What is Your Earliest Childhood Memory?
Perhaps eating cookies at a picnic with your family when you were 4?
Learning the ABC’s in preschool?
Successfully going to the bathroom for the very first time?
Me, personally, remember being a baby in a crib, and being curiously disturbed about a red cellophane covering over the window with a full clown figure on it. Don’t ask me why my parents thought this was a good idea. (Amazingly, this memory did not develop into a fear of clowns.)
But what if your memories could go even further back? When I asked my son (who was only 4 at the time) what his earliest memory was, he first said that it was of the circus (which is funny since my earliest memory was that of a clown), and of having a monkey backpack on at the time. I was impressed, because that had happened 2 years prior.
But then he kept going!
He said, “I also remember being in your tummy.”
o.O Um… what?!
He relayed amazing and fantastic tales of what life was like in the womb, including, but not limited to:
"I held on to your heart and was swinging on it."
(And my personal favorite, but really disgusting - warning you ahead of time in case I scar you for life - I found it funny myself. :P)
"I remember you giving birth to me and I was covered in spaghetti."
Lol. The perception of children.
You gotta love ’em.
When I heard all of these memories, I was astounded, for one. Secondly, it ignited in me a fierce curiosity and passion to dig deeper into this subject. I was eager to find out what others have experienced and the incredible implications that this would entail.
Now, before I go even further, I would like to direct you to check out my article on critical thinking. I think it would fit in nicely here.
To think of this account objectively, one must question all aspects of any experience with an open mind, and logically.
So let’s take my son’s example, for example.
When he mentioned how he heard, while he was in my tummy, my sister and I talking about what to name him, my mind instantly flashed back to that very moment. I remember being in the car and talking with her and bouncing baby name ideas off of her to hear her opinions of them. It’s one of my fonder memories of being pregnant; getting to decide what to name this amazing blessing.
I thought about some of the reasonable explanations. One of the logical conclusions I could come up with is that he overheard my sister and I reminiscing about that moment. Perhaps when he was a couple of years old or something.
I mean, it seems plausible, right? Well, that’s one possibility. I can’t just assume that’s what happened. After all, his story is that he heard it explicitly while he was in my tummy. Now, I could do myself a huge disservice by just automatically assuming the most “logical” theory. Or, I could open myself up to the possibility that what he is saying is true, and investigate it.
So that’s what I did.
Investigating the case
Lo and behold, I came across dozens of accounts of parents whose child seemingly remembers things one would assume couldn’t possibly happen. Of course, most of these accounts are anecdotal. The sources are hard to prove. And even if they are completely honest in their retelling of the memory, there’s no way to know that what they believe is true is actually what happened.
“the reappearance of a suppressed or forgotten memory which is mistaken for a new experience” “the occurrence in consciousness of images not recognized as produced by the memory and its storage of events and scènes”.
Then there’s the issue that for many people, believing in the supernatural or spiritual realm is an important life-affirming and life-changing event. It gives them a sense of purpose and something to delve wholeheartedly into. This poses the problem that blindly believing something simply because you want it to be true can be detrimental and a form of psychological delusion. So one must always take any account into question and look at it with an open, unbiased but discerning and critical eye.
With that being said, let’s take a look at 5 exceptional accounts of children who have remembered so far back, that it literally transcends time and space:
1. Cameron Macauley
This remarkable testimony begins with a precocious 2 year old boy, born in Glasgow, Scotland.
As soon as Cameron could talk, he began insisting that Norma Macauley was not his “real” Mom. He instead lived in a white house on a remote island in Barra, Scotland. An island 220 miles away from his current home with a population of about 1,000 people.
He can recall his black and white dog, the sandy beaches where small planes would periodically land, and the name of his father, Shane Roberston. He died from presumably getting hit by an automobile. In Cameron’s own words, “He didn’t look both ways.”
His desire to see his old family and be reunited with his Barra Mom escalated so much that it was actually causing him emotional distress. With tears running down his cheeks, he would sob to his Mother, “I have to go to Barra. I have to go to Barra. My family are missing me.” I can only imagine how hard that would have been on Norma herself.
Visit to Chris French, Psychologist
To try and solve this mystery, Norma first took him to Chris French, a psychologist and editor of skeptic magazine. From the brief meeting we were exposed to in the “Boy Who Lived Before” documentary, Chris French offered his theory that it was more than likely due to an overactive imagination. Perhaps from watching a television program about Barra. Or from possibly overhearing details of this place from a relative or neighbor, etc.
