Photo by Ryan Brohm via Iowa State Daily
Lucid dreamer, Cherylee Black, holds the distinction of having three NDEs or near-death experiences, along with many interesting lucid dreams, lucid nightmares and OBEs. A musician and artist in the first half of her life, she switched to science and research in the second half after waking with a new set of interests from her third NDE. The LDE welcomes Cherylee Black!
As a young child of two years, you had your first Near Death Experience (NDE), after cracking your head at the bottom of a staircase. Briefly, what happened in that NDE?
I was a toddler when I had my first NDE. I had opened the door to the basement to let out the family dog who had been put downstairs because company was over. I guess I wasn’t supposed to be old enough to unlock doors yet, so no one noticed that there was an open door and a small child playing on the stairs with a very big dog. I fell down the stairs and cracked open my head right above my nose (I still have a cute little scar).
I remember this lady picking me up and comforting me. She made the pain go away and I felt so loved. I remember there were pretty lights everywhere. Really happy lights. Those lights were different than what I remember from my adult experience. Instead of bright white, they were beautiful dark purples and indigo blues. They felt safe and warm. Like a special hug. The lady and the lights were good, but what I wanted most was my Dad. The next thing I remember was coming out of that experience and seeing Dad.
Years later I saw a picture of my maternal grandmother, and I realized that she was the lady who picked me up. She had passed away not very long before I had been born. There weren’t any pictures of her displayed around our home when I was little because she died quite young and unexpectedly. My grandfather couldn’t bear to be reminded of that.
From that point, you seemed to have a pretty normal childhood, except for a lot of imaginary friends and occasional odd events. But do you recall much of your early dream life? What was that like?
I don‘t remember much about my dream life from those early years. I‘m not sure that I really differentiated all that much between what happened in sleep and what happened during waking hours. It was all just a bunch of continuous experiences when I was little.
I assume at some point, you began to realize that in some dreams you were consciously aware of dreaming, or lucid. When did you first learn about lucid dreaming? Did lucid dreaming interest you at all? What prompted your lucid awareness?
I knew that I had an awareness of dreaming in some dreams long before I knew that there was a name for that experience. It came up as an 11-year-old when I had been having nightmares and my father had asked me if I knew whether or not I was asleep when the bad dreams occurred. I told him that of course I knew I was asleep, but that didn‘t make them any less scary.
You have to understand that I had gone through two NDEs by that point, and those experiences are ‘realer than real’ and much more vivid than normal life is. When you are a kid, the adults will call those experiences ‘dreams’. It makes it difficult to understand what actually qualifies as dreams.
Now as a young person, you had another incident when your appendix suddenly burst. At this point, did you have a spontaneous Out of Body Experience (OBE)? What happened to make you feel that your awareness had left your physical body?
I was 10-years-old when I had the second NDE. Our family doctor had me sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital for immediate surgery. My parents kind of got pushed out of the way when we got to the hospital, despite the fact I kept crying for them.
I remember the pain was unbearable. I’d retreat from it and find myself outside my body where things seemed much clearer and there was no pain. But then I’d be back inside myself and things hurt terribly and everything seemed blurry. It was sort of like being sucked in and out of a straw. I went back and forth a few times, going in and out of my body until I finally stayed out.
There were these lights/people around me when I was outside my body. I recognized two of them as imaginary friends who had kept me company as a child. I could see the doctors working on my body below me, and I was pretty upset by what I saw.
While OBE, did you notice anything that you could later collaborate as an actual occurrence?
I found my parents in the hospital, and I tried to get their attention, but they couldn’t see me at all. And I tried really hard to let them know I was there. They were having a fight about me. Dad kept saying everything would be OK, that I would be OK. Mom was so upset that they hadn’t rushed me straight to the emergency room rather than going to the family doctor first.
