The Third Man Factor

The Third Man Factor

by John Geiger

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The Third Man Factor is an extraordinary account of how people at the very edge of death often sense an unseen presence beside them who encourages them to make one final effort to survive. This incorporeal being offers a feeling of hope, protection, and guidance, and leaves the person convinced he or she is not alone. There is a name for this phenomenon: it's called the Third Man Factor.

If only a handful of people had ever encountered the Third Man, it might be dismissed as an unusual delusion shared by a few overstressed minds. But over the years, the experience has occurred again and again, to 9/11 survivors, mountaineers, divers, polar explorers, prisoners of war, sailors, shipwreck survivors, aviators, and astronauts. All have escaped traumatic events only to tell strikingly similar stories of having sensed the close presence of a helper or guardian. The force has been explained as everything from hallucination to divine intervention. Recent neurological research suggests something else.

Bestselling and award-winning author John Geiger has completed six years of physiological, psychological, and historical research on the Third Man. He blends his analysis with compelling human stories such as that of Ron DiFrancesco, the last survivor to escape the World Trade Center on 9/11; Ernest Shackleton, the legendary explorer whose account of the Third Man inspired T. S. Eliot to write of it in The Waste Land; Jerry Linenger, a NASA astronaut who experienced the Third Man while aboard the Mir space station—and many more.

Fascinating for any reader, The Third Man Factor at last explains this secret to survival, a Third Man who—in the words of famed climber Reinhold Messner—“leads you out of the impossible.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602861169
Publisher: Weinstein Books
Publication date: 09/01/2009
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,060,486
File size: 975 KB
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

John Geiger is the award-winning author of four non-fiction books, including the international bestseller Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition. He is editorial board editor at The Globe and Mail. He is a fellow of the Explorer's Club, New York, and governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and chair of the Society's Expeditions Committee. His work has been translated into nine languages. He lives in Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

The Guardian Angel
WHILE SERVING IN THE ROYAL NAVY during the Second World War, the British neurologist Macdonald Critchley studied the cases of 279 sailors and airmen who had been cast adrift. In his 1943 study Shipwreck-Survivors, he described the ordeals that befell the men, including gruesome physical conditions like "immersion foot," but also harrowing psychological aberrations such as bioscopic fantasies, where past events from a person's life flash before them at incredible speed. It was during the course of one interview for his study that Critchley first came across a report of a very different experience, that of a "guardian angel." The account came from a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot who, with his observer, was forced to ditch into the North Atlantic on May 25, 1941. They had been on a reconnaissance mission tracking the German battleship Bismarck, operating at night, in terrible weather, and without radar. They became lost over the sea; their aircraft eventually ran out of fuel and was forced down. They were soon adrift in a rubber dinghy. The conditions were appalling, characterized by Critchley as "severe physical discomfort . . . going on to utter collapse. There had been exposure to bitter cold and wet; and intense thirst and lack of food. . . . Prospects of rescue were remote, and though from time to time hopes would soar in an extravagant and unwarranted fashion, they would soon be dashed again with realization of their tragic plight." Through it all, the pilot and observer both "kept imagining that there was a third person along with them."1 The two men had no doubt as to the identity of their visitor. They said an angel had helped to seethem through their terrifying ordeal. Critchley found this "not surprising . . . especially in the case of distressed and exhausted shipwrecked seamen. The 'Guardian Angel' motif is inescapable to those with strong beliefs." He was aware of the weighty theological tradition behind the concept: "The notion of an angelo custode is a common teaching and is depicted in religious art as an angel with a wide wingspan standing as an unseen protector behind a little child." Not all who have encountered an unseen presence attribute it to a divine origin. But for those with strong beliefs, like Ron DiFrancesco in the World Trade Center, or the Fleet Air Arm pilot and his observer, help came in the form of an angel. For others of faith, the Third Man came cloaked in different religious garb, as with Shackleton's "Divine Companion" and McKinlay's overtly spiritual encounter with a presence. It was, then, not in scientific journals that Critchley turned to look for further accounts of the Third Man. Instead, he wrote, "in theological literature we find the most explicit references." Critchley examined works of purely religious character, and found examples he thought more likely to have been presence experiences than religious visions. He identified one in the autobiography of the Spanish nun Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): I was at prayer . . . when I saw Christ at my side-or, to put it better, I was conscious of Him, for neither with the eyes of the body nor with those of the soul did I see anything. . . . I could not help realizing that He was beside me. . . . It is not a suitable comparison to say that it is as if a person were in the dark, so that he cannot see someone who is beside him, or as if he were blind. There is some similarity here, but not a great deal, because the person in the dark can detect the other with his remaining senses, can hear him speak or move, or can touch him. In this case there is nothing like that.2 IT HAS BEEN ESTIMATED that during the early years of Christianity, as many as five thousand Christian hermits retreated to the desert, where they sought spiritual renewal and communion with God through solitude, fasting, self-inflicted pain, meditation, and prolonged prayer.3 The fourth-century monks of the Thebaid felt the near proximity of God in the deserts of Egypt, where they lived in an isolated environment of reduced sensory input. Wrote the social critic and novelist Aldous Huxley about the role of sensory deprivation in religious traditions: "If you read the life of Milarepa, the great Tibetan hermit, or if you read the lives of St. Anthony and St. Paul, hermits in the Christian tradition, you can see that this isolation did in fact produce visionary experiences."4 Milarepa, after living for many months in a cave, was visited by his sister, who was terrified at the sight of him. She felt as if she had seen a ghost. Little wonder. In his Life Milarepa described his appearance: My body was wasted by asceticism. My eyes were sunk in their sockets. All my bones protruded. My fleshes were dried out and green. The skin covering my fleshless bones looked like wax. The hair on my body had become coarse and grey. From my head it streamed down in a frightening flood. My limbs were about to fall apart.5 Milarepa, however, is credited with having attained a state of complete enlightenment, and a Tibetan Buddhist monastery now stands at what is purported to be the entrance to his cave. Similarly, among tribal people in Africa, Asia, and commonly in aboriginal groups in North America, a solitary period in the wilderness, with attendant hardship and deprivation, marks a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood through the acquisition of a guardian spirit. In particular, the vision or spirit quest of North American Indians represents a "sought vision induced by hunger, thirst, purgatives, and self-laceration."6 A young man would be sent to an isolated place to fast and pray. The result: "He may be visited by what, he thinks, are supernatural beings."7 A similar rite is practiced by the Inuit, where monotony, through long walks on the tundra, or confinement to an igloo, is used to evoke a spirit. A Jesuit account from 1642 described a North American Indian spirit quest. A young man, "when but fifteen or sixteen years of age, retired to the woods to prepare himself by fasting for the appearance of some Demon." After living in isolation and going without food for sixteen days, "he saw an aged man of rare beauty who came down from the Sky, approached him, and looking kindly at him said, 'Have courage. I will take care of thy life.'" In another recorded case, a Plains Indian named Medicine Crow "fasted for four days. He cut off a finger and offered it to the Sun. . . . The blood poured down." He collapsed, but near dawn, "he saw a young man and a young woman coming from the west." The benevolent beings "talked with him [and] gave him medicine."8 These rare surviving aboriginal accounts are remarkably similar to those given by Western explorers and climbers, and also by survivors of man-made disasters.

