veridical dream or hallucination. This is theorized on the conclusion that a post-hypnotic person generally weaves his action into the surrounding circumstances, even though the very moment of its performance may have been fixed months before. Therefore this raises the possibilities that fulfillment of dreams and hallucinations might be suggested through telepathic communication to a person from another agent, which may not be far-fetched or impossible.
Another consideration is coincidence. The dream or hallucination of an event could possible coincide with the incident. Also, it is possible that impressions, whether they remain vague forebodings or are embedded in dreams, must at times be subconscious inferences drawn from an actual, if obscured, perception of existing facts. Such premonitions are by no means to be disregarded. However, frequently premonitions, no matter how impressive, prove to be absolutely groundless, where a ghostly visitant issues the warning.
In 1948, the prominent Soviet psychic Wolf Messing traveled to Ashkhabad to give some demonstrations of his abilities. Prior to his performances as he walked the streets of that city he was seized with a terrible dread and an intense desire to leave as soon as possible. He canceled his performances, the only time he did so in his life, and left. Three days later a massive earthquake leveled Ashkhabad, killing 50,000 people. Messing's premonition saved his life; however, he had no specific forewarning of the earthquake.
On October 26, 1966, twenty-eight adults and 116 children were killed when a landslide of coal waste tumbled down a mountain in Aberfan, Wales, and buried a school. According to three surveys taken afterwards up to two weeks before the disaster about two hundred people experienced both premonitions and precognitions. The premonitions included depression, a feeling that "something bad" was going to happen (some people accurately pinpointed the day), sensations of choking and gasping for breath, uneasiness, and impressions of coal dust, billowing black clouds, and children running and screaming.
Premonitions occurring in a waking state are more predominant that those that occur in dreams because in the latter they are frequently disguised as symbols, and tend to go unnoticed. However, when theses symbols frequently reappear in dreams, the individual may learn to recognize distinguishing symbols or emotional tones.
Premonitions can give early intuitive warnings that occur frequently but are too subtle to register on the conscious mind. Some of these intuitive warnings apparently register on the subconscious and cause the person to unknowingly alter his plans, which some evidence indicates. In the 1960 W. F. Cox examined passenger loads on trains involved in accidents between 1950 and 1955. By comparing the number of passenger on the train the day of the accident to the number of passenger on the same train for the preceding seven days, the preceding fourteenth day, and the twenty-eighth day, he found that on some accident days, but not all, there was a dramatic decrease in passengers. One example was the Chicago & East Illinois Georgian, it just had nine passengers on the accident day of June 15, 1952; whereas five days before it carried a more typical sixty-two passengers. Cox concluded that many of those intending to travel the disaster-bound trains had unconsciously altered their plans or missed the trains by being late.
A the similar or same factor may relate to doomed ships. The Titanic carried only fifty-eight percent of its passenger load on its disastrous maiden voyage when colliding with an iceberg in April 1912. A group of twenty-two stokers were late and the captain declared the ship would sail without them, a fact which may have saved their lives. The psychiatrist Ian Stevenson recorder more than nineteen incidents of premonitions and precognitions concerning the Titanic in England, America, Canada, and Brazil, which occurred within the two weeks prior to the ship's sailing date of April 10. Some cancelled their reservations after dreaming of the ship's doom; others said it was bad luck to sail on the ship's maiden voyage. Some of the survivors said they had felt uneasy but sailed anyway; the later is questionable because some sensation might have been prompted by after the fact thought.
Following the Aberfan disaster, a British Premonition Bureau was established in January 1967 to collect and screen early warnings in an effort to prevent disasters. A year later the Central Premonition Bureau was established in New York for the same purpose. Both bureaus did not progress too far because of low budgets, poor public relations, and much inaccurate information.
The functioning of premonitions is not exactly known, that is, why some people possess them while others do not. One theory is that some people are more open or prone to psychic suggestion. A cause for the diminishing of this psychic ability in people is that a larger portion of the population has become less intuitive. With the advancement of the scientific age people have began to rely less on their sensations; it is just in recent years that science is investigating the importance of human intuition and sensation. A.G.H.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, New York: HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 465-466