Children who claim to remember their past life

16th July 2021. Reading Time: 12 minutes General, Paranormal Theories. 1633 page views. 0 comments.

There are thousands of accounts where Children know intimate details of people halfway across the World they couldn't possibly know and whom they have never met. They believe they were this person in a former life. It becomes more interesting when the information they recall is validated to be true.

There are thousands of accounts where Children know intimate details of people halfway across the World they couldn't possibly know and whom they have never met.  They believe they were this person in a former life.  It becomes more interesting when the information they recall is validated to be true.

Reincarnation is defined as the rebirth of life or soul.  Many believe that when you die, if you have more lessons to learn, you are reborn into a new human vessel.  Some people believe that the memories of your previous life are embedded deep within your subconscious and not something that you remember.  There are however thousands of accounts where Children know intimate details of people halfway across the World they couldn't possibly know and whom they have never met.

Dr Ian Stevenson began documenting such claims as early as 1961.  He became known for this research in this area and his theory that particular phobias, illnesses and even unique abilities were obtained by some sort of transfer of emotions, memories and even physical bodily features from one to another after the former passed away.  

In 1966, Stevenson published Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation which detailed accounts collected from his travels across India and Sri Lanka where he interviewed children that could remember in vivid detail, information about their previous life. In 1967 he founded the Division of Perceptual Studies which focused on studying phenomena that suggested consciousness of life after death.  There was a particular interest in childhood recollection of reincarnation. In 1982, he founded the Society for Scientific Exploration and published around 300 academic papers and 14 books related to his research on reincarnation.

Child psychiatrist Dr Jim B Tucker who went onto work with Stevenson also took a particular interest in this area, interviewing families whose children reported memories from a past life.

When Ryan was 4, he began directing imaginary movies. Shouts of 'Action!' often echoed from his room. But the play became a concern for Ryan's parents when he began waking up in the middle of the night screaming and clutching his chest, saying he dreamed his heart exploded when he was in Hollywood.

His mother asked his doctor about the episodes. Night terrors, the doctor said. He'll outgrow them. Then one night, as his mother tucked Ryan into bed, Ryan suddenly took hold of her hand. 'Mama,' he said. 'I think I used to be someone else.'

He said he remembered a big white house and a swimming pool. It was in Hollywood, many miles from his Oklahoma home. He said he had three sons, but that he couldn't remember their names. He began to cry, asking his mother over and over why he couldn't remember their names.

'I really didn't know what to do,' she said. 'I was more in shock than anything. He was so insistent about it. After that night, he kept talking about it, kept getting upset about not being able to remember those names. I started researching the Internet about reincarnation. I even got some books from the library on Hollywood, thinking their pictures might help him. I didn't tell anyone for months.'

One day, as Ryan and his mom paged through one of the Hollywood books, Ryan stopped at a black-and-white still taken from a 1930s movie, Night After Night. Two men in the center of the picture were confronting one another. Four other men surrounded them. His mother didn't recognize any of the faces, but Ryan pointed to one of the men in the middle. 'Hey Mama,' he said. 'That's George. We did a picture together.' His finger then shot over to a man on the right, wearing an overcoat and a scowl. 'That guy's me. I found me!'

The book didn't provide any names of the actors pictured, but she quickly confirmed that the man Ryan said was 'George' in the photo was indeed a George—George Raft, an all but forgotten film star from the 1930s and 1940s. Still, his mother couldn't identify the man Ryan said had been him. She wrote Tucker, whom she found through her online research, and included the photo. Eventually, it ended up in the hands of a film archivist, who, after weeks of research, confirmed the scowling man's name: Martin Martyn, an uncredited extra in the film.

Not long afterward, Tucker and the family traveled to California to meet Martyn's daughter, who'd been tracked down by researchers working with Tucker on a documentary. Tucker sat down with the woman before her meeting with Ryan. She'd been reluctant to help, but during her talk with Tucker, she confirmed dozens of facts Ryan had given about her father.

Ryan said he danced in New York. Martyn was a Broadway dancer. Ryan said he was also an 'agent,' and that people where he worked had changed their names. Martyn worked for years at a well-known talent agency in Hollywood—where stage names are often created—after his dancing career ended. Ryan said his old address had 'Rock' in its name. Martyn lived at 825 North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. Ryan said he knew a man named Senator Five. Martyn's daughter said she had a picture of her father with a Senator Ives, Irving Ives, of New York, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1947 to 1959. And yes, Martin Martyn had three sons. The daughter, of course, knew their names.

The Science of Reincarnation by SEAN LYONS

Dr Jim B Tucker continued with the work once Stevenson stepped down as the director in 2002.  From the over 3000 cases and growing database of cases Tucker and Stevenson interviewed, the following statistics give us a snapshot of this intriguing phenomenon. 

