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The Third Man Factor: Surviving The Impossible

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  415 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
The Third Man Factor tells the revealing story behind an extraordinary idea: that people at the very edge of death, often adventurers or explorers, experience a benevolent presence beside them who encourages them to make one final effort to survive.

If only a handful of people had ever experienced the Third Man, it might be dismissed as an unusual delusion shared by a few o
290 pages
Published July 2nd 2009 by Canongate (first published 2006)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
There is no publisher's description up for this book, and it's out just today. I heard an interview this a.m. on cbc with the author. It sounds fascinating. Check out these comments from the author's website:

"John Geiger's book, his fifth ... offers an original theory for the evolutionary importance of 'Shackleton's angel.' Geiger is well positioned to tackle the historical and scientific background of these close encounters of the wild kind...Packed with edge-of-your-seat stories of survival an
Nov 23, 2011 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book Review: The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible by John Geiger

Ron DiFrancesco was the last person to escape the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He somehow made it from his desk on the eighty-fourth floor of the South Tower, through flames, down the stairwell and outdoors to safety before the tower collapsed. He says someone, an angel grabbed his hand and guided him at that critical time.

Also on 9/11, Will Jimeno, a NY Port Authority officer rushed to the World Trade Center to
Grant Trevarthen
Oct 25, 2011 Grant Trevarthen rated it really liked it
In having a near death experience in June 2008, it made me question what is life ?, what comes after ?. I've also been reading books by Mitch Albom & Dan Millman.
Not being a regular churchgoer but having an inner faith,I wanted to explore my spiritual side for personal reasons , but also to read other peoples spiritual journeys and experiences.
I happened to see on TV a teenage American boy, who'd had a burst to 'superhuman' strength which saved his Uncle from being crushed beneath a car he
I thought the topic of this book was very interesting and enjoyed the stories of survival and endurance. However, some stories were repetitive and I found myself wanting to skip past them to get to the next theme. I appreciated that Geiger remained neutral throughout the book until the last chapter where he explains his thoughts on the phenomenon. I would highly recommend this book to those interested in survival stories and the human psyche.
Suzanne Lilly
This book begins as an exploration of a spiritual experience, then delves into the neuroscience behind the survival stories. Don't expect to be uplifted and inspired by this book, even though the stories are emotional and moving. It's a clinical look at a phenomenon experienced by many as a life altering event. Yet it's broken down by scientists to a temporo parietal switch. Don't expect angels in this book, but do expect rare stories of survival. Well researched and well written, the author doe ...more
Katherine Tomlinson
Although immensely readable, this is a very strange book. It is part spiritual self-help book (how to access your inner third man) and part adventure story.

What the tales here really inspire are ghost stories. That’s especially true in the section where the writer is talking about the experiences at the Antarctic bases, the sense of a presence that goes back centuries to the first accounts of exploration in that isolated area. It’s especially interesting that there seem to be two different kind
Jul 25, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geiger presents a collection of tales of survival in extreme environments where the adventurer or survivor has documented the experience of a presence that comforts and guides them in their time of need. From Shackleton's famed Antarctic misadventure, through the high altitude travails of summit hungry mountaineers, to survival in the towers of the World Trade centre, we see this phenomenon emerge again and again. Geiger's inquiry into the phenomenon is sober and meticulous but also imbued with ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Joan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geiger describes multiple expeditions in the world's harshest environments by adventurers both well known and not. Most of these "adventures" are incredibly challenging and are described as great feats of perseverance and endurance. The commonality between them, in experiences from environments ranging from the worlds highest peaks to 40 days stranded on a raft -- is the experience of having another presence with them at their times of deepest distress. Geiger explores explanations of this commo ...more
Oct 26, 2009 Josie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the subject of this book to be fascinating! People under extreme stress in extreme environments report the feeling of a presence that helps and encourages them to survive; a so called "Third Man". Geiger had many stories to report of this phenomenon, but after awhile the relating of these stories became tedious because they were all very similar. Geiger also introduced scientific studies brought about to explain this phenomenon; everything from hypothermia, to the effects of stress, alti ...more
Dec 29, 2009 Xenia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was interesting in its fairly brief discussion of what could be the various causes and explanations of the "Third Man Factor" (the feeling of an outside presence during times of physical and/or psychological strain in mostly extreme or unusual environments). Otherwise this is simply a collection of Third Man factor accounts that become quite tedious and repetitive, and which I generally started skipping the further I got into the book. Since the author states that he has created a webs ...more
Mar 14, 2016 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
People in stressful environments--like in mountain climbing accidents or being lost at sea--report having a "companion" guide or encourage them. I've been fascinated with this phenomenon for awhile, and this book is a riveting introduction to the various stories and some of the explanations behind it. While the earliest reports of this "third man" were explained theologically, as a guardian angel or divine aid, later reports were interpreted as the mind projecting help in the form of a "shadow" ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I was interested in the topic having myself experienced the Third Man phenomenon on two occasions. I am not a person who interpreted my experience in a spiritual way. In fact, in agreement with Geiger's ultimate interpretation, I believed I was somehow hearing my own voice. But even given that, Geiger still managed to remove any wonder or beauty or mystery from the experience (although when you have it, such an experience has those things aplenty.) Throughout I was almost awestruck by the stupid ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was listening to Margaret Atwood being interviewed on the Diane Rehm show about her new collection of short stories. (Note to self: put that on my "to-read" list here.) She mentioned this book in the context of Diane admitting that she has conversations with her late husband. Geiger's book is chock full of great stories and partial explanations running the range of mystical to psychological to biochemical. The phenomenon is named after explorer Ernest Shackleton’s account of his experience whe ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Jorge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All of the cases in this book were very extreme, life-and-death situations in which there was nothing or no one to turn to.
I sure as hell don't plan to ever be in a situation like many of the people in this book.
As a blind person however I find myself going through the world in a unique position of always being at a disadvantage.

