The Premonitions Bureau

Sam Knight

The story of a strange experiment – a journey into the oddest corners of 60s Britain and the outer edges of science and reason.

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‘A stunning piece of work’ Patrick Radden Keefe
‘Beautifully ordered, humane, capacious’ Hilary Mantel
‘An eerie and amazing account of coincidence and fate’ Emma Cline
‘Completely compelling and beautifully written’ Anil Seth

The story of a strange experiment – a journey into the oddest corners of 60s Britain and the outer edges of science and reason.

Premonitions are impossible. But they come true all the time.

You think of a forgotten friend. Out of the blue, they call.

But what if you knew that something terrible was going to happen? A sudden flash, the words CHARING CROSS. Four days later, a packed express train comes off the rails outside the station.

What if you could share your vision, and stop that train? Could these forebodings help the world to prevent disasters?

In 1966, John Barker, a dynamic psychiatrist working in an outdated British mental hospital, established the Premonitions Bureau to investigate these questions. He would find a network of hundreds of correspondents, from bank clerks to ballet teachers. Among them were two unnervingly gifted “percipients”. Together, the pair predicted plane crashes, assassinations and international incidents, with uncanny accuracy. And then, they informed Barker of their most disturbing premonition: that he was about to die.

The Premonitions Bureau is an enthralling true story, of madness and wonder, science and the supernatural — a journey to the most powerful and unsettling reaches of the human mind.

Critic Reviews

A stunning piece of work. Brimming with mystery and suffused with haunting atmosphere, The Premonitions Bureau is the tale of a team of midcentury investigators who set out to answer some of life's most imponderable questions. With calm rationality and a keen sense of pacing, Sam Knight relates the extraordinary story of this initiative to study those among us who appear to be able to predict the future -- and in particular, to predict disaster. An enveloping, unsettling book, gorgeously written and profound.

Patrick Radden Keefe, bestselling author of SAY NOTHING and EMPIRE OF PAIN
Critic Reviews

An extraordinary story.

Emma Brockes, Guardian
Critic Reviews

A propulsive, atmospheric story, featuring a cast of strange characters, a series of unnerving coincidences and several apparently foretold disasters . . . [that] also touches on rich and fascinating themes.

New Statesman
Critic Reviews

Magnificent . . . I have a feeling — you might even call it a premonition — that a lot of people will really enjoy it.

Daily Mail
Critic Reviews

A fluent and enticing book, skilfully navigating the tricky and marginal subject of the paranormal; it is beautifully ordered, humane, capacious.

Hilary Mantel
Critic Reviews

A terrifically insightful book, unusual in all its aspects. Readers will love it for its brilliant sense of storytelling and its fierce interest in character. I was knocked out by the precision and drama of it all, by the book's comprehension of our deepest dreads and our relentless bid to control them.

Andrew O'Hagan

Sam Knight is a British journalist who has covered subjects such the plans for the death of the Queen, sandwiches and late capitalism, art fraud; plus profiles of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jeremy Corbyn, and Theresa May. His work for the Long Read section of the Guardian and for The New Yorker has become influential and wildly shared. ‘London Bridge is Down’,…

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