The Near-Death Experience of Groups of People at the Same Time

By Kevin Williams

A more interesting and rare type of NDE is called the "group near-death experience". This is a phenomenon where a whole group of people have an NDE at the same time and location. They see each other outside of their bodies and have a shared or similar experience.

P.M.H. Atwater gives a definition of a "Group NDE":

"These are rare, but they do occur. With this kind, a whole group of people simultaneously seems to experience the same or similar episode. What makes these so spectacular and challenging is that all or most of the experiencers see each other actually leave their bodies as it happens, then dialogue with each other and share messages and observations while still experiencing the near-death state. Their separate reports afterward either match or nearly so. Reports like these emerge most often from events of a harrowing nature that involve a lot of people.

"Shared and group experiences imply that no matter how sure we are that near-death states mean this or that, and are the result of whatever, no single idea, theory, or pat answer can explain them. Even clues from the powerful patterning that researchers like myself have identified, fail to explain all aspects of the phenomenon."


The following are two excellent examples of group near-death experiences.

1. Group NDE Example #1

Arvin Gibson is a retired nuclear engineer and a prominent near-death experience researcher. His research culminated in the publication of several major works on the subject including research on how near-death experiences support doctrines of the Mormon church.

In 1996, Arvin Gibson interviewed a fire-fighter named Jake who had a most unusual near-death experience while working with other fire-fighters in a forest. What makes it unique is that it happened at the same time as several co-workers were also having a near-death experience. During their near-death experiences, they actually met each other and saw each other above their lifeless bodies. All survived and they verified with each other afterwards that the experience actually happened. Jake's near-death experience was so interesting that Gibson's local chapter of IANDS invited him to tell his story at one of their meetings. What follows is an excerpt of Jake's near-death experience from Arvin Gibson's book, The Fingerprints of God.

Jake was a member of an elite fire-fighting group called the "Hotshots;" a crew whose job it was to be dropped into particularly troublesome forest fires and bring them under control.

During a wilderness fire in 1989 a helicopter dropped Jake, as crew boss, and two 20 person Hotshot crews onto a fire at the top of a steep mountain. The fire was burning below the crews in thick Ponderosa Pine and Oak brush.

The slope of the hill the men and women were working on was about 40 degrees. They worked their way down the steep slope, when, part way down, to their horror, the wind changed to an upward direction. The trees in front of the men and women traveling down the hill erupted into flames with explosive force.

Jake explained how fire-fighters have a fire-resistant pack that is carried on their web gear. The pack includes an aluminum foil-type material which they can throw over themselves as they crouch to the ground in an emergency. These foils are only effective if the people can deploy the shelters after properly preparing the ground by reaching mineral soil with no residual flammable organic materials. The problem in this case was that the enormous winds caused by the inferno erupted all around them and the immediacy of the crisis made the shelters useless.

The panic stricken crews started to try and go back up the trench trail they had built. Trees exploded and fire engulfed the immediate area, and oxygen feeding the conflagration was sucked from near the ground where the people struggled to breathe. One by one the men and women fell to the Earth suffocating from lack of oxygen. They were reduced to crawling on their hands and knees while they attempted to get back up the hill to a safer area.

Suddenly Jake had the thought:

"This is it. I am going to die."


 And with that thought in mind he found himself looking down on his body which was lying in a trench. The noise, heat and confusion from the inferno surrounding them was gone and Jake felt completely at peace. As he looked around Jake saw other fire-fighters standing above their bodies in the air. One of Jake's crew members had a defective foot which he had been born with. As he came out of his body Jake looked at him and said:

"Look, Jose, your foot is straight."

A bright light then appeared. Jake described the bright light in this manner:

"The light - the fantastic light. It was brighter than the sun shining on a field of snow. Yet I could look at it and it didn't hurt my eyes."

Standing in the light was Jake's deceased great-grandfather. His great-grandfather acted as Jake's guide throughout his near-death experience. Jake met with others of his ancestors and had an extensive experience. (Only the portions pertinent to this discussion are repeated here.)

His great-grandfather ultimately communicated by mind thought to Jake that it was Jake's choice whether or not he should return to Earth. Not wanting to come back from the beautiful and peaceful place that he was in, Jake argued with his great-grandfather. Explaining that it would be devastating to return to a horribly burned body, Jake pled with his great-grandfather to remain. Jake said that all of this communication was by questions he would think of and have instantly answered in his mind.