Even with his skeptic point-of-view, however, he gave an open-minded opinion that “Maybe, just maybe, you know there’s something kind of much more interesting and challenging going on here.”
Karen Majors, Psychologist - a Different Opinion
Not quite satisfied with the “imagination” or “overhearing” speculation but willing to investigate further, Norma sought out Karen Majors, an educational psychologist who specializes in imagination and make-believe fantasies.
Here we start seeing an ever-growing enigmatic picture come together. Karen Majors seems as equally perplexed with Cameron’s scenarios, stating that his case is quite different than those of children with imaginary friends or a made-up fantasy.
Cameron’s story is consistent, and a cause of his longing and desire to return or at least acknowledge that past life. Most children with an overactive imagination or who relay adventures with their imaginary friends knows that it’s just pretend and can plan out which direction the playtime goes. That doesn’t happen with Cameron, who grows more adamant each day that he has to go back.
Jim Tucker, Psychiatrist and Reincarnation Specialist
With this new information, it leads Norma to Jim Tucker, a psychiatrist and Director of Research at the University of Virginia. Jim Tucker worked for several years under Dr. Ian Stevenson. Stevenson was a staunch researcher and one of the most notable pioneers of reincarnation studies from the 1960’s until 2007. He passed away on February 8th, 2007. Tucker became the successor of the project when Stevenson retired in 2002.
With Jim Tucker’s support, along with a camera crew to film this documentary, Norma finally sets out to Barra. She brings along her two young sons, Cameron and Martin, to explore this puzzling dilemma. While there, they investigate the claims made by Cameron about the Robertson family.
At first, their investigation turns cold, taking them down the wrong path. But a phone call from Calum Macneil at the Heritage Center reveals new information. This leads them down a different road than they were on before – both literally and figuratively.
Here, they find the elusive white house, different than what Cameron remembers, but clearly still familiar with the layout and other aspects of the land. Including a secret gate leading to the house and the window view of the beach that he remembers he looked out of to watch his brothers and sisters play.
And indeed, most claims add up. However, upon contacting Gillian Robertson, an alleged family member, who was able to produce photos that Cameron could identify and verify, one thing still remained a mystery.
That of Shane Robertson, Cameron’s previous life’s father.
Gillian had no recollection of the name, which could be attributed to any number of contributing factors. (After all, it would be hard for one to recall every instance of their family’s/relative’s names or heritage. Plus taking into account nicknames, middle names, surnames, etc. Or the possibility that the family was comprised of foster children.)
All this aside, the amount of compelling anecdotal evidence and strange, hard to dismiss coincidences that match up to Cameron’s detailed descriptions, came together to provide an intriguing glimpse into this incredible testimony.
On a personal note, this particular case hit home for me when little Cameron tells his Mom how he came to be with her:
“When I asked him how he ended up with me, he tells me he, ‘fell through and went into my tummy.'” -Norma Macauley
2. Shanti Devi
Born on Dec 11, 1926 in Delhi, India, Shanti Devi, as a young child, claimed to be Lugdi Bai. Bai was born on Jan 18, 1902 in Mathura (a city 90 miles from Delhi) and was married to a man named Kedar Nath.
She was able to recall several details about her past life, including:
- that she died 10 days after child birth - physical attributes of her husband, mainly that he had a wart on his left cheek, wore reading glasses, and was fair-skinned - her husband's name, Kedar Nath, and his favorite foods - she recognized her son Navneet Lal even though he was a newborn when she passed away. Her explanation was that her soul could recognize his soul as a part of her. (For an exhaustive list and fuller account, please refer to reincarnation-research.com)
Shanti Devi’s case attracted a lot of attention, not just locally, but internationally as well. Among the most famous of this is historical figure Mahatma Gandhi. He, along with a self-appointed committee of 15 people, were allowed to accompany Shanti to investigate her case. This committee included members of parliament, the media and national leaders.
Some Notable Recognitions
Just upon arriving at the platform from the train, Shanti was able to recognize a man mingling in the crowd as her husband’s older brother. Her reaction and response to him was so immediate and sincere that the others around could not help but feel affected.
From there, the remarkable incidences of Shanti’s memory and recollection grew even further. She was able to direct the driver to her old home and pinpoint the changes that were made since her time as Lugdi, all of which were correct.
In addition to this, she was also able to recognize her father in law. And minute details about her previous lifestyle that would have been incredible if not unbelievable if left to chance. She was also able to locate her bedroom, identified many items of hers, and was asked (tested) where the “jajroo” (bathroom) was. They asked her what “katora” meant, which she correctly defined as paratha (a type of fried pancake). Both words were commonly known to the Chaubes of Mathura, which no outsider would normally know of.
