Dreams about William S. Burroughs
Burroughs spoke frequently about the importance of dreams to the creative process. “There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream,” he told Victor Bockris. “They’d be dead in two weeks.” He collaborated with Brion Gysin on the “dream machine,” and he frequently used dreams in his fiction as well. Sometimes, in fact, his dreams were his fiction: for example, the story “They Do Not Always Remember” in Exterminator! was simply a transcription of a dream.
Apparently Burroughs kept extensive journals of his dreams, and these of course gave rise to one of his last publications, My Education: A Book of Dreams. This book is not only a journal of various dreams but also a meditation on dreaming and therefore on writing too. The very fact that Burroughs chose to title the book “My Education” suggests how important he considered dreaming in the creation of a writer’s mind.
Dreams, however, have provided an education not just for Burroughs but for many of his fans as well. In fact, many fans have had dreams about Burroughs himself, and thus it occurred to RealityStudio to begin collecting these. It was relatively easy to find a bunch of dreams about Burroughs on the web, thus continuing to demonstrate how great an impact the writer had on not just culture but on individuals too.
Have you ever had a dream about William Burroughs? Feel free to submit it to RealityStudio.
Dreams about William S. Burroughs
Long before Burroughs published My Education, Jack Kerouac published his Book of Dreams. Burroughs — called “Bull Hubbard” in the book — figures in many of Kerouac’s dreams. Here are a few of the better ones:
Further, earlier heat with Bull, we’re walking past the San Remo and he has his knife out playing with it and we pass two burly cops who do a double take seeing this and start after us, someone yells here they come! and Bull and I start running — I tear off and over the barbed wire fence tearing my clothes and shoes… [p187]
Irwin Garden had gone to Frisco I heard, I’m in Mexico City or somewhere, I go look up Bull Hubbard at his new apartment house pad — His name is misspelled Jurroughs on the metal plates — June is still alive in the old New Orleans-dry canal-Florida-glittering boulevard associating of it — but actually not for when I ring, no one in, and go around corner to a lunchroom and call from a wall phone while waiting to be served, it’s 2 snickering hipsters answer the phone and Bull doesn’t seem to be in… [p91]
in fact right then I see a vision of Bull as developing into a final old good-natured lecher with no thoughts — just “waiting for his blubbery kiss” from Rainbow Lips — & Bull was in dream much earlier, but somehow in the same house, which has a lot of overstuffed furniture brown, gloomy & to me beautiful… [p20]
Now I’m in Mexico City, I go to live in the sumptuous apartments of Bull and June. June is still alive after all… I go into the bedroom with an understanding with June that we’re gonna do some fucking, we get in bed together, June rambles and talks, but suddenly the woman jumps in bed too and that brings the okie and it appears he’s not pleased about that or something’s wrong and dammit I’ll have to leave the comfort of this house — so I never get to bang poor sad June — and Bull is somewhere in the house, silent, isn’t interested in those El Paso Navajo ponies of mine — (like when I lay in bed beside June one time in the dark at 188th street on benny and Bull came in and sat talking to us, I guess)… [p44]
While reviewing Conversations with William S. Burroughs for Jack Magazine, editor Mary Sands found herself having dreams of Burroughs:
After delving into this book for several nights, I began to have recurring dreams. William Burroughs was an old man, and I had to take care of him. In one dream, his legs were transparent and rubber-like. They were so thin that it seemed impossible he could walk on them, but he did. In another dream, he was being snide to a group of people who were making fun of him. But deep down I could tell that he was hurt by their taunts. It made me angry. I was on a save-Burroughs-from-harm campaign, as if he were my grandfather. My protective nature seemed funny to me the morning after, but was still there.
I’m not saying that reading Conversations with William S. Burroughs will provide you with nightly caretaking responsibilities and strange dreams, but there are phrasings in this book that will bring you to some introspections that otherwise will not occur.
On his blog, Buddhist writer Ngawang Zangpo describes a dream that acknowledges Burroughs’ influence on him. (Then again, isn’t any writer dreaming about Burroughs already demonstrating the latter’s influence?)
