People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It

People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It

by Gary Leon Hill

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In People Who Don't Know They're Dead, Gary Leon Hill tells a family story of how his Uncle Wally and Aunt Ruth, Wally's sister, came to counsel dead spirits who took up residence in bodies that didn?t belong to them. And in the telling, Hill elucidates much of what we know, or think we know, about life, death, consciousness, and the meaning of the universe.

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In People Who Don't Know They're Dead, Gary Leon Hill tells a family story of how his Uncle Wally and Aunt Ruth, Wally's sister, came to counsel dead spirits who took up residence in bodies that didn?t belong to them. And in the telling, Hill elucidates much of what we know, or think we know, about life, death, consciousness, and the meaning of the universe.

When people die by accident, in violence, or maybe they're drunk, stoned, or angry, they get freeze-framed. Even if they die naturally but have no clue what to expect, they might not notice they're dead. It's frustrating to see and not be seen. It's frustrating not to know what you're supposed to do next. It's especially frustrating to be in someone else's body and think it's your own. That's if you're dead. If you're alive and that spirit has attached itself to you, well that's a whole other set of frustrations.

Wally Johnston, a behavioral psychologist, first started working with a medium in the 70s to help spirits move on to the next stage. Some years after that, Ruth Johnston, an academic psychiatric nurse, who'd become interested in new consciousness and alternative healing, began working with Wally to clear spirits who weren't moving on. These hitchhikers had attached themselves to the auras of living relatives or strangers in an attempt to hold on to a physical existence they no longer need. Through her pendulum, Ruth obtains permission from the higher self of both hitchhiker and host to work with them. Then Wally speaks with them, gently but firmly, to make sure they know they are no longer welcome to inhabit the bodies and wreak havoc on the lives of the living.

Hill has woven this fascinating story with the history and theory of what happens at death, with particular emphasis on the last 40 years and the work of such groundbreaking thinkers as Elmer Green, Raymond Moody, William James, Aldous Huxley, Edith Fiore, Martha Rogers, Mark Macy, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Bruce Lipton, and a host of others, whose work helps inform our idea of what it is to live and to die. As it turns out, our best defense against hitchhikers is to live consciously. And our best chance of doing that is by paying attention and staying open to possibilities.

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People Who Don't Know They're Dead

how attach themselves to unsuspecting bystanders and what to do about it


Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2005 Gary Leon Hill
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-297-8


First Mention of Spirits

"The first mention of spirits," Wally told me, "was when we were in the SEARCH group who brought in a lot of parapsychology stuff to Rochester. We got acquainted with Brother Joel Nelson who was getting along in years and wasn't able to drive anymore, so we were the natural ones to take him. Brother Joel taught mind control at St. Mary's College in Winona and was kind of a status symbol, so being his driver, we got invited to have lunch with Ram Dass and Susy Smith and all the people who were brought in to speak."

Brother Joel soon told them they should get to know Vic and Lorraine Darr, that Vic was a reflexologist and probably a healer, and that Lorraine had begun to do automatic writing. So, Wally made an appointment for his wife, Ardis, and they drove the fifty-odd miles from their home in Winona, Minnesota to Vic's Rochester office. Ardis's feet were in Vic's lap when Lorraine came down the steps with Brother Joel.

"I later found out they'd been upstairs in the back office talking to spirits," Wally said. But that first day all they knew was that when Lorraine came down the stairs, she said: "How many do you have down here?"

"Well, there's been a young one standing right beside Ardis ever since I started," answered Vic.

"Oh, hi, Mom and Dad," said Lorraine. "I just wanted to let you know I'm still around and it was a very easy death. No pain."

Michael had been born to Ardis and Wally on November 15, 1957. He died seven years, four months and nine days later when he was hit by a car after sliding down a snow bank near his house. He had been dead ten years and now appeared to be speaking through a woman they had yet to be introduced to.

"Oh, it's yours," said Lorraine.

"We weren't really ready to talk," Wally told me. "This was new to us. And so we kind of ignored it."

"I didn't ignore it," said Ardis.

It was hard to ignore. Ten years after Michael's death in Vermillion, South Dakota, three hundred miles east in Rochester, Minnesota, this woman who had no way of knowing they had lost a child or that his death had been an easy one, either now knew both of these things about Michael or had gone somewhere else while his spirit used her body to say hi.

