Did a Doctor Discover Proof of Past Lives
Ever have deja vu? You know, the feeling that what you’re currently doing is something that you already did before, only the memory of it only comes to you now, in the present. It’s a common occurrence that scientists still can’t explain, and one experienced by millions of Americans every year. Sometimes it can be unsettling, other times it’s just a mild curiosity- but now imagine having deja vu not just about something you are currently doing, but about an entire life lived. John and Florence Pollock were a working-class couple from Britain who were in no overt regards, extraordinary by any means. Soon after getting married, the young couple had a daughter, Joanna, born in 1946, followed five years later by a second daughter, Jacqueline.
Joanna, as the older sister, was closely bonded to Jacqueline, and would ‘mother’ her constantly. The children grew up as normal, happy children, though Joanna would often be prone to a particularly unsettling statement. The normally happy little girl would sometimes stop what she was doing and muse aloud, “I will never be a lady.”, implying that she would never grow up. At three years old, Jacqueline suffered an accident and fell into an empty bucket, earning her a gash on her forehead right over her right eye and close to her nose. The gash became a permanent scar, especially noticeable in cold weather. The little girl also had a prominent birthmark on the left side of her body, at the waist. These details would become incredibly important just a few years later.
On the morning of May 7th, 1957, Joanna, aged eleven, Jacqueline, aged six, and a friend were walking to church. As the children walked together, they were blissfully unaware that just down the road a mentally disturbed woman was barreling down on them. The woman had had her children taken away from her, and in an attempt to commit suicide she took large quantities of aspirin and phenobarbitone, a medicine used to treat epilepsy. The large doses of medicine had not killed her, but rather completely impaired her mental state, and totally out of control, the woman barreled down the road and swerved onto the sidewalk straight at the children. Because of a wall next to the sidewalk, the two girls and their friend were on, they were unable to escape the oncoming car, and were instantly killed.
Their father, John, was utterly distraught at the death of his two daughters and believed that they had died as punishment from God after he had prayed for proof of reincarnation. This was because John held a very peculiar view for a Christian, that sometimes God reincarnated people- not as in returning from the dead, but completely reincarnated individuals in different bodies. John’s wife did not believe this, and their marriage nearly ended when John insisted that God would return the girls as twins. Later that year, Florence became pregnant again, and this fueled John’s belief that his twin girls would be returned to him. Florence, still extremely uncomfortable with the idea, utterly rejected this belief, and after careful observation, the family doctor predicted a single birth.
This was based on observations on palpation of the fetus as well as its heartbeat, and the fact that neither John nor Florence had a history of twins in their family. On October 4th, 1958 though, incredibly and unexpectedly, Florence gave birth to twin girls, Gillian and Jennifer. Even more incredibly, Jennifer was born with a birthmark that closely resembled Jacqueline’s scar above her eye and a second birthmark in the same place as Jacqueline’s own on her hip. Soon rumors of the twin girl’s reincarnation began to circulate about town and even made the national press. A few years later, the story of the twins drew the attention of psychologist Ian Stevenson, who began an investigation into the matter. What he uncovered was shocking. At first, the twin girls behaved no differently than other young children, until they turned three.
At that time, their parents gave them a box of toys that had belonged to Joanna and Jacqueline, and Gillian claimed a doll for herself that had belonged to Joanna, and Jennifer claimed a doll that had belonged to Jacqueline. The little 3-year-old twins told their parents that the toys had been a gift from Santa Claus, which is exactly what John and his wife had told Joanna and Jacqueline when they had originally bought them years earlier. Further, Gillian spotted a toy clothes-wringer and reached for it, saying, “There is my toy wringer.” The wringer had also previously belonged to Johanna. The eeriness, however, would only build.
The twin’s mother would often overhear the twins discussing details of the accident that had killed their deceased siblings, with Gillianonce holding Jennifer’s head and saying, “Blood’s coming out of your eyes, that’s where the car hit you.” Indeed when John went to identify the bodies of his dead children, Jacqueline’s head had been bandaged right above the eyes. At a later time, Gillian pointed to Jennifer’sforehead birthmark and said that that was where Jennifer had been hurt when she fell in a bucket. Years earlier while helping her husband run a milk delivery business, Florence had been seen to wear a large smock as she helped John. She had stopped wearing the smock when she found new work shortly after the death of her daughters and had put it away in a closet.
Once, John put on the smock to protect his clothes as he did some house painting, and Jennifer asked him why he was “wearing mommy’scoat”. Dr. Stevenson would go on to find other disturbingly similar behavior between the twins and their dead sisters, which included a strong aversion to traffic, with the girls saying that the cars were going to kill them. Gillian also liked to mother Jennifer, the same as Joanna had mothered Jacqueline, and both twins looked up to their maternal grandmother as a mother figure, as Joanna and Jacqueline had done while growing up because their mother was busy working. Later in life, Dr. Stevenson would have the girl’s DNA tested, and discover that they were monozygotic twins, meaning they came from the same egg. This, he claimed, meant that because the girls were identical genetically, Jennifer’s birthmarks which so closely resembled Jacqueline’s scar and birthmark, couldn’t be explained.