Last night I had a dream about Burroughs again. First, I should mention that I understand the premise behind dream yoga in relation to lucid dreaming. I am not at a level to practice the dream yoga, however, I am interested in it, and make a shallow attempt to attain lucidity in dreams. Seeing William Burroughs in a dream should be an immediate tip off that it is indeed a dream because he is dead and I know that, right? Well, not for me…
So Bill is very old and moving slow. I explain to my family that this is William Burroughs, and he was a writer and was at one time addicted to heroin, or actually for most of his life, and that his ideas were very influential to me. So, I’m paying him a lot of respect, and I fix him a drink. We’re going somewhere and I have to hold him up by the elbow and around his back. He asked me some questions about what doing, with strong sensitivity. We were in a hallway, of some sort of convention or lecture center, a meeting place.
Again, I have the sleepy feeling, although today it isn’t as fuzzy, it is more harsh in the head, but that is because baby had a rough time last night. Still the fuzziness is there.
As you might well expect, many dreams about Burroughs have sexual overtones. Here are a few from various sources on the web:
I had one mildly sexual dream about Burroughs after his death. I met him in a parking lot sitting at a small book signing table. I wanted to show him sketchbooks, and i did , he liked them, little emotion though. We started kissing, french kissing.
I had a dream about Burroughs. But it was a very momentous dream. Ever since then I’ve felt close to William Burroughs. It’s very weird. I was hanging out with this friend of mine, Chad, in real life, and we would go on really slow walks around the block. He was this old guy — I think that’s what precipitated the dream. I ended up having a dream where I was William Burroughs’ girlfriend. There wasn’t anything graphic or gross in it. But I dreamed me and William Burroughs woke up in bed together, and I was like, “Hey Bill, let’s go for a walk” — thinking about his health or whatever. And he goes (in a gravelly voice), “Don’t treat me like an OLD MAN.”
it was a dream, but it was one of those dreams that makes you do what you’re told, & that’s what I was told, so… I live in lawrence kansas about a stone’s throw away from william s burroughs creek — in a haunted house next to a graveyard & some woods. it’s fun. mostly… burroughs came to me in a dream a few months ago now that I think of it. he kissed me & then said he was off to watch American Life with his partner, saying it like it was a movie..
I dreamed that somebody shot and killed Cameron Crowe while he was on the set of Elizabethtown (don’t worry, I’m sure it wasn’t any kind of premonition). I was really sad and I went to his house and it was all bare and starkly white inside. Then a bunch of us went to a bar to celebrate his life, and then William Burroughs showed up and I started making out with him. Yeah, I know, that’s gross. So it started out sad but ended funny. HappySad!
The online web memorial created for William S. Burroughs after his death features a number of dreams by fans of the writer.
I remember W.S. Burroughs in a dream I had: He is there in my childhood room, laying on my bed. I am pleading with him not to die. He is there covered in latex and not dead. The dream happened several years ago. I was struck by him through this avenue. Draped in blue electric light, (as if) prophetic, I am taken back there. Carved in time, and my lazy mind, is William.
A genuine Burroughs dream I had about 2 years ago: I find myself in the afterlife, sitting in an armchair opposite the old man, who is wearing an overcoat, fedora etc. He is fiddling with an old 70s tape recorder, playing static. He is staring inscrutably ahead. I’m very surprised to find him there, and a little nervous, so I cough and say, “What are you doing here?” He keeps the icy glare and merely replies, “Well, what are YOU doing here, Sparky?” So I have to leave.
On the 23rd nov last year, I had a dream where I was travelling on th top deck of a prestine bus (yes it had no fuel) along a foggy motorway with th man himself, something about controlling th visibility ahead an driving into a mother&child at 80mph.
my first dream= at age 3 — was of bill. maybe that’s why he said hello, and nice to see you again. he smiled. they said he never did. but he smiled at me. it’s not true; that he doesn’t i mean, because, i saw him laugh too. everyone saw the cold old man. i saw something else. i was 3 — as i said; and he came to me. he put his hand through the window, and he said hello. his hands were pale and transparent and warm. it was the first dream i ever had. i still remember it. the sky was pale and blue and beautiful around his head and his shoulders. i couldn’t see his whole body. he took my hand through the window and held it. was so nice. and we stayed that way for awhile. and he made me feel open. like i could be anything. and believe me, i have been. smile. bill, i love you, and miss you so much. roses for your grave and your heart. it is still here. love diane.
