- Dr Jim Tucker has spent the past ten-years documenting children who claim to have lived past-lives
- Has encountered many examples of American children who claim to have been anything from a World War II fighter pilot to legendary golfer Bobby Jones
- Through his research Dr Tucker has come to believe that the children are speaking the truth and that they have indeed been reincarnated
- Bases the science for his theories in advanced quantum physics, arguing that human consciousness can move in time and space
By James Nye
PUBLISHED: 12:48 GMT, 20 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:17 GMT, 20 November 2013
How could anyone possibly take seriously a three-year-old golfing prodigy’s claim to be legendary 13-time major winner Bobby Jones? Or another boy from Louisiana who recalls being a Second World War pilot shot down over the Pacific?
A world renowned professor for a start. Dr Jim Tucker’s remarkable experiences with these children, many who can recall intimate details of their past lives in pin-sharp detail – and with no prompting – has led him to the conclusion that reincarnation is real.
Over the past 10-years, Dr Jim Tucker has traveled the country meeting families and hearing fantastical incredible stories just like these, which he outlines in his new book, Return To Life: Extraordinary Cases Of Children Who Remember Past Lives.
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Convinced: Dr Tucker, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, has written in his upcoming book about the experiences of American children who he believes have been reincarnated
‘The world just doesn’t work as we think or assume it does. The cases I have examined don’t come under a normal explanation of how we perceive the world,’ said Dr Tucker, the Bonner-Lowry associate Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia.
What he has found is that each child reveals their past life at an extremely young age – at usually two or three – and the memories manifest themselves as unusual episodes of streams of consciousness, recollections and sometimes as intense, thrashing nightmares.
CAN OUR CONSCIOUSNESS TRAVEL TIME AND SPACE?
Dr Tucker’s explanation for his belief in reincarnation may be mind-boggling but it is far from outlandish.
He bases it in the ever-developing field of quantum mechanics, pioneered by scientific luminaries such as Albert Einstein.
Dr Tucker believes that because quantum physics demonstrates that conscious observation can be critical in determining physical events, he argues that consciousness might actually be separate from the brain and exists apart from our physical bodies.
He believes that the brain might in fact simply be a conduit for consciousness to inhabit our bodies but is transient through time and space.
He provides the analogy of a television set and the television transmission; the television is required to decode the signal, but it does not create the signal. In a similar way the brain may be required for consciousness to express itself, but may not be the source of consciousness.
Through almost a decade of research, Dr Tucker has achieved international renown in his field so parents come to him as soon as their child appears to claim to recall memories from a past life.
Using strict scientific methods to match the children’s statements with as much detail of the deceased person they claim to be, Dr Tucker has traveled as far as the remote islands of Scotland in his quest to prove that reincarnation is a fact of our existence – even if that proof is intangible for now.
He can then meet the children at the peak of their past-life recollections and witness them recall details as mundane as their previous childhood home to details about the opposite sex that no two-year-old would usually know.
In each case the parents and the child can find the sudden onset of these memories to be extremely disturbing and they call on Dr Tucker to help the families to work through it.
This usually means traveling to where the previous life was lived or in some cases meeting the still living relatives of the deceased.
Ultimately, Dr Tucker’s research finds that as these children approach the age of reason these unsettling memories of past-lives fade.
Outlined below are four outlandish cases that Dr Tucker admits are not proof positive of past lives, but in his own words, ‘the evidence provided by these cases makes it hard to come up with an adequate explanation.
Dr Tucker explains child reincarnation
See more of Jim Tucker’s interview
GOLF PRODIGY CONVINCED HE WAS 1930s STAR BOBBY JONES
One particular case which stood apart for Dr Tucker was that of Hunter, a three-year-old golfing prodigy – who said he was the reincarnation of 13-time major winner Bobby Jones.
Gifted a set of plastic clubs at the age of two, Hunter, who lives with his parents in California was watching the Golf Channel one day with his father when he saw a clip of Jones, the dominant force in the sport in the 1930s who helped establish the Augusta National course, home of the Masters.
