National and Gender Differences in Reports of Exotic Dreams

by Stanley Krippner, Laura Faith and Yuko Suzuki

In the English language, one of the definitions of the word "exotic" is "having the charm or fascination of the unfamiliar: strangely beautiful and enticing". This term can be applied to those dreams that are so rarely reported that they resemble "exotic" specimens of plants, animals, or gemstones (Krippner & de Carvalho, 1998). Despite their unusual nature, dreamers often find exotic dreams filled with meaning and direction.

Among these unusual, but extraordinary dreams, are creative dreams that assist dreamers' attempts to solve problems or bring something new into being. Also exotic are those dreams described as "lucid". In lucid dreams, the dreamer is actually aware that he or she is dreaming while the dream is going on; sometimes the dreamer can change the direction of the dream in ways that are entertaining and instructive. Healing dreams can alert the dreamer to an oncoming health problem or can give suggestions as to preventive or remedial action. Dreams within dreams are exotic because the dreamer has a dream or dream-like experience within the dream. Dreamers may dream about having a dream, or about having a vision, drug experience, or other dream-like episode. In out-of-body dreams, dreamers have the sensation of leaving their body while the dream is ongoing; sometimes this sensation persists upon awakening and they have the impression that they are floating near the ceiling of their room for a few seconds.

In telepathic dreams, it is the dreamer's impression that a dream correctly identified the thoughts of someone in external reality at the time of the dream. Mutual dreams are those in which the dreamer and someone else report having had similar dreams on the same night. Clairvoyant dreams concern distant events about which the dreamer had no ordinary way of obtaining information. In precognitive dreams, information is said to have been provided about an event that had not taken place at the time of the dream. A past-life dream concerns bygone events in which the dreamer had a different identity.

Initiation dreams introduce the dreamer to a new mission in life such as a new vocational path, healing, or social betterment. In visitation dreams, the dreamer is greeted by ancestors, spirits, or deities, and is given messages or counsel by them.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the incidence of a selected number of exotic or extraordinary dreams from a large sample of dream reports. What is exotic in one culture might not be especially strange in another culture, and what is exotic for one gender may be less exotic for the other gender. In addition, a number of studies indicate that gender, age, education, religion, ethnic background, and socioeconomic status influence the likelihood of reporting unusual experiences (MacDonald, 1994). It was hoped that this study would expand the cross-cultural literature of dreams and the data regarding gender and dream reports to include those dream reports that can be described as "exotic".


The research participants for this study were members of dream seminars that the senior author (SK) conducted between 1990 and 1998. These events were held in various parts of Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Ukraine, and the United States. The age span ranged from people in their 20s to their 70s (as determined from registration information and informal conversations), with a few individuals on each end of the spectrum.

Because the events were generally held at colleges, universities, and cultural centers, the educational level of the participants was higher than would have been found in the general population. Many ethnic groups were represented in the sample. Dreams of expatriates were excluded from this study. It was ascertained, whenever possible, that research participants had lived for at least three years in the country to which they were assigned for comparative purposes. Only one dream from each of the research participants was utilized. A total number of dreams collected for analysis was 1,666; 911 from women and 755 from men.


There were 5 creative dreams, 29 lucid dreams, 3 healing dreams, 9 dreams within dreams, 24 out-of-body dreams, 2 telepathic dreams, 2 mutual dreams, 5 clairvoyant dreams, 17 precognitive dreams, 6 past-life dreams, 15 initiation dreams, and 19 visitation dreams. Female dreamers reported 76 exotic dreams, while male dreamers reported 58 exotic dreams. The country with the highest percentage of exotic dreams was Russia (12.7%), followed by Brazil (10.9%), Argentina (9%), Japan (8.1%), Ukraine (5.9%), and the United States (5.7%).


One of the dreamers whose report was scored as a creative dream was a Japanese woman:

My father, who died in World War II, appears to me. He gives me advice about my artwork. He gives me specific advice on what to paint and how to do it. He tells me the topics, what brushes to use, and what colors to use. When I wake up, I follow his advice and I sell the pictures!

This report was also a visitation dream.

A Ukrainian man reported,

While awake, I had been trying to find a proper ending to a piece of fiction I had been writing, but none of my solutions worked out. During my dream, I was at my desk writing. I seemed to be working on the same fictional piece that had been giving me trouble while awake. Then I saw a scene enacted before me, of two men and a woman, the main characters in my story. Instead of choosing one or the other, the woman rejected them both. I laughed in my dream, as the ending was very appropriate. When I woke up, I put this ending into writing and was quite satisfied with it.

This report was scored as a creative dream.

An Argentine woman reported a lucid dream:

I was passing through a large house with my two daughters... We went into a salon which was a part of the complex. It was very modern, with windows that opened into a garden where there was an arbor of trees. Suddenly I encountered a door to a workshop and saw a student walking down a long corridor... When I arrived at this corridor, I realized that I was sleeping and dreaming. I was totally aware of this during the rest of the dream.

Another Argentine woman submitted a dream report that was scored as an out-of-body dream:

It was almost twilight. I was suspended from something white. It seemed to be near a cloud. I steered into that part of the cloud, and the movement enabled me to get out, surging out of the center of my body and surging with a high velocity until I was able to observe the scene below. I did not like the sensations. I perceived a man I had known before the dream. My impulse was to go toward him, but my velocity was so strong that my hope of seeing him more closely disappeared. I was frightened when I woke up.

