Near-Death Experiences of the Hollywood Rich and Famous

By Kevin Williams

 

The near-death experiences of rich and famous people are particularly interesting. They are rolling in the money. They are known all over the world. They are often beautiful, articulate and very talented in what they do. With this in mind, why would such a person reveal to everyone that they were dead and came back to life? Money? They already got that. Fame? They are already famous. In fact, by telling everyone they came back from the dead, they may be risking their own reputation. People who reveal such things to others often become the butt of jokes or thought to be crazy. Why would anyone rich and famous subject themselves to this when it might result in lost fame and fortune? The only rational reason that such people who have nothing to gain is that it really happened to them and they want to share it with the world. The following are rich and famous people who risked it all to tell the world about their near-death experience. Some of these accounts are documented in Jean Ritchie's excellent book, Death's Door.


Jane Seymour is an actress most noted for the cult classic movie, Somewhere in Time, with actor Christopher Reeves, and the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. When Jane Seymour was 36 years of age, she had a severe case of the flu and was given an injection of penicillin. She suffered an allergic reaction which led to a near-death experience.

"I literally left my body. I had this feeling that I could see myself on the bed, with people grouped around me. I remember them all trying to resuscitate me. I was above them, in the corner of the room looking down. I saw people putting needles in me, trying to hold me down, doing things. I remember my whole life flashing before my eyes, but I wasn't thinking about winning Emmys or anything like that. The only thing I cared about was that I wanted to live because I did not want anyone else looking after my children. I was floating up there thinking, "No, I don't want to die. I'm not ready to leave my kids." And that was when I said to God, "If you're there, God, if you really exist and I survive, I will never take your name in vain again." Although I believe that I "died" for about thirty seconds, I can remember pleading with the doctor to bring me back. I was determined I wasn't going to die."

Then Jane suddenly found herself back in her body.

 

Peter Sellers was the comic genius of a generation of actors. He brought brilliant characterizations to numerous films, including "The Mouse That Roared" (1959), "Dr. Strangelove" (1964), "The Pink Panther" (1964), and "Being There" (1979). He was known for his enthusiastic way of totally absorbing himself in his characters, even carrying roles offstage. He also suffered from sad moods between films. While he knew his characters thoroughly, he said that he really did not know who he was. Then Peter Sellers, the brilliant, confused actor, had a near-death experience.

Seated in a Hollywood mockup of a limousine's back seat while shooting his last great film, "Being There", he told Shirley MacLaine about his near-death experience, astonished that she did not consider him "bonkers." In 1964, during the first of a rapid series of eight heart attacks, when his heart stopped and he was clinically dead, he had an out-of-body experience and saw the bright, loving light:

"Well, I felt myself leave my body. I just floated out of my physical form and I saw them cart my body away to the hospital. I went with it ... I wasn't frightened or anything like that because I was fine; and it was my body that was in trouble." (MacLaine,172)

The doctor saw that he was dead and massaged his heart vigorously, Meanwhile:

"I looked around myself and I saw an incredibly beautiful bright loving white light above me. I wanted to go to that white light more than anything. I've never wanted anything more. I know there was love, real love, on the other side of the light which was attracting me so much. It was kind and loving and I remember thinking 'That's God'". (MacLaine, 172)

Peter's out-of-body soul tried to elevate itself toward the light, but he fell short: "Then I saw a hand reach through the light. I tried to touch it, to grab onto it, to clasp it so it could sweep me up and pull me through it." (MacLaine,172) But just then his heart began beating again, and at that instant the hand's voice said: "It's not time. Go back and finish. It's not time." As the hand receded he felt himself floating back down to his body, waking up bitterly disappointed. (MacLaine,173)

What effect did his near-death experience have on Sellers? His biographer says that "The repeated act of 'dying' became for Peter Sellers the most important experience of his life." (Walker,158) Sellers said of death: "I'll never fear it again." Family and friends found him more spiritual and reflective than before:

"The experience of resurrection intensified Sellers' spiritual concern and friends discerned the start of a new introspectiveness, a sense of his not 'being there' in spirit, though present in body." (Walker,158)

His wife Britt Ekland found it unnerving that her previously restless husband had now become so quiet. He was now "sitting still over lengthy periods, saying nothing, but staring at her with his thoughts turned inward." (Walker,158) He returned to England for an extended convalescence, but soon reverted to old habits and bought his 84th car, an expensive Ferrari.

