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Robert Van de Castle

Dream Laboratory

University of Virginia


Abraham Lincoln had a strong interest in psychic phenomena and placed great stock in dreams. He said that before the battles of Antietam, Gettysburg, and other important engagements during the Civil War, he always had dreams of a badly damaged Confederate ship sailing away with Union vessels following in close pursuit. A few days before his assassination, Lincoln was discussing dreams and prophecy with Ward Hill Lamon, his biographer, and two or three other people, including Lincoln’s wife. When Mrs. Lincoln asked why he was directing so much of the conversation toward dreams, Lincoln replied: "I had one the other night which has haunted me ever since . . . somehow the thing has got possession of me, and like Banquo’s ghost, it will not down." Lamon made notes about the disturbing dream immediately after Lincoln proceeded to narrate it:

"There seems to be death-like stillness about me. Then I hear subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I leave my bed and wander downstairs. There the silence is broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners are invisible. I go from room to room. No living person is in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress meet me as I pass along. It is light in all the rooms. Every object is familiar to me. But where are all the people who are grieving as if their hearts would break? I am puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I keep on until I arrive at the East Room, which I enter. There I meet with a sickening surprise. Before me is a catafalque, on which rests a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it are stationed soldiers who are acting as guards. There is a throng of people, some gazing   mournfully   upon   the   corpse,   whose   face   is

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