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Third man syndrome

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 27, 2010 at 19:35

In Reply to: Third man syndrome posted by ESC on June 26, 2010 at 16:42:

: 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. "The Third Man Factor" by John Geiger documents scores of examples. More information about the expression here:


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.