A couple of years before the nde, Peter had played an earnest priest in "Heavens Above", and developed a serious interest in Christianity (although he was born Jewish). During this time, following his father's death in 1962, Sellers was drawn to long, serious discussions about life's meaning with a neighboring vicar in London, the Rev. John Hester, "to try to reconcile the world of plenty he inhabited with the emptiness of soul that oppressed him." (Walker,143) After his near-death experience he deepened his quest for spiritual truth, continuing his discussions with Rev. Hester, coming close to joining the church. In later years he practiced yoga, saying once that "Yoga has given me a tranquility I wouldn't have thought possible." (Walker,217) The near-death experience strengthened Sellers' conviction that he was a reincarnated soul whose power of mimicry sprang from memories of past lives. But in this incarnation, at least, he felt lost. He did not know who he was and why he was on this earth. He explained to Shirley MacLaine:

"I know I have lived many times before ... that experience confirmed it to me, because in this lifetime I felt what it was for my soul to actually be out of my body. But ever since I came back, I don't know why I don't know what it is I'm supposed to do, or what I came back for." (MacLaine,174)

Spirituality gave Sellers some peace, but did not still his restless drift. In 1977 he complained that his yoga practice did not stop his heart disease:

"After all, what did it do for me? I obeyed all the instructions. I said my prayers regularly. I did all the exercises for peace, tranquility, and happiness. And all that happened was that I got steadily worse." (Walker,227)

Peter Sellers' near-death experience awakened him to a deepened spirituality, but it did not usher in a major, lasting change in his soul's makeup. This brilliant actor still felt lost. A final heart attack struck Peter Sellers - only this time it was his time to go.


British actress Elizabeth Taylor spoke about her experience of having died on the operating table while undergoing surgery, and of passing through a tunnel towards a brilliant white light. Interviewed by Larry King on CNN's Larry King Live, the legendary Hollywood star related how she had died for five minutes on the operating table. Ms. Taylor said that while she was clinically dead, she had encountered the spirit of Michael Todd, one of her former husbands, whom she referred to as her great love. She had wanted to stay with Todd, she said, but he had told her that she had work and life ahead of her, and he "pushed me back to my life." Following her resuscitation, the eleven-person medical team - including doctors, nurses, etc. - witnessed Taylor's testimonial of this event.

"I was pronounced dead once and actually saw the light. I find it very hard to talk about, actually, because it sounds so corny. It happened in the late '50s, and I saw Mike (Todd, Taylor's third husband, who was killed in a plane crash in 1958). When I came to, there were about 11 people in the room. I'd been gone for about five minutes - they had given me up for dead and put my death notice on the wall. I shared this with the people that were in the room next to me. Then after that I told another group of friends, and I thought, "Wow, this sounds really screwy. I think I'd better keep quiet about this."

 

"For a long time I didn't talk about it, and it's still hard for me to talk about. But I have shared it with people with AIDS because if the moment occurs and you're really sharing, it's real. I am not afraid of death, because I have been there."

 

In an interview with America's AIDS magazine, Liz described her NDE again: "I went to that tunnel, saw the white light, and Mike [Todd]. I said, Oh Mike, you're where I want to be. And he said, ‘No, Baby. You have to turn around and go back because there is something very important for you to do. You cannot give up now.' It was Mike's strength and love that brought me back."


The late Robert Pastorelli was most noted for his starring role in the television series, Murphy Brown. At the age of 19, he had a car accident which caused a near-death experience that literally changed how he was living, in a very dramatic way.

 

"It smashed right into the driver's door. It hit me so hard it actually knocked the shoes off my feet. My car rolled over about four times on this big highway and the next thing I knew I was in intensive care with a collapsed lung. Every one of my ribs was shattered. I had lacerations to my head and face, and my kidneys, spleen and gall bladder were all ruptured. I was a mess.

 

"I was in excruciating pain. Then, in the next second, there was no pain. Suddenly I realized I was out of my body. I was floating above myself, looking down at my unconscious body lying in the hospital emergency room with my eyes closed. I could see tubes down my nose and throat. I knew I was dying and I thought, "Well, this must be death." I even saw a priest giving me the last rites. But it was the most peaceful feeling in the world. Then I saw my father starting to faint out of grief. Two nurses grabbed him and sat him down in a chair across the room.