In a book review of a biography of writer Terry Southern, Brad Tyer describes how Burroughs snubbed him in a dream after he had written a negative review of a book by Southern.
One night not long after, I had a dream in which I was staying over at a motor-court in Connecticut (where Southern lived), and around barbecue in the courtyard at night, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg snubbed me for dissing their good friend Terry. I guess I felt guilty.
Not surprisingly, some dreams feature Burroughs at bookstores.
I was an Italian movie actor. A leading man. Ingrid Berman was my girlfriend and we were making a movie together. This part of the dream was all in black and white. Ingrid goes down to the ocean and is pulled into the water by a walrus/human/tarantula creature. She is unafraid and seems to know the creature. He takes her to his underwater cave and they both fall asleep next to each other. I then see the dream that she has but it is actually my dream. It shows our whole relationship and how it falls apart in disaster and we are both destroyed. The next day she returns to the set and I break up with her because of the knowledge I have of the outcome of our love. I leave crying. I am so in love with her, but I know that I have to leave her. As I walk across the street I see an old man crash his bicycle. I help the old man up and see that it is William Burroughs. We stand in front of a book store and have a long conversation about how young people today perceive books and mass media. Then I woke up and told my roommate about it.
I totally contacted the spirit of William S. Burroughs in a dream. I was waiting in a long line at a book store, and when I got to the front, I shook the man’s hand and told him how special he was to me. He was crying tears of joy too! It was very warm and quite profound. Some time later I tried to contact Nico by way of a lucid dream, but no such luck. A knowledgable source has told me that I’m trying too hard. I will switch methods and hope for better results.
A road trip to Burroughs’ funeral inspired this dream:
I fall deep into REM sleep in the bouncing bed behind the cab, to the clatter of the suspension and the sardonic chatter of channel 19. I dream about Burroughs. At one point he says, “His family were in very modest circumstances.” He’s holding a live fish by the gills.
Apparently reading Burroughs can also inspire dreams about the author:
Last night I had a really weird dream. In it I had some weird conversation with Einstein, William Burroughs, and some Voudoun priestess that only spoke French. It was really weird. They told me something about how genius was dangerous because it involves making pacts with things beyond the normal universe and how it often results in things that you don’t expect to happen. Einstein also mentioned something about the Toltecs (who I don’t know anything about.) My thoughts on it: I need to eat fewer Einstein’s Bagels — and maybe Port of Saints is gettin’ to me.
And then there is this tantalizing tidbit:
I spent a couple hours this morning opening up boxes full of Richard Hell’s personal papers so we can start organizing them. One of the coolest things was a journal that Patti Smith gave Richard. We couldn’t figure out whose handwriting is whose, but one of the first things in it is a dream about William S. Burroughs.
This dream was contributed to RealityStudio.org by sconlo.
I recently had a dream about Bill. Very strange. I quit smoking pot a few months ago, more for financial than moral reasons, and my dreams have just been EXPLODING. Anyway, I had seen a documentary about Errol Flynn earlier in the evening, and had read the Grauerholz article about Joan a few days before. That night I found myself in NYC walking between two buildings on a highwire with E.F. before ending up in a room smoking opium with him. After that I found myself wandering around a more suburban setting and knocked on a screen door, which J.G. opened and let me in. I walked into the living room, and W.S.B. was sitting in a chair beneath a lamp in his L.L. Bean farmer drag, and he asked me if I’d like to get high. I said, sure, and apologized for not having anything to throw in, explaining that I hadn’t even seen weed of late. He said not to worry and rolled up a joint. We smoked and talked, about what I don’t remember, but at one point he did kind of zone out and stare off into space in mid-sentence. Nice time, though.
And this one was contributed by Rob M.
