In Reply to: Third man syndrome posted by Smokey Stover on June 27, 2010 at 19:35:
: : Third man syndrome -- Also third man factor. Sensing an unseen presence during times of extreme stress and/or isolation. The expression was used by Ann Bancroft, first woman to cross the ice of the North Pole, on "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, National Public Radio (NPR) 26 June 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=35 "The Third Man Factor" by John Geiger documents scores of examples. More information about the expression here:
: : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Man_factor
: I was caught off guard by the name of the syndrome. I expected something involving a hammered dulcimer, or a Ferris wheel in the Prater.
: I didn't know of this experience until ESC provided us with it. But it fits what I have been reading lately. Apparently the brain, working below the conscious level, can provide very precise hallucinations, some of which seem tailored to very specific situations.
: Sharon Begley's article on "The Hidden Brain" seems very relevant, although she does not discuss particular situations in detail. See:
: Recently there was a TV program on the "out-of-body experience," which sometimes involves "hallucinations" of seeing the doctors working on your body, and hearing their conversation, or at least scraps of it. I use quotation marks with hallucinations because they sometimes contain verifiable information.
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you .
T.S. Eliot, _The Wasteland_, part V, lines 359 ff.
[Eliot's note:] The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
[Commentator's note:] B.C. Southam has traced the account to chapter 10 of Sir Ernest Shackleton's book South .