Image Source: The Science of Reincarnation by SEAN LYONS

Here are some of the stats:

  • Around 70% of the children claimed they died a traumatic death in their previous life
  • More cases are reported in countries where reincarnation is a part of religious beliefs.  
  • Close to 20% of the children have a birthmark or scar in the place akin to how they died (such as a mark where they would have been stabbed for example)
  • After the age of 6 years old, the memories tend to fade as the brain makes developmental transitions
  • 90% of the children were the same sex they were in their previous life

The children had such a strong emotional attachment to memories that some displayed signs of PTSD and would show heightened emotions when talking about certain aspects of their 'past life'.  A loose connection is made between this and the high number of cases associated with those who experienced a traumatic death.  

Louisa E Rhine previously did work with a lot of children testing possible ESP ability and found that once children reached primary school age, their ESP ability also seemed to drop off with lower testing scores.  You can read more about her work with this here: Children and ESP.  The age of the child here seems to be an important factor.  This could be largely in part to the developmental stage of the brain.  Once a child transitions to primary school age, their priorities change and they are in a new stage of development.  Often as child ages, parents tend to tell their children that they are imagining things.  Kids want to please their parents so they stop talking about it and eventually they may even ignore and forget their past life memories.  

When you have a young child expressing themselves in this way, it would be rather distressing for the parent who may not know what to do.

Advice for parents of children who seems to remember a previous life

Dr Jim B Tucker from the Division of Perceptual Studies out of the University of Virginia School of Medicine works with families in order to try and understand this phenomenon and possibly even validate it.  He offers the following advice for anyone who may have a child who is recalling what they believe to be past life memories.  Often it is something that can be more distressing to the parent more than the child, however, an important point is that they do not recommend engaging in hypnotic regression.

First, it is important to know that these statements do not, by themselves, indicate mental illness.  We have talked with many families in which a child claimed to remember another set of parents, another home, or a previous death, and the children rarely show mental health problems.  These statements are generally made by children whose development appears to otherwise be just like that of their peers.  They can occur in families with a belief in reincarnation or in families where the idea of reincarnation had never been considered before the child began making the statements.

When children talk about a past life, parents are sometimes unsure how to respond.  We recommend that parents be open to what their children are reporting.  Some of the children show a lot of emotional intensity regarding these issues, and parents should be respectful in listening just as they are with other subjects that their children bring up.

When a child talks about a past life, we suggest that parents avoid asking a lot of pointed questions.  This could be upsetting to the child and, more importantly from our standpoint, could lead the child to make up answers to the questions.  It would then be difficult or impossible to separate memories from fantasy.  We do think it is fine to ask general, open-ended questions such as, “Do you remember anything else?” and it is certainly fine to empathize with a child’s statements (“That must have been scary” when, for instance, a child describes a fatal accident).

We encourage parents to write down any statements about a past life that their children make.  This is particularly important in cases where the children give enough information so that identifying a deceased individual that they are describing might be possible.  In such a situation, having the statements recorded ahead of time would be critical in providing the best evidence that the child actually had experienced memories from a previous life.

At the same time, parents should not become so focused on the statements that they and their children lose sight of the fact that the current life is what is most important now.  If children persist in saying they want their old family or old home, it might be helpful to explain that while they may have had another family in a previous life, their current family is the one they have for this life.  Parents should acknowledge and value what their children have told them while making clear that the past life is truly in the past.

We do not recommend that children undergo past-life regression hypnosis.

Dr Jim Tucker - Division of perceptual studies

Dr Ian Steveson MD also of the Division of Perceptual studies advises against hypnotic regression stating that it is no different to a dream and not a reliable source of information and is rather a form of imagination.

"Many persons who attach no importance whatever to their dreams–realizing that most of them are merely images of the dreamer’s subconscious mind without correspondence to any other reality–nevertheless believe that whatever emerges during hypnosis can invariably be taken at face value. In fact, the state of a person during hypnosis resembles in many ways–although not in all–that of a person dreaming."

While some people feel that irrational phobias could be attributed to something they have acquired from a past life, Stevenson states there is no evidence to suggest that remembering this through hypnotic regression is of any benefit in overcoming the phobia.  

Is it real?

Tucker himself acknowledges that not all claims of reincarnation are genuine.  As with anything, you are always going to have people who look for fame through deception and monetary gain.  In some cases, an overactive imagination can also be at play and coincidences can happen.  In today's society, with television and YouTube, it is very easy for children to be influenced more so than in the past.  False memories of witnesses can also be a factor as well.  When the past life of a person is investigated, it is possible that the parents may remember things their child recalled differently in order to fit the story of the person they believe it to be.  

While these are also possibilities, Tucker states

                 - "It defies logic that it would just be a coincidence."

So what do you think?  do you think reincarnation exists?  

If you would like to make contact with the Division of Perceptual Studies:

We are very interested in hearing about cases of young children who are currently spontaneously speaking about memories of a previous life.  If you are a parent or a caretaker of a young child, please email our research assistant, Diane Morini at to submit your observations and experiences of your child’s behaviors and statements about memories of a previous life.

Rest assured that only qualified study team members will have access to your report of a child’s past life memories submitted via email, and we adhere to a strict code of privacy and confidentiality in all instances. We will not disclose the names of the people involved in the account in any way, without first seeking explicit permission from the parents.

You may note that there are a few published cases in which the actual names are used in presenting details of the case. We want to assure you that this is rare and only done by special permission granted to us by the parents. 


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