A few years ago, I had a dream set in the mid-50’s Southside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I was walking along the main drag of E.Carson St., where I came upon a group of hipsters that in the dream’s continuity were friends of mine. I asked them what was going on, to which one of them replied: “We’re waiting for Bill Burroughs.” A few minutes later a young Mr. Burroughs appears from the parking lot across the street. It was mid Summer, and Burroughs is dressed in his trademark suit, overcoat, and hat. A girl from the group asks: “What’s goin’ on today, Bill?” To which he replies nonchalantly: “Smokin’ a few reefers.” We followed Burroughs down an alleyway, with no further words exchanged, until we got to the door of a duplex which he proceeded to unlock, and the dream ended there. It was brief, and silly, but I actually felt like I got to spend a few minutes with one of the few heroes I’v ever had. Later, I told my roommates (I was in art school at the time) about the dream I had, and from that point on, when waiting for someone to deliver some (…uh, use your imagination…) to us, it was referred to as “waiting for Bill Burroughs.”
This one was posted to the Burroughs forum by Johnny.
I had a dream once where I was in the back seat of an old black sedan. Burroughs was in the front seat and a masked man was driving. The masked man pulled the car over on some lonely mountain road and we all got out. Burroughs pulled out one of his guns, checked the chamber and said: “Now this is a good spot for some shooting.”
Thanks to Vincent A. for this submission:
Myself and Burroughs: This is supposed to be a write-up of my dreams, and in a way it is. I feel as if half of my reality is made up of dreams or at least a dreamed up imagery that is as real to me as those divine hallucinations William experienced while writing Naked Lunch. For when I truly sleep, they are of a bourgeois nature consisting of virgin whores. When I’m awake — that is when I see the most incredible, the most glorious of things. Which brings me back to Burroughs, in particular the period of his life that begat Naked Lunch, a most influential piece of literature. It was that divine Opium and the world around him coupled by the intense need to write (by Manifest Destiny or catharsis) that gave ink, precious fluid of imaginary life, which created Mugwumps raping boys and a world gone mad. I do not need drugs however, all around me I see people that claim to live that squander their lives on all things capricious: the hustlers and bums, and those children with that insipid belief that the measure of their frivolities and physical — far be it from mental — growth make them adults and therefore well respected. White trash children stare with faux menace like the demon who is impotent. And that class system of pseudo-outsiders and loud-mouthed spoiled blonde bitches, they who survive in an insect agony. They corralled and bark in alien verses, the condition and talking shit and blood. And they raped themselves: Massive tumors the size of fists pour out of that mass and those parents dance that glory, their creations now liquefied into raw materials created by poison sperm and tainted egg, while the homeless gather hollowed out virgin bodies for masturbatory purposes, saliva falls as but a single child attempts to walk with tumors through the mouth like the merging of man and hippopotamus.
Carlyle adds the following:
I began reading WSB about 1972-73 and have been greatly affected by his themes and images. I kept a dream journal for many years and here is what I saw. 1. Sometime at a montreal metro station, the unfamiliar is familiar. A guy in a uniform, is he a cop or a clown? Like a WSB character I am under investigation and the question is “how did you inherit that?” 2. At a little bookstore with WSB. The beat scene, fine printing on rice paper. He makes sign language later in a cafe. And a rare book with the title “home was here” 3. And shortly after seeing River’s Edge movie I visit with WSB, walking, talking as a young man and actually sez “nothing is true, everything is permitted” 4. From a WSB comic book dream, control is speaking, close up of the eyes, about the magical enchantment of words and symbols. becomes a multimedia event, play back the tapes, trak-trak-trak.
Here’s one from Lucas:
I have a few but the one that really stands out is one where William and I were in a small Sesna type little airplane and the was an unkown person flying it. Bill was in the passenger seat and I was in a small seat in the back of the plane. The weird this was there was trouble with the plane and we all knew it was going to crash and we were all going to die. But I wasn’t afraid. The last thing that happened was Bill turned around and looked at me and said “I’ll see you in the Western Lands old boy.” Somehow that kept me from being terrified of my impending doom. The piolot was shitting his pants though. But Bill and I were cool, like we knew were we were headed.And then the plane crashed into the side of a mountain. That was it.
