Death Omens

Whenever faced with an unknown, man has raced to find the answer. Finding the answer to the mystery of death is no exception. Death being a faceless entity has never been an option. While death has several names, the most common one is “The Grim Reaper.” Not satisfied with giving him only a name, we have given him a look which is reflected in art, movies, music, and within the retail world. How many of you have a picture or some other object depicting death in your home? Quite a few I suspect.

Why he is such an object of fascination? No one wants to die. And, no one wants to die unexpectedly. How can man see death coming and try to escape? Man looks for a sign that death is just around the corner and is coming for him. These signs are omens or portents.

Death omens come in many shapes and forms. Some are natural occurrences such as storms, cloud formations, and can be found within nature – flowers, animals, insects. Other death omens are accidental in the shape of how a chair falls, sounds, and even in how a candle drips. An omen allows some to feel that death can be foretold. Is this possible?

For the family of the Viscount Gormanston it seems to be possible. The 12th Viscount lay in waiting when foxes were found everywhere. Witnesses recounted that these foxes had to walk through the poultry and never once touched any of them. They went straight to the bedroom window of the Viscount and began their vigil. They disappeared after his funeral.

In 1876 the 13th Viscount was in a critical state. While it seemed as if he were making a complete and full recovery, the foxes appeared barking. He suddenly took a turn for the worse and died that night.

October 8, 1907 Jenico, the 14th Viscount lay dying in Dublin. Around 8 PM his gardener and coachman saw a dozen foxes lurking about the castle and chapel area. Two days later, his son was in the chapel in prayer. Hearing sounds all around the chapel, he went to the doors and windows. At each he found 2-3 foxes staring. These foxes continued to haunt the chapel and barked for two hours before they disappeared. Witnesses state the foxes left at exactly the same time when Jenico drew his last breath.

The family of Westropp in Ireland also had an omen. It was white owl which was last seen in 1909.

The Arundels of Wardour feared the appearance of two large white owls.

Cliftons of Nottinghamshire recognized a rare breed of sturgeon as their death omen. Anytime this breed of sturgeon was seen swimming up the Trent River past Clifton Hall signaled that a member of the Clifton family had died.

Not only is the Oxenham family omen the first historically recorded one but the best one documented over the years. In 1618 a large white bird was spotted right before Grace Oxenham died. Her son, James, published an accounting of recent deaths and the large white birds. His son, John was 22 when he died two days after the white bird was seen in his room hovering over his head. Five days later, September 7, 1635 James’ wife, Thomasina, fell ill and died after seeing the bird. Thomasina’s sister, Rachel, died shortly after as did Thomasina’s infant daughter. In each case, the large white bird was seen in the vicinity of the deceased.

December 15, 1873 Mr. G.N. Oxenham died after having heard the sound of fluttering wings outside his window. One week prior to his death, his daughter reported that workers were trying to scare a white bird away from G.N.’s window.

For others, there are spook lights or corpse lights that signal death is impending. Scanlon of Ballyknockane, County of Limerick reported that lights appear and illuminate their residence whenever someone is going to be collected by death. The residence was illuminated in the 17th century when Scanlon was the King of Ossory. The lights were last seen in 1913.

For the Cumberfords of Cumberford Hall the sound of knocks was a deadly signal of impending death for someone in the household. The Roman Catholic Middletons would see a Benedictine nun right before death.

Anyone encountering a phantom funeral should take heed. Those in the phantom funeral will have the appearance of those you know in life, a sign that you are to be the next. Black Shuck and Hounds of the Wild Hunt are also omens of impending death.

Corpse lights seen in Llanbadarn Fawr in the area of North Cardiganshire are believed to be a portent of death. A corpse light with red tint indicates a male will die, a white tint indicates a female, and a weak light indicates the impending death of a child.

One last type of portent is associated with a ghostly figure classified as crisis apparitions. Many witnesses have reported seeing their boyfriend or a loved one who could not possibly be present as they are miles away. One woman reported seeing her sailor fiancé in the middle of the night with his arms outstretched and eyes full of love and sadness. She knew he could not possibly be there as he was on a merchant ship hundreds of miles away. She later learned that her fiancé died at that same instant. His appearance was an omen of death, not hers but of his.

There are many myths surrounding death and impending death. For some, they never see an omen signaling their death. But, if you’re a dare devil and want to throw caution to the wind, then find out your death date by going to Let us know how you fare AFTER your date of death. I know you’ll check the site out and eventually you’ll check out your death date, that’s human nature.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Checkmark Books, 2000.

Rickard, Bob and John Michell. Unexplained Phenomena: A Rough Guide Special. Rough Guides, 2000.

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