List of dreams  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

On several occasions throughout history dreams have been credited for causing very important events. This includes problem-solving, decision-making, and apparent precognition while dreaming. These phenomena have been interpreted in various ways.


Notable dreams


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was inspired by a dream:

"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous Creator of the world."

The sewing machine

Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845. He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn't figure out exactly how it would work. In his dream, cannibals were preparing to cook him and they were dancing around the fire waving their spears. Howe noticed at the head of each spear there was a small hole through the shaft and the up-and-down motion of the spears and the hole remained with him when he woke. The idea of passing the thread through the needle close to the point, not at the other end, was a major innovation in making mechanical sewing possible.

The Terminator

Director James Cameron said the titular character in The Terminator was inspired by a dream he had under the influence of a soaring fever. It was a vivid dream where a gleaming figure of doom emerged from fire; a metallic, skeletal monster with a rictus smile and burning red eyes, dragging itself across the floor with kitchen knives. He states: "I was sick and dead broke in Rome, Italy, with a fever of 102, doing the final cut of Piranha II. That's when I thought of Terminator. I guess it was a fever dream."

Descartes' new science

Descartes claimed that the dreams that he had on November 10, 1619, revealed to him the basis of a new philosophy, the scientific method.


The scientist Friedrich August Kekulé discovered the seemingly impossible chemical structure of benzene (C6H6) when he had a dream of a group of snakes swallowing their tails.

Double Helix structure of DNA

Nobel laureate James Watson opens TED 2005 with the frank and funny story of how he and his research partner, Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA. James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, reported stumbling upon the double helix image for the DNA chain through his dream of a spiral staircase.


Stephenie Meyer created the phenomenon Twilight after encountering the characters in a dream: "I woke up (on that June 2) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately."


Paul McCartney claimed to have dreamed the melody to his song Yesterday. After he woke up, he thought it was just a vague memory of some song he heard when he was younger. As it turned out that he had completely thought up this song all by himself, he recorded it and it became the most often covered pop song in the world. (

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed the plot for his famous novel.

Tintin in Tibet

The Belgian comics artist Hergé was plagued by nightmares in which he was chased by a white skeleton, whereupon the entire environment turned white. A psychiatrist advised him to stop making comics and take a rest, but Hergé drew an entire album set in a white environment: the snowy mountaintops of Tibet. Tintin in Tibet (1960) not only stopped his nightmares and worked as a therapeutic experience, but the album is also regarded as one of his masterpieces. (

Prophetic dreams

Several historical people have experienced dreams which they believed to be warnings that they would be killed after they woke up. In some cases, like Caligula, they ignored their dreams and were indeed assassinated the next day, while others, like Abraham Lincoln actually were more cautious as a result. (


As divination

A way of understanding this phenomenon is that some dreams are messages from a god, or the future. This belief has been held by many military leaders (such as Hannibal) who planned battles from dreams, and Descartes, who changed the course of his life after his scientific dream. According to Carl Jung, psychic energy might be operative.

An early—and perhaps the first formal—inquiry into this phenomenon was done by Aristotle in his On Divination in Sleep. His criticism of these claims appeals to the fact that "the sender of such dreams should be God", and "the fact that those to whom he sends them are not the best and wisest, but merely commonplace persons." Thus "Most [so-called prophetic] dreams are, however, to be classed as mere coincidences".


The psychological role that dreams play is not fully understood. These events have been interpreted as evidence that dreams play some sort of organizing function, sorting out thoughts had during the day. This theory suggests that dreaming is an "unlearning process" in which our brains bring up material to be thrown out like a computer attempting to clean itself of things we do not need to remember. That is, the subconscious organizes things, solves these problems, and then communicates them to the individual via a dream. (see Dream interpretation) The hypnagogic state is sometimes proposed as a specific explanation of experiences such as alien abduction, apparitions, or visions.

As coincidence

Another way to describe this phenomenon is to claim that dreams are random, but the individuals have been lucky enough to interpret their dreams in an allegorical way relevant to a problem they need to solve. Dream researcher Ernest Hartman comments on current dream theories proposed by biologists. One such theory suggests that dreams are basically random nonsense and are the product of a poorly functioning brain during sleep. If there is any meaning to dreams, it is added on later as our brains try to make the best of a bad job.

Thus the predictive value of dreams is moot.

Dreams which appear to be precognitive may in fact be the result of the "Law of Large Numbers". Robert Todd Carroll, author of The Skeptic's Dictionary put it this way:

"Say the odds are a million to one that when a person has a dream of an airplane crash, there is an airplane crash the next day. With 6 billion people having an average of 250 dream themes each per night, there should be about 1.5 million people a day who have dreams that seem clairvoyant."

In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, first published at the end of the 19th century, Sigmund Freud argued that the foundation of all dream content is the fulfillment of wishes, conscious or not and devoid of psychic content. Some of Freud's patients and their strange dreams have become well-known case studies in psychotherapy, like Irma's injection, Wolf Man, and Dora. In his discussions with Carl Jung, Freud referred to parapsychology and precognition as "nonsensical."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "List of dreams" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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