Thursday


The rail crash victim who wasn't there


Illustrative purpose only

For years, doctors and scientists had been researching the telepathy and common thought processes claimed to operate between identical twins but rarely had it apparently been demonstrated as dramatically as in the case of Alice and Dianne Lambe on the day of the Taylorville crash

At 4.35pm on a summer Saturday afternoon Alice Lambe, a 20-year-old personal assistant to a local banker, sat in the kitchen of the family home outside Springfield, Illinois, reading a copy of Life Magazine when something extraordinary happened. As she was to recall later: "Suddenly the left side of my body seemed to suffer an enormous jolt, followed by a sharp stabbing pain in the right side and a feeling of shock."

"She claimed that the impact of the blow was enough to push her from her chair and send her sprawling at the feet of her father, who had just come into the room.

"Her first words," her father, Rick Lambe, was to remember," were 'Something's happened to Dianne.'

Then she passed out on the floor and I called the doctor. I was really shocked by what had happened."

The doctor was as bemused as the Lambe family. "She appears to be in a state of shock following some kind of impact," he said.  Slowly the girl came round and was carried to bed. The doctor ordered that she be kept quiet and that he was to be called if there were any further developments.

For years, doctors and scientists had been researching the telepathy and common thought processes claimed to operate between identical twins but rarely had it apparently been demonstrated as dramatically as in the case of Alice and Dianne Lambe on the day of the Taylorville crash.

Their parents had claimed that since their daughters were toddlers some sort of telepathic bond seemed to have existed between them. For example, as they grew up they would write almost identical essays at school and buy similar things in shops even though they had never discussed them beforehand.

In other ways, the twins weren't particularly close — each had her own friends  and social interests, which was why on this June day in 1983, Dianne had gone to St Louis 70 miles away and Alice had stayed at home. Dianne had travelled by train the previous day with two girlfriends and was staying the night with a cousin and going to a rock concert before travelling home on Saturday afternoon. No one knew exactly which train she would catch and she had arranged to phone her father on arrival at Springfield so he could collect her in the family station-waggon.

By 6pm Alice had recovered sufficiently to leave her bed and was downstairs drinking a bowl of soup. But she was still complaining of serious pain and tenderness around the rib-cage. There was still no sign of Dianne and her mother wondered if her daughter had decided to stay another night in St Louis. "I think something has happened to her,"

Alice said. "There's been an accident. I'm certain of it." Her father was quick to dismiss such talk as nonsense, but by 8.30pm he was also getting worried. Shortly afterwards, a neighbour phoned to say there had been a rail accident at Taylorville on the St Louis line. And wasn't this the day Dianne was travelling home? Now thoroughly alarmed, Rick Lambe phoned the railway company — and discovered there had indeed been an accident. Two people were feared dead and a major rescue was taking place. Rick Lambe jumped into his car and drove to Taylorville, arriving soon after 10pm and finding the station crowded with people anxious for news.

A list of the injured had been compiled and Dianne's name was on it. Thankfully she had not been seriously hurt but had been taken to hospital for tests and observation. Two days later she was allowed home, after being treated for two fractured ribs and concussion, and was able to tell her waiting family what had happened. She said she had glanced at her watch as the train approached Taylorville. It was 4.35pm. Suddenly the wheels began to make a screeching sound and the train swayed violently.

"There was a grinding of metal and for a moment the world seemed to stop still. Then there was a violent jolt and I was thrown across the carriage. "We all seemed to go head over heels and I was aware of an awful pain in my right side and a feeling of shock. I think I passed out and the next thing I knew was waking up in hospital." Dianne was off work for three weeks... but so was her sister. After Alice continued to complain about a stabbing pain she was sent for an X-ray to the local hospital... and was found to have two fractured ribs in exactly the same place as her sister. Today, at 50 and married, the twins live in opposite parts of the country — Dianne in Florida and Alice in New York State. They rarely see each other but speak frequently on the phone. "We still tend to have identical thought patterns from time to time and can forecast what the other might do in unimportant situations," Alice says.

"But there's never been anything like that extraordinary day when, for whatever reason, we were both victims of the Taylorville rail crash."

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