John Medlen clearly believes there is life after death.

John Medlen says he has experienced four confirmations in the last two years which prove what he has always believed in his heart. The crew chief for Don Schumacher Racing believes his son Eric is still alive in the afterlife and very much active in ensuring lives are saved through drag racing.

Medlen understands he there will be skeptics who downplay his beliefs as being a grieving father wanting some kind of connection with his deceased son.

His response is simple, “It doesn’t matter what others believe because it is real to me. If some see it as being crazy, goofy or grieving father, then so be it. I believe without a shadow of a doubt (Eric) is alive and well. You’d have to live the life, and walk in my shoes to understand the things which are viewed as unexplainable.”

Medlen’s first three confirmations have come from three different individuals, all with limited to no drag racing ties, who experienced life after death. These individuals all held pertinent information, Medlen says, to his son’s March 2007 accident which left Eric in a vegetative state before he passed away days later.

“There’s only a few of us who have looked at that data,” confirmed Medlen. “Myself, Austin Coil and Bernie [Federly] and that’s about it. We studied the car, the tire and know exactly what happened. Probably no one else on this earth really does. The things that these people have said, including the latest one, lined up exactly. They could not have known. And, if they guessed it, I’d like to get the lottery numbers from them.”

Medlen said the messages from the other side didn’t open old wounds.

“It wasn’t tough to hear, it was enlightening,” Medlen said.

The latest message, Medlen stated, came from a gentleman who died three times following an accident in the same lane as Eric’s accident.

Enter Thomas Stenftenagel, a fast bracket dragster racer, severely wounded in an accident on July 18, 2007 in the right lane during a test and tune at Gainesville Raceway.

Stenftenagel died three times in the weeks, for up to 30 total minutes, following his accident. He believes he was sent back to deliver a message from the afterlife.

Stenftenagel said it took six years for his mission to be accomplished.

“It was important for me to get to [Medlen],” Stenftenagel said.

Despite his lengthy medical incapacitation, Stenftenagel remembers in great detail the day his life’s mission became evident. No matter how many times he tells the story, his account of the details never waver.

On his fateful day, Stenftenagel was testing his new dragster in preparation for racing an NHRA divisional event in Indianapolis. This was his third run in the new car when he said the car before him oiled the track and delayed the run.

Stenftenagel believes leftover oil in the shutdown area sent him sideways, forcing the visor on his helmet to rip off from the force of the wind. He then lost control of the race car and made contact with the retaining wall, after flipping violently. The wrecked dragster came to a halt alongside the wall with a dazed Stenftenagel trapped inside. A broken fuel line sprayed racing gasoline inside the dragster, engulfing the vehicle in flames.

A first responder was also burned trying to extract Stenftenagel

Stenftenagel said his firesuit was reduced to ash, and the leaking fuel got inside adding to his injuries. He was extracted once the fire was extinguished.

Free from the vehicle the fire reignited once paramedics began to cut his fire suit open.

His injuries were severe, with third degree burns over 37 percent of his body. Because his helmet was open, Stenftenagel’s nose was burned completely off and he inhaled fire through his mouth paralyzing his vocal chords. His eyelids were burned off, leaving his eyeballs exposed.  

Stenftenagel said his first death experience happened as paramedics worked to save his life.

“I didn’t know I had the accident,” Stenftenagel said. “It was as if I had continued driving my car and exited the track to the right, at the very end. The car shut off and I waited for my pit crew, and I waited and waited, and they never showed up. I finally got tired of waiting, so I took my helmet off and put it down in my seat. I walked back toward the staging lanes.”

Stenftenagel said he saw his race trailer, empty with the lights on but no one around. He also recalled seeing only one other team in the pits, an eighteen-wheeler hauling a much larger race operation.

“The lights were on at the track but no one was around,” Stenftenagel explained. “I went back to the starting line and I was standing there and I didn’t see anybody. All of a sudden, Eric Medlen appeared in the staging lanes. He came out and made a launch[in his Funny car]. He came back and appeared in the staging lanes. Eric asked me, “Did you see that?”

“I responded, ‘See what?”

“The sparks out of the left hand side,” Eric responded.

“I responded, ‘No sir, I did not.'”

Stenftenagel said he watched as Eric got back in the car and launch again. He then said he witnessed Eric’s car hitting the wall.

Stenftenagel then stated Medlen ended up back in the staging lanes again.

“He [Eric] asked me again, ‘Did you see that?” Stenftenagel said.

