Famous Dreams & Dreamers

President Abraham LincolnThese dreams were dreamed by celebrated artists, writers, scientists and others whose works or lives have had an impact on the collective.

President Abraham Lincoln had this dream shortly before he was assassinated. “About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. “Who is dead in the White House?” I demanded of one of the soldiers “The President” was his answer; “he was killed by an assassin! Then came a loud burst of grief form the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. ” Ward Hill Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1885, 1911.

I had a sort of dream-trance the other day, in which I saw my favourite trees step out and promenade up, down and around, very curiously — with a whisper from one, leaning down as he pass’d me, “We do all this on the present occasion, exceptionally, just for you.” Walt Whitman, Thoughts Under an Oak, 1875 On the night before [Caligula's] assassination he dreamed that he was standing beside Jupiter’s heavenly throne, when the God kicked him with the great toe of his right foot and sent him tumbling down to earth. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, c. AD 120.

[The structure of the checmical benzene was revealed in a dream to the German chemist F.A. Keule in 1890] “Again the atoms were juggling before my eyes…my mind’s eye, sharpened by repeated sights of a similar kind., could now distinguish larger structures of different forms and in long chains, many of them close together; everything was moving in a snake-like and twisting manner. Suddenly…one of the snakes got hold of its own tail and the whole structure was mockingly twisting in front of my eyes. As if struck by lightning, I awoke…Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth.” F.A. Keule, as reported during a convention, 1890

“Dreamt that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived. Awake and find no baby. I think about the little thing all day. Not in good spirits”. Mary Shelly, Journal, 19 March 1815.

Six weeks after his death, my father appeared to me in a dream. Suddenly he stood before me and said that he was coming back from his holiday. He had made a good recovery and was now coming home. I thought he would be annoyed with me for having moved into his room. But not a bit of it! Nevertheless, I felt ashamed because I had imagined he was dead. Two days later the dream was repeated. My father had recovered and was coming home, and again I reproached myself because I had he was dead. later I kept asking myself: “What does it mean that my father returns dreams and that he seems so real?” It was an unforgettable experience and it forced for the first time to think about life after death. Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1963.

Woke at one, and lay melancholy till three or four – then sleeping, only to dream of finding a dead body of a child in a box, a little girl whom I had put living into it and forgotten. John Rushkin, Diaries, 24 Feb 1885

I dreamed that I had died (though, somehow, I was not myself, but had become more or less identified with an ugly old woman), and was being autopsied. Then very gradually I became faintly and peacefully conscious of what was going on, though I remained motionless, and all the time believed that I was dead, and that my faint consciousness was merely a part of death. Preparations for the funeral were meanwhile being made, and I was about to be nailed down in my coffin. At this point I became horribly aware that these proceeding would cause suffocation, and, with great effort, I succeeded in moving my arms and speaking incoherently. Thereupon the funeral arrangements were discontinued, and very slowly I seemed to regain speech and the power of movement. But I felt that I must be extremely careful in making any movements, on account of the post-mortem wounds; especially I felt pain in my neck, and realized that it was necessary not to move my head, or the result might be instant death. Havelock Ellis, The World of Dreams, 1911.

It was during the winter of 1930-31….In the dream I saw myself go down the Ganges, where a boat I new very well was waiting for me to take me to the other side. But once in the boat, I no longer recognized it…Tied up along its side was another boat, which I hadn’t noticed at first, and of which I could make out neither the shape nor the dimensions. Almost without realizing it, I went from my boat to this other mysterious boat. And suddenly, I understood; everything became extraordinarily clear and simple. Everything: life, death, the meaning of existence. And even stronger than this revelation was my surprise: how had no one on earth yet understood this thing, so extraordinarily simple? Death, that was the extraordinarily simple and obvious thing. While getting into that boat, I said to myself: It’s unbelievable that no one has yet seen it when it’s so obvious. And all of a sudden I had the feeling that a message had been transmitted to me, that I should certainly remember in what the obviousness and simplicity of this beyondness of death consisted, so as to be able to communicate it to men. I woke up…with this idea in mind: not to forget what I had seen. A second later, I had forgotten. Mircea Eliade, No Souvenirs, 20 July 1961.

“I can but give an instance or so of what part is done sleeping and what part awake…and to do this I will first take…Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had long been trying to write a story on this subject. For two days I went about wracking my brains for a plot of any sort, and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers. All the rest was made awake, and consciously. Robert Louis Stevenson, A Chapter on Dreams, 1892.







Orphus system