The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters by Erlendur Haraldsson

How to Cite

Moreira-Almeida, A. (2015). The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters by Erlendur Haraldsson. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 29(4). Retrieved from


Reports of encounters with deceased people are as old as humanity and seem to be in the roots of many if not the majority of spiritual traditions. However, scientific studies on this exciting but controversial topic started in Nineteenth Century. Authors studying Spiritism, Spiritualism, and psychical research developed the first attempts at systematic and scientific investigations of these experiences (Alvarado 2012, Sharp 2006). The first large survey of apparitions was published by researchers from the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1886 (Gurney, Myers, & Podmore 1886). Recently the subject has become more relevant given that in the last decades there has been an increasing interest in psychiatry and psychology literature in the study of “psychotic experiences” in the general population, which often involve anomalous sensory experiences. Several large epidemiological data studies have shown that most “psychotic experiences” happen in the nonclinical population and are usually not related to psychotic disorders. In a study performed by the World Health Organization in 52 countries involving more than 250,000 participants, psychotic experiences (when participants were not half asleep, dreaming, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs) occurring the previous year were reported by 12.52% of world’s population, ranging from 1% (Vietnam) to 46% (Nepal). It is remarkable that only 10% of those reporting psychotic symptoms had a diagnosis of schizophrenia (Nuevo et al. 2012). There is a need to investigate and better understand these “psychotic” experiences in non-clinical populations. Since spiritual experiences often involve psychotic-like ones, they are privileged venues to understand psychotic phenomena in the general population (Moreira-Almeida & Cardena 2011). One important sort of hallucinatory experience in the general population, both in terms of impact on the percipient and their potential theoretical implications, is the report of perceiving a deceased person.


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