Irene Corbally Kuhn, a pioneering journalist in the early 20th century, embarked on numerous adventures around the world. In her memoir “Assigned to Adventure,” published in 1938, she recounts her remarkable career up until that time.
While her book covers a wide range of captivating stories, one passage stands out as particularly intriguing. In this section, Irene describes an eerie experience that could be interpreted as either a time-slip or a psychic vision of a future tragedy.
Let’s delve into Irene’s life and the context surrounding this extraordinary incident. In 1922, Irene was stationed in Shanghai, where she tied the knot with Bert Kuhn, a fellow reporter who served as the news editor for the “China Press.” The couple’s joy multiplied when they welcomed their daughter, Rene, in the subsequent year.
However, turmoil erupted in Shanghai in May 1925 when Sikh police opened fire on a large group of Chinese students who were protesting the convictions of their fellow cotton-mill workers involved in a strike.
The resulting riots created an extremely perilous environment. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Bert convinced Irene to take their daughter and travel to America for safety, while he remained behind in China.
Fast forward to a seemingly ordinary afternoon in December. Irene found herself strolling along Chicago’s Michigan Boulevard, basking in the pleasant weather and feeling an overall sense of contentment. Little did she know that an extraordinary encounter awaited her, forever etching this moment in her memory.
“…suddenly and without warning sky, boulevard, people, lake, everything vanished, wiping from my vision as completely and quickly as if I had been struck blind. Before me, as on a motion picture screen in a dark theatre, unrolled a strip of green grass within a fence of iron palings.
“Three young trees, in spring verdure, stood at one side; beyond the trees and the fence, in the far distance, factory smoke-stacks trailed sooty plumes across the sky.
“Across from the trees stood a small circle of people, men and women, a mere handful, in black clothes. And coming to a halt on a gravelled road by the grass was a limousine from which alighted two men who turned to offer their hands to a woman in black, emerging now from the car. The woman was I.
“I watched myself being escorted against my will to the group which now parted to receive me. I made no sound, but struggled against the necessity of moving towards them. I took one step and then stood stock still. Gently the two men urged me forward, a step at a time, until at last I was among the others, and looked at the small hole cut in the grass–a hole not more than two feet square.
“I looked once and turned my back on it, wanting to run away, but held there by some irresistible force. There was a small box which someone, bending over now, was placing in the earth with infinite tenderness—a box so small and light I could hold it in my hand and hardly feel it.
“What was I doing here? Where was I? Why was I letting someone put this box into the ground—this little box which held something very precious to me? I couldn’t speak or move. These people—who were they? Then I recognized only the faces of my husband’s family, tear-stained and sad. The silence screamed and tore at me. I looked about. All the clan were there. Only he was missing. Then I knew what was in the box, and I crumpled on the grass without a sound.”
After the vision dissipated, Irene found herself visibly weakened, prompting a compassionate stranger to offer assistance. Concerned for her well-being, the stranger quickly hailed a taxi, which transported her to her brother-in-law’s office.
Upon seeing her exhausted appearance, her brother-in-law was taken aback and promptly poured her a generous glass of whiskey. Despite Irene’s attempts to convince herself that the incident was a mere figment of her imagination, it remained etched in her memory for years to come.
In February 1926, Irene embarked on her journey back to China, embarking from Vancouver aboard the “Empress of Canada” ship. As soon as she stepped on board, the purser advised her to contact the passenger agent. Following this advice, Irene reached out to the agent, who presented her with a wire from Bert’s family in Chicago.
The wire bore the distressing message, “Please inform Mrs. Bert L. Kuhn that her husband is dangerously ill. It would be best not to sail.” However, fate had more tragic news in store for Irene. As she disembarked from the ship, she received a second wire, delivering the devastating blow: “Bert has passed away.”
Returning to Chicago, Irene found solace in a new job at the “Mirror.” Meanwhile, arrangements were made to bring Bert’s ashes to the city for burial.
“And it was on May 30 that, all arrangements having been completed, I went with my two brothers-in-law in a limousine to Rosehill Cemetery, which I had never seen before.
“We drove across the city, through the cemetery gates and came to a stop. The men got out first and waited to help me. I put my foot on the ground, and something held me back. For a second I couldn’t raise my eyes because I knew what I should see. At last I looked. There was the spring grass underfoot. There were the three young trees in fresh leaf; there the fence of iron palings, and the smoke-stacks of the city’s industries far beyond in the distance. My feet were weighted with lead.I didn’t want to go.
“Bert’s brothers urged me forward gently. I saw the ring of black-clad mourners over to one side, waiting. I stopped.
“‘You didn’t have to open a full grave, did you?’ I asked.
“‘How do you know?’ asked Paul with astonishment.
“‘There’s just a little square hole big enough to take the box with Bert’s ashes, isn’t there?’ I pressed on.
“Paul’s face was white beneath his natural tan.
“‘Yes, that’s right. They said it would be foolish to open a full grave for a small box of ashes. But how did you know?’ he persisted.
“I didn’t answer. I was thinking of that December day on Michigan Boulevard when I had seen into the future, over the bridge of time…”
Her husband, Bert L. Kuhn, also a journalist, died in 1926 after four years of marriage. The circumstances surrounding Bert’s death add an intriguing layer of mystery to the narrative.
According to the official medical report, his passing was attributed to “unknown causes.” However, there were certain factors that piqued Irene’s curiosity and fueled her suspicions.
Unbeknownst to many, Bert had been involved in covert operations for U.S. Naval Intelligence, which led Irene to believe that his secretive endeavors might have played a role in his untimely demise.
Irena herself never found an answer to what happened to her that day.
There are many possible explanations for these phenomena, ranging from scientific to paranormal. Some of the scientific hypotheses include quantum physics, parallel universes, glitches in the brain, and psychological factors.
However, none of these explanations have been proven conclusively, and there is still much debate and controversy over the validity and reliability of the evidence and testimonies.