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 overstressed minds. But the amazing thing is this: over the years, the experience has occurred again and again, to mountaineers, divers, polar explorers, prisoners of war, solo sailors, aviators, astronauts and 9/11 survivors. All have escaped traumatic events only to tell strikingly similar stories of having experienced the close presence of a helper or guardian. The mysterious force has been explained as everything from hallucination to divine intervention. Recent neurological research suggests something else. In The Third Man Factor John Geiger combines history, scientific analysis and great adventure stories to explain this secret to survival, a Third Man who — in the words of legendary Italian climber Reinhold Messner — ‘leads you out of the impossible.’
A scientific mystery or divine intervention is how Geiger, the editorial board editor at the Globe and Mail and author of Frozen in Time, describes "The Third Man Factor," the human knack of facing deprivation and possible death with an unseen presence pointing the path to survival. He researched these visitations for six years, chronicling their history in harrowing life-and-death events with mountaineers, sailors, divers, aviators and polar explorers. It is to Geiger's credit that he stresses the very human need to endure and survive through critical times in the included anecdotes over the sometimes convoluted scientific jargon, especially the gripping tales of the last 9/11 survivor Ron DiFrancesco, NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger aboard the Mir space station and merchant seaman Kenneth Cooke, who paddled in shark-infested waters. Whether this "guardian angel" factor is neurological or divine, Geiger's fresh, insightful book will tell readers "things that are not easily explainable, but no less real for that."