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Dreams, Nightmares and the Nuclear War That Never Came

Back in 2017, I wrote a 3-part article here at Mysterious Universe on the matter of apocalyptic dreams of nuclear war. Over a period of several weeks, numerous people came forward with eerily similar accounts of worldwide destruction and of billions of people dead. As for the small numbers of survivors, they struggled to stay alive in a near-destroyed world. In the second week of August 2017, three people contacted me with stories of atomic Armageddon in the near future. In their accounts, war began when North Korea provoking a war that grew and grew – and to the point where there was no turning back. And, in mere hours, the world was in ruins. On August 8, I received a Facebook message from a guy named Kenny, who had a horrific dream of nuclear war two nights earlier. Kenny lives in San Bernardino, California and woke up suddenly in the dead of night in a state of terror. As Kenny explained, in his dream he was sitting in the living-room of a house in a small town outside of Lubbock, Texas. Kenny had no idea of the name of the town, only that he knew it was near Lubbock – a place he has never visited. In the dream, Kenny heard a sudden and deep rumbling sound that seemed to be coming from somewhere faraway. He went to the screen door, puzzled, and peered outside. To his horror, Kenny could see way off in the distance, the one thing which none of us ever want to see: a huge, nuclear mushroom cloud looming large and ominous on the horizon.

Kimberly J emailed me on August 10 and shared with me a story of disturbing proportions. She lives in Chicago, Illinois and had a somewhat similar dream to that of Kenny, but on August 9. The scenario was almost identical: a gigantic explosion destroyed her home city, killing millions and vaporizing everything for miles. A huge mushroom cloud was hanging where, only seconds earlier, there had been a bustling city of millions of people. Then, there was this from Stephen Polak: “As a Chicago resident myself who has recently had a dream of being consumed [by] an enormous wall of fire, I find all of this rather disquieting…” Then, on August 12, I received yet another Facebook message of a similar nature; this one from Jacob, an American who is now a resident of Mulhouse, France (oddly enough, it’s a city I spent a lot of time in during my teenage years). In Jacob’s dream, an emergency broadcast message appeared on his TV screen, warning people to take cover: the nukes were flying. And that was it: just a few, brief, seconds of mayhem in the dream-state. But, it was still an undeniably nightmarish night for Jacob. And, the cases, and those who had the apocalyptic dreams, went on and on in August. Then, it was over.

Of course, there was no nuclear war in 2017. Thank goodness. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that numerous people were sure that war really was on the horizon. How could so many people dream of such terrifying events – in some cases with near-identical scenarios – and for the events not to occur? Well, there are several theories. It’s entirely plausible that the rumblings and threats coming out of North Korea led more than a few people to have bad dreams. Then, there’s the highly controversial angle of timelines and parallel worlds. New Scientist said in December 2019: “Would-be time travelers have long wrestled with the grandfather paradox: if you change things in the past and prevent yourself ever existing, how did you time travel in the first place? In other words, if Alice goes back in time and kills her grandfather Bob, she won’t have been born and can’t carry out her murderous plot. One way to avoid such paradoxes is the idea of branching universes, in which the universe we are in splits with each instance of time travel, creating two different universes [italics mine]”

While nightmares are most common in children, many adults suffer from recurring bad dreams.

Is it possible that those plagued by nuclear nightmares in August 2017 were seeing, in their dreams, glimpses of another Earth? Of an Earth that was destroyed, when ours was saved? Granted, that’s a highly speculative scenario, but it’s certainly one worth putting on the list. Then, there’s an intriguing – but far more down-to-earth – theory for all of this. Of this specific issue, the Dream Dictionary provides us the following: “To dream of a nuclear war represents feelings about conflict that risks total devastation of relationships, status, or financial resources. Conflict where both sides may risk totally wiping each other out completely. Feeling that you are fighting against a problem that risks all that you care about. Risking everything you have to keep everything you have.”

Moving on, there’s this from Dream Glossary: “Dreaming of an atomic bomb symbolizes a big and unpleasant surprise. You will probably hear some news regarding your job that you didn’t expect. You have wrapped yourself in a safety blanket called a current job and you have postponed all plans you had when it comes to starting your own business. You are not someone who depends on other people, but you would like to be carefree for a change. You will realize that you are wrong and you’ll continue where you left off with your plans. This situation will teach you a very valuable lesson.” Of course, many of the people I interviewed for that 3-part article might say their experiences were provoked by far more than nuclear anxieties. Whatever the answer might be, there’s no doubt that for many who suffered from those terrifying dreams, everything seemed all too real.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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