Search for the Secret to the Afterlife

About the history of a scientific study by Dr. Ian Stevenson and his search for the afterlife by means of combination locks.


Is there life after death? One man has undertaken a remarkable experiment to find out for certain.

In the July, 1968, issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Dr. Ian Stevenson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, proposed a combination-lock test to determine whether a person who has died can communicate with the living. The idea resulted from the published case of Helen Greaves, an English sensitive. Mrs. Greaves claimed that her dead husband, Roger, had communicated to her the combination of a lock on a box of important documents. (The chances of hitting on the correct combination by accident are 125,000 to 1.)

In his article, Stevenson suggested that it might be possible to duplicate Roger Greaves's feat within the framework of a controlled experiment. Persons interested in taking part in the experiment were told to purchase a quality self-setting lock and pick at random a six-digit combination, which they would neither divulge to anyone nor record in writing. Stevenson advised that the numbers be linked to the first letters of words making up a comprehensible phrase or sentence. The phrase would serve as a mnemonic device to help the person remember the combination after his or her death.

In a follow-up article appearing in the journal in April, 1976, Dr. Stevenson stated that 10 people had deposited locks with him for safekeeping. (Two of these people died prior to the publication of the second article, but attempts by mediums to contact the deceased and learn the combinations have been unsuccessful thus far.)

Dr. Stevenson is interested in continuing the experiment.

Stevenson himself has set a lock and feels confident that, if he does survive after death, he will remember the combination. Hopefully, he will be able to transmit those six numbers back to the world of the living.

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