Jake was informed that neither he, nor any of his crew who chose to return, would suffer ill effects from the fire. This would be done so that:

"God's power over the elements would be made manifest."

Returning to his body was one of the more painful events of his life. When I asked Jake why it was painful he said:

"When I was there, everything was so perfect, and my spirit body, it ... it was so free. It felt like everything was limitless. When I came back, well you know, there's always something plaguing you, like arthritis, or sore muscles, or ... but not there. Getting back into my physical body felt cramped - held back. For example, when I used to play football for a few days after a game or hard practice I was always sore. The same thing was true after coming back into my physical body. I hurt and felt constrained, and it was hard to get used to for some time."

Finding himself again in his body, Jake looked around and noticed that some of the metal tools they had used to fight the fire had melted. Despite this intense heat, and the fire still raging around him, he was able to walk up the hill in some sort of protected bubble. He did not hear nor feel the turbulence around him. Upon reaching the relative safety of the hilltop, the noise of the fire was again evident, and he saw other members of the crew also gathered there.

The entire happening was so profound that upon escaping from what they had supposed would be sure death the group of saved people knelt in prayer to thank the Lord for their deliverance. All of the crew escaped and the only visual evidence on them of what they had been through was a few singed hairs.

Jake said that in comparing reports of their different episodes the men and women were astonished that they had each undergone some type of near-death experience. Throughout the summer as the crew worked together they continued to discuss the miraculous adventure which they had lived through. Others of the crew confirmed, for example, that they also felt the ill effects of returning to their physical bodies. They, too, had met with other members of their deceased families and were given the choice of remaining where they were or of returning to Earth.

2. Group NDE Example #2

The following group NDE appears in the International Association for Near-Death Studies publication Vital Signs (Volume XIX, No. 3, 2000) and is described in a greater way in Eulitt's book, Fireweaver, published by Xlibris.

May finally made the transition into spirit on February 19, 2002, due to complications following a surgical procedure to repair one of her heart valves. She was 52 years old. The following is her near-death experience as described to Dr. Stephen Hoyer:

During the fall of 1971, when I was 22 years old, I shared a near-death experience with my cousin, James, and his best friend, Rashad, who was from India. Both young men were on a break from school and were staying with my family on our farm. One afternoon the three of us went to the cornfield to cut fodder. To get to the field we had to go through a metal gate, and we took turns climbing down to open and shut it. By late afternoon a storm started brewing in the west, and we decided to quit for the day. It was James' turn to open the gate, and as he did so, he reached up for my arm to climb back up onto the wagon. I was leaning the wrong way, and his weight pulled me toward him. Rashad grabbed my other arm to steady me, and we were in just this position when the lightening hit us.

I saw the lightning sparkle along the top of the gate. The next thing we knew, we were in a large room or hall made of dark stone. The ceiling was so high and the gloom was so thick we couldn't see the top. There were no furnishings or wall hangings, just cold, black stone all around. I knew I should be afraid, but I just felt peaceful, floating along there in the gloom with my two friends in the great, dark hall. The stately walls of this place loomed above us and seemed to radiate both great power and also great masculinity. I remember thinking it would have suited King Arthur. It was at that point that I realized that the three of us were united in thought and body. Images of Arthur came to me from James and Rashad. James saw only a cosmic version of the king. Rashad seemed to [be] envisioning himself in the time of Arthur. As we all became conscious of each other's thoughts, I suddenly knew James and Rashad better than I have ever known anyone else.

We realized there was light coming into the chamber from an archway at one end. It was more than just light. It was a golden, embracing warmth. It gave off a feeling of peace and contentment more intense than anything we had ever felt. We were drawn toward it. We weren't talking, but we were communicating with each other on some other level, seeing through each other's eyes. As we came to the archway and passed through, we entered a beautiful valley.

There were meadows and tree-lined hills that led to tall mountains in the distance. Everything glistened with golden sparks of light.

