Third Man factor
The Third Man factor or Third Man syndrome refers to the reported situations where an unseen presence such as a "spirit" provides comfort or support during traumatic experiences. Sir Ernest Shackleton in his book South, described his belief that an incorporeal being joined him and two others during the final leg of their journey. Shackleton wrote, "during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia, it seemed to me often that we were four, not three." His admission resulted in other survivors of extreme hardship coming forward.
In recent years well-known adventurers like climber Reinhold Messner and polar explorers Peter Hillary and Ann Bancroft have reported the experience. One study of cases involving adventurers reported that the largest group involved climbers, with solo sailors and shipwreck survivors being the second most common group, followed by polar explorers. Some journalists have related this to the concept of a guardian angel or imaginary friend. Scientific explanations consider this a coping mechanism or an example of bicameralism. The concept was popularized by a book by John G. Geiger The Third Man Factor, that documents scores of examples.
- Ann Bancroft
- Ron DiFrancesco (9/11 survivor from the 84th floor of the South Tower, believed by many to be the last person to escape either tower alive)
- Charles Lindbergh
- Stephanie Schwabe
- Ernest Shackleton
- Joshua Slocum
- Frank Smythe
- Robert Swan
- Dillon Wallace (of the ill-fated Hubbard Expedition)
In the young adult fiction novel, 'The White Darkness' by Geraldine McCaughrean, the teen-age heroine, Sym, joins a doomed Antarctic expedition. Abandoned and lost, she is guided to safety by a "third man," her imaginary friend, Captain Lawrence Oates.
In the novel World War Z, one chapter tells the story of Colonel Christina Eliopolis, a pilot that crashes in zombie-infested territory and is guided to safety by a radio operator. At the end of the chapter, Colonel Eliopolis' interviewer's questions imply the radio operator, code-named "Mets Fan", never actually existed—a "third man".
In Larry McMurtry's novel Lonesome Dove, Pea Eye, after surviving an Indian attack with Gus, makes a trek back to Call and has an experience of a 'ghost' or 'spirit' that guides him during his walk.
- Geiger, John (2009). The Third Man Factor. Toronto: Viking Canada. ISBN 0-14-301751-9.
- "The Current for January 27, 2009 - Part 3: Third Man Factor". CBC Radio: The Current. January 27, 2009.
- Messner, Reinhold (September 13, 2009). "Guardian Angels Or The 'Third Man Factor'?". NPR. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
- Shackleton, Ernest Henry (1914). South: The Endurance Expedition. Frank Hurley, Fergus Fleming. Penguin Classics. p. 204. ISBN 0-14-243779-4.
- Suedfeld, Peter and Geiger, John, (2008) “The sensed presence as a coping resource in extreme environments” In: Ellens, J. Harold (ed.), Miracles God, Science, and Psychology in the Paranormal (Vol.3) Praeger. ISBN 0-275-99722-7
- White, Nancy J. (January 30, 2009). "Third man theory of otherworldly encounters". The Star. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
- Duffy, Andrew (June 4, 2005). "Last Man Out: Part One". The Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2009-02-10.
- Geiger, John (2009-09-13). "Guardian Angels Or The 'Third Man Factor'?". NPR. Retrieved 2001-03-14.
- Wallace, Dillon (1905). The Lure of the Labrador Wild. Fleming H. Revell Company. p. 264. ISBN 1-59228-571-6.
- Chalmers, Sarah (3 July 2009). "The Third Man Factor: How those in dire peril have felt a sudden presence at their side, inspiring them to survive". Mail Online. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- John Geiger's Website