I was one that didn’t really believe in premonitions (defined as previous warnings or notices, or an anticipation of an event without conscious reason). I had good and bad dreams at times, but before this never anything of the magnitude such as I am about to relate, which left me in a bewildered state of being for a long period.
As pilot aboard the vessel I was due to be called at 11:30 p.m. and relieve the captain at midnight. We were southbound on the Ohio River. Someone touched my arm and said, “Charlie.” I awoke and thought nothing of it as I stretched, turned on my bed light and sat up on the side of my bed. It did seem odd that someone had touched me, as this was not regular routine.
Shortly after sitting up, a strange feeling came over me. A feeling that I had never felt before. A feeling to this day that I cannot describe. Then I realized that whoever called me was red-headed. I was sitting there wide awake, and kept seeing red hair with no face to it. I looked at my watch and was surprised to see that it was only 9 p.m. and not 11:30 p.m., which was the normal watch calling time. I lay back down when I saw it was only 9 p.m., but continued to have that strange feeling and could not go back to sleep.
I got up, dressed, and proceeded to the pilothouse. There I related to the captain my experience and the red hair and I told him I was ready to relieve him since I couldn’t sleep. He said something to the effect that dreams can seem real, and I agreed with that as he departed the pilothouse. It was now getting close to 10 p.m., and would be a long time before my 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. watch would end.
For the next eight hours I could think of nothing but that aggravating dream or whatever it was, and continued all watch to have that strange feeling and see red hair. That vision seemed to be strongly imprinted in my mind. I did not have a bad dream. But when I did have a bad dream I would wake up, roll over and go back to sleep. This, however, was different for some reason. Finally, after a long night, the captain relieved me, I went down to my room and immediately fell fast asleep.
Around 10 a.m. I was awakened by a crew member and was told my wife was on the radio and needed to talk to me. At that time, telephones on boats had not yet come to be. I was very unnerved by this message as my wife and I had agreed, communications being by radio, she would never call unless in an emergency. Therefore, I imagined the worst. Upon answering the call, my wife immediately said, nothing is wrong at home. Of course this was a big relief. She then said she wouldn’t have called but a couple of my friends insisted I would want to know that a mutual good friend had passed away at 9 p.m. the evening before. He was also a river pilot and had been taken off the boat at Memphis where a few hours later he died.
Remember what happened to me at the exact time, 9 p.m. the evening before, and guess what color hair my friend had. If you guessed red, you are right. This friend was one of very few who called me Charlie at that period and time. Remember when I was awakened the evening before, whoever called me said Charlie. He and I had been friends most of our lives. After school I joined the Navy and he went to work on the river. We corresponded during those years.