Hunter told his parents he had been Bobby Jones when he was ‘big’ and demanded to be known from that moment on as Bobby.
Reincarnated in a two-year-old Californian? Friends of Hunter’s father have remarked – completely unprompted – that his son’s swing is similar to that of Bobby Jones, American Amateur Champion
His Christian parents initially laughed off his behavior as that of a child choosing to be different by ignoring modern-day golfers such as Tiger Woods.
However, his father decided to test his son one day and showed him six pictures of golfers from the 1930s and asked which one was Jones.
Correctly picking out the golfer’s image, Hunter replied: ‘This me.’
Taking this further, Hunter’s dad printed off pictures of several different homes, including Jones’ childhood house and showed them to his son.
He called five of them simply ‘house’, but called the property where Jones grew up ‘home’.
Meanwhile, his golfing ability increased exponentially and his parents bought him a real set of clubs and their local club in California accepted him for lessons aged three, even though five was their usual starting age.
Indeed, several older golfers there made the innocent observation to Hunter’s father that his son’s swing, even at an early age reminded them of Bobby Jones’s.
When Dr Tucker visited the boy he found him uncooperative, not unusual for a three-year-old faced with an inquisitive stranger.
However, his development continued to include designing golf courses with pillows and sheets in his room – declaring that Augusta was his favorite course in the world.
While Hunter’s parents asked Dr Tucker to keep their identities and that of the child secret – Hunter is not his real name – Dr Tucker has followed his development with interest.
Hunter is now seven and has won 41 out of the 50 junior tournaments he has entered, including 21 in a row and is seen as potentially the next Tiger Woods by those who know him.
However, Dr Tucker says his memories of Bobby Jones have faded.
Ryan the Baptist Minister’s son who was a big-shot Hollywood agent
Marty Martin was one of the first super-agents of Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 1930s, with actors such as Glenn Ford on his books as icons like Rita Hayworth as friends.
He lived a life of luxury, married four times, vacationed in Paris and had influential contacts such as New York Senator Irving Ives, before dying from cancer in LA in 1964.
Good times: Ryan, left, recalls fast cars, big boats, actor friends sunburn and trips to the Eiffel Tower that mirror the life of Hollywood agent and bit-part actor Marty Martin, right. The five-year-old is pictured in the glasses he wears when he is having a ‘Marty kind of day’
50 years later the five-year-old son of two Oklahoma Christians began to exhibit strange behavior – calling ‘Action’ for imaginary movies and waking at night screaming – claiming that he was in Hollywood when his heart exploded.
Little Ryan one night told his mother, Cyndi, that when you die it is important you go towards the light and that everyone comes back.
He also said that he picked her to be his mom.
The mystery of Ryan, whose mother was a county deputy clerk and father a small-town cop, deepened when he picked out a picture from a book his mother had brought home from the library for him.
It was from the 1932 movie, Night After Night and showed a group of men, including actor George Raft.
Ryan excitedly pointed at the man next to George, who specialized in playing gangsters and starred in Billy Wilder’s legendary hit Some Like It Hot.
Ryan said: ‘Hey Mama, that’s George. We did a picture together. And Mama, that guy’s me. I found me.’
From that point on memories seemed flood back to Ryan, writes Dr Tucker.
He recalled how he was once punched by Marilyn Monroe’s bodyguards for trying to talk to her.
He said that he liked being Ryan but wanted to go back to his big house on the hill with a swimming pool.
Every time he saw a picture of the Hollywood Hills on television, Ryan would exclaim that was where he was from.
He recalled in detail trips to the cafe-lined boulevards of Paris and trips to the Eiffel Tower.
His parents noted that when Ryan spoke of his past-life, he would switch from a fun-loving five-year-old into a serious manner-of-fact delivery that was slightly disconcerting.
Famous friends: Little Ryan, pictured in the LA office of Martin on a visit there, right, began to bemuse his parents by claiming to have been friends with and known Hollywood legends such as Rita Hayworth
Ryan spoke of things that no young boy should or probably would find interesting at that age.
