Guillotine Dream Not Necessarily False
Marilyn is Wrong Copyright © 1997-1998 Herb Weiner. All rights reserved.
Ask Marilyn ® by Marilyn vos Savant is a column in Parade Magazine,
published by PARADE, 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA.
According to Parade, Marilyn vos Savant is listed in the
"Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame" for "Highest IQ."
In her Parade Magazine column of September 21, 1997,
Marilyn claimed that a reader's story about a
man who died while daydreaming in church could not possibly
be true because if the man had died before waking up,
there would be no way of knowing what he had been dreaming.
Eric Hacker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
wrote to point out that the fact that we do not know what the man was dreaming
does not necessarily prove that the story is false.
In order to prove that the story is false,
you'd have to prove that no man ever died in church as his wife was
touching the back of his neck.
If we were to find a man who died in this manner, we would have no
way to determine what the man had been dreaming,
and therefore would have no way to determine whether the story is true of false.
A New Story
I've emailed the following story to Marilyn, asking for her comments:
Mr. Daze, a prominent hypnotist, and Mr. Rich, a prominent businessman, are
discussing the power of hypnosis. Both men know each other well, so Mr. Rich
is surprised when Mr. Daze claims he can kill Mr. Rich using only hypnotic
suggestion. Mr. Rich believes Mr. Daze is joking, so he offers to wager
$1,000,000 that Mr. Daze can not actually accomplish this claim. Mr. Daze
accepts the wager, and they have the agreement signed and notarized. Mr.
Daze videotapes the hypnotic session and stores the tape in a safe place.
The next day was a warm Sunday during a long sermon in church.
Mr. Rich was dozing beside his wife
and dreaming that he lived at the time of the French Revolution
and had been sentenced to death by guillotine.
As the blade was falling, his wife noticed he was asleep and touched him
on the back of the neck, right at the spot where the blade would have struck.
Mr. Rich died instantly.
Since nobody knew what Mr. Rich was dreaming, the death was considered routine
until Mr. Daze turned over the videotape and notarized agreement to the news
media, and sued Mr. Rich's estate for the $1,000,000 he is owed under the
terms of the wager. When the news became public, Mr. Rich's insurance company
refused to honor his life insurance policy, claiming the death was a suicide.
And the district attorney filed first degree murder charges against Mr. Daze.
Mr. Rich's family concluded that a filing a civil suit against Mr. Daze would
be unlikely to compensate them for the loss of the life insurance benefits and
the payment for the wager, so they argue instead that the death in church was
a coincidence, unrelated to the wager. They are currently seeking one or more
expert witnesses willing to testify in court explaining "why can't this story
Dick Brunnenmeyer <email@example.com>
offers the following comments:
- "Proof of a falsity" is logically very difficult, if not impossible
when you set the conditions that it must have never happened (and never
will.) If you accept Eric Hacker's line of reasoning, the line between
true and false is indeterminate.
- In general, US courts will not consider suits involving payment of a
wager. This is because gambling (outside of licensed facilities such as
race tracks, casinos, etc.) is almost always illegal.
- A wager is a form of contract. Contracts to do illegal things (such
as killing Mr. Rich) are always invalid; i.e., you cannot legally
contract to do something illegal.
- In any case, Mr. Rich's insurance company is out of luck. Rich was
betting against his death, not for it. His death was certainly not
- Despite popular opinion, most knowledgeable persons (psychologists and
such) don't accept the notion of hypnosis as a real phenomenon. US
courts certainly don't. I doubt that any district attorney would try to
indict Mr. Daze on the basis of "murder by hypnotic control."
- In a similar vein, there is a common folk belief about falling
dreams; i.e., "I dreamt I fell off of the Empire State Building, but I
woke up before I hit the ground." In this belief, if you actually hit
the ground in your dream, you would die. But, how would you die?
Would you turn into a bloody pulp in your bed? Not likely. Would you
have a heart attack and wake up dead? How would anyone know, then,
what you had been dreaming?
http://www.wiskit.com/marilyn/guillotine.html last updated June 30, 1998 by firstname.lastname@example.org