I remember doing an orientation and mobility lesson in Chicago with my female teacher.
We were on the platform of an elevated train, and some weird guy started coming up
May 16, 2015 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Telling the recollections of people who encountered this phenomenon, "The Third Man" serves as a great book to achieve stories that may have otherwise been lost. Each story was well written and was described in a way that made me feel that I was there, experiencing what they felt. It was interesting getting to read many detailed stories like these.

But many of the stories started feeling repetitive and drawn out, making them boring to read. There are a lot of instances where the author says a poi
René Olivo
the book is well documented, the stories quite interesting and tries to have a scientific approach of the phenomena.

But this book can really be compressed in half. the author is too redundant and explains the same things time and time again, but in a messy order. when you start a new chapter you don't know what the author wants to illustrate until the last paragraph.

if the structure of the book would be fixed I'd recommend it
Very interesting topic about those under life-threatening conditions who report having a "companion" help them. I had a similar experience so wanted to read this after hearing an NPR interview with the author. However, I thought the book was poorly organized and turned out to be a disjointed set of anecdotes. It's possible that, given the subject, that's all it could be. Interesting reading in any case.
Sep 04, 2009 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read about how people in extremis often find themselves comforted - or even saved - by a spirit - a ghost - an angel - or themselves. Stories of mountain climbers, sailors, accident victims, even a 9/11 survivor are woven throughout with assessments of the neurological, psychological or spiritual elements associated with "the third man" sightings.
Apr 03, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
awe, inspiration, adventure, wonder, mystery, amazing - people n extreme and profound situations - the question still remains; is there something more than human endurance and resilience that has kept these people alive through situations that mere mortals are not made to endure.
Apr 14, 2011 Joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a little on the fringe. It is filled with many wonderful accounts supporting the thesis of the author, and by the end we will all want to push the limits of survival to meet the third man.

A very interesting study of a very interesting phenomenon. The author tries to explain the perceived presence of helpful "personages" reported by a variety of mountaineers, explorers, astronauts and sailors who experience the extremes of conditions that threaten their survival. His explanation is that it has a biological/neurological source. Perhaps. But I am not entirely convinced that this explanation works in every case, especially when he tries to explain spiritual visions. Some of the latte ...more
May 09, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outdoors
Chronicles a history of 'survival events' involving people who were assisted by a perceived spiritual entity, and the range of medical and spiritual attempts to explain these events. Verdict is still out.
A good overview of an interesting phenomenon

This book provided a good overview of an interesting phenomenon. I was inspired by the tales of survival and the author's words on the resilience of the human body and spirit. The book often felt like a long reading list though of stories of people who experienced the Third Man, and some of the stories were repeated. I would have preferred more scientific analysis of the Third Man factor and fewer exploration stories. I would also hoping for more narra
Sep 19, 2009 Aileen15 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply put, this book was absolutely riveting; I read it in two days. You have to read it yourself to understand why I can't review it further.
Karen Peabody
Feb 26, 2012 Karen Peabody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very inspiring book. Just read it. You won't regret it.
Aug 26, 2009 Steve marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
"Who is the third who walks always beside you?" -- T. S. Eliot

Iso Cambia
Jun 21, 2014 Iso Cambia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Outdoor Adventurers, Cognitive Psychologists, Pastors, Mystics, Therapists
"... strange and uninvited guests are likely to intrude on any protracted human solitude." (p. 27)

a case of a neurological mechanism projecting oneself into extracorporeal space - that when a person encounters the Third Man, he is encountering him or herself (p. 227).

the body invents ways to keep the person alive. (p. 240)

This is a quick read. Interesting subject, but now I would like to read a better version of this book - one that delves further into the research, repeats itself much less, and
Shortly after I graduated from college, two friends and I travelled around Europe. After a while, the three of us realized that when we were walking together, we were always looking around for the fourth person. Eventually we named her Mary Anne and joked about her. We were hardly in the wilderness, or alone, or under great duress, but travelling in Europe was a new experience for us. I recalled that I had read in a book The Balloonist: A novel by MacDonald Harris, a book that had captured my im ...more
John Alt
Charles Lindbergh heard the Third Man on his 1928 transAtlantic flight, New York to Paris. James Sevigny heard the Third Man when he was tumbled two thousand feet by an avalanche, his back broken. "Most of the people who've encountered the Third Man aren't mystics," says John Geiger, "a senior fellow at the University of Toronto and governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society." A NASA astronaut heard him, as well as explorer Ernest Shackleton, who coined the "Third Man" term. They have b ...more
Corrie Campbell
The stories that Geiger collects and tells are simply astonishing. Some are inspiring, but others are downright gruesome - either way none of them are dull. These stories are worth the price of admission (so to speak). However, the scientific materialism that follows which tries to explain away The Third Man factor falls rather flat. Each explanation touches upon an interesting point, but never erases all of the fascinating details of The Third Man factor making the explanations somewhat lame. A ...more
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The Third Man Factor first reads giveaway 3 26 Jul 28, 2009 03:05AM  
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