It was April of 1962, a lovely “April in Portugal.” I was standing with one of my Portuguese friends in the Cais de Sodre Station in Lisbon, waiting for a train to the famous beach towns of Estoril and Cascais located a short distance from the city. The station platform was new, finished just a year before. I remember nothing special about that particular day, only a general feeling of excitement and anticipation. I had no conscious premonitions of any danger or of any future disaster. My friend, a young student at the Gulbenkian Music Conservatory in Lisbon, and I must have passed the time talking about his country and also perhaps about music and poetry. When I left Portugal a week or so afterwards, we corresponded and he sometimes sent me records of music that he had composed and played-or poetry that he had written.
A year later, in May 1963, I was living with my family in a large brick house in a small town in Connecticut. I don’t remember what I was doing the evening of May 27 and therefore it must have been like any other. I probably spent it reading in my study and then my husband and I went to bed at the usual time, around 11 p.m. Our bedroom was on the second floor and was one of four large ones all leading into a long corridor. One of the other three was occupied by our young son. The others were empty and used at times as studies or guestrooms.
Our bedroom window faced a quiet residential street next to the University. It was only a block long and had a minimum of traffic. Social life here was subdued and people retired early. I remember that at one end of the street was a house several centuries old, and across from it an ancient graveyard.
My normal pattern of sleep is a healthy one. I tend to fall asleep instantly and deeply, then later in the night have periods of dreaming. It is very rare that I awaken before morning.
As I mentioned, there was nothing unusual about that particular Monday night in May. It was just one more night among many in my life…until just before daybreak. The preceding events were unimportant, therefore fuzzy. However, I remember clearly what followed.
Suddenly I woke out of a deep normal sleep. Surprisingly, I felt instantly aware of where I was and I knew that I had been asleep and not dreaming. I noticed that my husband was still sound asleep at my side. I turned over on my back, wondering what had wakened me. Everything was very quiet. For some reason I looked towards the door of our bedroom. To my astonishment I could see a human figure standing in the open doorway! It was still dark but I could see perfectly well. A street light outside our window partially illuminated the bedroom. Fear sharpened my senses and I stared horrified at the figure. It came clearly into focus and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Standing there in his trench coat, his hands in his pockets, in a familiar gesture with a familiar look on his face, was one of my Portuguese friends, the same one who had stood with me a year earlier waiting for a train to Cascais!
My next reaction was dismay and apprehension. Rather than wondering, “How did he get into a locked house?” or, “How could he be here in my bedroom when he is in Portugal?”, I thought instead, “How can I explain his presence to my family?” And, “How can I get him out of here before my family wakes up?” But in those seemingly interminable seconds while I gazed, confused, worried and surprised, not daring to say anything to him, he began to fade before my very eyes! In the next moment, where a solid figure had stood, blotting out the hall behind him, was now empty space.
For awhile I stared at the doorway, but by then I realized that no one was “really” there. Trembling, I lay back on my pillow, trying to analyze what had occurred. But there was actually no logical explanation. I knew that I was awake and had not been dreaming. What had jolted me from my sleep? There wasn’t a sound inside nor out of the house. There were no cars, no wind. My husband was still sleeping soundly at my side.
It had been such a strange and real experience that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there for an hour or so until my husband awoke. I arose saying nothing of my “hallucination.”
Around eight o’clock that morning I was alone in the kitchen and turned on the radio for the news broadcast. The very first thing I heard was that a station roof had collapsed in Lisbon and that many people were killed and injured. When I heard this only a few hours after my strange vision of my friend, I immediately connected the two occurrences. I knew he used that station often on holidays since he had relatives who lived out at the beach, and I knew that particular Tuesday was a Portuguese holiday. Without hesitation I called Western Union and send a cable in French, the language we used together. “Etes-vous bien?” (“Are you all right?”) Then later in the day I wrote him a letter telling him of my vision of him that early morning and of hearing the news of the station collapse soon after.
For two weeks I received no answer. Because of the strong imprint of the vision and the time of its happening I began to feel that I had had some premonition of death or disaster. I wrote several more letters that also went unanswered. Finally, however, I received a letter from my friend. I was relieved to see his handwriting and thought that it all had been a false alarm. Nevertheless, I discovered that the contents of the letter strangely bore on my experience.
My friend began with an apology for not writing sooner and for not answering my cable. He knew that I would understand. Then he explained that he had been indirectly involved in an accident, the same one that I had heard about. He told me that I too had been involved in what had happened.
On the night preceding the accident, the night of May 27th, he had written a poem and thought immediately of mailing it to me the next day so that he could receive my opinion of it. The next morning was a holiday and he was planning to visit his relatives at the beach. He awoke late and although he was eager to reread his poem, he dressed quickly, put it in his pocket and rushed out to catch a streetcar for the Cas de Sodre station. He decided that he would read the poem on the train to Cascais and then mail it after he arrived there.
The letter continued: He arrived at the station, entered the turnstile, paid for his ticket and came out on the platform. He started for the track where his train would stop. Then he heard someone call his name. He turned around and saw in the crowd a friend of his from the music conservatory. He walked back to see what he wanted. His friend asked him where he was going and he replied, to Cascais, which was the end of the line. The friend urged him to accompany him on the local train as far as Estoril and then transfer to another. The express train that went almost directly to Cascais was just pulling in. My friend saw it and apologized that he was in a hurry. Actually, he wanted to travel alone so that he could reread his poem. Ordinarily he would have been glad to accompany his friend, but this time he said goodbye and entered the train that had just pulled up in front of the platform.
He had just sat down when suddenly he heard screams and a horrible roar behind him. He looked back at the platform and saw the roof falling. Before his eyes his friend, and many others, were crushed to death. The scene was chaos. Without further description he ended his letter, “This terrible thing upset me so much that I have been in bed for two weeks, unable to eat, unable to do anything.”
He said nothing about the vision I had of him, nor did I ever mention it again. But I still wonder about this: why he appeared thus to me just before or at the time of his dreadful experience? It is certain that he would not be alive today if he hadn’t intended to send that poem to me.
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February 28, 1976
Pleasantville, N.Y. 10570
Years ago as a small child I remember visiting my grandmother. I was very awed of her and would shyly peek around the side of the house, knowing that she was always sitting in her hammock in the backyard reading a copy of the Reader’s Digest. As soon as she would go into the house, I would surreptitiously take her place and read her magazine, watching with one eye for her return. No one dared to sit in her hammock in her presence. The only other thing I remember her reading was the Bible. If you should print the enclosed article, unfortunately she won’t be able to read it and feel proud of her granddaughter. Or will she? Perhaps somewhere, somehow, she’s still reading the Reader’s Digest. After having had the experience I’ve written about, I’m quite sure that anything is possible. I am pleased that your magazine is opening its pages to such experiences.
My own experience was a true one. I have spent some time in Portugal, living both in Cascais and Lisbon, and using that station many times. My friend’s name is Tomas Santos and he lives at Liceu de Comoes, Praca Jose Fontana, Lisbon, Portugal. I still correspond with him, but unfortunately threw out his letter some time ago. However, I am sending a coopy of the news report. This doesn’t mention the exact time of the accident, but it took place in the very early afternoon or possibly late morning…almost or exactly paralleling the time I had the vision—in Connecticut.
Thank you for considering my manuscript. I prefer to use my own name.
Lorrie Shadbolt (Tussman)
P.S. At the time of the occurrence my husband, Joseph Tussman, a professor of philosophy, was teaching at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. We lived at 730 Mt. Vernon St. We now live in Berkeley, Calif.
I hereby affirm the account is true and that I have never written it down before nor published it.