Children and past lives

How is it that toddlers and young children can recall vivid memories and relate accurate facts from past adult lives, seemingly without prompting or trauma in their current life? Sceptics may point to the child’s families, perhaps filling their child’s heads with ideas and hoping for their five minutes of fame, yet this theory falls through when the child is able to recollect such specific and obscure details about a persons life. Equally, many of the families that have came forward are Christian, and so the concept of reincarnation is not part of their belief system. In fact, many families attempt to cover up their child’s strange and fascinating ability to relate facts from adult life and death, afraid of what society will think, or from an unwillingness to accept that past lives exist. As a result, most children who experience past life memories will forget by the age of 6, either because their recollections go ignored and are not encouraged, or simply from a desire to live their current life fully.

My favourite past life story comes from a boy named James Leininger.  From a very young age, James experienced terrifying nightmares of a plane crash, something no two year old would be able to comprehend, unless perhaps having been in a plane crash themselves. Yet the details James gave were so comprehensive and disturbing, his Christian parents who had originally put his nightmares down to night terrors, could no longer ignore the possibility that James could in fact be recounting a past life. At age two, James claimed that he had also been called James in his past life, remembered a boat called the Natoma in which he would fly his plane off, and was able to point out on a map the Island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific as the place where his plane was shot down. James was also able to describe the World War 2 aircraft he believed he had been shot down in, and was even able to recognise the object at the bottom of the plane as a ‘drop tank’, correcting his mother who referred to it as a bomb. After thorough research conducted by the boys father, they discovered that only one pilot had died at the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, a man named James Huston. However, his father could not confirm that the plane James described as a Corsair, was the plane that James Huston had been flying during the crash.  Eventually, James was able to meet the sister of James Huston, a lady named Anne Barron. Anne uncovered a photograph of Huston standing in front of a Corsair plane, confirming James belief that this was the plane James Huston had crashed in. James also shocked Anne Barron by being able to recount stories of her family, her father’s problems with alcohol abuse, and even remembering Anne’s mother painting a portrait of Anne as a child. This confirmed to Anne that James was her brother reincarnated.

Eyewitnesses also came forward, claiming to see the plane being targeted by the Japanese, hit in the engine and exploding before crashing into the Pacific. James’s parents were no longer sceptics, and embraced and nurtured James’ accounts. They took James to a Natoma Bay Pilot reunion, and although James did not recognise anyone by sight alone (but remember that everyone was now in old age and would look considerably different to the time James would have knew them), he recognised Bob Greenwalt by his voice alone. He also remembered other members of the squadron, namely three men: Leon Conner, Walter Devlin, and Billie Peeler, all of whom had been killed prior to the death of James Huston. This only became apparent when James was asked by his mother why he had chosen the three names for his GI Joe dolls. James responded with the answer “because that’s who met me when I got to Heaven” and it was later confirmed that James Huston had been friends with these men.

There are so many fascinating aspects of the James Leininger case, and this post has only touched on a few. Sadly, James can no longer vividly recall his past life as James Huston, which usually occurs in children when their current life provides new experiences and memories, but luckily his parents and numerous researchers have documented everything throughout his younger years. In terms of those who believe that James’ case is merely a hoax,  James B. Tucker, a child psychiatrist who worked closely with James, argues that fraud is not a possibility in this particular case. The length of time that the case developed over, and the scale of the investigation including the number of people involved, is much too complex and elaborate to be simply an attempt at fame. Furthermore, James’ nightmares and behaviours such as crashing toy planes and drawing images of plane crashes, are characteristic of a child suffering PTSD – unusual to see in a child of two years old, especially considering James had never been involved in a plane crash himself.

James is just one of many children who remember their past lives. But what do you think? Are past life accounts the result of nothing more than a child’s imagination, or could we learn something from taking these recollections seriously?


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