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Analysis > Friday, 26 February 2010 03:12:05 EST


Keywords: paranormal, historical, book

I came across this interesting looking book recently:

Nightmare Island Book Cover

It's a book on paranormal phenomena written for a young audience.  It was written in 1993 by Jim Razzi, and contains a collection of stories of "unexplained" phenomena.  The book introduces itself as follows:

It sounds impossible, but everything in this book really happened.  The events you will read about here defy explanation.  You cannot come up with logical reasons for why they occurred.  You may not even believe they are true.  But they have all been reported by reliable witnesses.  In many cases, they have factual evidence to back them up.
   Believe it or not, strange things don't happen only in the imagination.  Real life is full of mysteries that no one has been able to solve.  But see for yourself....

I cannot come up with logical reasons for why they occurred??  That sounds like a challenge to me!  I wholeheartedly accept!

This book looks like it will provide some fun stories to analyze and research.  I'll start off with the title story, Nightmare Island:

Nightmare Island Story Picture
SYNOPSIS: Can a nightmare come true?  You might not think so.  But if Byron Somes were still alive, he would have to disagree with you.

Sounds ominous, right?  Well, it's a little misleading.  Byrone Somes does not die in this story, the reason he wouldn't still be alive is because this story takes place in 1883.  But I can't fault Mr. Razzi for building up the atmosphere before telling the story.

So, what is this story about?  I did an Internet search on the details of the story to see what I could find.  Strangely, I found only two sources that describe the event.  They explain what purportedly happened:
One of the most famous cases of clairvoyance is that of Byron Somes, a reporter for the Boston Globe. He dreamt that a small South Seas island, Pralape, had a large volcano that was furiously erupting. In his dream, he could even hear the screaming of the islanders trying to escape. The dream was very detailed and vivid. It seemed he was really there. When he awoke, he wrote down the dream and left it at his desk. By mistake someone at the news­paper took his dream as a news story and printed it. It wasn’t until several days later that news actually started coming in that a vol­cano on the island of Krakatoa had erupted blowing the island off the face of the earth. Byron Somes had dreamt the eruption of Krakatoa at about the same time it was happening, though he was 12,000 miles away. Several years later he discovered that Pralape was the ancient name for Krakatoa.
There was a very impressive example of a pretty well documented case of Clairvoyance. And it was somewhat accidental! In August 1883, a Byron Somes worked for the Boston Globe newspaper, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was sleeping in his office at the newspaper (after heavy drinking) on a Sunday night. He woke up due to a terrifying dream that he just had. It was such an unusual dream, and he was a reporter, that he wrote down all the details that he had seen in it. The dream/nightmare was about a horrendous scene of explosions, earthquakes and screams of countless dying people. Somes wrote the word IMPORTANT on his notes and left them on his desk and went home to sleep. He did not report for work the next day, Monday, still suffering from the heavy drinking.

In 1883, there was not yet any radio or television, and news traveled fairly slowly around the world, even for newspapers. Geological people (there were not really yet any experts) were puzzled by a seismological disturbance that had just been recorded, which was identified as being on the other side of the Earth, in the Straits of Sunda. Someone at the newspaper apparently found the notes on Somes' desk, and the word IMPORTANT, and assumed that it was a report on that disturbance. On August 29, 1883, the Boston Globe ran an excellent story based on the details of those notes. Other newspapers across the country picked up the story and almost immediately, the entire country "knew" of what had happened to Krakatoa, a volcano that erupted so violently that an entire island disappeared in the process!

The management of the Boston Globe wanted more information on this remarkable, and very popular, story, which was selling a lot of newspapers! So they found Somes, wanting more details. Somes soon admitted that it was not a news story at all but merely notes on a terrible nightmare. He was fired immediately. The Boston Globe was preparing to issue a public confession that the story was not true, that it was a mistake, just a dream. But as they were about to do that, huge tsunamis (incorrectly called tidal waves) started hitting the California coast, and actual news of the disaster began to arrive as survivors of the disaster got to cities with telegraph stations that had not been destroyed. Somes was re-hired as the incoming (real) news was amazingly identical to what Somes had written down in his nightmare notes.