Table of Contents

Foreword Vincent Lam xi

Chapter 1 The Third Man 1

Chapter 2 Shackleton's Angel 20

Chapter 3 The Ghosts Walk in Public 44

Chapter 4 The Guardian Angel 64

Chapter 5 The Pathology of Boredom 83

Chapter 6 The Principle of Multiple Triggers 104

Chapter 7 Sensed Presence (I) 117

Chapter 8 The Widow Effect 123

Chapter 9 Sensed Presence (II) 158

Chapter 10 The Muse Factor 173

Chapter 11 The Power of the Savior 191

Chapter 12 The Shadow Person 221

Chapter 13 The Angel Switch 237

Acknowledgments 255

Notes 259

Index 285

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The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
DevildogMA More than 1 year ago
I read a review in the Wall Street that caught my interest and I'm glad I followed my instinct and ordered the book. John Geiger has written a thought provoking and intriguing book that asks more questions than it answers. The one big question that went through my mind while I read the book was; "Why are our brains hardwired to support a notion of a third man in times of danger?" Is it as simple as evolution or have we been hardwired to survive the most difficult of challengers? If you like a book that is researched, full of details and good stories of survival in the desperate of conditions then this is a book to read. What I really liked was that Mr. Geiger has walked neutral ground neither claiming biology nor the supernatural for the third man factor but, has presented facts with tales of unbelievable heroism in conditions that only a fraction of humans will ever experience. It is the type of book that an Atheist will read and call it simple biology, a book that a Spiritual person will read and call it wired for God. There was one quote in the book from an Angus MacKinnon about his experience; "Why should skepticism narrow down our cognition to exclude fields of knowledge that we are simply too uneducated to understand?" Shakespeare put it another way; "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
Geiger is the editorial board editor at the Globe and Mail and author of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition. What he is not is a scientist I didn't expect nor receive an in-depth review of the scientific side of this phenomenon. Geiger does give us an intelligent tour of Third Man visitations. This tour includes a serious look at the scientific aspects along with the spiritual elements. While Geiger never says, I suspect that he comes down on the side of the spiritual aspect. At the end of several of the `laboratory' discussions, he pointed out the flaws and natural short-comings of their investigation. While many were going through extreme physical distress, this does not explain the mass experiences and sightings nor does it explain the vast differences in many of the stress factor situations - i.e., Oxygen deprivation vs sea level events. The blending of anecdotes and science is never achieved in a smooth fashion. They are of two vastly different worlds. Whether you want to call the phenomenon Guardian Angels or hallucinations will depend on your own personal view of the world. Regardless, this book is a very exciting read and will make you thankful that you are in a warm house with a glass of tea. I would recommend this book to anyone that is drawn to mountaineering, survival skills or wishes to explore the divine side of life. I would also recommend: Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality, The Crystal Horizon: Everest - The First Solo Ascentand Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance. Great book. Michael L. Gooch Author of Wingtips with Spurs
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readJH More than 1 year ago
Really well written book concernng the knowledge of an invisible presence felt under strenuous activites. Well researched,thought provoking. May answer questions you were afraid to ask.Spritual in nature and inspiring
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john2 More than 1 year ago
Ever felt the presence of another , yet no one was there. This book enlightens about a spritual "guidance" felt in the form of an invisible presence when pressed to maximum activity. This book will stretch your mind and maybe explain a spritual awareness you may have felt