The Premonitions Bureau
A True Story
by Sam Knight
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Pub Date 05 May 2022 | Archive Date 09 May 2022
Premonitions are impossible. But they come true all the time.
You think of a forgotten friend. Out of the blue, they call.
But what if you knew that something terrible was going to happen? A sudden flash, the words CHARING CROSS. Four days later, a packed express train comes off the rails outside the station.
What if you could share your vision, and stop that train? Could these forebodings help the world to prevent disasters?
In 1966, John Barker, a dynamic psychiatrist working in an outdated British mental hospital, established the Premonitions Bureau to investigate these questions. He would find a network of hundreds of correspondents, from bank clerks to ballet teachers. Among them were two unnervingly gifted "percipients". Together, the pair predicted plane crashes, assassinations and international incidents, with uncanny accuracy. And then, they informed Barker of their most disturbing premonition: that he was about to die.
The Premonitions Bureau is an enthralling true story, of madness and wonder, science and the supernatural - a journey to the most powerful and unsettling reaches of the human mind.
'A stunning piece of work. Brimming with mystery and suffused with haunting atmosphere . . . With calm rationality and a keen sense of pacing, Sam Knight relates the extraordinary story of this initiative to study those among us who appear to be able to predict the future – and in particular, to predict disaster. An enveloping, unsettling book, gorgeously written and profound.'
Patrick Radden Keefe, author of SAY NOTHING and EMPIRE OF PAIN
'A fluent and enticing book, skilfully navigating the tricky and marginal subject of the paranormal; it is beautifully ordered, humane, capacious.'
'A terrifically insightful book, unusual in all its aspects. Readers will love it for its brilliant sense of storytelling and its fierce interest in character. I was knocked out by the precision and drama of it all, by the book's comprehension of our deepest dreads and our relentless bid to control them.'
'The Premonitions Bureau is an eerie and amazing account of coincidence and fate, and the impossibility of knowing the difference. I loved this fascinating book.'
'Take the addictive storytelling of Patrick Radden Keefe and mix it with the stranger-than-fiction stuff of a Jon Ronson podcast, and you'll get Sam Knight's must-read first book ... A spooky, gripping read about the difference between fate and coincidence.'
'The Premonitions Bureau is a remarkable book, telling the story of a remarkable man - John Barker - through a unique blend of history, biography, and the modern science of how the brain's predictions shape our worlds and control our bodies. Occasionally disconcerting, completely compelling and beautifully written - Sam Knight will take you an unforgettable journey into a history of predicting the future.'
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 12 members
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