Skip to main content
US flags next to victims' names at the Ground Zero memorial

Science vs parapsychology: A closer look at 9/11 premonitions

When the Twin Towers fell on 11th September 2001, people around the world watched on in horror. But for some, the scene was eerily familiar.

Image: SayDavid /

In the years since the World Trade Center terrorist attack, which claimed almost 3,000 lives and injured more than 6,000 people, stories have emerged of individuals who claim to have had premonitions about 9/11. The accounts, shared by survivors and family members of victims, offer a rare glimpse into the mysteries of parapsychology.

Michael Hingson, an American citizen and 9/11 survivor, worked on the 78th floor of the North Tower. On the night before the attack, he recalls his guide dog, Roselle, behaving unusually. Michael noticed Roselle acting restless, which left him feeling uneasy. This prompted him to change his routine and arrive at his office earlier than usual – a decision that he believed was crucial to his escape from the tower that day.

Dreams of destruction

Bonnie McEneaney, whose husband Eamon McEneaney was killed in the 9/11 attacks, recalls his intense feelings of dread in the days leading up to the disaster. Eamon warned Bonnie of a looming catastrophe and described vivid nightmares of buildings collapsing and people trapped in fires. His premonitions were so unsettling that he regularly reminded Bonnie to cherish every moment they spent together. After his death, Bonnie chronicled these unsettling experiences in her book, Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11.

Another account comes from a woman named Antoinette, who dreamt of an aeroplane crashing into a tall building, followed by chaos and destruction, just days before the attacks. She initially dismissed her visions as a nightmare, though the images left her anxious and unsettled. When the 9/11 attacks unfolded, the scenes on news broadcasts were all too familiar.

Barrett Naylor, a Wall Street executive and former parapsychology sceptic, says his attitude completely changed on 26th February 1993. Stepping off a train at Grand Central Station in New York, he got a feeling he should turn around and go home. He listened to his gut and was happy he did – it was the day of the World Trade Center bombing. Eight years later, on the morning of the 9/11 attacks, he got the same feeling.

‘Something told me... that it was time to go home,’ he recalls. ‘I should just turn around and go back home.’

The parapsychology phenomenon

These stories are unusual but by no means isolated. A study led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh explored the phenomenon of parapsychology and found an increase in the number of people reporting disturbing dreams and feelings of unease prior to 9/11. This pattern was also observed before other disasters, like the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

For researchers at the university’s Koestler Parapsychology Unit, the trend suggests a potential connection between collective human consciousness and the prediction of catastrophic events.

The scientific argument

Sceptics are less convinced and argue premonitions could be attributed to coincidence or retrospective interpretation. Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman suggests that the human mind tends to connect unrelated events, especially in the aftermath of trauma. Dr. Wiseman suggests the emotional intensity of 9/11 may have amplified these connections and prompted individuals to attribute greater significance to their pre-attack dreams and anxieties.

Matt Hutson, a cognitive neuroscientist and writer for Psychology Today, maintains science and the concept of premonitions simply don’t add up.

‘If premonitions are real, the most convenient way to explain them would be that information is travelling back in time from an event to a person,’ says Hutson. ‘And so, if that is right, then pretty much everything else we know about physics is wrong. That's kind of a big hurdle to get over.’

The ‘presentiment’ theory

For the people who experienced 9/11 premonitions, the feeling of having foreseen the attacks remains profoundly real. Lynne McTaggart, an American alternative medicine author, says premonitions could stem from the mind’s subconscious ability to detect subtle environmental cues and piece together patterns. This concept, known as presentiment, theorises that the human brain has an innate, albeit imperfect, capacity to predict the future.

Despite heated debates over the validity of premonitions, they continue to captivate the imagination and prompt reflection on the mysteries, and abilities, of human perception. The accounts of the people who foresaw 9/11, whether through dreams, feelings or unexplained behaviour, offer a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of the human mind and its potential to predict the unknown.

At the very least, such stories invite us to question the invisible currents that may influence our lives. Whether viewed as supernatural, psychological or simply coincidence, 9/11 premonitions add an intriguing layer to the narrative of that day.