And another from Gabe:
My dream of William Burroughs was actually quite a few months ago, but I was so impressed by it that I still have a very clear picture of what actually happened. I found myself in a room, almost a study with piles of books and manuscripts about. It was well lit by a large window to my east that threw bright sunlight on everything in the room. I was lying on a settee or couch and was having a very non-chalant conversation with William Burroughs. The only real thing that I remember from the conversation was that fact that I felt awed in his present, and almost unworthy. I asked him “How can I be more like you, and the rest of the Beats? When will my time come if it does at all.” He looked at me and said very matter-of-factly, “You’ll know when you can see.”
Scout’s epic dream:
I just had this dream last night, and was very disturbed by it…. –I was sitting in a movie theater with William Burroughs. The movie was something about Batman, — lots of swirling blue shapes on the screen like a loop of Batman sweeping his cape around him, never saw his face, but did see a brief strobe-light flashing smiling-fanged moment of Dracula, very pale & sinister — despite this, William seemed very interested in it. He leaned forward from his seat with his hands clasped together just like one of his more memorable portraits by what photographer I don’t remember right now. In the dream he was about 4o years old, but he was definitely the oldest person in the theater. The place was filled with kids, — squirming in their seats, shouting, running up & down the aisles. It was a small room but it felt more like an old time theater house, — “picture show” — if there had been a balcony kids would have been chucking popcorn and soda pop or even fizzies on people’s heads down below. So this is not a dream ABOUT Burroughs, but how nice it was to have his presence with me in this very “Wild Boys” (and girls, which he tolerated very well) atmosphere…. At one point two boys began fighting in the row right in front of us. I was worried one would get hurt, so I stepped in to stop them. One of them was very angry with me, scowling at me with his grimy face and the light of the film making his tears flicker, — very Burroughsian there you bet, — and he ran away up the aisle. Soon though he returned with another, much older boy, who he said was his big brother. His brother threatened to fight me. I stood up and told him I hadn’t picked on anyone. Then I sat down again, but suddenly he was yelling in my ear. With the strange focus of dream I was able to tune him out and look to Burroughs for his advice. He indicated with a jutting movement of his chin, looking very Don Juan (Castaneda version), I should look at his ankle. And there on his ankle was a certain device…. –At this point the dream becomes quite psychotic…. –It was a device, a button, that you could push that would make the wearer transform, — specifically, one’s body would turn into a kind of pole, like a microphone stand, and at the top your head would become a balloon…. It was supposed to be a kind of toy, a hot new kid’s fad, — “hours of fun”…. Where your face was before you could only see a stretched-out distorted image on the latex surface. The pole and stand were very light, one moved about with a bobbing, floating motion, like walking on the moon…. –The boy was shaking his fist in my face. “I’m going to kick your ass, buddy, even if you sit there trying to pretend you don’t care!!” he screamed, — something to that effect. Then Burroughs in my other ear whispered this cryptic dream-phrase in his signature slow drawl: “What . . . ever . . . your . . . wa . . . ter….” –Somehow I knew exactly what this meant, — I reached quickly down and pushed the button on the boy’s ankle. There was a “flash” and his body was transformed into the balloon-pole, bobbing & hovering delicately on its base. Immediately it tried to escape, weaving away from me up the aisle. I got up and followed it, batting it lightly on the balloon-head. The balloon skin was very sensitive apparently, because my light slaps left bruises & swellings, making the “face” on it even more distorted. This made me angrier, and I proceeded to punch the face, making the balloon whip back & forth on its pole. At this point I was joined by a couple of other bullies. We tripped, kicked, and shoved the poor pole up the aisle until we had reached the door. I put a hand out to prevent my companions from following it. It went out the door to the stairway. We could see it through a circular window. I opened the door and pushed it down the stairs, where it very slowly “fell” with its awkward tilt. Me and my companions descended after it. I felt excited but nauseous, almost ill, my thoughts like in a fever, like how a murderer must feel divided between thrill & conscience right in the thick of the act. I wanted the scene to be over with. I was just on the edge of recognizing the dream as a dream, and consciously wanting it to end. I reached out and grabbed the pole and turned it horizontally, — then I broke it in half with a snap over my leg. –Right after that the dream thankfully finished.