Then, suddenly, at around age five, the memories of their deceased sisters completely ceased. Dr. Stevenson, who maintained lifelong contact with the family until his death, interviewed the girls again at age 20, and both girls expressed skepticism about reincarnation. In 1981 though, Gillian suddenly began experiencing what she called ‘inner visions’, and perfectly described the house, garden, lawns, and orchards of the family home in Whickham, during which Joanna had grown up in until age four. Gillian though had never been there herself. To date, the Pollock twins case remains one of the strongest for the phenomenon of reincarnation, yet it is not without serious faults.
For starters, Dr. Stevenson himself was not present for any of the alleged behaviors or statements that mirrored past behaviors or memories of the deceased girls, and instead had them relayed to him by the family. Given John Pollock’s strong belief in reincarnation he would hardly make for an unbiased witness. Skeptics argue that the girls could simply have learned details of their deceased sister’s lives by overhearing adults talking about them, and may have turned it into a game of sorts. This would explain their loss of interest as they grew older, and the sudden end to these past-life memories. However, the presence of Jennifer’s birthmarks remains a thorny issue to try and explain away rationally.
The Pollock twins were hardly the first possibly reincarnated twins, however, and the most famous case before the Pollocks was that of Burmesetwins Maung Gyi and Maung Nge. These two twin boys soon took to calling themselves hung San Nyein and Ma Gwin when they learned to talk, much to the shock of their parents who recognized the names as those of a couple that they had known but who had died. The children reported memories of the village that the deceased couple had lived in, Okshitgon, and to test the veracity of their memories their parents took them to visit. Incredibly the twins recognized the village and displayed an intimate knowledge of the layout of its streets, the houses, and even the people who lived there.
They even remembered borrowing two rupees from a local woman, and when she was asked about the debt she confirmed that the deceased couple had borrowed this money from her and died before repaying it. Closer to home, the most stunning case of reincarnation comes to use from recent years. In 2000 a young American boy named James Leiningerfell in love with planes- especially World War II planes- after visiting a flight museum. Incredibly though, shortly after his visit, James, who wasn’t yet two years old displayed knowledge of plane facts that stunned his parents.
Taking him back to the plane museum, his parents reported that James began to have nightmares, and he would repeatedly shout, “Airplane crash on fire! Little man can’t get out.” As James grew a little older and his parents asked him about the bad dreams, James said that they weren’t dreaming at all, but rather memories. James told his parents that they were his memories and that he had been shot down by the Japanese, he even identified the plane he flew as a Navy Corsair. At two and a half years old, James told his parents that he had flown his plane from a big boat, calling it the Natoma. Incredibly, the US Navy had operated an escort carrier off Japan, where James claimed he had been shot down, by the name of USS Natoma Bay.
As Christmas neared, James’ father was looking through a book he was planning on gifting his father, called The Battle for Iwo Jima 1945. As James’ father flipped through the book, James pointed to a picture of the island, showing Mt. Suribachi, and said: “that where my airplane was shot down.” As James got older he began drawing battle scenes which involved airplanes and would sign them James 3. When asked why he said it was because he was the third James. Eventually, James’s father got in contact with a veteran from the Natoma Bay and attended a reunion of the surviving Natoma Bay crew. There he learned that towards the end of the war on one of the ship’s last missions at the Battle of Iwo Jima, a single pilot had gone missing and was presumed shot down by the Japanese: a 21-year-old named James M.Houston Jr.
Even more incredibly though, the young James even gave the name of one of his wingmen: Jack Larsen, who confirmed the events that led to James Houston Jr.’s death. As young James’s case was investigated, he began to give details about James Houston Jr.’s family life, which prompted James’sparents to contact any surviving relatives of Houston’s. They found his sister who after being told of the details James spoke of, confirmed many of them as factual. Skeptics who investigated the James Leiningercase have been hard-pressed to come up with good explanations for the young boy’s alleged past-life memories.
Today a world of information is at our fingertips, but in the early 2000s when James was growing up, gathering such specific details about a World War II battle and daily life aboard an escort carrier would have been difficult-let alone for a child of only three years old! Even more difficult to explain however are the specifics of life aboard the Natoma Bay that were confirmed by veterans, or that a child barely old enough to read would even have known the name of a relatively obscure and small Navy escort carrier which happened to fight in the same place the young James claimed he had been shot down. Is reincarnation real? Certainly, some cases can be looked at with a skeptical eye and a strong argument for their falsification can be made. For the Pollock twins, their father’s strong belief in reincarnation could have led to an accidental or purposeful hoax, and no solid evidence of the girl’s experiences exists. The case of the Burmese twins can be more difficult to explain, yet given the lack of verification and a single individual who studied and reported the case so long ago, details could have been easily exaggerated or outright invented. More difficult though is the case of James Leininger, which not only was extremely well documented but presented so many exacting details that no rational explanation can easily dispel as a hoax or a fantasy. Perhaps then there is life after death, or some people get second chances.
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