A Russian woman rendered a report that was scored as a healing dream:

In my dream, I'm walking along the road and see a man coming toward me. When he comes closer, I recognize him. He is my husband. We look at each other carefully. Suddenly, a small, black snake appears and bites me on the right side of my neck. I squeeze it with three fingers and it opens its mouth. I squeeze the poison out of it, and try to find a place to put the snake. I find a glass box and open it with great difficulty. I put the snake in. When I wake up, I am still squeezing my hands. But that action decreases my recurring headaches. I still use that squeeze when I have headaches, but they have almost disappeared.

A Brazilian woman reported a dream-within-a-dream:

I dream that I see an Indian man who is running. He has a knife in his hand, and is being chased by a leopard. I watch him fight with the leopard and I am frightened. But then I stop being a witness and become the Indian in the exact moment that the leopard jumps on him. I think I wake up, and recall the dream, but actually I am still in the dream. But this time I am the leopard and I attack the Indian!

Another Brazilian woman dreamed:

A man told me he was interested in the course I teach on neuro-linguistic programming. He said that there were going to be many changes in his life, and that he would take the course so that I could help him out. The man seemed to be the brother of a woman I know, and he said he was dying of cancer. Later, I talked with this woman and described the man in my dream. The description fit her brother exactly, and he does have cancer.

This was scored as a telepathic dream.

Two Japanese women reported dreams from the same night; these were scored as mutual dreams. The first woman dreamed:

I am in the lobby of a big hotel. There is a large pillar made of marble. My friend Aiko is there and I stab her with a knife. I don't know why I stab her. Nobody seems to notice what I have done.

The second woman reported:

I am in a hotel lobby. There is a big pillar there and I am standing by it. My younger sister comes in. She walks right up to me and stabs me with a knife. My younger sister's name is Tomoko. I died from the stabbing.

The dream report of a Russian man was scored as clairvoyant:

I am in an empty room... I try to pass through the wall. It is solid and I cannot go through it. This wall divided two spaces... There is a slogan on the wall, 'If you are brave, come through it'. Mr. Gorin, a business associate of mine, appears. Then I wake up. Later, I ask Mr. Gorin if I can visit his house. When I enter, I see the same wall -- but with no slogan on it.

An American woman's dream was scored as precognitive:

I had a vivid precognitive dream about a valued colleague. I dreamed that he was rushed in an ambulance to the hospital with heart trouble, even though he was in good health the last time I saw him. But when I called the hospital -- in the dream -- they told me that he was in bad shape and they were preparing him for immediate surgery. When I woke up, I telephoned and he told me he was preparing to enter the hospital for major heart surgery.

A Russian man's report was scored as an initiation dream:

I dreamed about some deities who told me that I needed to transform myself to become a healer. It seemed as if I had died, and then I was reborn again. The deities told me that I needed to advance one more level, to learn about external kindness but also to be kind to myself. Once I learned this lesson, I would be able to start healing people. I went through three cycles of death and rebirth, and when I awakened, I felt that my initiation was complete.

A Ukrainian woman reported:

In this dream, I am afraid of dying because my neighbors start to die, one by one. I think of what a short period of time it took for so many of them to die, both men and women. I would like to live a more spiritual life, but the conditions around me do not permit it, as I must work very hard each day. Then one of my dead neighbors comes to see me and tells me that I can lead a spiritual life through my work. This was scored as a visitation dream.


Not all exotic dreams are pleasant. The Argentine woman who reported an out-of-body dream said that she did not like the "sensations", that she could not control the velocity of her travel, and that she "was frightened" when she awakened. Many precognitive dreams leave dreamers with a sense of dread. But in other cases, dreamers are grateful that they were prepared for a tragic event, or relieved when the event does not occur.

An inspection of the examples suggests that some exotic dreams fall into more than one category. A Japanese woman dreamed about her father giving her advice about her painting, and put his suggestions into practice with positive results. This report qualifies as a creative dream, a category accurately described as "rare" by the psychiatrist Jules Eisenbud (1973, p. 254). However, it was also scored as a visitation dream because her father, dead at the time of the dream, gave valuable counsel to the dreamer.

It is possible that precognitive dreams represent coincidental matches, unless they are gathered under tightly controlled conditions or include extremely precise descriptive material. Even if the dreamer is convinced that they are premonitory in nature, dreams about death do not always have a tragic ending. A Ukrainian man dreamed: "I saw a funeral procession. Many people had come for this funeral. Close relatives went in a file by the coffin of the dead person. I got in line. When I went by the coffin, I was really scared because it was my mother who was lying in the coffin! In two days my mother fell seriously ill, but she recovered."

Finally, it should be noted that women reported more exotic dreams than men. Do women actually have more of these dreams, or are they simply more able to recall them, and more willing to report them? These questions, among others, need to be addressed in future studies.


  • Eisenbud, J. (1973). Appendix A. In M. Ullman & S. Krippner, with A. Vaughan, Dream Telepathy (pp. 253-259). New York: McMillan.

  • Krippner, S., & de Carvalho, A.P. (1998). Exotic Dreams. São Paulo: Summus.

  • MacDonald, W.L. (1994). The popularity of paranormal experiences in the United States. Journal of American Culture.

The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Steven Brown in the preparation of this article.