Steven Ridenhour and His Girlfriend’s Group NDE

By Kevin R. Williams, B.Sc.

The following information about group NDEs comes from P.M.H. Atwater’s books “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Near-Death Experiences” page 163-165 and “Beyond The Light” pages 60-63. Atwater writes: “Another variant on death by degrees concerns shared experiences between experiencers. These incidents challenge the overall significance of any need factor a sole individual might have, and threaten the underpinning of any scientific argument that body processes explain near-death states.

Table of Contents

  1. When Two or More People Die Together
  2. Atwater’s Otherworldly Insights From Group NDEs
  3. Steven Ridenhour and His Girlfriend’s Group NDE

1. When Two or More People Die Together

From time to time you hear about a couple who both die — in a car accident, for example — and have a near-death episode in which they see one another, and one says to the other, “I must stay, but you need to return.” And, indeed, only one comes back. I’ve encountered this with married couples and with parent/child duos. Since only one lives, it, impossible to verify the full account. All you can deal with is the single survivor and his or her response to the event and the ensuing aftereffects.

I have encountered other people, though, who reported scenarios that appeared so similar it’s as if they were shared. This oddity happened in two ways:

(1) They were either all at the same location within the same time span, or (2) They were miles and years apart.

In my own case, two of my “deaths” happened in January of 1977, the other in March. I have since met a dozen other people whose experiences were to much akin to my first and last one, it’s as if we each lived through exactly the same thing. Later, I met 51 other individuals who also had three near-death episodes in 1977, with before and after conditions similar to mine — even though we “died” in different months and experienced different scenarios.

2. Atwater’s Otherworldly Insights From Group NDEs

Occasionally in research you run across cases of multiple deaths and multiple miracles, where, somehow, all of those who were dead revive. I have noticed a fascinating peculiarity in those I have investigated, and that is if one of the people involved reports having had a near-death episode, they all will — even if the multiple parties have yet to speak with each other or divulge what happened to them with anyone else. Once they do get together and compare accounts, they are shocked to discover they each experienced a near-death state and how similar each one is to the other (although precise details may vary).

3. Steven Ridenhour and His Girlfriend’s Group NDE

It happened one bright sunshiny day in the summer of 1973. Steven B. Ridenhour of Charlottesville, Virginia, and his girlfriend, Debbie, decided to go to the rapids at the “bullhole,” part of the river that flows behind an old cotton mill in Cooleemee, North Carolina. Both had been smoking pot and were bored. Their decision to run the knee-high rapids meant that they had to start at the beginning of the rock incline, on down about 20 feet, and start skiing barefooted until they reached the moss beds. The sport could have been great fun, but not on this trip.

“We smoked another joint and then headed toward the rapids. Debbie begins laughing, and the next thing I know we’re overtaken by laughter. The giggling stops as we’re swept off our feet and dragged downriver.

“Debbie cries out, ‘Steven I can’t swim. I’m drowning.’

“I feel powerless because I can’t get to her and I’m yelling, ‘Hang on, don’t panic,’ when I take a tremendous mouthful of water. Without any warning, time, as I know it, stops.

“The water has a golden glow and I find myself just floating as without gravity, feeling very warm and comfortable. I’m floating in a vertical position with my arms outstretched and my head laying on my left shoulder. I feel totally at peace and full of serenity in this timeless space.

“Next I go through a past-life review. It was like looking at a very fast slide show of my past life, and I do mean fast, like seconds. I don’t quite understand the significance of all the events that were shown to me, but I’m sure there is some importance.

“When this ended, it was as if I was floating very high up and looking down at a funeral. Suddenly I realized that I was looking at myself in a casket. I saw myself dressed in a black tux with a white shirt and a red rose on my left lapel. Standing around me were my immediate family and significant friends.

“Then, as if some powerful force wrapped around me, I was thrust out of the water, gasping for air. There was Debbie within arm’s reach. I grabbed her by the back of her hair and I was able to get us both over to the rocks and out of the water.

“After lying on the rocks for a while, I glance over at Debbie and it’s like looking at a ghost. As she describes what she went through, it became apparent that we both had the same experience underwater – the golden glow, the serenity, seeing our lives flash before us, floating over a funeral, and seeing ourselves in a casket. That is the only time we ever talked about it. I haven’t seen or talked with Debbie since.”

For the next eleven years, Ridenhour tried practically every drug in the universe in an attempt to recapture the euphoria of his near-death experience, but to no avail. All he found was loneliness, prisons, and a failed marriage. He entered a treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse in December 1984, and has been in various stages of recovery ever since. Finally, he was able to find a counselor who knew something about the phenomenon he had experienced and she put him in touch with a near-death researcher. He told his story, then quickly disappeared – unable to face the truth of what he had been through.

It wasn’t until 1993, after suppressing the aftereffects of his experience for a total of twenty years, that Ridenhour found himself flat on his back because of a work-related injury and with no choice but to surrender.

“My life started changing right then and I can’t stop it, so I’m opening up my heart and my soul to see where this takes me.”

Ridenhour is now in nurse’s training, determined to repay society for his previous mistakes and to help heal people.

His youth was wrapped around horrific incidents of child abuse and abandonment. He grew up thinking he was unlovable and bad. His near-death experience so challenged this distorted self-image that, although he wanted the euphoria back, he could not accept the rest of it. Confused and frightened by the incident, he flung himself into a seemingly endless nightmare of self-destruction.

“None of the drugs worked,” he confessed. “They couldn’t even come close to matching my near-death experience.”

Later he was stunned to learn that many of the problems he had afterward are in fact typical aftereffects of the phenomenon.

“I thought it was all me. I never made the connection between my experience and why I felt so lost. It took getting injured at work before I stopped trying to run away and just relaxed and let all that love and joy back, and the golden glow. I had no choice, really. I had to accept the truth that there is a power in me, and I can use it to help others.”

Drug and alcohol free, Ridenhour has helped to organize an IANDS chapter in the Washington, D.C., area, one of many dedicated to providing informational meetings for near-death survivors and the interested public.

According to NDE expert, Janice Holden, in her book “Near-Death Experiences While Drowning” — where she also documents this group NDE – Debbie and Steven were reunited many years later when they were both guests on a television show. In front of the cameras, Debbie confirmed Steven’s memories of the incident, including that their separate near-death episodes were virtually identical.