Other newspapers were curious as to how the Boston Globe could have scooped them so remarkably. The Boston Globe declined to admit the actual truth, and made up several stories to try to explain their unusual access to information that they obviously couldn't have gotten!

Somes had his nightmare late on Sunday night in Boston. Because of time zones and the International Date Line, it was actually Monday morning at Krakatoa at that time, essentially the identical time that was later confirmed as when the volcano erupted so violently. Since that story (accidentally) got published Nationally before any actual evidence was even available, it represents an excellent example of the sort of documentation that is valuable for scientific research regarding Clairvoyance.

This story was also reenacted in an episode of the 90's television series "Beyond Belief, Fact Or Fiction", where they changed the name of the reporter to "Jack Hogan"... why they would protect the identity of a man who would have been dead for close to 100 years is beyond me.

Doing a wider search without mentioning a name, I'm able to find a few extra stories about this incident in which the reporter in question is named Ed Samson.

I like how the reporter, whatever his name, for some strange and unexplained reason marked his dream as "IMPORTANT". He had a dream, and gosh darn it, it was an IMPORTANT dream!!!

In any case, there is a bit of a discrepancy between versions as to the details.  In the book, the man's name was Byron Sommes, he actually identified the island as "Pralape" and it wasn't until later that they found out the disaster had actually occurred at Krakatoa.

So, what's the truth about this story?  It was easier than I expected to figure it out.

The Boston Globe has a searchable archive of it's articles from 1872 - 1926.  I performed a search for any article written by an author named Byron Somes from the beginning of August to the end of September of 1883.  There were no results.

A similar search for the name Ed Samson also produced no results.

And just for kicks and giggles, I also tried a search using the name Jack Hogan.  Predictably, it produced no results.

I performed a search for any article mentioning the word "Pralape" in the entire historical archive.  There were no results.

On a side note to that, I tried to verify if there were any sources listing the ancient name as Krakatoa as "Pralape".  I haven't been able to find any verification.  The Wikipedia article on Krakatoa lists the history of the name, but makes no mention of Pralape.  Two other pages I found mention that the volcano was named "Pralape" in ancient times, but they give no source for this claim.

Nobody seems to know which natives or in what language the island was ever called "Pralape".  Strange, no?

So what was the Boston Globe's first report on the explosion at Krakatoa?  Well, a search revealed that as well.  The first article was written was on August 29, exactly the date claimed by the story I found on the Internet - though the book says that Byron had his dream on the 27th and that it was found and printed the next morning.

The title of the article was "Java Desolated".  It was delivered by Special by Cable to The Boston Globe.  They knew where the destruction was happening, there was no guessing at a name like "Pralape" where nobody knew the exact area being talked about or which volcano was acting up.

The truth is that the explosion was heard as far away as 5,000km, and the telegraph system at the time was perfectly capable of delivering this kind of news in a timely manner.  There wasn't a wait period of several days while refugees made their way to the closest towns to inform the rest of the world clueless about what had happened.

And it's not like this came completely out of the blue either.  The people of Java were experiencing rumbles and small shocks coming from the volcano in the time leading up to the eruption.  The Boston Globe even just the day before reported that the volcano was scattering stones and ash all about.  This wasn't something that left scientists scratching their heads for days upon seeing the seismic readings.

It's pretty clear to me that this story was just made up out of whole cloth.  There was no reporter named Byron Somes writing articles for the Boston Globe during this period of time.  There was no article mentioning the word "Pralape", and I see no reason to believe that the volcano was ever given such a name.

Isn't it interesting how somebody can write a book, and claim that the work is based on reliable sources and factual evidence... but somehow has failed to do the basic amount of research on the topic, such as obtaining a copy of the original article in question?

If this story were to somehow turn out to be true, I really would love to see a copy of the original article for myself.  It's a wonder that nobody's thought to obtain a copy and reprint it somewhere, isn't it?


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