 

"When I looked down and saw my father's pain it had an effect on me. I firmly believe that at that moment I made a decision to live, not die. The next thing I knew I was waking up back in my body. Later, in the recovery room, when I was fully conscious, I told my father what had happened, his fainting and all. He was astounded."


Basic Instinct star, Sharon Stone, has told how she had a white light experience during her brain scare. Stone says she almost died after internal bleeding caused by a tear in an artery at the base of her skull. Sharon was interviewed by Katie Couric about her journey into the afterlife.

“When it hit me I felt like I'd been shot in the head. That's the only way I can really describe it. It hit me so hard it knocked me over on the sofa. And Phil was out of town and I called him and said, "I think I had a stroke." But in all fairness, I'm a person who's always saying, "I think I've had a stroke, I think I've had a heart attack, I think I've had a brain hemorrhage ... I had a real journey with this that took me to places both here and beyond that affected me so profoundly that my life will never be the same ... I get to be not afraid of dying and I get to tell other people that it's a fabulous thing and that death is a gift. And not that you should kill yourself, but that when death comes to you, as it will, that it's a glorious and beautiful thing. This kind of giant vortex of white light was upon me and I kind of - poof! Sort of took off into this glorious, bright, bright, bright white light and I started to see and be met by some of my friends. But it was very fast - whoosh! Suddenly, I was back. I was in my body and I was in the room.”


Gary Busey, once Hollywood's bad boy, was nominated for an Oscar for the movie, The Buddy Holly Story. Busey, who fought addiction with drugs and alcohol for several years, was nicknamed Gary Abusey by his wife. Busey has had supernatural encounters in which he nearly died three or more times in his life ...a drug overdose, cancer, and an accident west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. But the most tragic experience, and one that changed his life, was a motorcycle accident in 1988. Gary was going about 40-50 miles per hour riding on 750 pounds of cold steel. He was not wearing a helmet when he crashed. He was flung over the top of his cycle, head first into the curb and he cracked his skull. Busey had a NDE while he was dying on the operating table after having brain surgery. During his NDE, he was surrounded by angels. Busey stated that they didn't appear in the form that people see on Christmas cards. The angels he saw were big balls of light that floated and carried nothing but love and warmth - and this love is unconditional.

As a result of his NDE, he recently dedicated his life to Jesus and has been a prominent speaker at many Christian Promise Keeper rallies. He is no longer the "bad boy" of Hollywood.


Larry Hagman, of "Dallas" and "I Dream of Jeanie" fame, underwent a liver transplant in 1995. Years of heavy drinking resulted in cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. He was only weeks away from certain death at the time of his liver transplant and near-death experience. Larry describes what he experienced:

"I was able to look over the edge. I got a little glimpse of what was the next step. I didn't see a light some people see, but I had a wonderful feeling of bliss and warmth. The bottom line is love, that sounds corny, but it was just lovely, uplifting." Read Larry Hagman's entire experience here.


Actress Sally Kirkland has impressive film credits which include Bruce Almighty, The Sting, JFK, and Anna for which she was nominated for an Oscar as best actress. In 1966, Sally was participating in legal psychedelic experiments with doctors whereby she would have experiences of cosmic consciousness. Unfortunately, these experiences were followed by her life spinning out of control. The pain of life had just become more than she could bear. This led to a nervous breakdown and several suicide attempts. Eventually, she overdosed on Nembutal and Seconal during a suicide attempt and was found with her heart and lungs stopped. Last rites were even administered. It was during this suicide attempt that Sally had a NDE. She states, "A miracle happened, I was given a second chance and this has been a way to stay on the straight and narrow for 30 years, with the exception of a period in 1975 where I went off the track prior to ordination. When people hear the hell I went through on drugs, they listen to how to get off them." Today, Sally is a yoga teacher and serves as an ordained minister in the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness for the last decade, where she helps others to become drug free. When she is on stage, she uses the emotional recall of her own near-death experience as a source for bringing light to the roles she plays.


William Petersen, the star of the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, had a near-death experience which he described in an interview for Playboy magazine (March 2004, page 139).

