Knowing when your time’s up: curious cases of presentiments of death

In 1912, timber worker William Toogood had a vivid prophetic dream of his impending death and the gruesome way in which it would occur. The following day William told his workmates of the disturbing dream, describing how logs had to be lifted to recover his battered body. Later that day, William Toogood died, precisely in the manner in which his dream had foretold.

presentiments deathThis and other similar cases of prophetic dreams are included in Dream, Dream, Dream … prophetic visions from the land of nod. Sometimes however, people simply have a sense, or feeling that their time will soon be up. There is no vivid dream, no profound vision, but just, well, a hunch.

This week, weirdaustralia delves into some of these curious cases of presentiments of death. 

An affectionate farewell letter to his wife

The South Australian Register on 27 February 1891 reported on the death in gaol of the Reverend Dr Keating. It appears he knew beforehand that he would soon die in gaol.

“The Rev. Dr. Oswald Keating, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for assault on a little girl, died in Darlinghurst Gaol today from cerebral apoplexy.

“After sentence had been passed upon him he asked to be allowed to see his wife for a few moments, and was permitted to have a short interview. During the conversation, Mrs. Keating displayed considerable emotion, and her husband enjoined her to be calm, as it was probably the last opportunity she would have of seeing him.

“From the time he entered the gaol he seemed to be convinced that he would not live long, and just before he was seized with the fit, which ended in his death, he wrote an affectionate farewell letter to his wife.”

Timber worker takes heed of his hunch

In 1894, another timber worker, Francis Dubedah, had a feeling that he would be struck by a tree and killed … and therefore took what he thought were the necessary precautions.

The South Australian Register on 1 May, however, reported on the untimely death of Francis Dubedah, despite his attempts to stay safe.

“At Gundare Station, near Coolah, today Francis Dubedah met his death in a singular manner. The deceased was engaged in felling a tree with another station hand, and having had for some time a presentiment that he would meet his death by a tree falling on him he sought shelter behind the trunk of another prior to the one which was being cut down falling.

“Strange to say, however, as the tree was toppling, it struck a large branch of the one behind which Dubedah was standing, and breaking it off, the limb slid along the trunk and struck the man on the head. Death was instantaneous.” 

Sad tale of the sea and its strange coincidence

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate of Parramatta on 22 July 1899 reported in Sad Tale of the Sea and its Strange Coincidences that Mrs. W. O’Donnell had died in Tenterfield, NSW. Mrs O’Donnell was a widow whose husband had drowned in the wreck of the Maitland exactly 12 months earlier to the very day.

Apart from the coincidence of departing this earth exactly 12 months after her husband had drowned in the Maitland wreck, it appears that Mrs O’Donnell had had a feeling her husband was in danger prior to his taking his fateful trip.

“On the night prior to his taking ship in the Maitland, Mr. O’Donnell sang at a concert at Auburn. Next day he was to be off, but his wife had a strange presentiment of evil, and tried to persuade him to postpone his trip.

“The shock of’ the loss of the vessel as well as the loss of her husband, is said to have broken the lady’s heart; and, strange to relate, she died just 12 months to the day (5th July) that her husband was drowned. Four young children, are left orphaned, the eldest being 14 years of age.”

While it may be considered not all that extraordinary to have a feeling of impending death when working in a dangerous occupation or when taking a possibly hazardous sea voyage, it is a different story when these feelings of death occur in an apparently happy and healthy young girl. 

Something is telling me I know where I am going

The Argus, on 12 November 1900, included the following sad tale of the sudden and unexpected death of a young girl.

“The peculiarly sudden death of a girl named Jane Fraser occurred on Saturday night at the Servants’ Training Institution, Berry Street, East Melbourne.

“The girl, who was 15 years of age, had been an inmate of the institution since February, 1897. Her mother was dead, and her father, who was a butcher in St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, had not been heard of since 1893, when he left the place.

“On Saturday afternoon the girl was apparently in the best of health, and was laughing and playing with her companions, though she had a presentiment that she had not long to live.

“A girl named Hannah Friend, who lives in the institution, was talking with the girl during the afternoon, and the latter, while taking off her skirt, said, ‘I feel that I shall never live to put it on again’. On being asked why, she replied, ‘Oh, something is telling me I know where I am going.’ At about 4 o’clock she became suddenly ill, and complained to Miss Watson, the matron, of feeling bilious.

“She was put to bed, and during the night another girl named Annie Foster was sent to look after her. She slept beside her, and on awakening at 5 o’clock yesterday morning found the girl Fraser lying dead in the bed.

