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The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible

Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

Normally we try to review books as they come along, but occasionally we overlook some. This is one such which is well worth noting. The title of the book comes from T S Elliot’s The Waste Land:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you

These lines were inspired by the Shackleton party’s trek across South Georgia, where the three explorers felt there was a fourth, invisible person with them. This sort of experience of a mysterious ‘other companion, has been reported by numerous mountaineers, explorers and others, such as shipwrecked mariners in extreme situations, and this book provides many examples.

These experiences range from merely a vague sense of presence through voices in the head giving instructions on how to get out of the situation, through to full blown virtual experiences, such as Joshua Slocum’s. Some of the experiencers see this as products of their own mental processes, others as encounters with paranormal or religious figures. In all cases they provide a sense of comfort, comradeship and community.

Read the full review

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