It is perhaps one of the world’s oldest questions: what happens to people after death? Do we go anywhere? Are we reincarnated into anyone else? Or, do we cease to exist altogether? It’s a question that authors (think Dante’s “Inferno”), artists, religious leaders, scientists and virtually everyone who has ever lived has had to grapple with.
Many individuals have claimed to know the answer or have even said that they visited an afterlife. Some people who have had near-death experiences are able to recall strange occurrences that happened during their time “away,” such as meeting with individuals who died a long time ago. Others have said that it has caused them to rethink life and its meaning. A few of these individuals have gone public with their experiences over the years, sharing their recollections of an existence after death in the hopes of helping others. Indeed, these stories provide the rest of us with the closest thing we have to evidence that there might be something beyond the world we all know.
The following are a few people who have shared their experiences of life after “death” with the public. Young and old alike, these individuals have said that they have experienced the afterlife and can tell us all what happens in the great beyond.
8 Dr. Eben Alexander
Neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, who has taught at Harvard Medical School and has a great reputation as a medical professional, says that he once visited the afterlife. After his near-death experience, he shared his story with the public in a book. He was also featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine. In 2008, the neurosurgeon fell into a coma for a week during a bout of meningitis. Dr. Alexander later said that there was no medical explanation for what he experienced during his time in the coma and that, scientifically speaking, he should not have had the experience he had while in that state. Dr. Alexander recounted that he visited some version of heaven, where he floated above clouds, communicated through a method that transcended language, and experienced a large void. He said that his experience proves that consciousness is independent of the brain, and death is an illusion. His findings have led him to the conclusion that science can determine that heaven really exists. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of criticism and reaction following his accounts, but his professional and scientific background lends his story more authority than some.
7 Colton Burpo
Colton is a young boy whose story of visiting heaven was recalled by his parents, Todd and Lynn, in the 2010 bestselling book, “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” The book was turned into a movie in 2014. In the book, Colton’s father (who is a pastor of a church in Nebraska), wrote about how his young son had surgery in 2003 at the age of 4. After the surgery, the boy told his parents about events he should not have known about, leading to his parents’ suspicions that he had visited heaven. The book ended up being the #1 best-selling non-fiction paperback on the New York Times bestseller list. However, with its success, many criticized the story, saying there wasn’t proof that the boy had been clinically dead during the surgery. Readers also appraised the sensational, supernatural themes of the book.
6 Elizabeth Taylor
Some may be surprised to know that actress Elizabeth Taylor said that she once had a near-death experience. In the 1950s, Taylor was undergoing a surgery and was pronounced dead on the operating table. In an appearance on a talk show decades later, she recalled how, during that time, she says that she saw a “light” and encountered the spirit of a former husband, Mike Todd, who had been killed in a plane crash. He apparently pushed her back to life. She later woke up, with the medical team witnessing her re-awakening.
5 Anita Moorjani
An Indian woman from Hong Kong, Moorjani had been in final stages of cancer when she fell into a deep coma at her home in 2006. In a bestselling book, “Dying to be Me,” she recalls how, during her time in a coma, she visited an afterlife and then chose to return back to life. During that time, Moorjani recalls that she saw things that were going on around her. She heard a conversation between her husband and doctors (that took place well outside her room), and she saw her brother on a plane, who was coming to see her. She then recalls crossing into another dimension, where she was given a choice as to whether to live or die. As soon as she chose life, she returned to life and her cancer began to recede. Her body then healed from the end-stage lymphoma and within months was completely cancer-free. She started sharing her story as soon as she came back to life, and is now a speaker on the topic.
4 Reverend Don Piper
Reverend Don Piper was involved in a serious car accident in 1989. After the accident, paramedics who arrived at the scene declared him dead. He did not have a pulse for 90 minutes. Miraculously, however, he began to come back to life after those 90 minutes. Later, he said that during the time he “died” he visited a place that he would not have imagined, meeting individuals who had been deceased for decades. He later documented his near-death experience in the book "90 Minutes in Heaven," which remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over five years.
3 Jane Seymour
Another actress who says she has had a near-death experience, Jane Seymour was in her 30s when she got sick. She then experienced an allergic reaction to the antibiotics she was given. She has written about the experience on a website, including how she recalls leaving her body and seeing herself on her bed. She remembers feeling as though she didn’t want to die and insisting that she go back. Then, she returned to her body.
2 Brian Miller
This 41 year old American man was hospitalized last year after a heart attack. During his stay in the hospital, he had a very dangerous condition that caused his heart to behave erratically. Miller had no heart rate, blood pressure or pulse for 45 minutes. After his recovery, he shared his experiences with the media. He said that during the time he had no heart rate or pulse, he saw a bright light and began walking towards it. He says that during this time, he saw individuals that had recently died, including his mother-in-law and father-in-law, who told him he needed to return.
1 Bonus: Plato’s “Myth of Er”
In what is one of the oldest near death experiences on record, Plato wrote the story of Er, called “The Myth of Er,” about a man who died in battle. However, when the bodies were collected after the battle, it was noted that his body had not decomposed. Miraculously, the man was revived 2 days later. He then recalled to those around him his journey to the afterlife. His account included a tale of reincarnation. This myth also introduced the concept that moral people are rewarded and immoral people are punished in the afterlife. It has been credited with greatly influencing science, religion, philosophy for centuries afterwards.