The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible
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If only a handful of people had ever encountered the Third Man, it might be dismissed as an unusual delusion shared by a few overstressed minds. But over the years, the experience has occurred again and again, to 9/11 survivors, mountaineers, divers, polar explorers, prisoners of war, sailors, shipwreck survivors, aviators, and astronauts. All have escaped traumatic events only to tell strikingly similar stories of having sensed the close presence of a helper or guardian. The force has been explained as everything from hallucination to divine intervention. Recent neurological research suggests something else.
Bestselling and award-winning author John Geiger has completed six years of physiological, psychological, and historical research on the Third Man. He blends his analysis with compelling human stories such as that of Ron DiFrancesco, the last survivor to escape the World Trade Center on 9/11; Ernest Shackleton, the legendary explorer whose account of the Third Man inspired T. S. Eliot to write of it in The Waste Land; Jerry Linenger, a NASA astronaut who experienced the Third Man while aboard the Mir space station—and many more.
Fascinating for any reader, The Third Man Factor at last explains this secret to survival, a Third Man who—in the words of famed climber Reinhold Messner—“leads you out of the impossible.”
different, though, from Shackleton’s published reference to a presence “very near to our hearts,” and instead emphasizes the idea that they were “comrades with Death.” Rather than inspiring a sense of the divine, one critic argues “the visitation in the poem inspires a feeling of dread.” 45. Nicholas Roe, “Be Inspired by the View from the Top If You Can See Through Your Tears,” The Times, May 14, 2003. CHAPTER THREE The Ghosts Walk in Public IN THE DECADES IMMEDIATELY BEFORE and
done their work in life, and they may want to save them from despair or death while in a bad state of mind. In emergencies, guardian angels may want to show up visibly, tangibly, in order to give clear, unmistakable directions, going beyond inner promptings and dreams. The familiar expression, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” is associated with medieval theology and particularly with Aquinas. The expression is usually used pejoratively, to draw attention to unreal abstraction or
encountered the Hebrew God three more times. Jesus was transfigured “up a high mountain apart”—identified as Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon—and appeared to Peter, John and James in a cloud of glory. In Islamic tradition, Prophet Mohammad had received the Qur’an while in solitude on Mount Hira by a revelation of the archangel Gabriel.2 The neurologists suggested “prolonged stay at high altitudes, especially in social deprivation … might affect functional and neural mechanisms, thus facilitating
but they were past the worst of the storm. Later, they all drifted into fitful sleep. When they awoke they ate some dried turtle meat and biscuit. As they huddled together under a sheet, Lyn told the others she “had counted seven people in Ednamair in the night,” adding she “had had a vision of a presence rather than a person,” who had helped to fight the storm. Dougal greeted her account with skepticism, saying it was “silly,” and adding they could not risk their survival on “spooks, ghosts and
Environmental Psychology of Capsule Habitats,” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 51, February 2000. 7. W. Grey Walter, “The Human Brain in Space Time,” in N. W. Pirie, The Biology of Space Travel (London: Institute of Biology, 1961). 8. Bianca C. Wittmann, Nathaniel D. Daw, Ben Seymour, and Raymond J. Dolan, “Striatal Activity Underlies Novelty-Based Choice in Humans,” Neuron, 58, June 26, 2008, pp. 967–73. 9. John A. Sours, “The ‘Break-Off’ Phenomenon,” Archives of General Psychiatry,