There'd been one car on the street. The sidewalk was high. He'd been sledding with a friend and was hurrying home down the steep snow bank and couldn't stop because of four new inches of powder. The driver slammed on her brakes and slid forty-two feet. If she'd kept sliding straight ahead, she could have come to a halt, backed up an inch, and Michael would have jumped up and walked away, Wally said. As it was, she swerved to miss him, tried to turn into a driveway, lost control of her car, and slammed him into the curb. She went up over the curb and peeled off part of his jacket on the right front chrome fender of her two-tone ?64 Pontiac LeMans hardtop. Wally remembers every detail. Michael still had his golashes on at the hospital, he said.

"I was the only one that talked to the guy who called the ambulance and held him until they came. It was the coroner's report that said his spleen had ruptured, that he'd bled internally, just faded away."

"It was a very easy death. No pain." Somehow, this information was coming through a stranger. In fact, even Lorraine had been caught off guard. She hadn't gone into trance as she was learning to do. Michael simply broke in and took over.

Now he was back, cutting in a second time: "Well, I got to be going," Michael said through Lorraine. "I got things to do." And he left.

This was Wally and Ardis's introduction to first-person paranormal. It was the first of several conversations they would have with Michael through Vic and Lorraine, and the beginning of an ongoing exploration into the invisible realms of spirit communication. It was January 1975.

Over the next few months, the couples got to know each other. When their teenage son Jerry moved out of their basement apartment, Wally and Ardis invited Vic and Lorraine, who had been living in their reflexology office, to make use of it on weekends. They would drive over from Rochester on Friday night and leave Monday morning, and as Wally puts it, "We'd have sessions. People would ask Vic and Lorraine to do things. And we'd be in on that."

Contacting dead relatives and friends, clearing entities from houses, leading guided tours through previous lives, and doing rescue missions (sending souls to the Light) were the kind of things people asked the Darrs to do. From the outset, Wally and Ardis were doing more than sitting in.

Wally's background in psychology and training as a therapist and counselor proved an easy adjunct to Lorraine's developing skills as a medium.

She'd been a third grade teacher. Vic had been a steel worker who got injured on the job and cured himself with reflexology in the hospital. He had fallen from a beam where he'd been pounding rivets and was told by physicians he would never walk again.

Vic refused the sentence. He had fallen before—from a tree as a child. He'd gone out of his body, after which he was suddenly able to render marvelous drawings—a miracle for which his teachers made him pay by accusing him of tracing.

So, this many years later, when doctors told him he would never walk again, Vic sat himself up in bed with a book on reflexology and worked on his feet until he walked out of there.

"Lorraine was just beginning to do automatic writing," Wally said, "and I think she was as surprised as we were when she came down the steps and Michael took over."

"Before that she had experienced many lower entities coming through and saying horrible things about her family, making threats, and so it frightened her to keep on doing automatic writing," Ardis said.

"She hadn't learned yet how to protect herself from negative spirit entities," said Wally.

"When they came down on weekends she would go into a trance and bring these like ..."


"Xano in. And she would get up and assume this masculine position and her voice would go deep and it was interesting to watch her."

"You get used to it," said Wally, "knowing there's a different personality there. It's still Lorraine's body, but a different personality and maybe a different voice. Sometimes her voice was kind of a tinkly Chinese, very fragile, feminine. Sometimes it would be officious."

"She never knew who was coming through when she went into a trance."

"Sometimes she did."

"Sometimes she did."

"But, a lot of times people would just stumble onto the stage of her light, and be attracted to her light."

"They would stumble onto the stage of her light?" I asked.

He said yes. "Both she and Vic emanated a lot of light. Many times that's what attracts an earthbound spirit. That this station is like a beacon that pulls people in. Like Les K. the day he was killed."

Les K. was a colleague of Wally's who had driven through a railroad crossing guard on his way home from work. The train had hit his car at about one thirty in the afternoon. He died around four. By eight that evening, Les K. had stumbled, mumbling, into a session with Lorraine in trance.