She also took them to the house where she lived with her husband for several years, correctly stating that a well was there, along with the location of a flower pot that she hid money in. It seemed apparent that she was being tested for her honesty. The well was indeed there, yet initially hidden by a rock. And the flower pot did have money in it although it had been removed by her husband.
This media exposure attracted many curious and interested parties, including saints, parapsychologists and philosophers to study the case, as well as some critics trying to discredit or debunk these events as a hoax.
Two prominent names on reincarnation research also investigated Shanti Devi’s case. Dr. K.S. Rawat interviewed her on Feb 3, 1986 with Dr. Ian Stevenson (a well known and recognized name in the field of reincarnation research) and Dr. Pasricha. Dr. Rawat interviewed her again on Oct. 30, 1987. He also interviewed relatives in Shanti Devi’s life, as well as relatives connected with Lugdi Bai’s life.
Dr. Ian Stevenson, in 1961, also studied the sources for this case. He writes that, “The accounts available to me indicate that Shanti Devi made at least 24 statements of her memories which matched the verified facts.”
Critics Investigate, Too
There are also the critics who have tried to reveal this event as a media stunt or an outright hoax. Or perhaps an aim for a political agenda. A booklet by Bal Chand Nahata, a rationalist who interviewed Shanti Devi and some others related to the case, ended his study by saying, “Whatever material that has come before us, does not warrant us to conclude that Shanti Devi has ‘former life’ recollections or that this case proves reincarnation.”
As a rebuttal, Dr. Indra Sen, a philosopher, ended up writing a whole article to counter this skeptical theory. With the help of a hypnotist (which is not named) in an attempt to get Shanti to recollect her former life, Dr. Sen concluded that “I am confident that Shanti has certain memories which are not of here and now.”
Interestingly, one critic, Sture Lonnerstrand, with the sole purpose of coming all the way from Sweden to India in order to expose this as a false story, ended up admitting, “This is the only fully explained and proven case of reincarnation there has been.” His proclamation came after investigating Shanti Devi’s experience. He even went so far as to publish a book in 1998, I Have Lived Before: The True Story of the Reincarnation of Shanti Devi.
3. Ryan Hammons
As with many cases of children remembering past lives, Ryan Hammons, born in 2005 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, started regaling his stories at the age of 4.
At first, his play time consisted of him pretending to be a director, yelling, “Action!” as if partaking in the creation of an imaginary movie. However, this pretend play became a concern for his parents as he would wake up in the middle of the night, terrified and clutching his chest. He told his parents that he dreamed his heart exploded when he was in Hollywood. After taking him to his doctor, was told that it was simply night terrors, and that he would outgrow them.
But then one night, while his mother was tucking him into bed, Ryan suddenly grasped her hand and said:
He would relate, consistently, that he lived in Hollywood, met stars like Rita Hayworth, danced on Broadway, and went on luxurious vacations overseas. Cyndi Hammons’ skepticism soon gave way to curiosity, stating that, “His stories were so detailed and extensive that it just wasn’t like a child could have made it up.”
This kick-started Cyndi Hammons into investigating her son’s claims instead of dismissing them as fantasy. Without telling anyone else, she began going to the local library and checking out books about Hollywood and showing the pictures to Ryan.
Then, after months of searching, they hit pay dirt.
While looking through one particular book, Ryan stopped at a black and white photo taken from a 1930’s movie Night After Night. He recognized a cast mate, George, who they found out was indeed a George Raft. Then Ryan excitedly pointed to the man on the right, exclaiming, “That guy’s me. I found me!”
Search for an Unnamed Man
Cyndi was unable to identify this man as this photo listed no names to it. Nor did the movie list this actor’s name as he was an uncredited extra. So she contacted Dr. Jim Tucker, who sent the photo along to an archivist in the hopes that the identity could be found.
Sure enough, the man’s name was eventually revealed: Marty Martin.
Before sharing this information with the Hammons, however, Jim Tucker arrived at their home with black and white photos of four women. He laid them out on their kitchen table and asked Ryan, “Do any of these mean anything to you?”
Ryan pointed to one. “She looks familiar.”
It was Marty Martin’s wife. The other pictures were of random women with no connection to Marty.
They were then able to confirm several statements that Ryan had made about his life as Marty through his daughter. She had been found by the researchers working with Tucker on the documentary.
Validation with Marty's Daughter
Originally, she seemed reluctant to help, but did end up corroborating Ryan’s memories:
– Ryan said that he danced in New York. Marty Martin was a Broadway dancer.