She kept thinking the worst would happen and that it was all her fault for not doing the right thing at the right time. They took out their frustrations on each other and they were so scared. I had never seen my parents fight like that before. It was horrible. The fact that they couldn’t see me and comfort me made it even worse. I thought everything was my fault.
I‘ve never asked my parents about that fight. They probably wouldn‘t admit to having had it, although having known them all these years, such an argument would not be out of character under the circumstances. As a kid, I found it quite a shock, but as a grown woman it seems completely within reason.
Since your physical body was in intense pain, what made you want to come back to it? It would seem the peace and sense of love and support that people often feel in the OBE realm would make staying there very enticing.
My experience was more distressing than peaceful. Part of the problem was that I was exposed to a lot of adult knowledge that I wasn‘t mature enough to handle. There was ‘me’ (10-year-old me), but there was also this much bigger me that I was aware of. The bigger me, that sort of ageless me, had knowledge that 10-year-old me found pretty disturbing. I saw what seemed to be the future, but there were two different versions of the future.
There was one in which I died in the operating room. In that future, my parents divorced and my whole family just seemed to fall apart. My brothers both died before my parents, my dad died alone and heartbroken, and mom went through a series of failed relationships. It was a pretty bleak future.
In the other future, I didn’t die. Mom and Dad stayed together. My brothers were OK. (My parents have been married over 50 years now, and my brothers have both survived close calls that could have gone either way.)
I actually saw details of my first marriage, stuff that my 10-year-old self really didn’t want to know about (I was convinced that boys were kootie-infested scum at that age and thought that puberty meant losing one’s ability to think rationally). I even saw the car accident that caused an NDE when I was 29. (I didn’t get a driver’s license until I was 25 and living in an area too isolated to get around in without a vehicle because I grew up afraid of driving).
I was pretty freaked out by that kind of adult knowledge and the choice it seemed to be giving me. There was no way I wanted to die if it was going to hurt Mom and Dad so I was very determined to return to my body.
After that second NDE experience, did you notice any changes in your dream life or lucid dreams? How about changes in your waking life?
I suffered from terrible nightmares after my second NDE. I had encountered frightening beings during that experience. Not evil beings, but they were not made of light the way my imaginary friends were. They seemed soulless somehow. I was afraid of them. At the time they reminded me of the aliens in my older brother‘s comic books. I was terrified that they would come to pull me out of my body and take me away from my family.
I had been having spontaneous OBEs after my second NDE. I didn‘t really know what to make of them. They typically occurred when I was in bed, either asleep or trying to sleep. Sometimes it was OK, I‘d be in control and just checking out things of interest in various parts of the world. But then I started having nightmares about those entities from my distressing NDE.
The nightmares were terrible. Looking back, I was probably already in the OBE state when many of them started. I‘d run from room to room and try my best to get someone to help me, but they wouldn‘t hear my screams.
I couldn‘t wake up my parents or my brothers, or even the family dog. I felt absolutely hopeless and abandoned because no one would come to my aid. It never occurred to me that I might not have been in my body, and this was just like in the hospital where my parents couldn‘t see me or hear me.
Those alien things would show up and I hated them. I knew I was having nightmares, but it seemed very real. I tried to stay awake to avoid the nightmares. After my parents sent me to bed, I‘d wait for the adults to go to sleep, then I‘d go hide in the closet for the duration of the night. I‘d often fall asleep in school the next day. It got me into trouble as a kid.
When I couldn‘t stay awake, I tried various strategies in my sleep to stop the nightmares.
My paternal grandmother, who was trying to talk me out of needing a night light, gave me the solution to the problem. She said I didn‘t need an electric light on because I could just create my own light to keep away anything bad. She told me to just concentrate on making light, lots of light, and nothing could hurt me.
I really took that suggestion to heart, and enthusiastically practiced making light. The turning point for me came during a lucid dream when I blasted the scary beings away with that light. Interestingly, that was around the time when I first witnessed poltergeist phenomenon in my waking life.