We saw that the sparkling lights were tiny, transparent bubbles that drifted in the air and sparkled on the grass. We realized that each tiny sparkle was a soul. To me, the valley appeared to be Heaven, but at the same time I knew that James and Rashad were seeing it differently. James saw it as the Gulf of Souls. Rashad saw it as Nirvana, and somehow we knew all this without speaking. The light began gathering at the far end of the valley, and slowly, out of the mist, a pure white being began to materialize. I saw an angel with a strong, bright face, but not like you'd usually imagine. She was closer to a strong, Viking Valkyrie. I knew she was the special angel that watches over the women of my family, and I perceived her name to be Hellena. James saw this same being as his late father, a career Naval officer, in a white dress uniform. Rashad perceived the being to be the Enlightened One, or Buddha.

The being spoke first to Rashad and welcomed him. He said that Rashad's time on Earth was done. He was worthy now of Nirvana. Rashad asked why James and I were there and was told that we were part of the reason why he was worthy of Nirvana. His two great friends loved him so much that they had willingly accompanied him on his last journey. At the same time, however, James received a different message. He had been worried about what his father would think about his anti-war protest activities, and his father told him he was proud of him for standing up for what he believed. He knew he was not a coward because a coward would not have made this journey with Rashad. I received yet another message in which Hellena told me she was glad I had remembered the example of strength, honesty, wisdom, and loyalty taught to me by my family.

We spent what seemed like an eternity in this place as we talked to our separate, yet joined, entities. They said they appeared to us in this way because back in the real world we were physically joined when the lightning struck us. They said it also symbolized the joining of all religions and doctrines. They said I would live to see a new age of tolerance, that the souls and hearts of humanity would be joined as the three of us were.

The guides taught us that doctrine and creed and race meant nothing. No matter what we believed we were all children joined under one God, and that the only rule was God's true law - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We should treat all people as if they were a part of our soul because they were. All living things in the universe were connected to one another. They said that soon humanity would mature enough to assume a higher place in the universal scheme of things, but until then we must learn acceptance and tolerance and love for each other. They said there would come a new age when people would not be able to endure seeing others homeless and hungry. We would realize that only by helping each other could we truly help ourselves.

Eventually we were told that it was time to go. We would not be allowed to stay longer because it was not yet time for me or for James, only for Rashad. The enlightened one told Rashad he would have a little time before he returned to take care of his worldly affairs. James' father told him he would return to this place soon after Rashad, but the two of them had to go back for now so that I could. I said I would willing stay here in this valley with them, but Hellena told me that I had not fulfilled my destiny; that I had children yet unborn.

We drifted slowly toward the archway. The pull became stronger and we were literally thrown back into the world. We floated for a while there, hovering above our bodies. Some of my cousins had been in the next field and had seen what had happened. We saw them all come running to where we lay. James and Rashad's hands were still stuck to my arms. We saw my cousins pry their fingers loose so they could turn Rashad over to help him.

When our hands were pried loose, James and I re-entered our bodies. We felt as if we were on fire, but it turned out that we had only minor injuries. Rashad, it seemed, being on the end, had taken most of the charge. The doctors said that the lightning had caused damage to his heart, lungs, and liver. He remained in the hospital for several weeks. During that time, tests revealed that James had a brain tumor that would eventually claim his life.

As soon as Rashad could travel, James took him home to India. He offered to stay, but Rashad told him that he wished solitude for his final time. Rashad took on the life of the Ascetic, in the Vedic tradition. He asked his wife to stay with her family because he wanted his last days to be spent in spiritual awakenings. About a year and a half later, on a cold day in January, Rashad returned to Nirvana. James and I knew when his soul left the world without being told.

James lived about three years after he found out he had the brain tumor. He gave most of his considerable inheritance to a charity that educated young people in India. I, on the other hand, have survived for another thirty years (so far) with the knowledge that this experience which I shared with my closest friends has been a guiding force in my life. I strive every day to meet my destiny, whatever it may be, with the same quiet dignity and resolution they showed when they met theirs. They have truly been my pathfinders, and I know that the connection I shared with them so long ago is the same connection we all share. We just sometimes fail to realize it.

3. The Shared NDE

Another interesting experience is called the "Shared NDE". This kind of phenomenon is an NDE that is actually shared with a person who is not near-death, but who is in close proximity to the actual NDEr.

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." - Pierre de Chardin

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