As was standard, Wally had his tape recorder going. Lorraine was channeling the entity identified as Xano, whose words were coming through her in broken phrases divided by short pauses. Vic and Wally and Ardis found themselves leaning forward toward Lorraine for the duration of a very long pause. Finally, Lorraine's weight shifted in her body and her voice went up a notch, taking on the qualities of an anxious male.


Lorraine: Wally, what happened? One moment I was working through a projected ... theme ... and then I was surrounded by many things ... I remember no sounds.

Wally: What were you surrounded by?

Lorraine: Feelings of great love. Lights of varied colors, mostly white. Gentle strains of music ... causing me to rest ... causing this ... quiet ... state which I am ... in.

Wally: Do you feel peaceful now? No pain?

Lorraine: One blinding instant of pain ... and then it was released into this ... feeling.

Wally: Is this Les? Are you Les?

Lorraine: Yes.

Wally: And you're wondering what happened.

Les was a World War II vet who had been close to death several times. He and Wally had talked about life after death in the teachers' lounge.

Lorraine: So strange. Yet I have all ... faith ... that I will understand.

Wally: Yes you will. We talked a few weeks ago about these sorts of things, if you recall.

Lorraine: This ... came to me as I was resting.

Wally: Your memory of what we talked about came to you?

Lorraine: Pictures ... flowed before me.

Wally: Uh huh?

Lorraine: Of things which had been said. I ... don't remember being dead. Not ... punishing. Not ... bad. Not ... painful. Just floating.

Wally: Just a very rapid transition.

Lorraine: As if ... I slipped out. Popping like a watermelon seed.

Wally: And your awareness slipped out of your body, almost squirted out.

Lorraine: Yes.

Wally: And there was no pain?

Lorraine: No.

Wally: But lots of memories. And light. And peace and calm.

Lorraine: Many ... people around me, some touching me.

Wally: People that you knew, Les? Before? People who had died previously?

Lorraine: I don't recognize ... yet.

Wally: You don't see them clearly.

Lorraine: Very tired. They tell me I must rest.

Wally: Yes. Go ahead and rest and we hope to talk again.

Lorraine: Beautiful.

Wally: Do you have a message for Thelma?

Lorraine: Wherever I am ... it is beautiful ... lovely. I'm resting.

Wally: Would you like me to share that thought with Thelma?

Lorraine: She would understand.

Wally: All right. Go ahead and rest, Les. We'll be in touch.

As it turned out, Thelma did not understand. She wanted nothing to do with Wally or this message from her husband on the so-called other side.

"Some people may have thought I'd gone off the deep end," Wally told me, and his eyes sparkled. Their work with Vic and Lorraine was beginning to get interesting.

The four of them were working as a unit. He and Ardis seemed to augment what Vic and Lorraine were doing. "I think I did verbally what they did mentally," Wally said. Vic was usually silent and seemed to be sending telepathic messages to entities while Wally talked out loud to them through Lorraine.

"At the time, Lorraine felt she had to be physically touching Vic or he had to be physically touching her, their feet, for the energy, for her to be able to maintain this space that she was in," Ardis said.

"Maintain the space?" I asked.

"To be in the psychic—the trance state. So she always had her foot up against Vic's foot."

"And she always had a gallon jug of water to drink from," Wally added. "For dehydration, which would leach out a lot of minerals if she didn't take supplements. It's hard work for a medium to turn over their body."

"And is that what she does? She turns over her body?"

"Lorraine steps back and the spirit takes over," he said.

"Her soul, her spirit, her—"

"Her etheric body. When she is in charge, her etheric body is congruent with her physical body. If she pulls her etheric body back and he moves his etheric body in, then the spirit can use her vocal chords to speak through."

Lorraine refers to this period of her life as "the time of my allowing."

"It was Vic, of course, who could see the entities in the room," Ardis said. "He'd see shapes and have the knowledge of who was there."

It was Vic who had seen Michael that first day. "There's been a young one standing right beside Ardis ever since I started," Vic had said.


Michael Knew He Was Dead

Michael knew he was dead. In fact, Michael's first words out of Lorraine Darr's mouth were words of reassurance to his parents that he was still around and that his death had been an easy one. In subsequent visits, Michael talked about the work he was doing. He was greeting new arrivals, particularly children, and orienting them to their new surroundings, showing them around. He had made a smooth transition into the afterlife and was busy learning things.