‘Mommy, I can’t wait until I get big again and I get to go on these big boats, wear fancy clothes, and dance with all the pretty ladies. That’s how you see the world, Mommy, from a big boat.’
Ryan recalled how he drove a Rolls-Royce, suffered sunburn from his compulsive tanning, had a daughter and that he was homesick.
He also mentioned a mysterious Senator Five from New York. Dr Tucker later discovered New York had a politician who served through the 1940s and 50s with the sound-alike name of Senator Ives.
However, no one knew who this man was in the picture that Ryan claimed to be as he wasn’t a famous actor or listed on the cast or crew.
A documentary crew heard about Ryan’s story and utilizing an archival footage consultant they discovered that the man in the photo was Hollywood agent Marty Martin in an uncredited cameo role.
The breakthrough led to a meeting with Martin’s daughter, who was still alive.
The meeting was not successful, as Ryan could not seem to understand why the woman was no longer a girl.
‘She got old. Why didn’t she wait for me?’ Ryan sadly remarked after the meeting.
However, Martin’s daughter did confirm an incredible number of claims, small and large that Ryan had made.
It was estimated that she accepted over 50 of Ryan’s claims were accurate for her father, including her father’s wealth, love of dancing, sunbathing and friendship with the luminaries of Hollywood.
Martin did indeed live in a huge Hollywood mansion, with a pool and was well known for his love of socializing with the rich and powerful such as Senator Ives.
As Dr Tucker found in his research, in the months after Ryan met Martin’s daughter he became calmer and his memories of the past-life faded.
THE BOY TORTURED BECAUSE HE THINKS HE DIED AT IWO JIMA
It began after a father-son bonding trip to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum outside of Dallas.
Bruce picked up a video of the Blue Angels navy flight exhibition team for his 2-year-old son, James, who had become instantly enamored with the jet fighters in high speed formation.
However, soon afterwards James began to smash his toy airplanes repeatedly into the coffee table screaming that the aircraft was on fire.
Fighter pilot: James Leininger with his parents Andrea and Bruce, a highly educated, modern couple, who say they are ‘probably the people least likely to have a scenario like this pop up in their lives’
It was then that the nightmares began. His mother Andrea would find her son thrashing around on the bed letting out blood curdling screams, shouting, ‘Airplane crash on fire! Little man can’t get out!’
The disturbing nightmares were physical too, with James kicking upwards on his bed as if trying to kick open the canopy from inside an aircraft.
It was over a bedtime story that James suddenly began talking to his parents about the nightmares, turning them from night terrors to lucid details and conversations.
James told his staunchly Christian parents, that he was flying a Corsair during the Second World War and that the Japanese shot him down.
‘Mama, before I was born, I was a pilot, and my airplane got shot in the engine and it crashed in the water and that’s how I died.’
He told his parents he flew off a carrier called the USS Natoma Bay and his name was James and that he had died during in a horrific plane crash.
The growing implications of what their son was telling them began to trouble the religious beliefs of Bruce and Andrea.
When James was two-and-a-half he was sitting on his father’s knee going through a book on the Battle for Iwo Jima.
Opening the book to a picture of Mount Suribachi, James exclaimed, ‘That’s where my plane was shot down. My airplane got shot down there daddy.’
Pacific campaign: James would suffer horrifying nightmares in which his plane would crash land in a fiery wreck to the sea during the intense battle for Iwo Jima in 1945
James began to draw disturbing pictures of fiery plane crashes – Dr Tucker believes this kind of compulsive repitition had all the hallmarks of how children deal with PTSD.
Bruce in particular wanted to get to the bottom of his son’s insistence that he was indeed describing the past lives of a downed pilot named James.
He attended a reunion for USS Natoma Bay veterans under the ruse of writing a book and was stunned to discover the only pilot killed during the Iwo Jima operation was a 21-year-old from Pennsylvania named James Huston.
Further unnerving research revealed that Huston’s plane had been hit in the nose and lost its propeller – exactly where James had intentionally damaged all his toy planes.
As their belief in their son’s extraordinary claims grew, Bruce and Andrea began to take what he said seriously.
