Works based on dreams

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On several occasions throughout history, dreams have been credited as the inspiration for creative works and scientific discoveries.

Books and poetryEdit

Kubla KhanEdit

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan (completed in 1797 and published in 1816) upon awakening from an opium-influenced dream. In a preface to the work, he described having the poem come to him, fully formed, in his dream. When he woke, he immediately set to writing it down, but was interrupted by a visitor and could not remember the final lines. For this reason, he kept it unpublished for many years.


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) was inspired by a dream:

"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous Creator of the world."[1]

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeEdit

Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed the plot for his famous novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).[2]

Tintin in TibetEdit

The Belgian comics artist Hergé was plagued by nightmares in which he was chased by a white skeleton, whereupon the entire environment turned white. A psychiatrist advised him to stop making comics and take a rest, but Hergé drew an entire story set in a white environment: the snowy mountaintops of Tibet. Tintin in Tibet (1960) not only stopped his nightmares and worked as a therapeutic experience, but the work is also regarded as one of his masterpieces.[3]


"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"Edit

Keith Richards claimed to have dreamed the riff to the 1965 song (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. He ran through it once before falling asleep. He said when he listened back to it in the morning, there was about two minutes of acoustic guitar before you could hear him drop the pick and "then me snoring for the next forty minutes".[4]


Paul McCartney claimed to have dreamed the melody to his song "Yesterday" (1965). After he woke up, he thought it was just a vague memory of some song he heard when he was younger. As it turned out that he had completely thought up this song all by himself, he recorded it and it became the most often covered pop song in the world.[2]

Film and televisionEdit

The TerminatorEdit

Director James Cameron said the titular character in The Terminator (1984) was inspired by a dream he had under the influence of a soaring fever. It was a vivid dream where a gleaming figure of doom emerged from fire; a metallic, skeletal monster with a rictus smile and burning red eyes, dragging itself across the floor with kitchen knives. He states: "I was sick and dead broke in Rome, Italy, with a fever of 102, doing the final cut of Piranha II. That's when I thought of Terminator. I guess it was a fever dream."[5]

Over the Garden WallEdit

Chapter 5 of the miniseries Over the Garden Wall (2014), "Mad Love", was inspired by a dream that show creator Patrick McHale had. In the events of the dream, Pat was house hunting and came across a secret library in one of the houses. As he explored further, he realized that he had entered someone else's home. In the episode, the character Quincy Endicott explores his mansion, and discovers that he has entered the mansion of his neighbour.


Descartes' new scienceEdit

Descartes claimed that the dreams that he had on November 10, 1619, revealed to him the basis of a new philosophy, the scientific method.[citation needed]

The sewing machineEdit

A sewing machine needle, with the eye near its point

A possibly apocryphal account of how in 1845 Elias Howe he came up with the idea for placing the eye of the needle at the point to produce a sewing machine is recorded in a family history of his mother's family:

He almost beggared himself before he discovered where the eye of the needle of the sewing machine should be located. It is probable that there are very few people who know how it came about. His original idea was to follow the model of the ordinary needle, and have the eye at the heel. It never occurred to him that it should be placed near the point, and he might have failed altogether if he had not dreamed he was building a sewing machine for a savage king in a strange country. Just as in his actual working experience, he was perplexed about the needle's eye. He thought the king gave him twenty-four hours in which to complete the machine and make it sew. If not finished in that time death was to be the punishment. Howe worked and worked, and puzzled, and finally gave it up. Then he thought he was taken out to be executed. He noticed that the warriors carried spears that were pierced near the head. Instantly came the solution of the difficulty, and while the inventor was begging for time, he awoke. It was 4 o'clock in the morning. He jumped out of bed, ran to his workshop, and by 9, a needle with an eye at the point had been crudely modeled. After that it was easy. That is the true story of an important incident in the invention of the sewing machine.[6]


The chemical structure of benzene

The scientist Friedrich August Kekulé discovered the seemingly impossible chemical structure of benzene (C6H6) when he had a dream of a group of snakes swallowing their tails.[7]

Mendeleev's Periodic TableEdit

Dmitri Mendeleev, who created the periodic table foundational to our understanding of chemistry, claimed to have envisioned the complete arrangement of the elements in a dream. While struggling to correctly orient the elements he recalls seeing them in a dream a table where all elements fell into place as required. Awakening, he immediately wrote them down on a piece of paper, only in one place did a correction later seem necessary.

Niels Bohr's structure of the atomEdit

Niels Bohr won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 for his discovery of the structure of the atom. He recalled that the electrons revolving around the nucleus, like the solar system, came to him in a dream.[8] Upon testing his "dream" hypothesis, he was able to discover that the atomic structure was, in fact, similar to it.


King's HandEdit

The King's Hand

Twitter user @thatfrood created the King's Hand dessert in 2020 after he had a dream in which it was the main course of a festival feast.[9] The dish, made from M&M's and cookie dough molded into the shape of a hollow hand, and filled with Greek salad, gathered significant social media and press coverage.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, from her introduction to Frankenstein
  2. ^ a b "Twelve Famous Dreams: Creativity and Famous Discoveries From Dreams". Brilliant Dreams. Archived from the original on 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
  3. ^ Goddin, Philippe (2011). The Art of Hergé, Inventor of Tintin: Volume 3: 1950–1983. Michael Farr (translator). San Francisco: Last Gasp. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-86719-763-1.
  4. ^ Keith Richards – In His Own Words by Mick St Michael, Omnibus Press, 1994, p. 24. ISBN 0-7119-3634-X
  5. ^ "James Cameron – How to direct a 'Terminator'". 2012-04-24. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  6. ^ Waln-Morgan Draper, Thomas, The Bemis History and Genealogy: Being an Account, in Greater Part, of the Descendants of Joseph Bemis of Watertown, Massachusetts, The Bemis History and Genealogy (Washington [District of Columbia]: Library of Congress, [19--]), pp 159–162, 1357 Joshua Bemis, FHL Microfilm 1011936 Item 2.
  7. ^ F.A. Kekulé (1890). "Benzolfest: Rede". Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft. 23: 1302–1311. doi:10.1002/cber.189002301204.
  8. ^ "Bohr, Niels". Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  9. ^ Onibada, Ade (2020-11-10). "This Man Had A Dream About A Completely Random Meal Called "King's Hand," So He Brought It To Life". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 2020-12-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External linksEdit