"Years ago, doing a play in Chicago, I cut my finger in half onstage. We obviously had to stop because, well, I didn't have a finger. By the time they got me to the ER I had lost a lot of blood and passed out. I could hear the doctors working on me, saying that they had lost my vital signs. I was on the "All That Jazz" escalator with a long tunnel and a lot of white light. Then I specifically remember a dominant male voice saying, "It's not your time. Get off the escalator. You've got shit to do." I came to, and got sewed up. Something in me changed, a sort of knowledge that somewhere on the other side, its good. For weeks, the more I talked about it, the more freaked out people got. Some of them were like, "Okay, whatever: You took too many drugs."


By the late 1970s, Tony Bennett and his career were ailing. He had no record label, no manager, and he was performing almost exclusively in Vegas. Living in Los Angeles, he had a drug habit, a disintegrating marriage, and mounting debts. When the IRS started proceedings to take away his home, he nearly overdosed, and had a near-death experience.

 

"A golden light enveloped me in a warm glow," he wrote in his autobiography. "I had the sense that I was about to embark on a very compelling journey. But suddenly I was jolted out of the vision ... I knew I had to make major changes in my life."

 

After this experience, Tony Bennett did make the changes he needed to make and his life and career turned around. With the help of his manager/son Danny, he decided to attempt to appeal to younger audiences with his music. Beginning with scheduled concerts at colleges and small theaters, he eventually got re-signed to Columbia Records in the mid-1980s although he hadn't recorded an album in 11 years. Bennett also appeared on hip shows like The Simpsons and MTV's Unplugged. His Unplugged disk won Tony Bennett a Grammy.


Donald Sutherland, who played the character, Hawkeye Piece, in the movie version of Mash, had a near-death experience when ill with meningitis in 1979.

"Suddenly the pain, fever and acute distress seemed to evaporate. I was floating above my body, surrounded by soft blue light. I began to glide down a long tunnel, away from the bed ... but suddenly I found myself back in my body. The doctors told me later that I had actually died for a time."


Eric Estrada became famous for his starring role in the television series, Chips. While filming an episode of Chips, he had a terrible motorcycle accident that led to a near-death experience.

"Suddenly I was in a long corridor with bright lights, beautiful music, and a feeling of great peace. But something seemed to be blocking my progress. A voice told me, 'You've got to go back. You've a lot still to do. You've achieved success and stardom but you haven't achieved personal happiness and peace of mind.'" After hearing this voice, Estrada returned to his body.


Burt Reynolds, the star of Smokey and the Bandit, and many other movies, went into a coma when trying to kick a sleeping pill addiction. He stated, "I went into a coma for about eight or nine hours. At one point they tell me that the doctors brought Loni in to say goodbye to me. And I had the whole out of body experience. I heard the doctor say, "We're losing him." And I was going..."


Actor James Cromwell became internationally known from his role as Farmer Hoggett, the owner of a piglet in the hit movie Babe. At the age of five, James fell into the ocean which resulted in a near-death experience. Since then, James describes his whole life as a mystical event. After his NDE, James has recurring images in his dreams that are connected to previous incarnations. He states that he has memories of a past life in the days of King Arthur during the Middle Ages.


Chevy Chase became famous when he was one of the Not Ready For Prime-Time Players for Saturday Night Live. While working on the film called Modern Problems (1981), Chevy Chase was nearly killed by electrocution when a stunt went awry during the sequence in which he is wearing landing lights and dreams that he is an airplane. The current in the lights short-circuited through his arm, back, and neck muscles which caused him to lose consciousness and have a near-death experience. Now, he sees such accidents as a warning to "cut it out and save his skin." After his experience, he went through a period of deep depression as many experiencers do when they don't want to return from their NDE.


Accomplished actor Lou Gossett Jr., famous for his role as a drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman, has had five near-death experiences. Lou's most intriguing encounter occurred at the age of twelve. While playing baseball, he fell into a deep hole and experienced a brilliant tunnel of light. He also recalls a past incarnation as a pirate with a harem off the coast of Morocco.


Internationally renowned actor Eric Roberts has starred in more than 70 films, including the Dannion Brinkley movie, Saved by the Light. Eric has traveled all over the world encountering many colorful experiences. One of Eric's most dramatic moments took place in Westport, Connecticut. He was driving along, became distracted by his dog, and crashed. He was hospitalized in a coma and almost died. It was this state that Eric claimed to have had a surreal out-of-body experience.