One night Andrea said that she was told by James that his past-life father was an alcoholic and when James Huston was 13, they put their drunken dad in hospital for six weeks.
By now they had tracked down Huston’s sister Anne, who was in her 80s by now and asked her if these claims were true – which she confirmed.
More staggering coincidences began to occur.
James knew details that no four-year-old or even 40-year-old would know about the operational details of a Second World War fighter.
He knew that Corsairs were notorious for getting flat tires and when handed a model of the FM-2 planes he would fly aboard the USS Natoma Bay he noted that a small antenna was missing from the side, which research by his father noted to be true.
The most incredible moment though was when James attended his first USS Natoma Bay reunion.
There he was stopped in the hallway of the hotel by Bob Greenwalt, a Natoma Bay veteran.
When he asked ‘do you know who I am?’ James replied, ‘You are Bob Greenwalt.’
Asked how he knew that by his father, James replied that he simply remembered the man’s voice.
Indeed, after that, back at home in Dallas, James was sweeping the front lawn with his dad when Bruce bent down to hug his son and tell him that he loved him.
James replied that when he saw Bruce and Andrea eating dinner in Hawaii on Waikiki Beach he knew that these were the right parents for him.
Bruce still has no idea how his son knew about the romantic trip he and his wife went on to start their family – before James was born.
Boy who was Gone With The Wind’s tragic screenwriter
One particular case held the fascination of Dr Tucker as he traveled to visit three-year-old Lee, who believed that he was Sidney Coe Howard – the Oscar-winning screenwriter for arguably the biggest Hollywood blockbuster of all time Gone With The Wind.
Living with his family in a small Midwestern town of only two-thousand people, Lee had developed an ‘obscene fascination’ with Hollywood and told William and Jennifer, his parents, that he worked on movies.
Quizzing him more on this developing obsession, Lee’s parents asked if he acted in movies, to which he replied, no, he wrote them.
Saying out loud famous film titles, it was when they got to the fifth of sixth one, Gone With The Wind that Lee said, ‘Yes, that was my movie. I wrote that movie’.
Sidney Coe Howard was an American playwright and screenwriter. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1925 and a posthumous Academy Award in 1940 for the screenplay for Gone With The Wind – he died in a tractor accident just before the release of his greatest work
The idea that Lee was recalling the past-life of Howard began to seem more real when his parent’s realized it explained some of his behavior – such as insisting his birthday was June 26 and no June 21.
This seemed odd, because children usually want to celebrate their birthday sooner, not later and became even weirder still when Jennifer and William discovered that Howard’s birthday was June 26 1891.
Lee would speak about his home in Hollywood and also revealed a fixation with tractors that made sense when his mother and father discovered how Howard had died at the age of 48.
Just before the release of Gone With The Wind in 1939, Howard was at home on his Massachusetts farm when he went to take his Cleveland Cletrac tractor out of his garage to work on his property.
Tragically, a hired hand had left the tractor in gear and it lurched forward, pinning him to the foundation wall of the garage and crushed him to death.
Legendary: ‘Gone with the Wind’ starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh is arguably the greatest of all Hollywood productions and to this day remains the highest grossing film in history once inflation is taken into account
Indeed, little Lee from an early age showed an aversion to anything being near to his upper body and although interested in tractors, was terrified by them too.
He would also suffer terrible nightmares in which he would cry out that his arms were broken and that a car had somehow managed to pin his arms down.
Keen to take Lee back to the farmhouse where Howard died, Dr Tucker incredibly discovered that Howard’s daughter was still alive and living there.
Initially reluctant, she agreed to allow Lee and his parents to come, but scheduling difficulties meant that the trip was postponed twice.
Sadly by the time Lee made the journey to Massachusetts, his past-life memories had faded and Lee was bemused by the trip.
Dr Tucker found the case to be unresolved, but intruiging nonetheless and laments the unfortunate inability to unite Lee when he was younger and Howard’s daughter sooner.
- Return To Life by Dr Jim Tucker, is published by St Martin’s Press on December 3. To order your copy, click here