ESP Story 3

ESP and the Titanic


Early in 1912, a man named Benjamin Hart decided to sell his home in Essex, England, and move his family to Canada. Business had been bad, and Hart wanted to get a fresh start in a new country. His wife, Esther, didn't like the idea. From the moment that her husband shared his plans with her, Esther sensed a feeling of disaster.

"Please reconsider,"she asked him a number of times. But he wouldn't change his mind.

First, he sold his business, then the family's house, and finally he booked passage on the steamship Philadelphia.

Then Benjamin learned that, because of a coal strike, they would not be sailing on the Philadelphia. Esther was pleased to hear of the cancellation. Perhaps the terrible feeling that she had would go away.

A few days later, Hart was told that they could sail instead on a new ship, the White Star Line's Titanic.

The Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. It was designed to be unsinkable, featuring a double hull and fifteen watertight doors that, in case of an accident, could be closed almost instantaneously to seal off the ship's compartments and keep her afloat. She was set to leave Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912.

The fact that they would be sailing on an unsinkable boat should have comforted his wife, Hart thought. So he told her, "I know you haven't wanted to go up to now, but surely now that you know you're going in this wonderful ship, the chance of a lifetime, surely you've overcome all your fears."

"Oh, no," she replied. "I feel even worse about it than I did before." Then she began to cry. "That ship will never get to the other side of the Atlantic," she warned.

On the day of their departure from Southampton, they stood on the dock with their daughter, Eva, and observed the massive ship in silence. Both Benjamin and Esther knew what the other was thinking. Finally, Benjamin picked up Eva and began to carry her up the gangplank.

"Please, Benjamin," Esther pleaded one last time. "Don't."

Hart turned around, quite angered by now, and said, "Well, this is ridiculous. If you feel so badly you'd better go home to your mother, and I'll go on my own and you can follow when you see I've got there quite safely."

Esther had no intention of going to her mother's house, so she composed herself and followed her husband up the gangplank. By the time they reached their cabin, though, she had made a decision. She may have decided to accompany her husband on the ship, but she was going to do as she wished now that they were on board.

"I am not happy about being on this ship," she announced, "and I will not be keeping my usual hours. I will sleep in the daytime and sit up at night, because whatever's going to happen I feel sure will happen in the night."



As the ship left Southampton harbor, a gathering of people stood on the roof of Jack and Blanche Marshall's house celebrating the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

As her daughter later reported in her autobiography, Blanche Marshall gripped her husband's arm as the ship passed and cried, "That ship is going to sink before it reaches America!"

"Oh, Blanche, it's unsinkable," someone said, trying to comfort her.

"It's going to sink, I tell you," she replied loudly.

Her sharp tone caused everyone to stop talking and stare at her in amazement.

"Don't stand there staring at me!" she said. "Do something. I can see hundreds of people struggling in the icy water. Are you all so blind that you are going to let them drown?"

Blanche Marshall's vision was so vivid and upsetting that the party ended quickly, and no one mentioned the Titanic to her again for five days.



Two days later, on the night of April 12, a fourteen-year-old English girl named Anna Lewis was spending the night with her grandmother when she had a terrifying dream about a ship. Asleep in her grandmother's bedroom, Anna dreamed that she was standing by a road looking at a scene she knew well: a nearby park that had a large lake. Then a large ship appeared to be sailing on the lake. She recalled:

Suddenly it lowered at one end and I heard a terrific scream. I must have woke up making a noise because I frightened Gran. She said, "No more suppers for you, lady; dreams are a pack of daft," after I had told her what I'd seen.

After a while I must have gone to sleep again and saw the very same scene, and when the people screamed I must have done the same. Gran was real livid with me this time ....

Her dream left quite an impression on the family. Unknown to Anna and other members of her family at the time, her uncle (her grandmother's son), Leonard Hodgkinson, had taken the position of senior fourth engineer on the Titanic. Leonard had wanted to sail on every White Star liner before he retired and asked to be transferred to the Titanic to fulfill his wish. No one, except his wife, knew of the last-minute change, which makes Anna's dream even stranger still.



A feeling, a vision, a dream--all suggesting that the Titanic (or a large ship, in Anna's case) was in danger of sinking. You might wonder if any of these experiences involved traveling through time.

    1. How did Esther Hart get her feeling?

    2. How did Blanche Marshall conclude that the Titanic would never reach the other side of the Atlantic?

    3. Why did Anna dream of a large ship sinking days before her uncle died when the Titanic went down?

All three experienced some knowledge related to the Titanic.



For the first three days of the voyage, Esther Hart slept during the day and kept vigil each night. On the night of April 13,she heard some odd sounds. She woke her husband and made him find out what had happened.

"Ice floes," he told her, when he had returned to the cabin. "Small ice floes scraping against the side of the ship. Nothing to worry about."

