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What interpreting Abraham Lincoln’s dreams can teach us

In 1889, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Evening World held a contest to determine America’s “Champion Dreamer.” The winner was a Maryland junior college instructor named Buckey who dreamed he’d shot a man who wore a thick black mustache. As Buckey walked to work the next morning, the vividly seen face of his victim was suddenly before his eyes a second time. The two men jumped back, equally startled. “For God’s sake, don’t shoot me!” cried the stranger. Buckey and he recognized each other, because they had dreamed the same dream.

In the midst of the Civil War, newspapers North and South featured stories about soldiers whose dreams predicted war’s end. On April 25, 1863, Boston’s Saturday Evening Gazette demonstrated the credence it had given to a local artilleryman’s dream by printing a retraction, regretting that the man’s six-week-old vision of April 23 as “the date of Peace” had not been met. The wife of a Union general, meanwhile, could not banish from her fragmented sleep narratives gruesome premonitions about her sons: “One night I dream that Paul is drowned, another that Benny is dead.”

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