“See what?” Stenftenagel asked.

“The sparks out of the left-hand side,” Medlen responded.

Stenftenagel said he told Eric once again he didn’t see them.

Stenftenagel said Eric then removed the escape hatch on his Funny Car, and set it to the side.

It was at this point Stenftenagel recalled in his vision he was hovering above Medlen’s car.

“Next thing I know, I am in the car with him as he made the launch. I saw the sparks, like a one-inch pipe against a grinding wheel at the shop. Sparks went everywhere.”

Stenftenagel then remembers the two of them were both transported back to the starting line. In his vision, once again, Eric asked him if he saw it, and again responded, “See what?”

Eric once again said, “The sparks.”

Stenftenagel then told Medlen he had seen the sparks.

Medlen replied, “You have to go back and tell them.”

Stenftenagel said he pleaded, “Tell them what?”

Stenftenagel then said Medlen told him to tell of the sparks coming out of the left hand side of the car.

Stenftenagel remembers he was then transported to the scene of his accident where he witnessed his burned body being loaded into the helicopter.

“They were requesting that I be put in a coma at that point.”

Stenftenagel remained for two-and-a-half months in a coma, and in critical condition at the Shands Memorial Hospital burn unit in Gainesville, Fla. When he awoke life was still a struggle.

“I had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.”

Stenftenagel said the second time he died was in the hospital, two weeks after the accident.
“I looked through the window and saw a man lying in a bed and screamed, ‘someone help him, he’s going to die!’

“I then realized I was outside of my body and it was me and it was my heart monitor going off.”

Stenftenagel said he interacted with his deceased father-in-law in his second death experience, who was in the military service. After what he described as small talk, his father-in-law conveyed, “You have to go back and tell them.”

Stenftenagel said he responded, “Tell them what?”

“Everything went black after that,” remembers Stenftenagel.

Stenftenagel was revived.

Days later, Stenftenagel died a third time on the operating room table at 15 minutes, 32 seconds into the surgery.

“I watched the anesthesiologist get up and walk around to the front of the table, as I laid face down while they were working on the muscles on my back,” Stenftenagel recalled.

Stenftenagel said the anesthesiologist and the doctor took off their masks as he was pronounced dead. Then, Stenftenagel recalled, a nurse exclaimed, “He’s coming back!”

The surgeons had to first piece him back together before they could turn him back face up. In the meantime, Stenftenagel said, it took a little while for oxygen to begin flowing back to his brain.

During the third death experience he then experienced a vision of fishing with a friend, who had passed away years earlier. He described the experience in detail of fishing with his friend Dr. Ramey.

“Time stops in the afterlife, that’s why I was able to do so much in such a short time,” said Stenftenagel.

Once again, Stenftenagel was challenged to return in order to “tell them, what he saw.”

A rigorous rehab ensued and for Stenftenagel, a momentous face to face with Medlen transpired on the Thursday of the 2014 NHRA Gatornationals.

Stenftenagel said he approached a John Force crew member and asked for Eric Medlen’s dad. He didn’t even know Medlen’s name was John. Stenftenagel only knew he needed to speak with Eric Medlen’s dad.  

“I didn’t even know [John’s] name.”  

Stenftenagel’s message to a crew member was quick and to the point.

“Get him, I have a message for him.”  

Stenftenagel said he told Medlen of his experience, and vision.

Medlen invited John Force into the conversation, and the two sat there in awe of the story being told.

“One of the details clear to me was the sparks coming from lower to middle section of the motor, a piece of pipe come apart,” Stenftenagel described. “It was metal chunks.”

A severely scarred Stenftenagel, with his nose rebuilt from ear cartilage and eye lids from skin grafts believes the interaction was a crucial fitting to his recovery.

“Something kept telling me I HAD to get here and tell my story,” Stenftenagel said sternly.  

Every detail Stenftenagel told Medlen, and not listed in this story, left Medlen to believe the incident as the absolute truth.

Medlen believes anyone who has doubts should read Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, a book written by Eben Alexander III in 2012.

“I know my Eric is alive and well in that Heavenly kingdom,” said Medlen. “Those people who have approached me have come back and told me things nobody on this planet knew but me. I have a great faith in God the Father, and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They are a real and tangible entity and Eric, being out of his body is there. All of those people say Eric is allowed to be close to us because we pray and ask for it.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind he’s not gone, he’s just in a different place,” Medlen said.

Stenftenagel agrees.