The British Premonitions Bureau was set up in 1966 in the wake of the Aberfan disaster of 21 October that year, in which 144 people were killed, 116 of them schoolchildren along with 5 of their teachers. A colliery spoil tip above the Welsh village of Aberfan had become unstable after a period of sustained heavy rainfall, and the resultant slurry running downhill overwhelmed the area of the local junior school.
The psychiatrist John Barker, who had long been interested in the paranormal, wondered if the extreme nature of the event at Aberfan might have caused some people to have a premonition about the tragedy, so he persuaded the Evening Standard to ask any of its readers who thought they might have forseen the disaster to contact him. He received 60 letters in response, more than half of them claiming that their writers had foreseen the disaster in a dream. One came from the parents of a ten-year-old girl who had been one of the fatalities, claiming that the day before the landslide she had told them of her dream about trying to go to school, but there “was no school there”, because “something black had come down all over it.”
Barker was so impressed by the responses he received that he set up the British Premonition Bureau, which people could use to record their premonitions; his hope was that the information collected might help to avert the next major tragedy, by allowing the public to be pre-warned. Over the five years of its existence the bureau received about a thousand reports of premonitions, most of which came from just six people, but none of the disasters they predicted came to pass.