Here’s Patrick T’s dream:
I obsessively immersed myself in Burroughs’ cut-up novels during adolescence. He has appeared in at least a couple of my dreams. Briefly: in the first, he is out in the woods during experiments involving telepathic communication with snakes. Ginsberg is concerned about him: he’s gone too far this time, it’s sinister! In the second dream, I find myself at some kind of (“heavenly”?) art gallery. It’s the opening night of a new exhibition. I see Burroughs and Gysin together, making the scene. I become frustrated that I don’t have a tape recorder in order to properly interview them. I approach WSB, but he silently keeps me at arm’s length — literally, an assertive silent gesture of “don’t come any closer.” Gysin is more animated and welcoming. I ask him, “What were you doing prior to your development of the cut-up method and collaborations with Burroughs?” and he responds, glowingly, “Mostly fucking boys.” End of dream. Gysin really upstaged WSB.
7 thoughts on “Your Education”
Recently, I have been reading Junky before I go to sleep at night. Last night, I had a dream in which I saw Will Burroughs. It was dark out, and Bill was leaning against a streetlight, dressed in a grayish suit. As I approached him, he spoke these words, “Don’t put too much faith in what others want you to do. Deciding for yourself is the only freedom you have left.”
I had so much to ask him, as I started asking him questions, his image started to fade out and the last thing I heard him say was, “You’ll figure it out kid.”
When I woke, I was left with a profound feeling of sadness, knowing that Burroughs was no longer with us. Then I noticed my ragged copy of Junkie. Bill’s own words right in front of me. In some ways he will be with us forever.
here’s the kicker…i was 18 and i’m 37 now …so do your own damm math…i was using far too many drugs and had a tendancy to nap in the afternoons…actually more of an excuse to crawl under the covers to wack off…anyhoo..i was in a muddled dream like state when to my astonishment this old guy dressed like a banker appears and starts to ask me where i was going?it was the oddest experiance ever…
While undertaking an art project based around the artworks of Bill and Brion, I had a dream where Bill and I walked in a industrial wasteland.
We talked a fair bit, but alas the only words I can recall are these which I managed to scribble in my journal before the mundane kicked in.
‘Untill the invisable becomes visable, hiding in plain sight.’
Make of that what you will, for me it was very inspiring and has fuelled a lot of my work, for which I thank thee old man, where ever he is.
I pop in on this site from time to time & was reminded of it the other night when I dreamed Of Burroughs.
This was surprising to me because I’ve not read any of his stuff recently.
I was watching an internet video of Burroughs in a heroin stupor – trying, but unable to get up off the floor. It was very amusing at first. He seemed drunk, was mumbling and falling over.
Then I realised he was crying & my amusement turned to pity & guilt.
I felt I had perceived a seldom seen, sensitive aspect of his personality which desperately needed protection and help.
Myself (who is William Burroughs), Dirk Benedict (who is also me for a bit) and “Bobby Deren” (apparently a famous snooker player) escape from evil Big Brother house. There is a scene where I got shot (I think as William Burroughs) with huge nail gun (in front of the book shelves in Bamford Rd living-room) and blood is everywhere but I shoot the shooter in the neck with a nail. Dirk (me) gets an old car started and we escape. Escape scene turns into me being wheeled in a wheelchair by friendly policeman (Robbie?) and female accomplice and gradually all police are everywhere looking for me and as we pass a bus stop I see a wanted sign saying my name in capital letters but with a picture only showing my neck. Scene then jumps to me climbing to the top of a tree in a school (I am William Burroughs now). At the top of the tree is a man who has been turned to wood who had tried to escape the Big Man before. I thought him dead but then he turned to me and said something (I forget what) then the police come up the tree (and I know that it is electric chair time) and so I say “fuck this” and jump to my (and William Burrough’s) death.
I like Hermann Hesse’s concept of the Dream Theatre…maybe WSB was infulenced by this?
I read “Letters of William S. Burroughs” last night (one of the best books I have ever touched) and fell asleep 5 minutes after finishing it. In my subsequent dreams, I was walking through my hometown and I remember encountering Bill for a short amount of time. Enough to have a look at his face (he was a young man in my dream…20-25) and then he was gone. Woke up almost immediately after very giddy.