– He said that he was an agent and that the people where he worked had changed their names. It was revealed that Marty became a talent agent where stage names are often created.
– Ryan said that his street address had the name ‘rock’ in it. Marty lived at 825 North Roxbury Dr.
All in all, Ryan was able to accurately describe 55 facts of Marty Martin’s life.
But perhaps the most fascinating fact of this testimony, is that during what seemed to be casual conversation, Ryan claimed he died at 61. Jim Tucker: “He (Ryan) said he didn’t see why God would let you get to be 61 and then make you come back as a baby.” This was at first refuted by Jim Tucker since Marty’s death certificate stated he was 59.
However, upon double checking all the information, found that Marty Martin was born in 1903, and died in 1964. The death certificate was wrong, and Ryan was indeed correct about his previous life’s age.
4. Jenny Cockell
Jenny Cockell, born in Barnett, Hertfordshire in 1953, started out remembering bits and pieces of her previous life as a young child. Unfortunately, throughout her childhood, there was not much she could do to act upon these memories. But she was able to keep them alive. “I did reinforce some memories by revisiting them, talking about them, thinking about them.”
Growing up in a religious household, Jenny started to realize that remembering past life memories was not a common occurrence. While sitting in a Sunday school service, listening to a discussion about life and death and what happens after life, Jenny was confused with why they weren’t talking about what happens before life. For many years, she simply thought people weren’t talking about their past life experiences because they were in denial. Not because they legitimately didn’t remember or didn’t think it was possible.
As she was growing up, she was able to suppress these memories to a degree in order to live her current life. But eventually it started to become too much for her. Even as a new mother with 2 children of her own, she could not forget the 8 children from her past life who was left behind with an abusive father.
Luckily, during this time, Jenny came across a regression hypnotist who both helped, yet exacerbated her memory recall. Now, with nothing to hold these suppressed memories at bay, the past came flooding back into sharp focus.
This kick-started Jenny into doing her own research, which took her to Malahide, Ireland after being able to match this location with a map she made from her own memory. Upon arriving there, she was startled at the changes yet was still able to recognize some of the different landmarks and roads.
When she came back to Malahide, her research expanded through letters to the neighbors, whom provided her with the surname Sutton. From this new information, she was able to track down all her remaining children: Frank, Betty, Kristi, Phyllis and Sonny. After Mary Sutton’s departure, most of the children were sent to orphanages while Sonny stayed with his father as the housekeeper.
Finding all of her children proved no small feat. Jenny wrote letters to all of the orphanages at Dublin, for a start. Then realized that several of them had closed down. The children were sent off to different caretakers, foster homes, and adoptions. This was part of her struggles at tracking them all down.
But she didn’t give up.
Additional help came from a priest who was able to provide Jenny with baptism records for some of her children through the Malahide Catholic Church, which gave her definite names and dates of birth.
Other forms of contact that Jenny pursued was an ad in the newspaper as well as multiple phone calls. Through all these avenues, including help from researchers at the BBC, she was able to connect with Sonny Sutton.
Jenny Cockell and Sonny Sutton
The BBC researchers were able to conclude many of Jenny’s memories as Mary through Sonny Sutton. While being interviewed separately, they were able to confirm 9 pages of information of their life in Malahide.
Finally, through Sonny’s encouragement, Jenny began to work on a book “Yesterday’s Children”, describing these experiences. This would be the catalyst at bringing the rest of the Sutton family together. The publishers of the book were able to gather the remaining family members for a meeting with not only Jenny, but with each other, who they haven’t seen in over 30 years.
Jenny/Mary was at last reunited with her sons and daughters. There were differing opinions about how Jenny could possibly know so many details about the Sutton’s life. But they all agreed that she was indeed either Mary Sutton reincarnated, or connected with Mary’s spirit. Perhaps through a Mother’s love and heart-filled longing to see her family back together.
5. Purnima Ekanayake
Purnima Ekanayake was born in 1987 in Bakamura, Sri Lanka. Soon after her birth, her mother noticed some hypo-pigmented birthmarks on Purnima’s body. These appeared to the left of the midline of her chest and over her lower ribs. Purnima’s mother mused at the time that this could have been due to an injury from a previous life.
If only she knew; this was just the beginning.
Wait, scratch that. I suppose the beginning would be of Jinadasa’s life, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
By 3 (which the ages 2-4 are most common in children relaying past life experiences, presumably because that’s when most children learn to talk and are not yet overwhelmed with societal information overload) Purnima began speaking about her previous life as an incense manufacturer whose life came to an end by being struck by a ‘zoku uahana’ (usually means a bus or truck).
