When Mrs Williams sat up and spoke, it was to the astonishment of everyone. For Mrs Williams had just literally come back from the dead.

She had died a few weeks earlier but her husband was convinced she was really in some form of deep trance. He and his servants tried to revive her and spoon fed her for five weeks at her home in Aylesbury, Bucks. At last she reawoke. And what a tale she had to tell.

In today’s world such medical miracles are almost common but this was the year 1745. What makes the account, recorded in Gibbs Histories, even more astonishing is the report Mrs Williams gave of the time she ‘died’. It matches with uncanny similarity the reports given by today’s survivors of clinical death.

Near Death Experiences, as they are known to the medical profession, occur when someone clinically dies but is revived. Their accounts have been compared and all tell a similar tale.

The person becomes aware of their soul leaving their body and floating upwards. They head through a tunnel towards a light and eventually reach a beautiful land. They are met by friends and relatives whom they know to have already died and are sometimes also met by a Christ figure who helps them judge their life.

Eventually they are told to go back. But almost all the detailed accounts are modern. The account by Mrs Williams is almost 250 years old and lay undiscovered until brought to light by the authors while researching this book. Mrs Williams reports being among the dead but that she heard a voice saying ‘Thou shalt not die, but live.’ It was then she returned to the living.

Modern survivors (reported in Raymond Moody’s book Life After Life) tell of similar messages: “I heard a voice telling me what I had to do – go back – and I felt no fear.” “From the other side appeared my Uncle Carl, who died many years earlier. He blocked my path saying ‘Go back your work on earth has not been completed. Go back now’.” It would be wonderful if we could question Mrs Williams still further but alas, we cannot. I have a sneaking suspicion however that if we could, her account would sound very familiar….