The second time Michael spoke through Lorraine, Wally got him on tape.


Lorraine: We have a lot of fun and I know a lot of people. A lot of kids. They sure need a lot of attention sometimes.

It's different over here now, that's the funny part. You don't learn by doing things. You learn by seeing. It's different.

We have classes. These teachers are real nice. You have to learn to operate a little differently here. But, once you get the hang of it, it's pretty good.

* * *

Much of Wally's work in the Counseling / Education Department at Winona State was designing courses that kept up with his developing interests in death and dying, life after death, and psychic phenomena. With materials developed for his course called Living with Dying, Wally went to the High Rise Senior Center to begin a group. The one person who came every week to that group was a woman named Marion Ayers. Months after the group broke up, in June of the same year Wally met Vic and Lorraine, Marion Ayers died.

"Vic and Lorraine were there. It was probably Thursday night, and I had just come by the Fawcett Funeral Home and there was a visitation and a lot of cars," Wally told me. "I came home and read the paper and here's her death."

Wally handed me a copy of an obituary notice from the Winona Daily News:

June 11, 1975, Mrs. Marion Ayers, age 79, died at 5:20 Tuesday at Community Memorial Hospital, after a month of illness. She was born in England, 1896, lived in Winona most of her life. Married Lee Ayers in 1917 in Chicago, who died in 1968. She was a member of First Church of Christ Science, and a past First Reader of the Church and a member of the ...

"I turned to Vic and said, 'hey, Vic, can you send some energy to her?' "

Vic did.

Six days later, Marion Ayers started coming to Lorraine through automatic writing. Wally handed me a folder of typewritten pages and I began to read out loud:

Marion Ayers: I'm so grateful to have received thought healing from your friend. It enabled me to rest more fully since I spoke to you and came before you all. That was so peculiar a feeling for me to stand before Wally and he did not see me. That brought me the realization I really have a body no longer, as it is unnecessary, and the freedom this brings one's soul is just great. There are many good souls here with the new arrivals, helping with love to make the waking a pleasant thing. Also to help those who do not believe they are here as spirits but think they are dreaming. Much more should be known concerning death, as we discussed.

"We talked about this at the retirement center," Wally said. "How to let people know what's going to happen when they die."

I went on.

Marion Ayers: I simply went to sleep. In pain, true, but just closed my eyes with the thought, 'I am going to God.' And there was a doorway a short way away, which I walked over to and opened.

"This is that boundary line that we always talk about in the near death experience," Wally said. "This really confirms that the near death is an actual prelude. It's real."

I kept reading.

Marion Ayers: I'm considering, Wally, whether the single biggest factor to know before death may be the fact that one goes in love, gently held in the loving arms of God, knowing that there is no fear. Probably the greatest shock is knowing you all cannot see us anymore with your earth eyes. This seems to give some the feeling of being lost. It is taken care of as we learn to know ourselves with no earthly body for covering.

Many people, knowing so little or nothing of the life after death, have the mistaken notion that there is nothing. So, therefore, they prepare nothing in advance. The best way to be ready for the transformation to spirit is accepting that there is an afterlife, learning about it, discussing it with friends.

When the spirit body arrives after the separation from the physical, the cord, which formerly had held the spirit body near the physical body is automatically severed by the knowing thought of death. The cord is a tangible thing of infinite strength. It is seldom seen or felt but serves its purpose.

"The knowing thought of death?" I asked Wally.

"The knowing thought, apparently, severs the cord," he said.

"Her thought? Death's thought?"

"Your own thought of death, that knowing that you've crossed the ditch, the bridge, the doorway, river, chasm. Once you have that knowing, once you know," Wally said, "that's it."

Excerpted from People Who Don't Know They're Dead by GARY LEON HILL. Copyright © 2005 Gary Leon Hill. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Gary Leon Hill is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced at theaters throughout the country. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation, AT&T, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. His plays include Food from Trash, Back to the Blanket, Say Grace, In a Beginning, and 8 Bob Off. A photographer and filmmaker, Hill worked early in his career with Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer on the films Life Dances On and Energy and How to Get It. He lives in New York City.

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