“Dr W H Bovd was called in, but declined to give a certificate and an inquest will be necessary. A sister of the deceased, aged 19, who is also an inmate of the institution was with her most of the day, but noticed nothing strange about the deceased.”

Double mining fatality … an inkling of impending doom

On 4 December 1907, the Albany Advertiser reported on a double mining fatality at a Ballarat mine in which one of the men appeared to have had an inkling as to his impending doom.

“Harry Cadd and Charles Edmonds were killed in the Britannia East mine at Ballarat East yesterday. It is supposed that they fell out of the cage and were drowned in the water at the bottom of the shaft. Edmonds had a presentiment of evil, for before going down he said to a mate that he was dying. Both men were married.”

The following day, the Singleton Argus expanded on the events that followed Edmonds’ ‘presentiment of evil’.

“It is thought that Edmonds fainted descending the shaft, and that Cadd either clutched at him to save him from falling, or was seized by his mate, and thus was dragged to his death.”

Nurse’s grim feelings of typhoid attack

On 1 March 1910, the Singleton Argus reported on the death of a 25 year old nurse from typhoid fever, who had for some time, somehow knew that not only would her time soon be up, but the way in which she would be taken.

“The death has occurred in the Tamworth hospital of Nurse Grimm from typhoid fever. Deceased, who was 25 years of age, was in her fourth and last year of training, and was very highly thought of.

“It is stated that on several occasions she had told her friends that she had a presentiment that she would have an attack of typhoid fever at the end of her third year, and that she would succumb to its effects.”

I have a feeling I have not got long to live

On 13 May 1926, Perth’s The Daily News detailed yet another presentiment of death, this time from a police inspector recovering from a bout of ill health.

“Fate sometimes moves in curious ways, and many strange stories have been recorded of people being warned by some subtle influence of their near approach to the valley of the shadow of death. Some such feeling entered the life of Inspector John Walsh shortly before he met his untimely end. On the night he so mysteriously disappeared, Walsh expressed his opinion to Inspector Condon that death hovered near.

“Some time ago Walsh had not enjoyed the best of health. Forty years of the hardships encountered by Western gold fields men was telling its tale on the once strong, athletic frame. Just before bidding his last farewell to his old friend, Inspector Condon inquired if he felt fit and well again and strong enough for the work on which he was engaged. ‘Oh, yes; I am all right now,’ replied Walsh, ‘but somehow I have a feeling that I have not got long to live.’

“At the time Inspector Condon paid little heed to the reply, but the full import of it was borne upon him with tremendous force when the mutilated portion of all that remained of John Walsh’s body was uncovered to his horrified gaze.”

If a chap is killed somebody will get £500

In early 1927, a young jockey was killed after he fell off his mount while racing at Hill End in the Central West of NSW. He had had a bad feeling about racing on that track that day, but decided to ride in the race anyway.

The Singleton Argus reported on 4 January 1927:

“Edward Wright (25) was killed when he fell from a horse during a race at Hill End on Saturday. Wright was riding A. Mackie’s Triacre, when the horse ran off the course into the scrub. Wright either fell or threw himself off the horse, and his head struck a log. When picked up he was dead, his skull being fractured and his collarbone and wrists broken.

“He apparently had a presentiment of death before the race, since, while chatting to some friends, he is said to have remarked, ‘I don’t like the course; but if the other boys ride, then I will. Any how, if a chap is killed somebody will get £500 out of the insurance.’”


A reasonable assumption that dying is a possibility when faced with a dangerous situation?

A subconscious ‘knowing’ that something is not right with your body?

Or is presentiment of death something not so easily explained?

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11 thoughts on “Knowing when your time’s up: curious cases of presentiments of death

  1. Five years ago, I had a couple of dreams of walking away with Jesus that made me CERTAIN I was about to die. Five years later, I’m still here, but I think the dreams marked the beginning of a closer walk with the Lord in this life. I also have had an increasing number of “winks” from God over the years, affirming that He is active in our lives and that every aspect of our path was known to Him before we took our first breath. I’ve learned that we even when our “premonitions” aren’t literally true, they are good at giving us notice that change is imminent.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. According to his biographer, while stationed in the UK the legendary American swing-band leader Glenn Miller was said to have told one of his orchestra members that “you boys [the band] will be going home without me” and that he “expected to ‘get his’ in a little plane”. His feelings were reportedly so strong that he wrote to his brother asking him to make arrangements to care for his wife and children when he was gone. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened on the frigid Friday afternoon of 15th December 1944.


  3. Pingback: Strange deaths: Cruel coincidences, dying of fright & bizarre suicide pacts | weirdaustralia

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