Cynthia Pearson

TARGET: Front page pictures of August 17, 1995 USA TODAY

Because this class included participants from a number of different states,our target was the front page of a national newspaper, USA Today. Participants were to target the news of August 17, and their enties had to be postmarked by August 16.

On the evening of August 30, 1995, four volunteers met to judge the outcome. Their procedure had several steps. First, I gave each judge a form to fill out listing, by number, each dream submitted on time. After explaining the form, I displayed the target so the judges could study it. In all, there were seven pictures on the front page of USA TODAY of August 17, 1995. Once each judge understood what each picture was about, I proceeded to read each dream aloud. The judges then marked on their forms whether any content in each dream impressed them as being a "hit" or a "partial hit" with the pictures in the paper.

In all there were 42 dreams submitted by 9 dreamers. Of these, two were found to be hits by all four judges. However, the most compelling example of precognitive dreaming had nothing to do with the USA TODAY of August 17. One dreamer from Ohio submitted a dream that matched in uncanny detail an event that had been front page news since it happened here in Pittsburgh on August 25. Moreover, it matched the lead story on the evening news broadcast just before our meeting at 7 p.m., five days later, to judge these submissions.

First Dream

The first dream that earned unanimous agreement as a hit with the USA TODAY target was this one:

At the bottom left hand corner of the USA TODAY target was a graph, which surprised no one. However, the judges were impressed with the fact that it was indeed a line graph, and how it depicted its subject: that women voted more than men. The line representing women voters sits atop the line depicting men, just as the dreamer was sitting on her husband's lap. Some judges also noted that the pride shown by the dreamer's husband may reflect on the theme of this item. The headline reads, "Women Vote More," and the text states, "Friday is the 75th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment granting voting rights to women, who cast a majority of votes in all recent national elections."

Second Dream

The second dream that won consensus from the judges was this one:

The judges noted that the bottom-most photograph of the USA TODAY target shows a car which appears to be stuck in muddy water. The text underneath it reads, "HEAVY SEAS: A utility vehicle navigates roads flooded by Hurricane Felix in Sand Bridge, near Virginia Beach, Wednesday."

Agreement about these two dreams was easy for the judges, but also led to conjecture about suggestibility. Some noted that every USA TODAY has a front page graph. Another remembered that Hurricane Felix had been blowing in for days before August 17, perhaps prompting a dream of flooding.

But when I read the following dream, all five of us were frankly astonished. I had in fact read over this dream when it first arrived, days before the events it seems to reflect so accurately. Although I remembered its emotional tone, I had no idea how meaningful it would seem until I read it to the judges.

Third Dream

On the local news which I and two judges had seen just before meeting, the lead story was about mourners placing flowers at the entrances to the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane of Interstate 279. The HOV lane, which runs down the center of the busy, many-laned interstate, had been the site of a terrible head-on collision the previous Friday, August 25. Traffic is supposed to run in only one direction on the two-lane road-- inbound in the mornings, and outbound in the afternoons -- but shortly after noon that day, a fatal error was made and six people were killed. One of them was a teenage boy who was survived by six brothers.

The location of this wreck was especially significant to us Pittsburghers. It happened on a curve which the Interstate makes past St. Boniface church, a 2-3 story stone structure which sits right on the side of the highway. There was a good deal of contention concerning the preservation of this church when the Interstate was being planned, and ultimately, the roadway was routed around it. Consequently, the Interstate makes a curve close by this church, and speculation about the crash suggested that this bend prevented the drivers from seeing each other in time to react.

From the highway, the view of the church is from the side. It sits in the middle of an old city neighborhood, with no green property around it.

The judges and I noted many correspondences-- placing flowers between lanes of a highway, the mention of "going in and coming back," the death of a brother, a stone church alongside the highway, its side facing the highway, the city area and lack of greenery, the male mourners, etc.-- and expressed particular wonderment at the timing of the judging. The story of the placing of the flowers at the entrances to the HOV lane had been aired less than an hour before we met.

As I reflect on all this, I realize I should explain that this highway and its HOV lane have been the subject of public controversy for years here in Pittsburgh. Consequently, this dreadful accident had been on the front page of city's daily newspaper every day since. Clearly, it was prominent in the minds of us all as we considered the content of these dreams.

I spoke to this dreamer in Ohio, whose initial reaction was relief for her own brother. I was interested to learn that she has never been through Pittsburgh, and never seen this highway and its distinctive features. There were a number of links that I did not describe here, but were provocative. For example, one dream sent in from Michigan turned out to be a close depiction of a front page photo in the 8/17/95 Chicago Tribune, which was subsequently sent to me. Another class member reported a dream image of a sun symbol in a corner which showed up two days later on the front page of the Buffalo News.

In the words of Susan M. Watkins, "We are all of us scientific naturalists in the virgin land of dreams." It is important to document and study these occurrences. I would be glad to hear commentary and opinion about this phenomenon, especially about this last example, where a dreamer's response to the programming was to vault days ahead of the target and light on a headline that would be of local and immediate significance to the judges of the experiment.

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