At first her parents dismissed these claims as perhaps simply ramblings of an overactive imagination. But one statement Purnima made after a traffic accident near their home caused her mother to become upset. This struck a chord with her mom and piqued her parent’s interest to investigate further.
“Do not think about this accident.” Purnima said in an attempt to console her mother. “I came to you after such an accident.” Purnima also revealed that she had a heap of iron on her body after the accident.
Near Death Experience
To add another intriguing aspect to this case, Purnima also recalled what happened after she died.
Given the term O.B.E. (out of body experience) or N.D.E. (near death experience – which in Purnima/Jinadasa’s case was an actual death), Purnima recalled that after the accident she floated in the air in semi-darkness for a few days.
She saw people mourning for her and crying, and saw her body up to and including the funeral. There were many people like her floating around. Then she saw some light, went there and came “here”.
Visiting Past Relationships
Once her parents got involved, they were able to track down the man Purnima claimed to be. They also received help from a teacher, Sumanasiri, and his brother in law who accompanied him.
This adventure took them from their town in Bukamura, 145 miles away to Kelaniya and then to Angoda. Here is where they met Jinadasa’s brother in law and business partner Wijisiri.
At first, Wijisiri was not forthcoming with welcoming these strangers to his property and asked them to leave. However, after hearing Purnima talking about their incense company and the packages they used and if he made any changes, he was finally persuaded to accept Purnima as Jinadasa reincarnated.
She was also able to correctly identify several relatives. And although she initially didn’t want to reveal this information, she admitted that Jinadasa had two wives. Another fact she revealed was the process of how their incense was made (knowledge that is not very common for a young child to know). Wijisiri himself confirmed this process to be true.
Professor Haraldsson Reveals Startling Discovery
Professor Erlendur Haraldsson conducted interviews with several witnesses throughout five visits from 1996 to 1999. He was able to verify most of the information. Out of twenty statements, Purnima was able to correctly identify fourteen elements of Jinadasa’s life. Three could not be verified, and the other three were incorrect.
The most astonishing (in my opinion) information to be gleaned from this encounter, was when Professor Haraldsson was able to obtain the post-mortem report from Jinadasa’s death. These included a detailed description and sketch of the injuries, which outlined where the tire went over his body and fractured his ribs – and eerily coincided with the prominent birthmark on Purnima’s body.
BONUS: Kendra Carter
Kendra Carter’s case is another testimony that hits home to me personally due to the circumstances of the child remembering that she was in her mother’s tummy. Only there’s a twist:
She didn’t make it.
When she was 4.5 years old, Kendra began swimming lessons and immediately became attached to her coach. She would tell her mom that the coach’s baby had died and that the coach had been sick and pushed her baby out. Kendra’s mother was always there at the lesson and asked her how she knew these things. She replied, “I’m the baby that was in her tummy.” Kendra even went on to describe the abortion, and sure enough her mother found out that the coach did indeed have an abortion 9 years before Kendra was born.
Although Kendra’s mom, a conservative Christian, did not necessarily believe in reincarnation, she allowed her daughter to maintain a relationship with the coach. This delighted Kendra. And the interactions grew until she was spending up to three nights a week with the coach.
There was a falling out at one point, however, between the mother and the coach. This caused Kendra to become withdrawn and not speak for 4.5 months. The coach, at this point, resumed contact, but on a smaller scale, which helped Kendra out of her depression.
It is interesting to me that although, technically, Kendra in her past life as the baby, and the coach who carried her, did not have a traditional established relationship, their consciousness somehow found each other anyway, even after 9 years. Almost as if it were meant to be.
Critical Thinking Lesson:
Some possibilities of what cases of reincarnation could be:
– Real events in which a previous person’s soul or consciousness is reborn into a new body and is able to retain some of their memories.
– A form of possession or residue of someone else’s memories or spirit sharing that same space as that of a new consciousness
– Deliberate or misled stories embellished by not only the story tellers but the researchers involved as well.
– Witting or unwitting subjects of planted memories through regression therapy, past-life hypnosis, or mistaking dreams/imaginations as real life events.
– A laser focused connection to a specific person’s life that enables one to feel and remember these past memories. (Perhaps a form of accessing Akashic records?)
– A glimpse into the possibilities of quantum mechanics, energy, existence and how energy can be reproduced.
– Simple misunderstandings that were blown out of proportion or taken out of context. Or exaggerated to fit into one’s belief or narrative, whether consciously or not.
– Other, or none of the above. Or even a combination of different theories.
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