The Aberfan Disaster
21st October 1966

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Any disaster that disproportionately involves the young lingers long in the memory - and few, if any, were as disastrous by this measure that the Aberfan disaster. Just a few minutes after children had filed into the classroom of Pantglas Junior School some 40,000 cubic metres of mining waste adjacent to the building collapsed due to build-up of water.

Within moments, 116 children and 28 children were buried beyond retrieval under countless tonnes of debris and a legacy of unending pain had been visited on the valleys. Officials were later held to account for ignoring warnings about the stability of the 150,000 cubic meter heap of rubble that had accumulated over the village over the previous fifty years, but no measure could ever bring balance to the count of needless, tragic death.


In purely esoteric terms, the disaster was notable by the research carried out in the aftermath by psychiatrist Dr. John Barker, who had heard of people having had premonitions of the disaster. In total, he collected 76 reports - 24 of which were said to have been reported to other people prior to the disaster. His study - published the December 1967 edition of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research - collated these reports and is still widely considered to be one of the best collections of evidence to support the idea of premonition in humans. He recorded convincing accounts of apparently specific precognitions involving the school being enveloped in black.

Naturally, sceptical voices point to the fact that millions of people around the world will have had similarly dire dreams of disaster that same evening that didn't come true, and that Barker's report is simply an example of cognitive bias writ large in the emotional aftermath of a terrible disaster which will also have inevitably tainted subsequent recollections.

If you are so minded, the report of a Brighton telephone operator who reported a dream of a child who walked towards her pursued by a black cloud of dust or smoke would seem to be uninspiring as evidence and only assumes significance after the fact.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 2nd January 2015 | © Weird Island 2010-2019
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