Edgar Cayce: Tales From the “Sleeping Prophet”

From Houdini to Marilyn Monroe, celebrities clamored to Edgar Cayce for psychic readings.

5 min
Engrid Barnett
Engrid Barnett
Edgar Cayce: Tales From the “Sleeping Prophet”
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Few clairvoyants enjoyed the renown of Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), America’s “Sleeping Prophet.” During his lifetime, Cayce gave more than 14,000 documented readings to a wide range of people, including celebrities like Harry Houdini, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, and Marilyn Monroe . These readings covered a wide variety of topics, including personal matters and health conditions. He also foretold events, from Atlantis’s rediscovery to the outbreak of World War II.

Yet, he earned his most famous moniker, the “Sleeping Prophet,” because of his purported ability to fall asleep atop books, awakening with full retention of the facts and illustrations recorded therein. Later, this skill transformed into the ability to diagnose and recommend treatments for illnesses while in a trance-like sleeping state. Cayce himself had no formal medical training.

Here’s what we know about Cayce’s preternatural talents, surprising predictions, and fascinating medical diagnoses.

The “Sleeping Prophet’s” Talents Emerge

Edgar Cayce remains a controversial figure and with good reason. Stories surrounding his early life prove sensational and hard to believe. Yet, they provide the foundational elements for this fascinating turn-of-the-century American figure’s rise to fame. Among his earliest exploits? Playing with the “little folk” and communing with his dead grandfather.

He considered these entities incorporeal, claiming he could look right through them if he focused hard enough. In 1889, 12-year-old Cayce recounted a visit from a winged woman who promised to answer his prayers.

Edgar Cayce 1910
Edgar Cayce 1910

With all of these supernatural beings running around, it’s little wonder Cayce had difficulty concentrating on his school work. The day after he first met the lady with the wings, he received an unsatisfactory report from his teacher about poor spelling. Cayce’s father tested him for spelling, knocking his adolescent son out of his chair in frustration.

At this moment, Cayce recalled hearing the winged lady’s voice. She commanded him to fall asleep a little while so “they” could help him. After pleading with his dad for a quick nap, he placed his head on the spelling book and snoozed. When his father woke Cayce up, he had full recollection of the volume tucked beneath his head. His father was stunned to find his son had every page of the book memorized.

The Rise of a Clairvoyant Legend

Cayce repeated the process with other school books. By 1892, his teacher pronounced him the best student in class. When she questioned him about how he’d turned around his school grades, he mentioned sleeping atop books. Each time he did this, he woke to full recollection of their contents

The legend of the “Sleeping Prophet” was born. Over time, his ability to absorb books during slumber was eclipsed by another talent. His ability to provide people with full medical diagnoses in his sleep.

Edgar Cayce Tribute Signage

Acting as a clairvoyant doctor began with self-diagnosis. After getting hit in the spine with a ball during a school game, Cayce acted strangely. His parents put him to bed. To their astonishment, he began talking in his sleep, diagnosing his condition, and describing how to cure it. After following their sleeping son’s instructions, Cayce received healing.

A Cayce Reading

Soon, newspapers billed Cayce as the “illiterate man [who] becomes a doctor when hypnotized.” They described how Cayce, whom they described as a “psychic diagnostician,” would take off his coat, collar, and tie before reclining. He would then close his eyes and sigh deeply. Moments later, his eyes would open, filled with a dreamy quality as if in a trance, and he would start reciting diagnoses, cures, and even predictions.

During his lifetime, he gave more than 14,000 readings covering a wide range of topics. According to his biographer Thomas Sugrue , “There are hundreds of people throughout the United States who will testify, at the drop of a hat, to the accuracy of his diagnoses and the efficacy of his suggestions for treatment.”

Whether these testimonies amounted to much more than anecdotal evidence remains up for debate. But Cayce’s health recommendations from the 1920s and ’30s do hold up to today’s standards. His tips for leading a long and healthy life included getting a good night’s sleep, cooking with olive oil, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.

Prophetic Revelations from Cayce

Besides his penchant for sleep-talking medical diagnoses, Cayce also made fascinating prophecies. While some appear to have proven accurate, others remain up for interpretation. Among those predictions attributed to him are foretelling the stock market crash of 1929 on two separate occasions, the first in February 1925 and then six months before the event in March 1929.

In 1935, he predicted how World War II would unfold, describing an unprecedented alliance between the Germans, Austrians, and Japanese. It’s worth noting that this alliance would not come to light until the Tripartite Pact’s signing on September 27, 1940. Cayce also predicted , “the whole world will be set on fire by the militaristic groups.”

Other strange foretellings from the “Sleeping Prophet” include the use of blood as a diagnostic tool, the discovery of the La Niña and El Niño effects, and the convergence of communications companies in a cooperative and structured manner. He also spoke at length about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the people who created them, the Essenes. Yet, the Dead Sea Scrolls weren’t discovered until 1947, two years after Cayce’s death. And it would take many more years before details about the lives of the Essenes would begin to emerge.

Cayce also discussed the lost city of Atlantis, predicting its rediscovery near Bimini in 1968 or 1969. In 1968, archaeologists discovered an underwater rock formation off the coast of the Bahamian island of North Bimini. The formation sits 18 feet below the surface. Some hypothesize it marks the submerged city’s entrance.  Although debate still rages about whether the Bimini Road is naturally occurring or human-made, its discovery lends additional credence to America’s favorite clairvoyant.

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