The next morning, a Sunday, she decided to stay up a bit longer so that she would attend a church service. Afterward, she had lunch with her family.

One of the ship's officers approached her table during lunch.

"Mrs. Hart," he said, "have you given up taking care of the ship?"

"Not at all," she said. "I intend to sleep as soon as I've finished my lunch. I will be awake tonight."

That night, April 14, 1912, was one she would always remember.



That same evening, in Kirkendbright, Scotland, W. Rex Sowden was awakened by a knock on his bedroom door. As the local leader of the Salvation Army, Sowden was used to handling emergencies at odd hours.

"Will you please come at once, Captain?" the caller asked. "Jessie is dying."

Jessie Sayre was an orphaned girl in the care of the Salvation Army. She had been quite ill and no one expected her to live much longer.

"Hold my hand, Captain," Jessie said as Sowden entered her room. "I am so afraid. Can't you see that big ship sinking in the water?"

"That's just a dream you've had," Sowden told her.

"No," she said, "the ship is sinking. Look at all those people who are drowning. Someone called Wally is playing a fiddle and coming to you." Skeptically, Sowden looked around the room, but saw no one. Then Jessie fell into a coma and died a few hours later.



About the same time that Jessie died, at 11:40 P.m., Esther Hart felt the Titanic lurch "like a train pulling into the station." As she had done the night before, she woke her husband and asked him to find out what had happened.

"It's the ice floes," he said.

"Benjamin, please," Mrs. Hart pleaded.

Reluctantly, he gave in. As soon as he left, Esther woke her daughter and began to dress her.

When Benjamin Hart returned a short time later, his face was ashen.

"You'd better put this thick coat on," he told Esther.

She never asked what had happened. As she told reporters later, "There was nothing to ask him. I didn't have to ask him what it was. I didn't know it was an iceberg, but I knew that it was something. Her feeling of disaster was coming true.

He helped his wife and his daughter make their way to the lifeboats, put them safely in, and watched them lowered into the water. Benjamin Hart, whose wife had tried to warn him that there would be disaster, was one of the 1,450 people who died when the Titanic sank.



The world learned the next day that the Titanic had brushed against an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The ice had ripped into the first five watertight compartments on the starboard side. Water poured in, filling them, and then continued to flood the others. The watertight bulkheads hadn't worked properly. As each compartment filled, the ship's bow began to dip downward, raising the stern. Few were injured upon the impact of the iceberg. The problem was that there were only twenty lifeboats for the twenty-two hundred passengers aboard.

What's more, many passengers did not take the collision seriously and refused to use the lifeboats at first. After all, they thought, this ship is unsinkable. This caused many lifeboats to be lowered with fewer passengers than they could hold.

The Titanic sank at precisely 2:20 A.M. the morning of April 15. Until the moment that it sank, the band, under the direction of bandmaster Wally Hartley, played hymns.

Only on April 15 did Captain Sowden discover that his childhood friend Wally Hartley had been on board the Titanic. Perhaps, thought Sowden, Jessie had seen his old friend Wally-and the sinking Titanic before she died. He determined that she had seen the sinking about three and a half hours before it had actually occurred.



The experiences of Esther Hart, Blanche Marshall, young Anna, and Captain Sowden were not unique. Hundreds of others were reported after the Titanic sunk; many are described in George Behe's book, Titanic: Psychic Forewarnings of a Tragedy.

However, one of the strangest forewarnings of the Titanic's tragedy was a novel, entitled Futility, written by Morgan Robertson in 1898. It tells the story of the largest ship, named Titan, which had the best equipment and crew. Unfortunately, it lacked enough lifeboats to hold all of the passengers. Because the ship was unsinkable, no one was concerned, however.

Titan set sail in April at full speed, trying to break the record for the shortest transatlantic crossing. On a foggy, moonlit night, Titan brushed against a large iceberg, which pulled the ship out of the water before it slammed onto her starboard side. Most of the lifeboats were smashed in the collision. As Robertson imagined it, only thirteen of three thousand passengers survived the sinking.

What amazed many people is that Robertson's description of Titan was so similar to the Titanic. In fact, there are a number of striking comparisons between these two supposedly unsinkable ships.


    1. Besides their almost identical names, both collided with an iceberg in the month of April.

    2. They also were about the same length and could travel about the same speed.

    3. Both had the same number of propellers and almost the same number of lifeboats.

When you consider the fact that Robertson wrote his book fourteen years before the Titanic was built, you can understand why some people believe that Robertson saw the future. Others, however, think that Robertson based Titan on his knowledge about shipbuilding at the time; he simply made logical assumptions about the size, speed, and equipment of such a mammoth ship. He also was quite familiar with episodes in which ships had collided with icebergs. Did he see the future, or did he simply use his powers of logic and reasoning?


Copyright © James M. Deem. Taken from Chapter Nine in How to Travel through Time (Avon, 1993). All rights reserved.