Rebecca DeMornay starred in the movie thriller, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. When she was 7 years old, she was in Mexico City, Mexico, when she got ill from a peptic ulcer and had what she believes was a near-death experience.

"One night the doctors told my mother that there was only a fifty-fifty chance that I'd make it. I remember that I was tied to three IVs but I recall getting out of bed and looking out of the window: it was snowing. There was an old-fashioned lamppost and barefoot children were dancing around it, singing. I went back to bed and the next morning the crisis was over. In 1983 I started thinking about it: "Does it ever snow in Mexico City? Do they have these strange kind of lampposts there?" I went back to Mexico and I didn't see those lampposts anywhere. Nor does it ever snow there."


George Lucas is the creator of the blockbuster movie, Star Wars. Lucas is not conscious of having a near-death experience, yet he behaves as if he'd had one. As a youngster, Lucas was considered a punk - a non-achiever, romantic, unathletic, unassertive, and not studious. According to his father, he was good at only two things: cruising and hanging out. Wanting to race cars seemed to be his only ambition. Then, three days before he was to graduate from high school, without warning or advance-behavior cues, Lucas was involved in a spectacular car crash. For three days he hung between life and death and was hospitalized for two weeks more. About the crash, Lucas stated, "You can't have that kind of experience and not feel that there must be a reason why you're here. I realized I should be spending my time trying to figure out what that reason is and trying to fulfill it."


Rock star Ozzy Osbourne "died twice" after a bike accident which left him in a coma for eight days. The accident happened when he hit a pothole which was covered in leaves. It catapulted him over the handlebars and he tumbled down a hill with the bike landing on top of him, crushing his chest. His bodyguard rushed to his aid and gave him mouth to mouth when he twice stopped breathing. "If it wasn't for Sam I probably wouldn't be here. He had to bring me back to life twice." Ozzy said. He described his confusion he had felt on gradually coming round from his coma. "I didn't know where I was or how long I'd been there. I would drift in and out of consciousness. Other times there would be a white light shining through the darkness, but no f---king angels, no one blowing trumpets and no man in a white beard." Ozzy, who has battled addictions to drink and drugs, said the crash finally made him "grow up.". Ozzy stated, "You are bopping along through life and have your ups and downs, but it is amazing how two or three seconds can totally change your life."


People having near-death experiences are often greeted by someone - usually someone they deeply love or the so-called "Being of Light." When Elvis Presley died, it seemed like the whole world mourned. He was truly loved by many people the world over. Since then, many people have reported having Elvis sightings where the spirit of Elvis appears as an apparition to people much in the same way that Jesus appeared to people after his death. Not only that, many near-death experiencers find themselves greeted, not by a "Being of Light," but by Elvis Presley himself. According to Dr. Melvin Morse in his book on near-death experiences entitled Transformed by the Light, a 45-year old Mid-western teacher saw Elvis Presley in an intense light during her near-death experience. The woman had met Elvis when she was a child. The following is her near-death account:

"I entered into a dark tunnel and suddenly I was in a place filled up with love and a beautiful, bright light. The place seemed holy. My father, who had died two years earlier, was there, as were my grandparents. Everyone was happy to see me, but my father told me it was not my time and I would be going back. Just as I turned to go, I caught sight of Elvis! He was standing in this place of intense bright light. He just came over to me, took my hand and said, "Hi, Bev, do you remember me?" (Mauro,1992)

Dr. Raymond Moody wrote an entire book on Elvis sightings, including near-death experiences, entitled Elvis After Life. Because of the large number of devoted Elvis fans, it should not be a surprise that people having NDEs should be greeted by the King of Rock and Roll.

 

 

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." - Albert Einstein

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Copyright © 2014 Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife

 

Books on

Hollywood NDEs

Death's Door

by Jean Ritchie

True stories of near-death experiences including those of Hollywood stars and famous people.

Out on a Limb

by Shirley MacLaine

A journey into the personal life of Shirley MacLaine

Elvis After Life

by Raymond Moody

NDE expert Raymond Moody presents his findings into the phenomenon of spiritual Elvis sightings and how the people who experienced on fervently believed their experience was real.