Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay


Real Life Survival Stories: The Mystery of The Third Man Factor

The Organic Prepper, Adan Tate

Francesco Abbruzzino, The Uncensored Report, LLC



Being involved in prepping, some readers are likely naturally curious when it comes to tales of survival. Often in survival stories, there’s something unexplainable that helps people to get through extreme scenarios. The following stories all share something known as The Third Man Factor.

“Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road, there is always another one walking beside you.” T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland and Other Poems

The Third Man Factor is the widely reported, mysterious phenomenon of feeling a presence during extreme situations. Survivors recall experiences of being guided or helped by the sometimes seen, sometimes heard, shadowy form.    


Below are just a few real-life stories in which the survivors recount their miraculous encounters with these guardians. 

1898 – Joshua Slocum 

Aboard his ship, the SpraySlocum attempts to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe alone. However, food poisoning has left him incapacitated, and a violent storm has left the weakened sailor without much hope for making it through the night.


It’s in the middle of this storm that Slocum experiences something phenomenal. An unexpected visitor. Claiming to “come to aid” him, the visitor tells Joshua, “Lie quiet…and I will guide your ship tonight.”


Slocum makes it through the night without the waves swamping his ship. Later, he would write a book about his experience, an international bestseller, Sailing Alone Around the World.


1914-1916 – Ernest Shackleton

After the ice leaves Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew trapped on an ice floe for 15 months, the men realize they will have to escape by sea if they ever wish to see humanity again. Using small whaling boats, the men set sail into the unknown, landing at the uninhabitable Elephant Island three days later.


Shackleton’s only hope is to continue sailing on to a whaling depot 680 miles away. Shackleton sets sail for 14 days, taking five other men with him, miraculously reaching South Georgia (island home of the whaling depot).


However, they’ve landed on the wrong side of the island in the middle of a hurricane. Taking two others with him, Shackleton now mountaineers through the heart of the mountain, reaching the whaling depot on the other side the following day.


A rescue operation saves every single man.

Upon writing his memoirs (South! The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917) after the ordeal is over, Shackleton reveals:


“When I look back at those days, I have no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across those snow-fields but across the storm-white sea that separated Elephant Island from our landing-place on South Georgia. I know that during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia, it seemed to me often that we were four, not three.” 


June 1, 1933 – Frank Smythe

Smythe attempts to reach the peak of Mount Everest. He spent two nights above the “death zone” as he waited for the weather to clear. Lack of food, oxygen, and sleep has made Smythe a pitiful mess. As he attempts to reach the peak, Smith loses his footing, almost tumbling to the rocks below.


His ice ax jams in a crack, keeping him from the fall.


Smythe would later recount:

“All the time that I was climbing alone, I had a strong feeling that I was accompanied by a second person. This feeling was so strong that it completely eliminated all loneliness I might otherwise have felt. It even seemed that I was tied to my ‘companion’ by a rope and that if I slipped ‘he’ would hold me. I remember constantly glancing back over my shoulder.”


Frank Smythe would reach the peak, where, celebrating with a mint cake, he broke it in two and held out one half to his companion. 


read more



Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.