by Paul Fecteau
Dr. Julie Allison's research on After-Death Communication (A.D.C.) has gained local media attention, most recently in April when KSN News devoted a feature story to her work (see "Dearly departed communicating beyond the grave"). The Pitt State Psych Professor, whom I spoke to by phone last weekend, approves of the KSN piece which emphasizes her scholarship. "I was interviewed as a psychology professor in my office at P.S.U.," she notes, "and in that context, the focus was appropriately on science."
(at right, Dr. Julie Allison, image courtesy of
Pittsburg State University.)
Allison and collaborator Kelli Gariglietti surveyed Pitt State students and found that 54% had experienced some form of A.D.C. The full results of the study appeared in 1997 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss. The article has been republished at least once but is not readily accessible today, though an abstract is available online through Informaworld.
Media reports on the research project have not ignored the event in Allison's life that would ultimately lead her to conduct A.D.C. research: the 1993 murder of P.S.U. psychology student Stephanie Schmidt (see Speak Out for Stephanie, a site maintained by the victim's parents).
Schmidt had been missing for weeks when another psych student came into Allison's office. "I saw Steph," the student said. Her tone was so matter-of-fact that Allison assumed that Schmidt had returned. The student went on, however. "She's okay, but she is dead." According to the student, Schmidt had appeared to her in a mirror. Schmidt's body was discovered a week later.
Allison, too, has encountered the phenomenon--"perceived it," she is clear to stipulate, differentiating perception from experience. For Allison, it took the form of a dream in which her late father told her she would have a son. She was subsequently surprised to learn that she was, in fact, expecting a boy.
Allison discusses that incident and her beliefs with candor. "My personal position," she reveals, "is that A.D.C. does exist." That view does not appear in her academic work since it is not something science can, as of yet, prove. It is, however, "supported by my faith," she says. She seems mostly untroubled by the tension that often exists between science and spirituality.
She is also motivated by what she learned from the study. "Though the experience of A.D.C. is usually comforting," she explains, "people don't want to talk about it for fear they'll be viewed as 'crazy.'" Allison sees a need to expose the phenomenon in order to counteract the marginalization of those who have encountered it.