Project - After-Death Communications (ADCs)

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Thanks to a generous grant from a foundation, an ambitious multilingual project entitled Investigation of the phenomenology and impact of spontaneous and direct After-Death Communications (ADCs) was conducted from February 2018 to January 2020. The second phase of the project started February 2021 and will be completed in January 2024.

By collecting information about how ADCs occur and unfold, and by analyzing their impact on individuals’ lives, we aim to make these results accessible to people who face the death of a loved one, as well as to anyone sensitized to the finite nature of human existence.

To achieve the various objectives of the research project, we have developed an on-line questionnaire of 194 questions (including follow-up questions after affirmative responses), which was accessible online for 6 months.

1,004 questionnaires were completed
  • In English: 416

  • In French: 440

  • In Spanish: 148

→ More than 2 million words in response to the questionnaire

→ The most extensive multilingual survey of spontaneous ADCs worldwide

A good part of the quantitative results of the survey are presented in two booklets, Research findings and Cases, so far available in English, Spanish, French and Dutch. You can view and download the booklets on the 'Publications' page.
The full range of quantitative results, illustrated by numerous testimonies, is presented in a book published in several languages (‘Publications’ page).

The thematic – or qualitative - analyses of the collected data are presented in individual papers published in scientific journals (‘Publications’ page).

Introduction

 

 

A spontaneous After-Death Communication (ADC) occurs when a person, often but not always in mourning, unexpectedly perceives a deceased person through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, or touch. Very commonly, persons who have an ADC (called experients) solely “feel the presence” of the deceased person or perceive a contact during sleep or hypnagogic states. ADCs occur frequently, with an estimated 50-60% of persons having experienced one or more spontaneous ADCs. Testimonies collected on all continents and for centuries suggest this phenomenon to be universal and timeless. Despite their widespread occurrence, ADCs, paradoxically, have been little researched and are absent from the media and public discourse. As a consequence, experients usually have no frame of reference in terms of which to understand, integrate and benefit fully from this experience which doesn’t match mainstream conceptions of reality. Whatever the ontological status of ADCs might be, they are perceived as real by a great number of persons and therefore certainly deserve their place on the consciousness research agenda.

The objective of this research project is to gain a better understanding of the phenomenology and the impact of spontaneous and direct After-Death Communications. On the basis of a specially designed online questionnaire, the collected data have provided insights into the profile of the experients; the profile of the deceased person supposedly initiating the contact; the circumstances of occurrence; the type, unfolding and message of ADCs; and their impact on experients. The research findings permit disclosure of this hidden social phenomenon to the scientific community and the public by means of publications, conferences, and media events.

ADCs are common, supposedly universal, and have a strong and lasting psychological impact on experients. A better understanding of their phenomenology and impact is essential not only for experients but for the public at large, since these experiences provide a completely new perspective of death and life. The research project aims at bridging science and spirituality by shedding light on this major social phenomenon. After-Death Communications are not an isolated phenomenon but occur in the larger context of other experiences related to death, such as Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) and end-of-life experiences (ELE), in particular death-bed visions (DVs) which occur shortly before demise. This research project contributes to the scientific inquiry of “unusual experiences” around death.

 
Research objectives

 

 

The first objective is to describe the phenomenology of ADCs. The project answers the following questions: Who has an ADC? Under which circumstances? In what form (type)? How do these experiences unfold? What are the messages of ADCs? Who are the deceased persons supposedly initiating the contact? What was/is their relation with the experients? Are there phenomenological differences between countries?

The second objective is to analyse the impact of ADCs on experients. The following questions are addressed: How do people experience ADCs? What meaning do they attribute to them? What is the immediate and long term impact on experients? How do ADCs influence the grieving process? Does the national and social context influence individuals’ experiences?

The third objective consists in disseminating the research results as largely as possible to the scientific community and the general public. By collecting information about how ADCs occur and unfold, and by analysing their impact on individuals’ lives, we aim at making these results accessible to people who face the death of a close relative, partner or friend, and to the broad public. Following an applied research orientation, we emphasize in our publications the relevance of our results for the public, and highlight the possible policy implications.

Considering the lack of research and knowledge on ADCs, we expect the results of this exploratory research to open up further questions. Therefore the project could also enable us to specify new research hypotheses which may be pursued in the future in the frame of a large scale research, involving research teams in different countries.

 

Methodology and data

 

 

In accordance with the professional guidelines set out by the British Psychological Society (BPS), the survey methodology has undergone a rigorous ethical review to ensure the confidentiality and protection of the data generously provided by our participants. The project received ethical approval from the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at the University of Northampton, Great Britain, in July 2018 (1).

In addition, in line with current standards of research transparency, the survey design and analysis strategy have been pre-registered with the Koestler Unit Study Registry at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (2) .

We developed a questionnaire consisting of 194 questions (including follow-up questions after affirmative responses) in the three languages of the project, i.e. in English, French and Spanish. Initial pages of the questionnaire described the ADC phenomena and the project,
outlined ethical aspects, and explained how data would be used. These indications were followed by a request for consent.
Participants had the possibility to fill in the questionnaire without giving their name. All proper names and place names have been anonymised. Once the data had been processed by our team, the results of the survey were presented in a completely anonymous manner, excluding any individual identification.


We first invited participants to describe their ADC in their own words in a dialogue box. If the participants had experienced several ADCs, we asked them to describe only one contact, choosing the most significant one. The questions were then presented with multiple choice options. Many questions were combined with follow-up questions with a dialogue box.
The questionnaire was presented in English, French, and Spanish on a secure online survey platform and was available online for a period of six months respectively. The link was sent out to interested parties (purposive sample) and was announced at the team members public conferences, on social networks, and information on the research project and the link to the questionnaire were posted on the website of one of the team members.


A total of 1,004 questionnaires were completed: 416 in English, 440 in French, and 148 in Spanish.

Acknowledgements

We should like to gratefully acknowledge the kind support of the Bial Foundation (award 169/20), the Society for Psychical Research Survival Fund, and an anonymous benefactor, which have enabled this work to take place.

(1) Ref: FHSRECSS00084
(2) https://koestlerunit.wordpress.com/study-registry/registered-studies/) - ref: KPU Registry 1046